Sonos Bundle 250 with Sonos Controller CR200 review

We make no qualms about Sonos here at Pocket-lint. We think it's an excellent system that allows you to listen to your music from a single source in multiple locations around the house. It's expensive, yes, but then the experience is such a nice one that works first time (over the various different models we've tested over the years) that we really can vouch for the fact that even your Grandma should be able to do it.

Adding a new ZoneBridge as they are called, is as simple as pressing a button and as long as you are sensible in your locating of the devices, i.e., not at opposite ends of the house with nothing in-between, the wireless Mesh network that it creates is effective in delivering you music wherever you are.

So why are we reviewing it again if we've already reviewed numerous iterations of the same device before? After all the main elements of the 250 Bundle haven't really changed. You get two Sonos ZonePlayers - the ZP120 and the ZP90. The ZP120 comes with a 55W per channel built-in amplifier so all you have to do is add speakers. The ZP90 is a smaller box-like unit that connects to an amp you already have. It's a simple way to connect it into your home cinema system for example.

Of course you can add more and more of this units till the cows come home: 42 is the limit at the moment, which means you've got to have a fairly big house before you run out of options.

No, the reason that we've chosen to review the 250 Bundle is the inclusion of a new remote control - the Sonos Controller 200.

Moving with the times, Sonos has ditched the click wheel interface that aped the original Apple iPod to one that now imitates the Apple iPod touch. What that means is you get a full touchscreen remote control that looks like an iPod touch that's just eaten too much, way too much.

You can of course get a Sonos App for the iPhone and the iPod touch, so why bother with the dedicated remote? Well purely for that reason. The reason it is considerably thicker is because it has a battery that can last over a week and a dedication to performing the tasks at hand rather than being asked to play games or make phone calls. The result is a remote control that works on the Mesh network so you don't need line of sight, as well as giving you full functionality over your system wherever you are.

As for the interface, it's virtually identical to the iPod touch offering, after all why wouldn't it be? There are dedicated hardware buttons for quick access back to the home menu, volume and muting. A press of the home button zips you to the Zone selection page where you can select the Zones you want the music to be played in. Once selected you can control, at the press of a finger, whether or not to access your music library, radio, line-in or services like Last.fm, Napster, Pandora Radio or Rhapsody. The list of online music services does change depending on where in the world you are (it's a licensing thing) but you are given options in all cases. Spotify fans will be disappointed though, there isn't any support currently (it's an API thing).

Press a couple of buttons and you're streaming your music to that location, be it the bedroom or the living room. Names can be assigned to any Zone you create, and all can be managed via the remote quickly. There is even a pop-up keyboard for text input and searching. You can of course choose to link Zones or choose to listen to different music in different Zones from the same music source.

Music can be queued, played straightaway or played next with the option to view and manage the queue at any point.  On the Internet radio front you can search for stations around the globe and create favourite presets. A clock allows the system to be turned into an alarm clock and yes you can have it so the kids bedroom Zone goes off at a set time.

Imagine this is a really easy-to-use iPhone app, but with a £800/$1000 piece of equipment at the back end doing all the work and you get the picture. It really is simple and functional.

Away from the controller everything can be organised via the accompanying PC or Mac software and unlike most streaming systems where the software is an after thought, Sonos continue to create a very clever solution here too. Scanning your music collection really is just a couple of clicks. Awesome.

Verdict

Okay so we've heaped more than enough praise on the Sonos Bundle and accompanying controller. There must be something wrong? Well there are two gripes, both of which are us clutching at straws to be honest.

The first is that we found the remote control was constantly firing into action, almost to say hello. It didn't make anything happen, but on a coffee table or desk out of the corner of your eye its something you notice and therefore becomes annoying.

Then there is the other gripe. You don't actually need it - the controller that is. If ever there was a device that was a pure luxury element this is it. The iPhone or iPod touch app will do what you need to do and if you aren't bothered about freedom then you can do it all via the PC or Mac.

Of course we don't all have an iPod touch or iPhone and the longer battery and faster processor do make a difference, but if your already stretching yourself to afford the system then you could cut out the controller and survive on the cheap getting yourself a games console (yes the iPod touch we are talking to you) at the same time.

That said, if you are about to pay out almost £700 for the basic system, chances are adding in the controller at another £121 isn't going to be an issue, in which case it will be £121 well spent.