Sonos Update Introduces Stereo Pair Feature
Sonos, maker of the Sonos Multi-Room Music System ( Macworld rated 5 out of 5 mice ) and the popular ZonePlayer S5 ( Macworld rated 4 out of 5 mice ) powered speaker units, recently released the Sonos System Software 3.2 update, which adds a variety of intriguing capabilities to Sonos systems.
These capabilities include the addition of the iheartradio service (a free service that offers streams from more than 750 popular U.S. radio stations), a crossfading feature that can fade one song into another (the crossfade lasts a couple of seconds and isn't user-adjustable), more expansive alarm settings, and a feature called S5 Stereo Pairing. It's this last feature that I put to the test.
The Sonos S5 is a $399 portable powered speaker system that offers very nice sound in a portable unit and easily fills a room with sound. One thing it doesn't offer, however, is much in the way of stereo separation. Sonos has addressed the issue in an interesting way.
With the latest update, you can configure two S5s so that one acts as the stereo left channel and the other serves as the right channel. You do this via one of Sonos' hardware controllers (the CR200, for example) or the free Sonos Desktop software. The Sonos iPhone application hasn't yet been updated to support these new features.
Configuring the speakers is essentially the same process on the controllers and in software. After adding the S5s to the system, choose ZonePlayer settings and then select one of the S5s. When you do this with a controller you have the option to choose a Create Stereo Pair option. Using the software you select an S5 and then click a Settings button. Within a Stereo Pair tab you click Make A Stereo Pair. You're told to make sure that both S5s are in the same room and then choose which S5 you'd like to pair with the one you've selected. Make that choice, press the Mute button on the unit that will deliver the left channel, and the two are paired.
I tried this with a couple of S5s provided by Sonos and was very impressed. Much as I like Sonos' gear (I'm an enthusiastic customer), I found the S5's sound a little one-dimensional. Having two S5s separated by several feet is a completely different experience. It's a rich sounding unit to begin with--providing plenty of bass and a crisp top end--and having two completes the picture.
That said, it's not an inexpensive proposition to pungle up $800 to outfit your home with such a system. On the other hand, you're welcome to unpair the S5s at any time, place one in the bedroom, another in the living room, and--as with all Sonos systems--play different music in each room.