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Sonos ZonePlayer S5 Review

DT Editor's Choice

Highs

  • Fantastic Sound
  • Extremely versatile
  • Great user interface- easy to use
  • Full of thoughtful extras

Rating

Our Score 9.5
User Score 0

Lows

  • Initial setup could be confusing to some
  • High initial cost of investment
Sonos’ ZonePlayer S5 obsolesces other iPod speaker docks with a blend of sophistication and surprising convenience, paired with audiophile-grade sound.

Setup

Once we connected the ZoneBridge to our router, we turned on our S5 and followed the quick start instructions for syncing the two units. The Sonos family of wireless products creates a “mesh network” that gets the Sonos units working together to maximize signal strength and integrity. This increases the wireless signal range and makes the signal less likely to be affected by your microwave oven, cordless phone or some other household devices.

After the wireless link was established, we installed the Sonos music software on our computer, and the Sonos controller app on our iPhone. As we installed the music software, we directed it to all music folder locations on our computer. This step took a while, since we have an iTunes folder in one place, Windows media folder in another, and some randomly imported tracks in various other places. It really helps to know where your music is on your computer. Once this step is completed, however, Sonos works its magic to organize all of your music and playlists and display them in one very slick interface. The end result makes the rather complicated initial setup totally worth the time and effort.

Wireless Performance

Since we had just one ZoneBridge and one ZonePlayer S5, we couldn’t test the wireless range of the S5 to its fullest extent by taking advantage of its unique mesh-network approach. That said, the wireless range and signal integrity from this basic combo impressed us. There wasn’t a power receptacle available in our testing home that was far enough from the ZoneBridge such that the signal cut out on us. So, we took the S5 to some neighboring homes and found that the S5 worked perfectly well, so long as it was within our wireless network’s range. We were actually able to get the S5 to pick up our wireless signal from as far as three homes away, so we feel safe in saying that the S5 will work well in your home, too.

Audio Quality

The ZonePlayer S5’s audio quality was outstanding. Initially, our testing unit’s bass setting was maxed out. At this setting, the bass was overwhelming, but after a few seconds of adjusting the bass and treble settings to neutral, we were very impressed with the resulting sound. Bass was powerful and tight, though we did feel that it was a bit “thumpy” with some bass heavy tracks. Midrange was open, revealing and spacious enough to feel as if it wasn’t coming from a fixed point in the room. High frequencies were well controlled. We never experienced any unpleasant brightness, but the tweeters still yielded an impressive amount of detail. At extreme volumes, the highs did get a little distressed. However, these extreme volumes aren’t likely to be reached within the confines of an indoor space. Our only concern here would be in an outdoor scenario where approaching the maximum volume is more likely.

User Interface

Accessing content was a breeze using our iPhone controller app. The interface is clear and easy to navigate. We were able to dial in several Internet radio stations, our Pandora account and several playlists from our home media library in just seconds with only a few touches to navigate the menus. With so much media available, the controller interface could very easily have been a clumsy deal breaker. Thankfully, Sonos has managed to put as much thought into the software as the hardware and the combination is a pleasure to use.

Conclusion

The Sonos ZonePlayer S5 is at the top of its class for a wireless, powered speaker system. Its unprecedented combination of content access, ease of use and excellent sound make it a top choice for those interested in maximizing their convenience when accessing their music. Though initial setup may take some patience, the overall experience with the Sonos S5 is extremely pleasant. Performance like this does come at a price: Each S5 will run about $399, and a ZoneBridge will run $99, but we are hard pressed to think of any portable playback system that can come close to the S5’s combo of networkability, expandability and audio performance for under the combined $500. That’s a value in our book. We highly recommend the S5.

Highs:

  • Fantastic Sound
  • Extremely versatile
  • Great user interface- easy to use
  • Full of thoughtful extras

Lows:

  • Initial setup could be confusing to some
  • High initial cost of investment

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