has been hugely successful with their digital music system. Why? Just ask
my wife, who thinks the system is not only easy to use, but provides reliable
music for the entire house. She represents the target audience the company
has done so well with over the past several years. Late last year, Sonos
released the new ZP90 and ZP120 Zone Players, but there was no update
to the CR100 controller. Not that we have had any problems with the original
CR100, but companies usually like to release products as a set and the
only thing missing from the current Sonos line-up was a sleeker looking
controller. This month Sonos introduced the all-new CR200 Controller.
The CR200 replaces the already popular CR100, yet is significantly
smaller, lighter and features a beautiful touch screen. Fewer physical
buttons are required since the screen itself supports soft keys. The back of the unit has rubber pads that keep it from sliding around on a smooth surface. The base of the CR200 has a small speaker and two electrical contacts for the charging cradle. The user
interface format is slightly different, so experienced CR100 users will need to
get accustomed to the new design.
The CR200 is significantly smaller and lighter than the original CR100. The CR200 measures 2.9" x 4.5" x 0.7" and weighs
only 6.7 ounces. The controller wakes up when the screen or buttons are touched or if the unit
detects movement. The brilliant 640x480 VGA screen includes LED backlighting
for a rich image in any lighting condition. The CR200 communicates over
SonosNet, a secure AES encrypted peer-to-peer wireless mesh network. We
currently have three zone players set up in the house and the CR200 had
no problem jumping from one zone player to another as we walked around
to different rooms. The test location is in a single story, ranch style home with over 2200 square feet. The distance between zone players is far enough such that the controller
will need to make full use of the Sonosnet mesh network and it did so seamlessly. Sonos also supports
several others ways to control their system including the original CR100,
iPhone, and PCs running the Sonos Desktop Controller software.
The lower portion of the CR200 has four dedicated buttons that are used for Mute, Volume
Down, Volume Up, and Home. Pressing any of the volume control buttons will display the volume level on top of the current screen and allow the user to either drag their finger on the touch screen or use the hard keys to adjust the volume level. The granularity of the volume setting is excellent and easy to control. The lower right Home button takes the user to the
The Zones screen displays all of the available zones on the Sonos Music System. The big advantage of the new CR200 controller is the touch screen and the ability to control so much in such a small area. The Zone Group button allows the user to easily group zones together so that music selection and volume levels affect all zones in that group. Adding and dropping zones are simple and intuitive using this interface. The All Zones - Party Mode soft button automatically ties all the zones together for single control of the music being played in the entire house. There is also a Pause All Zones at the bottom of the Zones screen that will silence all zones in the house. Each independent zone shown on the Zones screen displays the current music being played. The left arrow at the bottom of the screen takes the user back to the previous screen.
The selected zone will display the current music in the Now Playing screen. The Track, Artist, and Album along with cover art is displayed on the screen. Customized songs or albums that lack cover art can be created and saved into the music folder using the name folder.jpg. We did this for our U2 Vertigo songs and used the cover art from the DVD. Sonos offers this flexibility and works very well.
The upper right has icons for toggling Random play and Repeat. The top of the display always shows the signal level, current time, and the battery level. Soft keys are provided for previous and next tracks along with a pause/play button. The next song in the queue is also shown on the screen. A Music Menu and View Queue buttons are available.
The Music Menu defines what music is being played for the selected zone. The Music Library button is used to search by artist, album, composer, or tracks. A QWERTY keyboard is displayed when searching, which is something the earlier CR100 could not do. Playlists created from the song database can be saved and later recalled using the Sonos Playlists button. The More Music button has additional content from Last.fm, Napster, Pandora Radio, Rhapsody, and SIRIUS. The Settings button is used to configure the System Settings, which include Music Library Management, Music Service Setup, Add a Zone, ZonePlayer Settings, ZoneBridge Settings, Controller Settings, Online Updates, Advanced Settings, and About You Sonos System. The Radio button has a list of various internet radio stations including local stations from your area. Line In selects the physical line inputs from the current zone player. Alarms is used to program alarm settings as well as configure the time and date format. This menu will also display other computers containing music content on the network.
The Queue displays all the songs that are in the list to be played. Each song has a small picture of the album along with the artist name. Scrolling
through the items on the screen operates much like the iPhone interface, where swiping vertically scrolls through the list. Sonos makes it easy to delete items from the current playist and save the results to an existing or new name.
The CR200 has some interesting sounds when certain actions are performed on the controller. They give the unit a high-tech flare that did not exist with the earlier CR100 design. The CR200 has a QWERTY keyboard that allows the user to type in search strings. This is vastly superior to the old method that required the user to use the scroll wheel to select existing items.
The new CR200 controller is sleeker, lighter and offers a superior screen to the older CR100 controller. The new design does take some getting used to and my wife was the first
to try it out and provide feedback. She has been a big Sonos advocate for
the last several years and claims Sonos is by far the easiest consumer
electronics product to use in the house, so it meant a lot to me to hear
her opinion. After much time with the controller it became apparent that the new design offers a real performance advantage to the older design in many ways. The touch screen provides a much more powerful user interface over the dedicated buttons and scroll wheel on the CR100. In short time speed and efficiency exceeded what we could do on the original model. While we still like the original CR100 design, the new CR200 is clearly better.
Sonos has come out with a worthy replacement for their original CR100 and delivered a product that exceeded earlier performance. Both controllers seemed to work well together with one updating the screen content of the other. This is important for users who are adding the new controller to an existing system that may already have include CR100's. Those with really large fingers may have a more difficult time with some of the controls on the screen due to the screen size. However, the soft keys were rather large, making it more friendly for all. Even though
the new CR200 offers more power and portability, I still have a soft spot for the older CR100. We were happy to see the new addition to the Sonos family and it worked perfectly with the existing components in the system.