Calif. - Sonos upgraded its wireless multi-room-audio
system with a new wireless handheld controller that replaces its predecessor's
scroll wheel with touchscreen and virtual QWERTY keyboard.
"With up to 25,000 Internet radio stations available now through
Sonos, the controller needs to change," said Sonos co-founder Thomas Cullen. "You
need a [virtual] keyboard to find stations easily." With a touchscreen and virtual
keyboard, consumers will also be able to access functions and select PC-stored
songs in fewer steps, he said. "You can use the keyboard to search for
anything, including artists in my library, create custom Pandora stations, or name
a room [zone] without scrolling to a letter and hitting enter."
The touchscreen uses capacitance technology, so consumers can use
their fingers rather than a stylus to navigate the menu.
The CR200 controller retails for an everyday $349, including
tabletop cradle/charger. Its predecessor was priced at $399, plus $40 for the
cradle. It's available in stores July 28. Like before, the controller is part
of a $999 bundle that includes the Zone Player ZP120 amplified client and ZonePlayer
ZP90 unamplified client. When purchased separately, the clients retail for $499
and $349, respectively.
Sonos got its feet wet in touchscreen control with the launch
late last year of a free iPhone/iPod
Touch app that uses a home's Wi-Fi network to control a Sonos system.
Sonos' system distributes music over a proprietary wireless mesh network
from a networked PC or network-attached storage (NAS) device to clients, or
Zone Players, in other rooms. The clients also stream music from Internet radio
stations and music services directly through a networked broadband modem
without the use of a PC. To access PC-stored music and Internet radio,
consumers must hardwire one client, or a $99 ZoneBridge repeater, to the
Ethernet port of a home network's router.
The controller is "fast, simple and reliable," Cullen said. It
also sports full VGA resolution compared to its predecessor's QVGA resolution,
delivering twice the resolution of an iPhone screen, he said. The company also
removed hard-button playback controls, placing them on the touchscreen in a
location where they are always visible, but a hard volume button and hard mute
button remain. Other changes include replaceable rather than embedded
lithium-ion battery and an "I" button that lets users add stations to favorites
and view additional information, such as artist bios, streamed from the www.last.fm Internet music service.
Other Internet music services streamed directly to ZonePlayers
are Rhapsody, Napster, Sirius and Pandora.
Like the old controller, the new controller uses a variation of
wireless 802.11g, as does the ZoneBridge repeater. The two
clients, however, use a variation of g-compatible 802.11n with
three-antenna multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) technology to boost range
and thus reduce the potential number of dead spots within a home. That
simplifies the placement of clients within a home by consumers, the company
said. In some homes, especially larger homes or those with lots of brick walls,
consumers might not need to buy one or more dedicated $99 Zone Bridge
repeaters to fill in coverage gaps, the company explained.
Because the system is wireless, Sonos said sales through custom-install
channels are growing faster than over-the-counter sales as installers more
aggressively target retrofit installs. In a retrofit install, installers mount
Zone Players in the attic, running speaker wire from them to in-ceiling or
in-wall speakers. In a home with previously installed custom system, installers
retrofit the system with multiple Zone Players in the main A/V rack.
For a video
demo, visit www.sonos.com/demo.