By Rich Jaroslovsky
Can you put a price tag on mystique? When it comes to wirelessly accessing the music on your computer around your home, the answer is: $150.95.
That’s the approximate difference between the ZonePlayer S5 from Sonos Inc. and the SoundLink Wireless Music System from Bose Corp, known for its pricy Wave radios and CD players. Both Sonos and Bose give you rich sound from a single box, with no receiver, amplifier, stereo cables or iPod dock required. Both are easy to set up and use. While the Sonos costs $399, the Bose comes in at $549.95.To be fair, price isn’t the only difference, and your choice may come down to what’s more important to you. If it’s expandability, Sonos is the way to go; if it’s portability and simplicity, the Bose may be worth the higher price.
The basic SoundLink system consists of the speaker and a small transmitter -- Bose calls it a key -- that plugs into a USB port of the computer where you store your music or access Internet radio. There’s no software to install: All you do is change a setting on your computer. Nor do you need a home Wi-Fi network; the transmitter and speaker create their own, independent connection. The entire set-up process me took less than 20 minutes, and only that long because I placed the speaker upstairs from the computer, and had to run the steps a few times. Bose estimates the transmitter’s range at 60 feet: I did better than that, even with the floor in between.
The SoundLink comes with a chunky power adapter, but it is really made for mobility. The unit has an internal, rechargeable lithium-ion battery that can last for three hours or more between charges. As an added benefit, the SoundLink has an auxiliary port allowing you to directly connect an mp3 or CD player. And while no all-in-one system can offer the kind of stereo separation you get in a multi-speaker set-up, the Bose provides remarkably good sound.
The Sonos, by contrast, is considerably less transportable -- it’s twice as heavy, and requires a power outlet -- but it allows you to build a system throughout your home for much less than a conventional hard-wired set-up. The ZonePlayer is also a little more complicated than the Bose. There’s software to install.
On the other hand, you can have ZonePlayers in many rooms. Even better, each one can be playing something different -- John Mayer in the bedroom, the Beatles in the kitchen and Cee Lo Green in the basement.