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Introduction

Introduction

At a Glance
Product Sonos ZonePlayer 80 (ZP80)
Summary No-amplifier version of slick, but expensive networked audio player
Pros • Easy to set up
• Full-color controller
• Can play files directly from networked storage
• Mesh wireless network
Cons • Expensive
• Can't play DRM files

I've been able to experiment with a number of networked audio devices during the last couple of years. These devices are little boxes that you can connect to your home network and stereo system. They are used to play back your digitized-audio library stored on a computer or on other devices in the network.

Most of the devices I have previously tested, such as the Buffalo LinkTheater, displayed the user interface on your TV. Others, such as the Roku SoundBridge, had its own text-only display. The Apple Airport Express had neither a display nor a remote. Instead, it relied on a computer for playback management. All of the devices, except for the Airport Express, came with their own little remote control. After living with a few of these devices connected to my LAN for a while, I found myself mostly using the Apple AirPort express, with my laptop serving as a big remote. Using my laptop as a remote offered a lot of flexibility. With the other devices, I was sacrificing functionality such as quick scrolling through my library, easy searching, album-art display, etc. However, relying on a laptop for music file management was certainly not the best solution.

In this review, I look at Sonos' ZonePlayer 80 (ZP80). The ZP80 is intended to serve as a lower-cost alternative to the original ZonePlayer 100 (ZP100) for use in Sonos' Digital Music System. Sonos mainly lowered the cost by removing the built-in 50 W (per channel) amplifier found in the original ZP100.

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