Jon told me that one of his company's main goals is to make the "time to music," meaning the minutes between opening the box and bopping to your tunes, as short as possible. In this they've succeeded: It took me more time to physically remove the S5 from its box than it did to get music playing. What's more, my 7-year-old had the iPhone app (free) figured out within 5 minutes with no help from me. But before we get to the apps, let's look at the unit itself.
Upon opening the box you'll find an instruction booklet, power cable, Ethernet cable, setup CD, audio cable and the unit itself. Each S5 has 5 individual speakers (two tweeters, two 3" mid-range drivers and one 3.5" woofer) with individual class-D digital amps. On the top you'll find a volume toggle button, a mute button and a status indicator light. On the back you'll find a power jack, two Ethernet jacks, audio line in (3.5mm auto-detecting) and a headphone jack. There's even a carrying handle that's quite comfortable yet completely invisible from the front.
Setup begins by connecting the S5 to your local network, so that it can stream your iTunes library as well as music from services like Pandora, Napster, Rhapsody, SIRIUS and Wolfgang's Vault plus Internet radio.
I wasn't exaggerating the simplicity, as you'll be done in 3 steps if you've got one unit, and 4 if you have two. Simply connect it to your router via the supplied ethernet cable and then install the software from the CD, which establishes a network connection and asks where your iTunes library lives. Finally, grab the iOS app of your choice. It will recognize and pair with each S5 unit it finds pretty much on its own.
Each S5 unit works as a "zone" that can be placed anywhere within your network (note that one must be physically connected via ethernet). Once a single unit has been set up as descried above, another can be added by simply plugging it into a wall outlet. It'll find the first unit wirelessly. For example, you might place one in an office (name it "office") and another in the family room named, you guessed it, "family room." Each zone can play music independently of the other, simultaneously or in stereo. Jon told me that up to 32 zones can exist in a single network, and most homes average 3 zones.
Again, getting the S5 up and running was remarkably easy. Within minutes I had the office unit playing music from my iTunes library and the family room unit streaming Pandora. Imagine that you're moving into a new home. You'll want music to get you through the dreadful unpacking process, right? Of course! Set the S5 up in the amount of time it would take you to haul in the first three boxes and you're good to go.
Speaking of Pandora, those who use similar streaming services are in for a treat. Access to each is built into the S5 and super simple to set up. Additionally, service-specific features like Pandora's thumbs are included. Here's how those services work with the S5.
Jon told me that Sonos works with those providers to integrate the cool features that are unique to each. Remarkably, they've done so without adding clutter to the iOS apps. For example, Last.fm via the Sonos app lets me start and new station, tag stations or artists and "like" or "dislike" certain tracks. Likewise, Pandora lets me vote a song up or down with the familiar thumbs icons. Honestly, I'm so in love with Pandora and Last.fm in my pocket. Yet, it gets better with the Sonos queue.
All queue'd up
A big part of the S5's appeal is the ability to make live, on-the-fly playlists. For example, perhaps I want to listen to the Sideways soundtrack, followed by some Jack Johnson and David Grey (how's that for the soundtrack to a 40-something dinner party?). The process is easy: I just select each album in turn and add them to the queue. If I like, I can add individual tracks or shuffle the order as the music plays.
But the real fun begins when I pull a track from Pandora into the queue. Or Last.fm. Or a French radio station that plays house music. Again, it can all be accomplished from where ever I happen to be standing with my iPhone.
It gets better with party mode. Let's say you're having a get-together with some friends. Those with iPhones can arrive with the Sonos app installed and, after you enable the party mode feature, add music to the queue or re-arrange the order of songs on the fly. That way everyone gets to play DJ. Neat, eh?
There are four ways to interact with the Sonos S5: The iPhone/iPod touch app, the iPad app, the Mac desktop software and Sonos's own hardware controller. As I said earlier, setup of the iPhone app is a cinch. Once you're done, you get a listing of all available zones. Either can be controlled as long as you're within the same network. Additionally, you can group or ungroup zones with a couple of taps from the iPhone app.