Originally Posted by Fred DeGrandis
I am considering a purchase of a Sonos bundle and have a few questions:
1) How are the internal amps in the BU120? Would you compare the sound to pc speakers or more like a bookshelf stereo?
I find the BU120 to be excellent quality with plenty of power for the purpose. The quality is obviously fully dependent on the loudspeakers used but, with some decent units, the quality is way above PC speakers. Full bass and treble control is included to adjust to personal taste.
I doubt anybody but a real audiophile would have any issues with the BU120 amplifier, it's quite excellent. One thing I particularly like is the way the tone appears not to change at all, regardless of volume output. Cheaper amps tend to change the shape of the sound as the music gets louder. It's not one of those.
2) Should I consider using an external amp with the BU120?
You can't use an external amp with a BU120. If you want to use an external amp, you would use a smaller, cheaper, BU90 device which has no internal amplifier and carries both line-out and digital out.
3) What type of amplification are you guys using with your passive devices (BU90 I believe)?
Any external amp can be used, with or without an external DAC. Through the digital outputs, Sonos will create a bit perfect reproduction of the original source. You can spend as much as you like on the external kit and get the full value out of it.
4) I was advised by a local hifi dealer to connect the BU90 and BU120 to individual power amps (rather than using a receiver at each location to avoid having to deal with the receiver's vol control) Is this what you guys have been doing?
The BU120 only has speaker outputs, you can ONLY use the internal amplifier.
The dealer is correct in making you aware that connection a Sonos to a receiver will potentially result in 2 volume controls. In this scenario you can either use Sonos as a pre-amp into a power amp - using the Sonos controller for volume, or you can fix the Sonos volume and control on your receiver. You will then lose the ability to adjust volume using the Sonos controller though.
Personally I would not buy any more amplifiers at all and use the ZP120 in all areas that don't currently have one. If you have an amp already, you can use the ZP90 as an external source just as you use a CD player right now.
5) How do you guys feel about using a pro audio amp (like the amps offered at parts express for 150 or so).
I think you'd be wasting your money. To achieve a better result than the built-in Sonos amp, you'd have to spend a lot more than the difference in price between the ZP90 and the ZP120. Additionally, the built-in amp allows local power switching - when there is no music playing, the Sonos will turn it off and save power.