Product review: Sonos S5 (and related)

After a few years of watching Sonos and waiting for them to reduce prices somewhat, Alli and I finally bought a Sonos system last week. In short, we’ve been absolutely thrilled with it!

Sonos makes various devices to help you stream music around your house, with decent sound and control, using the computer storage as the main source, as opposed to CDs / DVDs / records / etc.
I’m not a huge audiophile, so I don’t have and don’t want fancy audio components. I did go through a phase when I got some serious speakers (B&W 600-series, if you’re curious), receivers, amps, etc. A whole bunch of cables around the house, and it sounded awesome in my living room. That was satisfying for a while, but then I got tired of it and sold the components.
But what I do want is the ability to listen to music around the house, not just in the living room. As people who like to cook and eat, Alli and I spend a lot of time in the kitchen. We also host events every now and then, and we don’t just want separate music in the living room vs dining room vs elsewhere.
Enter the Sonos S5 speakers. What I like about these puppies is that they’re wireless (like all the Sonos speakers), but contain the speakers and everything in one neat, relatively small package. You can place each speaker anywhere you want, and just plug it into power.
We got two of them, one for the kitchen / dining room, and one for the living room. We also got the ZoneBridge 100. This little piece sits by your computer, and connects to your WiFi or network router. You can also connect a speaker directly to your router, so stricly-speaking this piece is not required, but I didn’t want to waste a speaker ($399 is expensive) on the computer room.
First of all, opening the items was an Apple-like experience. The packaging is nice, simple, easy. You can tell they’ve put a lot of thought into it.
Secondly, setup was trivial. I actually followed directions and installed the computer piece first, for once. After that, you plug in the different hardware pieces to AC power wherever you want them. The ZoneBridge, which is tiny, also connects to your router.
You press one button on each device, and voila, they all detect each other. They get a little white light, it takes a few seconds, but that’s it. We haven’t touched them sense.
After that, I installed the free Sonos Controller iPhone application. It detected the speakers, asked me to label them, which I did, and from that point on, it was smooth sailing. The whole process literally took a couple of minutes and a few clicks / flicks of my finger.
The iPhone app is another reason why we finally got this system. It seemed ridiculous to me to pay $349 for the Sonos Controller, which is proprietary, although it looks nice. And I’m sure it works well, given my experience with Sonos. But still, I didn’t want to buy it. Whereas a free iPhone app that has the full feature set, well, that’s appealing 😉
We also installed the app on Alli’s iPhone. No problem for the system: 2+ remotes / controllers work just fine.
We’ve listened to internet radio, Pandora, our entire iTunes collection, it’s great. Smooth playback, great sound, perfect sync between rooms, easy control. I’m seriously thinking about getting another Sonos S5 speaker, for the bedroom, but we already have a nice and relatively new iHome system there.
Finally, I should note that I called Sonos once, to check on my order. A real person answered the phone right away, was super pleasant, perfectly informative, and a pleasure to chat with. That gave me a good sense of support and service from the company.
All in all, this Sonos system is great. I highly recommend it, despite the price tag. At least without the controller and with the S5s selling at a reduced price relative to the big speakers, it costs a lot less than it has in the past.