We’ve previously written about the incredible Sonos whole-house audio system that is priced (literally) tens of thousands of dollars below the cost of a comparable "turnkey" system that you typically would purchase from a home audio consultant. Another revolutionary development occurred yesterday so it was a good time for an update.

Yesterday’s development was an announcement from Napster, which was recently acquired by Best Buy, that lets you download 5 DRM-free songs per month from Napster’s entire catalog for $5 a month. Nothing very exciting there. The kicker is that, for no additional fee, you now get unlimited (but DRM’d) streaming of all 7 million songs in Napster’s vast music collection to any PC you happen to own. And $60 buys you a full year plus 70 DRM-free songs!

We hear you mumbling. Why would anyone want to only listen to music on their PC? Well, this is where your Sonos music system comes into play. Instead of buying a cheap PC (such as this $199 Acer netbook from CompUSA) and subscribing to Napster to play the music on your PC, U.S. customers now have instant access on your Sonos system to over 7 million music tracks in the Napster library any time you like. And this isn’t canned playlists although Napster has plenty of those. With today’s new offer, you can stream songs of your choice in your own playlists to one or many rooms in your house depending upon how many Sonos ZonePlayers you’ve configured. Or use your Sonos controller to search the entire Napster catalog by artist, album, or song title. And the total cost: just $5 a month.

Sonos Background. For those that are new to Sonos, you basically buy a little $500 Wi-Fi box for each room in your home or office where you want to play music. There are special system bundles at this link if you hurry. You plug in a pair of speakers and connect to your NAS-savvy music library. We recommend dLink’s DNS-323 which provides RAID1 mirrored SATA drives in any size you desire (about $180 delivered from NewEgg plus SATA drives). Be sure the drives you pick are on dLink’s compatibility list! If you happen to use Comcast for your broadband service, you also receive a free Rhapsody subscription which can be played on every Sonos system in your house for free, but you’ll have to connect a Windows PC to your Sonos system through the line in jack to take advantage of this. With the new Napster offering, you can skip the hassle for $5 a month. The Sonos system also supports streaming audio from more than 300 Internet radio stations, also free.

Some other reviews of the Sonos system are worth a look. Check out the Home Theater View, Audioholics, Playlist Magazine, and PC Magazine. You’ll find dozens more here.

There are few companies in the world (much less the United States) that provide flawless hardware and software, free software updates (that always work), and regular updates that consistently add value to your initial purchase. Sonos is at the top of that very, very short list. Run, don’t walk, to add this system to your home or office. You’ll thank us for years to come. We installed eight systems with four remotes in just over two hours. We haven’t quit listening since. Today’s Napster announcement is simply icing on the cake. Enjoy!

Update. We don’t often revise our articles but a Tweet from @Sonos last night sent us back to the drawing board. While we knew that Napster already was available in Sonos music players, the price point was substantially higher. Since Napster’s announcement had clearly stated that the $5 a month special only applied to use of the library on a PC, we had assumed that it wouldn’t work directly in the Sonos system. Wrong! It works perfectly on the Sonos players with the functional simplicity that is the hallmark of Sonos software. Napster should take a lesson! Lo and behold, it appears that Napster views the Sonos system as just another Linux PC so the entire Napster music library is available in any Sonos music system without resorting to any external PC. Seven million songs for $5 a month strikes us as a deal you’d be crazy to pass up. Better hurry while it lasts.

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This article has 6 comments

  1. Isn’t sonos a bit expensive… for $500.00 per unit I rather buy a netbook and a nice little boombox with line in for every room… Or a boxee set, or an xbmc in a $25.00 classic xbox and a 23 inch $200.00 tv.

    [WM: Take a look at the revised article, and I think you will better appreciate the differences in your approach and the Sonos route.]

  2. What is great about the Sonos system is the party mode and linking of zones. I use it all the time linking my garage + backyard. When we have guests over every room in the house has the same music all in sync. I bought my systems while working for Best Buy as they get a great discount, but I would pay full price easily for this system. Well worth it!

  3. It definitely does Ward! I think that the real value of this setup is the cleanness of the system.

  4. The Slim Devices Squeezebox devices also support Napster in essentially the same way. I currently subscribe to Rhapsody and stream to all my Squeezebox devices throughout my house. Having used both systems, I prefer Slim Devices – plus the software is Open Source! To bad the $5/month offer doesn’t support portable devices – just streaming to a device with internet connection – so I’ll just stick with Rhapsody To Go for now…

  5. I wanted to second the comments by Darrell above. I picked up a few SqueezeBox parts from Amazon and Circuit City (while on final clearance), pairing them with a Synology NAS, and I absolutely love them. If you need more than about six rooms, Sonos is the way to go. But for a smaller install, Squeezebox is terrific (and comes in a few form factors).

    To top it off, the Squeezebox was recently featured in Linux Journal, and it has passed the WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) at my house.

    Side note, they are now owned by Logitech. Site is http://www.slimdevices.com.

    To tie this to PIAF, can we get PIAF to act as a SlimDevices client for music on hold? 🙂

  6. WOW – where would I be without my NerdVittles! Thanks for the great spot Ward – I signed up and am loving this on my Sonos system. It might just be why I give up the Sirius streaming to Sonos! The ability to tune into Napster "Radio" and find it is more a playlist and skip songs, add songs to your favorites, etc. and see what’s coming up next on the iPhone Sonos app is awesome. Sure beats the fact that the Sirius stream kicks out after a bit as a "time-out" function… Oh yeah, and the commercials that have cropped up on "commercial free" satellite radio… I think my $60 annual Napster subscription might very well be the ticket for good!