Sonos or AirPlay?
October 16, 2010 4:35 PM   Subscribe

Sonos Soundbridge and S5: What are the complications? Should we go with AirPlay devices instead, and which ones?

I have a Mac mini that acts as a jukebox — all the MP3s and unprotected AACs are managed with iTunes.

We are looking into a Sonos S5 to play music wirelessly elsewhere in the home. It looks like we need a Soundbridge to beam music wirelessly to the S5. Is this correct, that the Soundbridge is a requirement?

Does the Soundbridge access the Music folder and iTunes library resources transparently, or do I have to manually synchronize the Soundbridge with the iTunes library every time I add an MP3 file? Ideally, I would like to manage everything with iTunes, and the Sonos side of things would take care of itself.

I'm interested in AirPlay as an alternative but do not know what devices are available, other than the Denon receiver, which seems well out of our price range and is most certainly overkill for this task. What AirPlay devices have you used that work for you?
posted by Blazecock Pileon to Technology (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Unfortunately I know zero about Sonos.
You may find better information in a home audio or Apple specific forum.
I used to visit Audioholics for these sorts of questions.
posted by nickthetourist at 9:16 AM on October 17, 2010

Best answer: I built a Sonos system for my parent's house, it's awesome - great tech that does one job and does it well.

Yep, you'll need the Soundbridge, it creates the Sonos wireless network which the S5 will use to access your music folders & iTunes playlists over your local network. If you have an ethernet connection where you will be locating the S5 then you can connect it directly and then you won't need a Soundbridge. But then you lose the wireless advantage....

It will resync (index) automatically, iirc, or you can force a resync too. See page 15 of the S5 manual.

Airplay is a much less expensive solution, and you can use the Airport to distribute music:

AirPort Express Base Station with 802.11n and AirTunes

At $99 each you can set up permanent wireless music locations throughout your house (you can do the same w/the Sonos, but it's more costly). You will need to provide you own stereo system for each location. If for example you get a bunch of (overpriced) Bose bookshelf systems then you're back to the price range of the Sonos. But you could easily do it for less.

My suggestion is to start with the Airport/Airtunes solution, and if that doesn't work out then upgrade to the Sonos.
posted by jpeacock at 10:55 AM on October 17, 2010

Response by poster: That looks like a home theater forum.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:57 AM on October 17, 2010

We use Sonos, though not the S5, and every time I use it, I'm reminded how great it is. The user interface on the remote (Wireless Controller) is very good now, though a couple of years ago it was seriously lacking. You might get bad reports from people who haven't used it lately.

You can set the system to update automatically at a given time every day, and you can also update at any given moment using the menu command "Update music menu now." Sonos doesn't detect new additions as they're made.

The Sonos site has support forums. (Requires sign-up.) Also, here is a comprehensive review that may answer some of your questions. Caveats are sprinkled throughout.

Sonos’ devices run what they call SonosNet, which is a peer-to-peer wireless mesh network. Thus SonosNet requires one Sonos device to be physically attached via Ethernet cable to the home network. This means if the ZonePlayer S5 is the only Sonos unit in the home it will have to be tethered to a router via an Ethernet cable. Keep this in mind when deciding where to put the S5 in one’s home. If the S5 does not have access to a LAN connection and you don’t wish to run a network cable across the home then you may consider getting Sonos’ wireless ZoneBridge ($99).
posted by wryly at 2:09 PM on October 17, 2010

Response by poster: I think I'll try the AirPort Express, it's a bit cheaper and I have a spare amp and speakers to test.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:43 PM on October 17, 2010

Response by poster: Wow, that was ridiculously easy. And I can control it with my iPhone. Thanks for the tip.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:46 PM on October 18, 2010

I just got a Sonos system, and I'm currently completely unhappy using my iPhone to control the system. There is always a significant delay when attempting to, for example, raise the volume to hear some detail of the music or a track. The delay is the iPhone always having to reconnect to the house WiFi network. Also, I note the equalizer settings seem only available on the computer interface, which is only available for Mac and Windows. Also, I note that Sonos doesn't seem to comprehend that podcasts need to be handled differently than music.
posted by Goofyy at 1:36 AM on December 26, 2010

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