August 22, 2011
| by Greg Robinson
Are you, like I am, tired of fighting with your sluggish and ill-behaved laptop computer? Are you fed up with juggling multiple remote controls when switching between Pandora, the radio, and your personal music library? When you get home from work and all you want to do is unwind to some relaxing tunes, the last thing you want to do is battle with temperamental technology. If you’re nodding your head in agreement, waiting for the solution to our (very) common problem, I won’t keep you in suspense any longer. There’s just no other way to say it: the SONOS Controller for iPad makes music fun again.
Like many home automation and home entertainment apps for iPad, the SONOS Controller for iPad is a free download from Apple’s App Store. Before you get too excited though, let’s be clear about something. The SONOS Controller for iPad is, as its name implies, a control application for use with the SONOS music system. This means you need to be running at least one SONOS zone player before you can get in on the fun. Otherwise this elegant and intuitive iPad app will be as useful to you as a remote car starter is to someone who doesn’t own a car.
The System at a Glance
Much like Apple’s approach to technology, simplicity and ease-of-use are the cornerstones of the SONOS music system. Before getting to the iPad app, it may help some of you to understand what’s involved in setting up a SONOS system. The SONOS system is comprised of at least one “zone player” coupled with software that gets loaded onto your Mac or PC. Depending on whether or not you plan to use your own amplifier and/or speakers, SONOS offers no fewer than four different zone players. Pick one, pick three, mix and match, it’s your call. The SONOS players are built to play nice with one another – and for every player you add, that’s one more room in your house that gets to join the party.
The ZonePlayer 120 features amplification and provides a gateway to SONOS’ peer-to-peer wireless mesh network - just add speakers. The less expensive ZonePlayer 90 lacks amplification and simply acts as another source device for your existing stereo. Rounding out the bunch are the Play:5 and the recently-introduced Play:3, two all-in-one speaker/zone player combination devices. A hard wire connection to your router is only required in one location, but if logistics make that impossible, SONOS offers the Bridge, a wireless access point which gives you the freedom to place all of your ZonePlayers in remote locations, no network cables required.
Bigger is Better
For the same reason a big kitchen is handy during a party, the iPad version of SONOS’ music controller app is an absolute pleasure to use. Although the iPhone and Android smartphone versions of SONOS’ app are certainly functional, they inevitably suffer from the cramped confines of a 2 inch-wide screen; after all, there’s only so much you can fit on a screen that small while still providing large enough tap areas for fingers. In comparison, the iPad’s screen area - measuring just under 8 inches wide when held in landscape mode – feels spacious and downright luxurious.
SONOS makes excellent use of the iPad’s added screen real estate, giving you the ability to view your Zone Menu, the Now Playing module, and your Music Menu simultaneously in one 3-column interface (in landscape mode). Controls are intuitively laid out and browsing your personal music library and imported playlists is simple fun, thanks in part to the A-Z shortcut column which you can drag your finger along for fast jumps to your desired letter of the alphabet.
Greg Robinson is a freelance technology writer whose work has appeared in several national publications. When he's not evaluating Blu-ray Discs or calibrating televisions, you can usually find him thumping volleyballs at his local gym in rural northeast Connecticut.