It's not exactly "Beatles… Abbey Road… Loud," but a new system offers some intriguing features, and excellent sound quality, even if it's a rather complicated system. David Pogue tries to figure out the Sonos S5:
The music sounds fantastic. Obviously, there’s not much sense of stereo-channel separation unless you have a very skinny head. But holy cow, the bass, the distinct instruments, the clarity — it’s all there. And with serious power. The higher volume settings are literally ear-splitting indoors. One S5 could fill a very large backyard with sound, and probably a school gym, without distortion or skipping.
This all sounds great, and it is great. But you hecklers in back are no doubt thinking: “Well, duh! Why not just buy a $95 AirPort Express pocket Wi-Fi base station, connect speakers to it and then control playback using Apple’s free Remote app on your iPhone/iPod Touch?”
This is true. That’s a wireless music system for a lot less money. There is, however, a caveat or five: the price doesn’t include speakers. That system doesn’t work when the computer is off or iTunes isn’t running. It doesn’t let you control the volume of each room. It doesn’t let you pipe different music to each room. It’s not nearly as easy to grab by the back-panel handle and carry out to the patio for a party. And the music sometimes drops out because it’s using Wi-Fi instead of Sonos’s much more reliable, stutter-free music signal.
The Sonos system has all kinds of digital sources, like your iTunes library, Rhapsody, Pandora, and Napster. What's missing is (for me, anyway) is Lala.com.
And while we're on the subject of the Beatles (we weren't really, but who's counting?) we'll take a minute to note that regardless of what system or technology you're using at home or on the road, you still can't deliver the Fab Four digitally by any means other than ripping your own CDs. There are still not Beatles in iTunes, no Beatles on Pandora or (I assume) Rhapsody or Napster — there are no digital Beatles (something they have oddly in common with Garth Brooks).
So we note with interest — and curiosity — that a website that thought it sell Beatles tunes online for 25-cents apiece has been shut down by a court in Los Angeles. Apparently the purveyor believed he could alter the original recordings with "artistic touches based on a technique he pioneered called "psycho-acoustic simulation."
You really have to wonder what this guy was thinking. The court wondered, too, and agreed with the attorneys who dismissed the whole ruse as "technobabble and doublespeak."