A while back I reviewed the Sonos wireless home stereo system and was quite impressed. The product is great and in many ways shows how any company can design products which are full of functionality but minimalistic in design. In short, the system allows you to instantly stream music virtually all kinds of music – streaming radio, MP3s, etc to components throughout your home without wires or headaches.
My two areas of improvement for Sonos in my last review were to allow the ability to play web-based audio such as YouTube and to allow Slacker radio to play on the system.
Well the company came out with a single product which more or less solved both of these challenges. A $119 Wireless Dock the WD100 allows you to plug in an iPod or iPhone and as it charges it becomes connected to your Sonos system allowing high-quality digital – not analog music – MP3s, podcasts, etc to be streamed from your Apple device throughout the home.
As someone who used to use Amazon to download music and who uses lots of computers I find syncing my music library very difficult to do meaning often I download music and if I hadn’t had a chance to put it on a central home server I can’t play it on Sonos. A few weeks back in-fact I had to deal with getting my music from the iPhone to the laptop so I could sync the Sonos software on my laptop so I could hear the music in my house. What a pain.
With this new dock I can just plug the iPhone in and the MP3s can be accessed by all the Sonos controllers in the house. In addition, you can access YouTube on the iPhone and it will play via your Sonos system. Being so used to listening to YouTube through crappy laptop speakers, when I heard a music video come through clearly on an S5 integrated stereo system I was happily surprised. I did notice on the few videos I played – the video portion seemed to stop on the screen while the audio played fine.
In addition, as a test, I opened the Slacker Radio app on my iPhone and was able to have the output play through the components in my home. Of course this precludes you from using your Sonos remotes to control your Slacker player – you have the be near the iPod to skip to the next song for example, but still, you can now integrate Slacker into the system – albeit not in a highly refined way.
Of course knowing that just so many devices can act as Sonos remote controls by running software, I had to see if I could use the iPhone in the Wireless Dock as the remote control to access the music on the same iPhone in the dock. When I tried to do this, it worked very well – the device found itself, allowed me to select it and I was able to access all the music and podcasts on the gadget and play them via the stereo systems in the rooms of my home.
My one room for improvement is the placement of the synchronization button in the rear left of the unit. I hit it accidentally two times with my right index finger and I only touched the unit three times to try plugging in various Apple devices. After hitting the button I was a bit alarmed as I wasn’t sure if I disabled my system’s ability to connect with the dock. Turns out I didn’t mess things up – but still it was a bit unnerving.
But this is a small point and the length of the charger which is thankfully longer than the ones Apple supplies with its devices offsets this minor annoyance.
Sonos has a winner here – if you have an iPod or iPhone and a Sonos system the $119 is a very fair price to pay for all the new functionality you receive. When I explained to my wife what the new dock does she was absolutely thrilled – she too has music on an iPhone which is not always synced with her laptop. If her reaction is typical, this new product may be the must-have device this holiday season for Sonos owners and for people who want to liberate the music from their iDevices and access it easily in every room.
Controlling Sonos from an iPad you can see the iPhone is recognized as a docked iPod and in this case it is playing in the Gym and Kitchen zones. Clicking on the Tracks option provides you a list of MP3s on the docked device.