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Review: Sonos ZP80

Sonos produces a great product that lets you tie all your sound sources together into one seamless network. Its original configuration is pricey. The company's newest offering, however, is a more affordable, entry-level system, but you'll have to spend considerably more than the initial $1,000 by the time you put music in every room.

Sonos' original offering includes an iPodesque handheld controller that lets you wirelessly control up to 32 amplified ZonePlayers. One of the ZonePlayers must be connected to a wired Ethernet cable, but all other units can operate wirelessly through Sonos' proprietary mesh network. Each ZonePlayer can act as both a player and a sound interface. As a sound interface, the unit can be plugged into any audio source via analog RCA jacks, digital cable, or optical cable. As a player, the unit receives digital audio signals from any of the other ZonePlayers and route it through its attached speakers or through an attached audio device (amplifier, home theater, etc.)

The handheld control unit is large -- 4" x 6" x 1" -- but has a 3.5" color LCD, scroll wheel, and dedicated buttons for volume, music selection, and zone selection. It works like a dream and is intuitive and smooth. The controller allows you to direct sound from any connected source to any ZonePlayer on your network. That means you can have different music playing in each room, or segment music by area of your house, or set to "party mode" and have the same music throughout the house. I quickly got addicted to carrying the controller with me and being able to pick my music from my MP3 collection, Internet radio source, CD player, or iPod.

Sonos setup software, which must be installed on one computer, is an integral part of the system. It has two main functions: 1) to define and connect to your computer-based music collection (including Internet radio stations); and 2) to serve as a software version of the Sonos remote unit.

I installed the software on a PC and added several folders from my network containing music files.

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