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Sonos S5 - is it the ultimate kitchen radio?

5 min read

[caption id="attachment_682" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="The Sonos S5 fits nicely on your kitchen counter"][/caption]

The Sonos S5 is a compact speaker that delivers more than just music, read on to find out why.

The S5 is a high-performance, all-in-one wireless music system that delivers crystal-clear, room-filling sound. Simply plug it in wherever you want music and enjoy. The 5-driver speaker system is individually powered by 5 dedicated digital amplifiers and includes 2 tweeters, 2 mid-range drivers and 1 subwoofer for high-quality sound that rivals much larger, more complicated audio equipment.
Source: http://www.sonos.com/products/zoneplayers/s5/default.aspx

So how does the Sonos S5 live up to these bold claims made on the Sonos website?
I've owned the S5 for around nine months now and I am thrilled with its performance, from the sound quality right through to the additional music services that compliment your existing music collection.

[caption id="attachment_725" align="alignright" width="300" caption="The Sonos iPad app really is a joy to use. It's free in the App store. An Android app is also available."][/caption]

So how does it work?
In addition to the Sonos S5 you need a device called a "zonebridge" which connects to your router and provides the S5 with the wireless internet access that really shows off the S5 for the magical device it is.

I should come clean now, the Sonos only works work with additional software. In other words you need to install software on your computer, your iOS device or your Android phone. You can also buy the Sonos controller, but that's an expensive remote. However, once you have these installed you have probably the best remote control you will ever have seen. If you have multiple Sonos speakers around the house, you can control them all from the one remote controller. This means you can specify what you can listen to in each "zone" or room.

It only takes about half an hour to get the Sonos up and running - from un-boxing to installing the zonebridge and the sonos software on your PC. While it's not quite plug and play, the effort is worth it as in the future everything can be controlled via the apps.

Getting music "into" your sonos is simply a matter of selecting the music on your computer or selecting an internet radio station. All music is streamed either over the Internet over over your home network.

[caption id="attachment_680" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="The front view of the Sonos S5"][/caption]

So, what makes the Sonos so compelling?

It's not that you can listen to your favourite radio stations and it's not that you can stream your own music collection. What sets it apart is the additional music services that integrate into the Sonos such as my favourite Napster. This is a paid service (£5 per month) that adds significant value to my limited music collection. Many of you will be familiar with Spotify but at £10 a month I do not value it more than Napster (yes I could take my collection on a mobile device, but for the same price I can do that with Napster). Other services includer Last.fm and deezer - both of which offer streaming with limited functionality.  I am a recent convert to Sticher radio and I use that to easily listen to my favourite podcasts.

One of the lesser known functions of the sonos is the ability to input audio, therefore allowing you to plugin your phone, iPod or laptop and use the Sonos as an external speaker. This function works well.

Sound quality.

[caption id="attachment_679" align="alignright" width="300" caption="The rear view of the Sonos S5. This is where the power, headphone and auxiliary ports are located."][/caption]

The Sonos S5 provides good quality sound (as you'd expect from a speaker in this price range) even when streaming lower bit rate tracks. Obviously the better the quality of the digital audio the better it sounds but overall I am very satisfied with this speaker. I am no audiophile but both bass and treble appear to perform well.

 

Conclusion
This post was sparked by the theory that the Sonos S5 could be the ultimate kitchen radio, so is it? I have to say that in my kitchen it most certainly is the daddy of all home music systems. It has reintroduced me to music and I now consider myself to be an avid radio listener. I much prefer powering on the Sonos S5 compared to watching the TV (in the kitchen). The breadth of options that the Sonos S5 brings definitely means that this is superior to the standard FM or DAB radio and the sound quality is superior to our Sony Hi-Fi, therefore making this the ultimate kitchen radio for me.
If you are considering a speaker dock or a wireless speaker system you should gives serious consideration to the Sonos S5, you will not be disappointed.

 

[caption id="attachment_681" align="alignleft" width="255" caption="Not much to note of the side on view, except the nice, clean design."][/caption]

 

 

AirTunes: My media streaming solution

2 min read

I recently added an Airport Express Base Station to my wireless network at home, with the primary aim of streaming music to the Hi-Fi in the kitchen, but I experienced mixed results.

My set-up comprises the following: Mac Mini and a Linksys WRT54GC

The initial set-up was complicated by the inclusion of an install cd and instruction booklet which as it turned out was only required by windows users. Instead of reading the instructions (as I did), all I needed to do was plug it in and activate multiple speakers in iTunes! Once this step was completed the Mac took over and automatically set-up AirTunes. I was able to hear immediate results and I was impressed by the sound quality.

However, music playback would stutter repeatedly to the point that I was beginning to think I had made a mistake in purchasing the router. I resorted to google. A quick search posed more questions and quickly pointed me to advanced settings in the airport utility where I was able to manually configure the router.
While the problem eased it wasn't resolved, further investigation returned many users complaining about something called IPV6. This post: solved all of my problems using the following steps.

1. Open System Preferences
2. Open Network pane
3. Select Airport in the left list
4. Click the Advanced button
5. Go to the TCP/IP tab
6. Set the "Configure IPv6" field to Off.
7. Click "OK"
8. Click "Apply"
9. Let iTunes connect to you're Airtunes speakers

During the process of trial and error I came across a wifi utility called inSSider. This programme (windows only) scans your locality for other wifi users and provides detailed information like which channel they are using and if it's likely they are causing interference on your network. I found another network using the same channel as me (6) so I therefore switched channels (11).

AirTunes is now working flawlessly and I am able to listen to my iTunes library throughout my house.

Kindle on it’s way to the UK

2 min read

Amazon have unveiled the Kindle to the British public or should I say the "International Wireless" version is available to order from Amazon.com who will then ship it to the UK.

In the meantime:
"Your international shipment is subject to customs duties, import taxes and other fees levied by the destination country." Thus bumping the price up!

You would expect a device such as the Kindle to come with a local power adapter, but you'd be wrong:
the "Kindle ships with a U.S. power adapter and a micro-USB cable for charging your Kindle via a computer USB port."

However you can purchase in US $: "Kindle books, newspapers, and magazines are currently priced and sold in United States dollars" which makes the price of books volatile.

But all is not lost as ebooks such as "New York Times® Best Sellers and New Releases are $11.99 to $13.99 (prices include VAT), unless marked otherwise. You'll also find many books for less - over 70,000 titles are priced under $5.99" which isn't bad until you realise that other ebooks are similarly priced at other UK stores.

So why would you buy a Kindle at this stage?
The question on everyone's lips is how much of the UK ebook market will the Kindle acquire and how quickly?

I've been waiting for the iPhone App and at the time of writing there is still no word on when a UK version will be made available.

The Frankfurt Book Fair takes place later this week and more details about distribution rights will surely become known then, unless the industry is engulfed in the google books deal.

Apple Keyboard and Mouse

2 min read

I've just taken delivery of an Apple wireless keyboard and Mouse, that is their bluetooth keyboard and bluetooth mighty mouse.

The unboxing process, as always with Apples products, is delightful. You just know you're getting quality products. Second thought, where's the rest of the keyboard? The keyboard is tiny yet they keys themselves are massive!
Touch typing is a breeze and my overall impression of the keyboard is that it is pure quality.
Design wise it is iconic with it's aluminium case and white keys, while it weighs next to nothing. It's reminiscent of the zx spectrum.
This is a keyboard worth buying.
I really don't know what else to say. It took 30 seconds to setup, it was just a matter of pairing it with my mac mini and away I went.

Below you can see a comparison with my previous keyboard, a MS Desktop 6000:


The mighty mouse has mixed reviews. Typically users either love it or loathe it. I am lover! Granted I've not been using one for long, but it is very easy to use and ergonomically, it is very comfortable.

Time will tell on whether I experience the scroll wheel clogging up, but I think this is one mouse that I'm going to live with.

Why I bought a mac mini

3 min read

So why did I buy a mac mini?Well quite simply it was the best product that met my requirements, that came within my budget. Apple are not often labelled ‘value for money’, but with the mini they have a great all in one solution for those looking to upgrade their home computing solution. I’ll not go into a detailed review (there are plenty around) but I will state that this is one fine machine.

The mini is my first Apple computer and although I have two ipods, I’ve haven’t been an Apple fan. They always produce products that divide their critics, appear over priced and somewhat arrogant. Take the ipod, for so many the best gadget ever produced, but others complain about the lack of features or that the sound quality doesn’t compare to others such as Sony or Creative. Just check out AV Forums to see user experiences and debate.

I have to confess that I love my ipods. I have a 4th gen 40GB and a 1stgen 2GB nano and both serve me well. I do encode my cd’s at a fairly high bit rate between 256 and 320 to ensure that I get the best out of my digital music. I also have a decent set of headphones.

Back to the mini.
Well for form it’s got it in bucket loads, it really is small, but they haven’t compromised on spec other than an integrated graphics card (but I’m not a pc gamer). I bought it primarily as my home computer / home theatre option.I have it connected to a 32” LCD via DVI and it looks great and subsequently has replaced my DVD player. One of Apples products is called OS X and is arguably their most famous product.OS X is Apples operating system that powers all the computers and even the iphone!I’ve always been a windows man and the change to OS X has been really easy.
When you hear things like ‘it just works’ you often wonder how real that is.Trust me, it’s very real, scarily so, especially when you come from a Microsoft background.The mac worked straight out of the box and detected my
MS wireless keyboard and mouse. On XP I had to install the drivers first! OS X has loads of features and as a former XP user seems to be a massive change, but it’s really intuitive and the you wonder how you lived without them for so long.
Take Front Row, you use your apple remote to navigate your photos, podcasts, music or movies.In a digital world this just makes sense. After I’ve had s few months to play with the mini and OS X I’ll write an update and let you k
now how I’ve got on.