I’ve tried to avoid buying a Sonos Multi-Room Music System ever since I first read about them back in 2005 but in March I finally succumbed and I haven’t regretted it for a second.

I have our music library on a LaCie NAS, which has a Twonky DLNA server onboard, but either it isn’t very good or the devices I attached never really got on with it. Those devices included the PlayStation 3, a Philips Streamium and a Pure network radio. Even when they did work, choosing what to play was never completely satisfactory – either a single track, a single album or a “genre”.

ZonePlayer 90

On a recent visit to Alf & Anne’s we saw Alf’s latest HiFi extravagance – a whole bunch of Sonos kit. Within 5 minutes we had queued up a selection of tunes ready to play from his library on the CR100 controller. I connected my netbook to his WiFi, downloaded the Sonos Windows Controller, and could add more music through that. Wen liked it too!

Some web research and advice from Alf showed that I needed a ZP90 to connect to the AV receiver in the living room and the network (there was already an Ethernet hub behind the TV); and an S5 with a cheap (as now obsolete) CR100 controller for the kitchen/dining room (sitting in the hatch where the, frankly shoddy, Pure Digital Evoke flow then was).

ZonePlayer S5

That was Sunday. I ordered the kit on Monday from Simply Sonos and it arrived on Tuesday. Sadly, the S5 was a little too big to perch in the hatch, so when the kitchen renovation was finished we moved it to the top of the ‘fridge and I had to order another (black) S5 for the dining room. That was just three weeks later.

It works superbly. It plays all the CDs we had ripped to MP3 directly from the Samba share on the LaCie. It does this so successfully that we have removed the CD player and speakers from the living room so that all the music now comes from the ZP90 via the AV system  – which also has the record deck connected to it. (Oh yes, there’s still room for vinyl, and the line-in on the ZP90 means that LPs and 45s can be streamed around the house as well.) I’m also in the process of ripping the remaining CDs so that they can all be stored somewhere else.

We’ve listened to much more music since we got the Sonos – sometimes even in preference to randomly turning on the TV. There are thousands of internet radio stations: the alarm function plays Radio 1 in the mornings (slightly later on Fridays) and we listened to Robyn on WUSC. There is Last FM if you want to hear music similar to bands you like and for Scrobbling (you can see the last 10 tracks we played under Listen at the right). A subscription to Spotify would get you almost unlimited streaming music. I also bought my first digital-only album, although I’m not committed to that.

ZonePlayer S5

I even used the Sonos as an excuse to get an iPad 2. The Sonos controller app looks really good on the iPad, and is easier to use than the PC application.

Sonos have recently launched the Play:3, a (slightly) cheaper 3 speaker player, and I’m fairly sure it will soon replace the stereo in the bedroom which has a dodgy CD player, a single alarm and a clock which loses a minute a day.

To quote Ferris: “It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.”

John Peel Anecdote

@Glinner (Graham Linehan, writer of Father Ted, Black Books and The IT Crowd) is a relentless twitterer and related this story as told to him by John Peel:

Listening to morning radio DJs and their deathly playlists (6music excepted) reminds me of a story John Peel told about Dave Lee Travis.
Peel was round at DLT’s house for a party, and he idly wondered where all his records were, because he couldn’t see any about.
“Are you kidding?” said DLT. “I don’t have any records. I get enough of that shit at work.”
(Admittedly he cheated and put that in three 140 character tweets, but it’s still a great story.)

Radio 2 is for OLD people

To be precise, the breakfast show (lately the Mighty Wogan and currently the Ginger Evans), plays such old music that I cannot bear to listen to it. I had thought, when I was younger, that one day I would “grow into” Radio 2. Despite now being in the “50-65” age bracket which is surely the target demographic, I still find Radio 2 is for older people. Even though it does play that annoying hippity-hoppity rubbish where ludicrously overpaid young men recite their abysmal poetry over other people’s tunes, I listen to Radio 1 every day.

Having been told that Chris Evans’ music was “quite racy this morning”, I decided to check the facts. The BBC handily publish the tracklist, and Wikipedia is more than adequate as a Paul Gambaccini stand-in for music facts. Of the 25 songs played today, only 3 were current: Paulo Nutini, Amy Macdonald (who she?) and Leona Lewis (X-Factor). The average age of the tracks played was over 22 years. 60% of the tracks were over 10 years old. 10 were more than 30 years old! I rest my case.

All this and more in this handy-dandy Google spreadsheet.

Radcliffe & Maconie, on the other hand, are brilliant and play decent music. So it can be done, unfortunately when I am watching the telly or eating my tea.