The Sonos S5 absolutely rocks - Orbitcast

The Sonos S5 absolutely rocks

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Sonos S5
I've been watching Sonos for a while now because they've really taken the market of whole home audio by storm. Their latest release, the Sonos S5 (which hit the market this past fall) absolutely brings it to the next level.

At CES 2010, I had a private meeting with the folks at Sonos and learned a lot about the Sonos S5. The verdict: it absolutely rocks.
Here's my dilemma: home audio is an entirely different nut to crack than in-vehicle audio, and that's going to be somewhat of a challenge for Sirius XM. The reason is that most consumers will just use their home entertainment systems as a home audio solution.

With streaming music services available on DirecTV, Dish Network, and your local cable provider - there's little reason to invest in a new setup just to receive streaming audio.

In-home satellite radio is further complicated by complex installations: antennas that need to be mounted outside of the home, audio components that need to be hooked up, and ultimately wires that need to be run throughout different rooms (wives generally don't appreciate such projects).

That's where the Sonos S5 really impresses me.


Sonos S5 with iPhone controllerIt's been interesting watching Sonos evolve over the years, and the Sonos S5 is their latest offering that totally crushes it.

The S5 is a standalone device that uses the iPhone as a controller, and allows you to seamlessly play various internet radio services (including Sirius Internet Radio). Let's be clear though: this isn't an iPod dock. You can use the iPhone/iTouch as a controller (or use Sonos' own touchscreen controllers), but the fact is, most people keep their phones in their pocket.

The key to Sonos S5 is simplicity.

There's one wire: a power cable. That's it. Everything else gets pulled from the cloud. The brilliant simplicity of the Sonos S5 is that it taps into your home internet connection and provides a complete audio experience instantaneously.

Sonos S5The Sonos S5 includes 2 tweeters, 2 mid-range drivers and 1 subwoofer driver for bass - each speaker is powered by a dedicate digital amp. Want music in another room? Just add more S5s to your house without adding the wires.

Sonos' dedicated wireless mesh network ensures whole house coverage, plus there's no "stutter" due to the units being out of sync with each other. Sonos sponsored the CES Blogger Party I attended, and each Sonos S5 was booming away seamlessly throughout all the rooms.

Sonos S5 back
There's another "hidden" feature to the Sonos S5 that I think Orbitcast readers will appreciate.

The photo above shows that there's a line-in function. So if you already have an existing home satellite radio setup or you don't want Sirius Internet Radio (i.e., if you're an XM subscriber and only have access to XM Radio Online), simply plug in your receiver into the rear of the S5.

Ta-da! It becomes an all-in-one solution instantaneously.

You can tap into your own iTunes collection, plus multiple internet radio services like Rhapsody, Pandora, Last.FM and Sirius Internet Radio - and if you plug your satellite radio into one of the units, you'll get satellite radio throughout your house as well.

You can probably tell I'm pretty excited about this thing, even for the short amount of time I had to play with it. When I met with Sonos, they cranked the Sonos S5 loud - I mean really loud - and there was no distortion. In a party atmosphere, it really shines. The sound from this thing is truly impressive, and I can't wait to do an official hands-on review of it.

Do we have any Sonos owners here?
If so, please chime in with your own experiences in the comments, I'd love to hear what you have to say.

Check out the Sonos S5 Wireless Multi-Room System on Amazon.

17 Comments

Ryan - I jumped into Sonos a month ago and am BLOWN away by it. My iTunes library is on my main Mac. It is absolutely amazing!

Sonos is awesome. 4 year owner here and have 4 zones setup. Installation was a breeze and better yet, everything works just as intended. They integrate all the popular music services into their system which is a big plus. It even reads my mp3 library from a home server. And of course, it picks up all my Sirius channels! There are a few products that I just can't say something bad about and Sonos is one of those.

That's awesome! Keep them coming, I'm really interested in the evolution of this company.

@iband: which Sonos did you get? I think the idea of being able bring in your ENTIRE music library (which can be much bigger than what you have on your iPod), PLUS loop in all the digital services is a killer. As soon as I learned you can use the line-in for your satrad, that made this a killer.

@Ghost: Did you ever end up adding the Sonos S5 to your setup? Sonos told me that they've exceeded all their expectations in sales numbers for the S5.

Here's another interesting tidbit: I learned that the while MEN are generally the initial purchasers, it's the FEMALE of the household that initiates the repeat purchases. I think there's something very significant for the simplicity of the setup that appeals to the opposite sex.

I added the S5 to my setup right in early December and all I have to say is Wow. I went to several local stores who were having a hard time keeping it in stock and so wanted me to pay up front and they would get me the S5 in a week or two (roll eyes). I ordered it directly from sonos and got it 4 days later.

We put it in the bedroom and it sounds great and we don't have all the speaker wires and stuff to deal with.

We also got their new remote with it. Again wow. Access to all the internet radio stations is awesome.

Funny thing. We still had the SiriusXm internet access and that was the first thing i listened to. I was very disappointed by the sound quality of the unit, it sounded tinny and distorted and like it had $5 speakers. I then remembered that the Sirius internet stream was usually at a shitty bit rate, so I turned it to a "real" internet radio station and the sound was amazing.

Ryan, sounds like you are speaking of WAF, or Wife Acceptance Factor. I wouldnt know completely as I am not married, but I read an article on it.

I read about the S5 and think it's the quickest solution Sonos has created yet. For any prospective buyer, I would definitely consider the S5. For our household however, the 4 zones we have setup are more than adequate. We have Sonos working in our backyard with outdoor speakers, another zone controlling our master bedroom+master bathroom, zone 3 in the nursery, and zone 4 in the living room. I installed ceiling speakers throughout the house to accommodate this setup. I love it when we have a party and I can play the same song throughout our entire house or play a kids song in one area and an adult song in the rest of the rooms. Great company.

Just added it to my setup and it does indeed rock! The whole Sonos idea rocks.

It will also stream a Nicecast broadcast and shoutcast streams. Sucks only Sirius side is available.

Not sure what i'll do after my free streaming runs out. Although it's only 3 bucks it's the principle that bothers me. It means i'll be paying more than 20 bucks a month which really pisses me off.

I'll probably drop 'best of sirius' since i'll still be able to listen to Howie anyway.

@Ryan - I have a ZP90 in the family room (this unit is connected to my Airport Extreme Base Station), a ZP90 in the kitchen (the receiver in their powers in-ceiling speakers in the kitchen and living room) and a ZP120 connected to a pair of ORIGINAL Rogers LS3/5A studio monitors (from the mid-70's -- still amazing reference monitors). My iTunes library sits on my MacPro in the library. I picked up the CR200 remote -- the iPhone/iPod Touch app is nice, but the CR200 is incredibly quick, no lag time when you activate it and it has real volume/mute buttons. I have a Mac Mini in the kitchen hooked up to a 37" Samsung, and have the audio output going into the ZP90, which allows me to stream Slacker or any other web stream (XM, etc.) through the Sonos system (but I don't get control over those streams from the Sonos device).

I'm still blown away how easy this is to use. It's amazing! I've even tried Last.fm -- free account, and a simple way to choose an artist and hear similar ones.

Are you sure that plugging a line-in device will turn that source into an all-in-one/whole home service??

I was unaware that the device (assuming you have multiple zones) could send that signal to other locations. I would assume it is limited to the devices immediate output mechansim (be they built in speakers on a S5 or attached on a 90 or 120).

Have you tested the whole home method with a line-in source first hand then?

@David - From the controller, you can access the line-in attached to any zone player...the Sonos network shares the input with the other units!

Thanks for checking us out Ryan! Thomas Meyer - Sonos

I've had it for a while, and I really love my system. I have a review of the product line here:

http://thiskindofmusic.wordpress.com/2010/01/04/my-digital-music-setup-and-sonos-review/

To answer david's question about line-in: yes, it works that way. I use it to hear music from my turntable in other rooms.

I am both a believer and a fan! I love the simplicity as well as the elegance of the whole SONOS approach to home audio. Over the weekend I marveled as my technophobic wife pulled an S-5 out of the box hooked it up and was listening to music within minutes. You would have to have to know how really "challenged" my wife is when it comes to technology, to really appreciate how miraculous this was! You know you've done something right when you produce a home entertainment component that presents no barrier of entry for Stephanie Burton...!
-LeVar Burton

@David

Any line in source can be accessed from any other sonos zone or group of zones on the network. So for example you can listen to a cd player plugged in to your living room zone in your bedroom zone.

In fact at one time I had the output from an airport express plugged in to a zone so I could play my iTunes library around the house.

Works like a charm (as does everything else with Sonos)

Great product, definitely something I will look at. A couple of notes on other uses: A. I have a wireless antenna that transmits my Sirius signal throughout the house that works pretty good; B. A battery operated radio with line-in that has a decent sound that I use with my iPhone for outside use.

How do you hook the Sonos up outside? Can the Sonos component be left outside and can you use Bose outdoor speakers with the Sonos outside? Thanks!

In March 2010, I'll begin my 3rd year with SONOS. For the last 45 years, I've always wanted more than I had with "local" radio. In the 1960s, I needed the AM Top 40 radio station in Chicago (150 miles away) or New York (600 miles away) with minimal static. In the 1970s through 1990, I wanted the same for my FM radio as I moved from Rock/Pop into traditional jazz & classical. In 2000, I was struggling with a jazz station over-the-air at 89.1MHz. I would listen in mono at 89.0MHz w/a high outside antenna, to avoid interference of a 10 watt station w/transmitter 3 miles away.

In March 2007 I went into my long time audio/video provider to ask the same question I'd asked some 10 years earlier about Internet Radio through my high end home system instead of sitting in front of my computer, I was introduced to SONOS. It blew me away!!!!

I purchased two original ZP80s and dial controller on the spot! And the thrill when I brought up that jazz station in unbelieveable clarity, I was...well, speechless!

In 2008, I upgraded my main audio/video to digital (flat screen TV, HD, Blue Ray, Surround Sound) and SONOS) with connections to the main wired speakers in the living room. I kept an analog connection, also w/Sonos,CD and even Cassette and Phono along a second amp to power speakers in the sun room and kitchen. I also purchased a zone bridge so I could the second ZP 80 for a much older another receiver w/ speakers in my Master Bedroom. Never saw the S5 coming. I thought I was done!

Nope! I recently purchased an S5 for my home office along with a controller upgrade. I plan a second S5 shortly and will remove 20+ year old Master Bedroom system completely. I never thought I'd be satisfied with a solo output for speakers!! Yet this S5 is awesome. Will a third be purchased for a room I will work my retirement project out of? If so, I'll accomplish music in every room.

From getting rid of static on AM radio station 150 miles away to listening to Radio Swiss Classica from Bern, Switzerland 6000 miles away through the clarity of a 128 Kbps stream; living room listening in front of a fireplace while it is 15 degrees outside, SONOS you are unbelieveable!

Sonos S5 is current. What comes next!