Music: Unwired For Sound
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If you're an old school/new school music consumer, chances are you have an iPod or other digital music player and a still-great-sounding stereo system that you bought two or three presidents ago. Ditch the stereo, and you limit your music to the confines of your PC and portable player, neither of which are ideal when you want to fill the living room--or the house--with music. Sure, you can move your tunes by snaking cables around the house. But there are simpler solutions.
We looked at six systems. The most elegant and easiest to install is the $999 Sonos ZP80 system. The ZonePlayer connects to your Internet router. Put a second unit pretty much anywhere in the house and connect it to a stereo or to powered speakers. Push two buttons and they set up their own wireless network for streaming music from the playlists on your Mac or PC. The system syncs music throughout the house or can simultaneously send different songs to different rooms.
The true beauty of Sonos' system is that you do not need to hook it up to a PC. The wireless controller lets you connect directly to the Rhapsody online music subscription service and Internet radio stations. If you go the PC route, it supports nearly every type of digital music file you've ever heard of, even iTunes playlists (but not songs purchased from the iTunes Store because of copy protection; if your music library is mostly songs bought on iTunes, use Apple's (AAPL ) $129 AirPort Express or Logitech's (LOGI ) $250 Wireless DJ Music System).
Two other favorites: the $399 Soundbridge Radio from Roku Labs connects to your Wi-Fi network and plays your digital music files through its own speakers. It also gives easy access to streaming online radio stations. Slim Devices' $249 Squeezebox also connects to your home network and gives access to Rhapsody, and to Pandora.com, which generates personal playlists. It has every connection you will need for your stereo or standalone speakers and handles all major sound-file formats, except, of course, songs purchased from iTunes.
By Arik Hesseldahl