Ah, the life of an audio journalist. This week found SonicFlare invited to the land of broken Ferraris, drunken Mels and audio demos. Yes, the place is Malibu and the event was Amazon.com's HT spectacular at the Malibu beach house, party central for the likes of Lindsay Lohan, Luke Wilson and Entourage. Alas, while I was there, no celebs were lounging around, but there were plenty of JBL speakers, plasma displays and Sonos wireless gadgets. Almost as good, right?
While the actual demos offered nothing above your local Best Buy, the whole goal was to wow the gathered press with sandy beaches, scantily clad women and massive marketing budgets. You're not there to listen to the equipment but look at the scenery.
The interesting part was talking to Graham Farrar and Thomas Meyer of Sonos. Amazon.com recently picked up the little wireless music jukebox and this event was the kick off party of sorts. Sonos, for those who don't know, is a line of products that wirelessly connects the music in your computer's library to various base stations around your home. The ZP100 station has a built in Tripath amp and the ZP80 acts as a digital hub, offering both analog outs as well as pure digital for hooking up to an outboard DAC. A wireless controller similar to an iPod allows you to scroll through your music library, play music and control different rooms, somewhat like a wireless Crestron system. The ZP100 is $499, the ZP80 is $349 and the remote control is $399. You need at least the controller and one base station to get in the game (and a wireless computer). Pictured above, the controller sits in its cradle on top of the ZP100.
Above, Danny Kaey in the pink (no, his wife doesn't buy his clothing) chats it up with the Sonos crew. Sonos has been around a year and a half and has seen remarkable growth from the iPod and iTunes explosion. Interestingly, this growth is despite Apple's DRM on tracks downloaded from the iTunes store that keeps third party players from using their music. In Europe, the recent Sonos launch blew away all expectations. Why? Europe has far more old construction with brick and stone so being able to wirelessly connect music throughout the house is a dream come true.
Talking about the sonic qualities of their products, Sonos makes no claim to make the best amps or speakers in the world. Their speakers are $179/pair and are pitched as a great little system for bedrooms, kitchens and the like while the ZP80 hub is the product they're pushing for the high performance audio segment. With the digital outs, the sound is defined by the quality of your outboard DAC. If you wanted to hook up a $30k Audio Note DAC, no problem.
While Sonos may release larger speakers, they really want to push the concept of perfect digital wireless distribution. The Sonos guys are definitely audiophiles, with Vandersteens being a favorite. They're all about lossless and keeping the signal as pure as possible. Great guys definitely dialed into the future of audio and the high-end/iPod convergence. For bringing iPodders to the high-end audio segment, products like the Sonos system are perfect. Of course, beautiful women, celebs and beach houses don't hurt either.
Here are some more shots of the hard life:
A DJ rig is set up in the window on the right for when celebs and such throw parties on the beach.