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room placementThe Sonos system doesn't play CDs or tapes, and it doesn't store any music itself. It relies on an existing music collection on a computer--in, for example, Musicmatch or iTunes (though the system won't work with music files from the iTunes Music Store), or music files just sitting in folders on your hard drive. It also requires a home network and a high-speed Internet connection.
You place a ZonePlayer 80 (ZP80) in each room. The $1,000 package includes two such players; additional rooms require their own players at $350 each, up to a maximum of 32 a household.
The very first ZP80 unit, however, must be physically wired to your network. The rest can be wireless and parked anywhere there's a power cord.
Sonos handheld screenAfter you install the Sonos system's Mac or Windows software, which finds, catalogs and transmits the music on your hard drive (and gives you another way to control the whole system), the rest is easy. The Sonos remote--a 6.5-by-3.8-inch slab whose 3.5-inch color screen displays the current song's album art, name, performer, album name, the elapsed time and other information--allows you to zoom through huge song lists using the white scroll wheel, which looks and works identically to the one on the iPod.
To choose what music you want to play, you push a button labeled Music. To specify where you want it to play, you push a button labeled Zones. The Music button lets you browse your collection by artist, album or other criteria. The Zones button brings up a list of your players, whether ZP80 or ZP100, which you can label according to the location of each player.