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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.

Pure Highway – In Car DAB

2 min read

I've recently taken delivery of the Pure Highway, which is an in car DAB radio solution. This is a handy device if you enjoy listening to 5 live or talksport, or any station that broadcasts on MW and DAB. It connects to your existing stereo through the aux in or via FM transmitter. you can also plug you MP3 player into it and you can also take it with you as it can operate on batteries and work as a portable DAB player.

Highway is a unique, easy to fit in-car DAB digital radio that also enables you to listen to your iPod/MP3 player.
...easily attached to your windscreen with a removable flexible mount (just like sat nav).
Highway is packed with great, easy-to-use features such as ReVu™ to pause and skip back through live DAB radio, quickSCAN to find free FM transmission frequencies

One criticism is that it's not a pretty solution. You have to have the aerial stuck to the windscreen and the cable then runs around the screen and plugs into the unit which is attached via sucker to the windscreen. A power cable is then attached to your car power supply (in my case the cigarette lighter!). So, not ideal but I don't care about that!
As a DAB radio it performs admirably. It auto scans on start up and quickly finds DAB stations in your area. If your new to DAB then all you need to know is that there is no need to know your favourite radio stations frequency, you simple scroll through list by station name. The Highway comes with 20 presets, plenty of room to add your favourite stations.

The Pure Highway is available now priced at a respectable £69.99.