I’ve been a Sonos fan since they first introduced their first products years ago and it’s been fun watching them evolve the line, tapping into new trends and offering new services and values. The latest in the line is the Sonos S5, a standalone device that’s designed to be used with an iPhone as the controller (of course, it also plugs into the rest of the Sonos family and can use any Sonos controller). It’s a simple concept and I’m surprised that no one has thought of it before. First, let’s see what the S5 isn’t. It’s not a speaker dock to recharge and play content on your iPhone. It’s designed that way and it makes sense if you think about it. In a bedroom setting (a likely place where the S5 will end up) you *don’t* want your phone in a dock across the room. Nor do you want your speakers next to your bed. Same for almost every other room where the S5 might go. What you do want is to access your iTunes library (which likely has more content than your phone), your online services like Rhapsody, Pandora, Last.FM and the like and Internet radio. It’s that combination, combined with the iPhone as a controller that makes the S5 work and stand out in a crowded market of speaker docks that really don’t work well with the phone model. It’s really simple. Sonos is about tapping into the Internet and your home network to deliver a complete and total music experience.
As for the S5, it’s pretty amazing. I met with Sonos in NY and they went through all the software magic they did to make this thing sound so good but bottom line it is magic. Here’s an example. Take your typical speaker dock, anyone will do. Crank up the sound. What you will get is distortion as soon as the volume gets loud. On the S5? It doesn’t happen. I can crank the volume up high and it just doesn’t distort. Not that I’d want to turn the volume up that high. At the highest settings, I had no problem filling a 30′ room. For most scenarios, where the S5 is going to be used, the sound is simply phenomenal. I connected to Rhapsody, Pandora, iTunes and a few Internet radio stations with ease. There’s also a setting that lets you set the S5 as an alarm clock as well. Overall, it’s a complete set of features that work well together.
So what’s the downside? I haven’t really found one. You will need another Zone player that’s wired to your router to use the S5 wirelessly (or it can be plugged directly into a router itself. In theory, you might use something like home-plug to connect but I haven’t tried that). You’ll also need an iPhone (or iPod Touch) as a controller or invest in a Sonos one. Having said that, Sonos has done something really interesting here. They’ve not just created an accessory for the iPhone, they’ve created an accessory for an app and that’s where things start to get really interesting.