Sonos Gets Really Real

It's a very good morning for Sonos music system owners

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My neighbor bought one of the first Sonos systems in 2005 and has been impressing his friends ever since with the almost magical control its single remote gives him over his collection of digital music. I had fun playing with his Sonos—sending one audio track to the kitchen, another to the back yard, then cranking them both up as loud as I could to see which song would win—but, personally, I didn’t have much use for it. First, I’d have had to leave at least one computer turned on at all times, then load it with music by either ripping a CD or buying online. For me, it was too much work, at too high a price—$999 for a two-location system.

But it wasn’t too hard or too expensive for some 50 000 other people. And this morning Thursday, 14 September, all those music lovers woke up to find an extra two-million-plus songs at their fingertips. Sonos has just pushed a new version of its software out to its entire installed base, and the company thinks that the software will get a lot more people to buy the system.

I think they’re right, because now I actually want one. When my third-grader comes home from school suddenly obsessed with Rodgers and Hammerstein (Richard Rodgers is the composer-of-the-week), I want to fill his room with ”The Sound of Music” but listen to Springsteen in the dining room. I did both on Tuesday, during a one-hour, at-home test of Sonos 2.0.

PHOTO: TEKLA S. PERRY

The Sonos remote control uses a click-wheel along with a few extra buttons to select music and send it to different rooms in the house.

The magic behind the music? Sonos is tapping directly into the Real Audio Rhapsody subscription music service, which for US $9.95 a month gives you all the music you want, with the first month free. Sonos users could get to Rhapsody before, if they subscribed on their PC and left that PC on and connected to the Sonos system. But with the new interface, you don’t have to turn on a PC, log on to Rhapsody, figure out the controls, or switch back and forth between it and your iTunes library; it all runs seamlessly from a click-wheel remote. You can play up to 32 different songs from Rhapsody at once, or any combination of Rhapsody and your iTunes collection, or Internet radio, or podcasts.

It all seemed quite easy for me to use; I tested the system briefly Tuesday morning in my home. Although I didn’t set it up myself, the wizard Sonos sent me promised that it was as easy to set up as to use.

I’ll let you know, and tell you more about Sonos and how it works, in a few months, after I try installing one myself. Meanwhile, you tell me: is this something you would want? Send me a comment (tDOTperryATieeeDOTorg).

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