Thursday, January 20, 2011
Posted by Matthew Shanks in "Digital Home Hardware & Accessories" @ 10:00 AM
Figure 2: Rear View of ZonePlayer
The ZonePlayer S5 features dedicated Mute and Volume buttons on the top panel, as well as an LED status indicator. The rear panel allows for connection of a secondary music source through its 3.5mm stereo line-in, and connection of headphones through the 3.5mm headphone jack. It also has two Ethernet switch connections to allow direct Ethernet cable connections to a computer, router or network-attached storage (NAS) devices.
Audio performance from the ZonePlayer was impressive, especially considering its small size, and is a very different sonic experience compared to typical iPod docks. The ZonePlayer has two tweeters, two 3" mid-range drivers and a single 3.5" woofer. Music and vocals were quite clear and bass was well-defined. It can easily compete with small bookshelf speakers for sound quality, but offers the added convenience of a single, portable unit. Better audio performance can be had from a dedicated stereo speaker system and amplifier, but audiophiles are not the intended audience for this system. Users of the ZonePlayer system will be willing to accept the trade-off of convenience for absolute audio performance, and prefer the system to blend into a living room or bedroom: something a larger, dedicated system cannot do. The system offers independent bass, treble, balance and volume adjustments through its equalization option. The ZonePlayer proved that it can play loud enough to satisfy the majority of users, as a volume setting of 50% was more than adequate to fill the main level of my house with music.
Besides audio performance, one major benefit the system has over using an iPod and dock is that it is not limited in storage size; the only storage limit is that of the computer itself, which can be upgraded easily as required. The system can be controlled by any iPod Touch, iPhone or iPad, regardless of its capacity, and does not require iPods be replaced as music collections grow, or tracks and playlists modified to match the size of the iPod. It offers users the option to build collections of lossless music tracks if audio quality is a high priority.
The network performance of the ZonePlayer was rock solid. The range of the network was never an issue, and with the ZoneBridge in my basement, the ZonePlayer worked flawlessly anywhere in my two storey house. I experienced only one technical issue during my time with the ZonePlayer, where it would stop playing music shortly after starting a track. Sonos' technical support was excellent in resolving the issue. The Desktop Controller software allows diagnostics to be run, and the results can be made available to a Technical Support Engineer through an online Live Support Chat or by phone. Sonos was able to confirm that the issue was not related to the Sonos ZonePlayer or ZoneBridge, but rather my computer, and it has not occurred again.