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Sonos Adds Protected Music

Sonos’ DIY wireless multiroom audio system now lets consumers stream protected WMA downloads around the house from their PC, thanks to a software update.

The PC must use Windows Media Player 11 running on Windows XP or Vista PCs.

Sonos claims to be the first wireless multiroom-audio system to stream protected music downloads, although single-zone digital media adapters from at least one company, Roku, offers streaming of protected music files.

Sonos’ system, launched in 2005, consists of a handheld wireless-RF LCD remote that displays the PC’s song library and directs music to wireless clients called Zone Players. The clients, which plug into a home’s existing audio systems or to passive speakers, incorporate audio decoders and proprietary wireless mesh-network transmitter and receiver. One type of ZonePlayer incorporates 2×50-watt amp to drive passive speakers. A second type lacks amplifiers and connects to a home’s legacy stereo systems, including table radios.

Up to 32 clients can be used in a home to create a wireless 32-zone multiroom audio system, but one must always be connected directly or via a wired Ethernet connection to a PC.

With the software update, the clients will now stream protected music downloaded from multiple sites, including the Zune Marketplace, AOL Music Now, URGE, Napster, Wal-Mart and Yahoo! Music Unlimited.

The amplified Zone Player is $499, and the unamplified model is an everyday $349. The RF remote is $399.

The software update, called Sonos System Software 2.1, follows a September update enabling a Sonos system to access Real Networks’s Rhapsody interactive-streaming subscription service without connecting through a PC that’s on and running. Previously, the only way to use Sonos to browse Rhapsody’s music selection was to open the Rhapsody client on a Windows PC running a universal plug-and-play application.

Sonos systems also let users access passive Internet streaming sites without a PC running.