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Sonos Takes on Bose

Multi-room audio systems developer Sonos has never been shy about touting the superiority and functionality of its products.

Driven by the world’s healthy appetite for music, the company has done well in capturing the attention of consumers looking for a way to coalesce their music collections, which tend to reside on multiple digital platforms in the home. This week, here in New York, Sonos looked to net more of that market with the unveiling of its ZonePlayer S5, an all-in-one wireless music system that is controlled with an iPhone.

An exploded view of the new Sonos ZonePlayer S5

“The S5 solves things for Sonos,” said Thomas Meyer, from the company’s marketing team. “We’ve always had this complexity problem and a perception that we are really expensive. “With a pricing of the S5 at $399, we’ve made it easier than ever to get into Sonos.”

Sonos systems, which come in various configurations depending on need and budget, really made a splash a little more than a year ago when it released a free Apple iPhone app that could control all the units in its products. With the success of that move away from a proprietary controller, Sonos is looking to tap into a wider market, one that sees 60 million iPhone users by the end of 2009.

The S5 hopes to not only build on consumers desire for simple access to music, but to integrate that need with their obsession for a product that has true universal appeal.

The S5 features a five-driver speaker system and a new DSP circuitry that, on demonstration, delivers its goal of filling a room with sound.

To differentiate itself from the popular Bose SoundDock for iPod, the S5 is dock-less and connects to the user’s bank of music via Wi-Fi and the Internet, where accounts to music services such as, Pandora, Rhapsody, Napster, etc. are pulled into the mix.

The S5 also gives you access to any iTunes library stored on any computer or network attached storage, such as an Apple Time Capsule. The S5’s analog audio input connects to an external audio source (such as an iPod, CD player, TV, DVD, VCR, or radio receiver) and play music or audio on all ZonePlayers in the system. This cache of music can then be controlled with the Sonos Controller iPhone app or the Sonos CR 200, where users can search for songs and more than 25,000 stations, as well as control the volume for all of Sonos’ audio components in the home.

The S5 marks the company’s first foray into the mass-retail market, but Meyer said custom integrators can benefit too.

Sonos is looking to tap into a wider market, one that sees 60 million iPhone users by the end of 2009
Noting record-breaking sales in the CI channel over the past five weeks, he acknowledges that Sonos products don’t always give integrators the big profit margins that similar whole-house audio controllers might, but what it does offer is time savings.

“Sonos systems allow integrators to get in and out of projects within one or two days,” he said. “This allows them to sell more units.”

That the systems, which now include the S5, are expandable and compatible by simply adding up to 32 units, doesn’t hurt either.

The S5 will be available in the U.S. in early November. To see a demo of it in action visit

Llanor Alleyne is a freelance editor and writer ( living in Brooklyn, New York.