Sonos - the mesh network

by Volker Weber

Building a Sonos network is pretty simple. You either install the Desktop Controller on your Mac or PC, or you use the Sonos Controller. It will prompt you to add a ZonePlayer and then start to send broadcasts. You press two buttons on the ZonePlayer (mute and volume up) and the player will answer to the broadcast. When you setup the first player, Sonos will randomize the network encryption keys. Subsequent players will just be added to the existing network. Removing a player is equally simple. You power up while pressing the mute button and the player will do a factory reset.

A ZonePlayer has a built-in 4-port switch that bridges to the wireless mesh network between ZonePlayers. You have to plug your first Sonos Player into your ethernet network* and it will acquire an IP-address over DHCP. This will work with most people who have an Internet router, because the standard setup provides a local network in the 192.168.x.y space.

As you bring more ZonePlayers into the mesh network they also acquire addresses in the same network. The interesting side effect is that you can plug other non-wireless devices directly into the 4-port switch of all your ZonePlayers. Hook up a printer in the office and a computer in a spare bedroom and they will see each other.

A mesh network does not have the hub-and-spoke layout of a traditional wireless access point. All ZonePlayers talk to each other, as long as they can see each other. This network will cover areas far greater than a single access point can provide for.

Of course there are some limits. The network can accomodate up to 32 ZonePlayers plus 32 Controllers (Desktop or Sonos). Music can be played from 16 different file shares and there is an upper limit on the number of tracks Sonos can index. Currently it stands at 40,000 tracks. There will be some collectors who run into this limit, but my music library is below 20,000 tracks and I don't intend to acquire a lot more any time soon. Sonos builds an index of your tracks and caches it in their devices. Nothing is ever written to the network shares.

Your music can reside on a Mac or a PC, but I recommend you copy your library to a NAS device (Network Attached Storage). The NAS device needs to expose a standard SMB file share (like Windows does). A SAN device like the inexpensive Netgear SC101 will not work since it requires a driver on the client.

*) Sonos recommends a wired connection between the first ZonePlayer and your network. Initially I did not want to connect a ZonePlayer in my office, so I went for a wireless bridge to replace the cable. I hooked up my iBook to the wired side of the bridge and connected it to my wifi network. Then I removed the iBook and plugged in the ZonePlayer and it worked right away. Using a wireless bridge is unsupported, but it worked very well for me. A wireless game adapter like the Netgear WGE111 should do the trick. I was using the older WGE101.

Update: Your wireless bridge must be able to bridge more than one address. Apparently (some) wireless game adapters only assign one address. In this case only the first ZonePlayer can attach to the network, but the next player will not receive an address. I never heard of this limitation before.

Sonos - first impressions
Sonos - second look
Sonos - the controller
Sonos - music from the iTunes Music Store
Sonos - now we are talking
Sonos - getting into the zone
Sonos - the mesh network
Sonos - inside the ZonePlayer
Sonos - April 10 and the ZP80 is already here
Sonos - the Wife Acceptance Factor


Somewhat smaller and cheaper than the Netgear WGE111 is the D-Link DWL-G730AP, which I think will also do the trick. I've got 2 in permanent use here and am very pleased with them. They also work with power over ethernet, so you don't have a separate power supply.

John Keys, 2006-03-30

Sorry- I just checked my set-up. Power over USB, actually. Still, it saves the ubiquitous separate power supply...

John Keys, 2006-03-30

Sonos has published a FAQ-article on wireless-bridging:

Turns out some bridges are not Compatible - so watch out.

from the page:

* Linksys WET11
* Linksys WET54GS5
* Airport Extreme + Airport Express (DWS bridging/extending mode)

Not Compatible

* D-Link DWL-G810
* Linksys Wireless Game Adapters.
* Any wireless game adapters.

Fredrik Rødland, 2006-03-31

Sonos have some excellent forums at that can be used to ask other users what wireless bridge etc. they are using.

Ben Rose, 2006-03-31

Old archive pages

I explain difficult concepts in simple ways. For free, and for money. Clue procurement and bullshit detection.


Paypal vowe