A free firmware update to the Sonos Digital Music System has opened up an innovative new way to use the Rhapsody online music subscription service with Sonos equipment. With this addition in place, Sonos distinguishes itself in the crowded field of music streaming services.
Version 2.0 of Sonos's software enables you to select any of the 2 million or so songs on Rhapsody and play them on your stereo, without even having your PC on. (See a complete review of the new Rhapsody 4.0.) Previously, with Sonos--as with other media streamers--you had to have your PC turned on and logged in to the Rhapsody service to access music, and you could play only the tunes that you had previously loaded into your Rhapsody library.
These limitations made exploring new music a hassle. Suppose that you are sitting on the couch and want to try out the new Bob Dylan album. In the past, you'd have had to go to your PC, log on to Rhapsody, navigate to Modern Times, add it to your library, trek back to the couch, and queue it up with your Sonos controller. Though that hardly qualifies as one of the labours of Hercules, it's a pain just the same.
Now you never have to leave the couch. Using your Sonos controller, you simply navigate to the new album and press play. If you like it, you can add it to your Rhapsody library with a few button presses.
The implementation is not flawless. The lists of artists-- especially in a less popular genre like classical music--can sometimes take 5 or 10 seconds to come up. The holdup, according to Sonos, relates to the task of pushing so much data to your controller. Similarly, finding a particular artist can take a while, again because you have so many choices.
But if you're satisfied with the not-quite-CD-quality music that Rhapsody delivers, and you don't recoil at the price (the Sonos equipment is US$999 for a two-room setup; a Rhapsody subscription is $10 per month), you may never have to buy music again.
Sonos Digital Music System, Software 2.0
Direct connection to Rhapsody music subscription service provides access to 2 million songs, with few hassles.
Price when reviewed: Software is free, equipment for two rooms starts at US$999