I got a chance Friday to check out the new Sonos system that gives you access to all 2 million or so songs on Rhapsody without going through a PC. My early verdict: Pretty damn cool.
Sonos made the new capability available starting Thursday through a software update.
This isn't the first time a media streamer has worked with Rhapsody, of course. In fact, Sonos has been compatible with the service for awhile. But previously, you had to have your PC on and logged into the Rhapsody service. Plus, you could only play the Rhapsody tunes that you had put in your library -- a process that's essentially like choosing them as favorites.
That meant that playing new music through Rhapsody could be a hassle. Let's say you're on the couch and decide to try out the new Bob Dylan album. With the old system, you'd have to go to your PC, log on to Rhapsody if you weren't already, navigate to "Modern Times" and add it to your library. Then you would trek back to the couch and queue it up with your Sonos controller. Hardly one of the trials of Hercules, but a pain just the same.
Now you never have to leave the couch. Just navigate to the album with your Sonos controller and press play. And if you like the new album, you can add it to your Rhapsody libary with a couple button presses.
The whole thing's not flawless. It can sometimes take 5 or 10 seconds for a list of artists to come up, especially in less popular genres like classical music. The issue, according to Sonos, is just pushing so much data to your controller.
To my mind, renting music through a subsciption service like Rhapsody or Napster makes a lot more sense now than buying it. It allows you to be more adventurous in checking out new music without ending up with lots of tracks you own but can't stand. Systems like the one Sonos has rolled out might just make subscriptions more popular, at least among the folks willing to spring for the hardware, which costs US$999 for a two-room setup.