As the author of an article on whole-house music systems, I thought that I would be the perfect person to give advice to a friend who has recently moved into a new apartment and wants to declutter by sending her CDs off to be ripped. Normally I recommend Sonos, but to play one’s personal music library it requires a home server. My friend does not own a desktop computer, a home NAS box, or even a high-capacity MP3 player. She does everything with her laptop (running Windows XP! (but her company will presumably eventually upgrade to a newer version of Windows)), including listen to Rhapsody (subscription digital music service). My next idea was to have her CDs ripped, then push them all up to Google Music so that they could be streamed back down to the Sonos. That doesn’t work, though, because the Sonos does not support Google Music. It also seems a little wasteful of Internet bandwidth when her entire music collection could probably fit on a 64 GB USB flash drive (and I wonder if Google Music would support high quality 320 kbps streams?). So then I thought “Wouldn’t it be nice if you could plus a USB drive into the Sonos?” But you can’t.
My next idea was the Logitech Squeezebox Touch. This says that it has a USB port and can access music or photos from a USB drive. The Logitech site says that multiple Squeezeboxes can talk to each other. It seems a little more cumbersome than the Sonos because there is no built-in amplifier (and she has no legacy stereo system). On the other hand, the box itself has a display and interface, which seems better than the Sonos, which requires an external controller of some sort (dedicated remote, PC, tablet, or smartphone).
Does anyone have a better idea? I’m kind of surprised that there aren’t more options for a person who does not have a home NAS or always-on PC.
[Update: Given that the AirPlay system works only one speaker at a time if driven from an iPod and the goal of keeping listening to muic independent from a home computer, the solution turned out to be the obvious one: Sonos plus paying musicshifter.com to rip the CDs and park them on a Western Digital 1 TB NAS (about $130 extra). Control will be via a couple of older Android mobile phones, her laptop, and maybe an Android tablet. Perhaps the NAS box can be ditched if Sonos ever decides to support Google Music. I do wish that Sonos would put a little phone-sized Android tablet on the front of their boxes so that one did not have to hunt for a controller.]