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Sonos pumps up the music

August 5, 2008 |  2:10 pm

While the $13-billion home audio market has been shrinking at a rate of 5% to 7% a year, a little Santa Barbara company has found a to grow sales of its home music devices by 50% this past year.

Sonos, while little known to mainstream listeners, has gained a sizable audience among a wealthier clientele who want to play their digital music collection from anywhere in the manse -- wirelessly.

Today, Sonos is coming out with its second generation system. The new ZonePlayers work much like the ones that debuted in 2005, except they are smaller and more powerful. The $999 starter kit (did we mention this is for affluent types?) comes with a player that hooks up to a broadband router, a ZonePlayer and a wireless remote.

Once the system is set up, it wirelessly ferries music via Sonos player attached to any existing stereo system or speaker anywhere in the house. (Customers can buy extra players for up to 30 additional rooms.) Users control the music using a touch screen remote that can summon music to any room in the house where Sonos players are set up.

The Sonos system grabs music from any personal computer hard drive that is linked to the home network, but it can also queue up tunes from online music services, including Rhapsody, Napster, Sirius and Pandora. And the remote control comes preset with 800 Internet radio stations.

The privately owned company aspires to be the equivalent of Bose for the digital music age. It has sold 350,000 of its first generation players to a cult-like following of customers, some of whom go on to rig up their kids' bedrooms, garages, Jacuzzis, pools and bathrooms. So while the home stereo market is singing the blues, Sonos is busy building its digital bridge over troubled waters.

-- Alex Pham

Photo courtesy of Sonos