As a single speaker for one room, the PLAY:1 holds its its own with a lot of similarly-priced Bluetooth and AirPlay speakers. Sonos told me that the speaker was designed to produce a 360 degree soundfield, but the company took into account that people will place the speaker in a variety of locations, such as wedged on a self between books, alone on a kitchen counter or in a corner table.
Considering the compact size, I was impressed with how much depth and dimension you can get from it, though to hear the most detail and complexity in your music, you need to punch the volume. Luckily, it gets loud without getting munchy.
READ: Sonos Subwoofer Review Here.
Where the PLAY:1 really impresses is when you put two of them together. Like the larger PLAY:3, you can configure these as a pair when you set them up in the app. Alone a PLAY:1 sounds like a decent dock-style or AirPlay speaker; as a pair they act like a room-filling stereo system. The imaging opens up allowing you to close your eyes and picture the instruments and vocals spaced around the room. The system has sufficient bass for most listeners, but a Sonos sub can be added.
So how does the PLAY:1 fit in with the rest of the Sonos family. It’s perfect for extending an existing Sonos system to additional rooms for not much money. If you have a home office and a couple bedrooms, use PLAY:1s to provide background music. If you want a system for your main living area, then it’s a harder decision. The PLAY:3 are significantly more powerful and provide more detail, but a pair of them costs $200 more. Will you notice the difference? That depends a lot on the size of your room and the volume you plan to listen at. Personally, I think a pair of PLAY:1s is a better option than a single Sonos PLAY:5 (Sonos’ largest speaker). For many average-size homes, a pair of PLAY:1s will also work just as well as two PLAY:3s and you can use the $200 you saved for another PLAY:1 in your bedroom. Sonos says the PLAY:1 was designed to be humidity resistant, so you can put it in your bathroom too. There’s a screw-style wall-mount port on the back to hang it out of the way. Just don’t hang your bathrobe on it.
You’d think that by the size the PLAY:3 would be portable, but no. Plug it in, and leave it. Sonos doesn’t seem interested in a battery-powered speaker. I can understand why. Adding a battery might confuse people into thinking they could take it anywhere, but Sonos speakers need to stay connected to their own wireless network. How well that network reaches into each person’s backyard will vary greatly. If you want to use Sonos in your backyard, install some outdoor speakers, then wire them to a Sonos Connect:Amp inside the house.
READ: Sonos PLAYBAR Review Here.
If you don’t have a whole-house music system, this is a smart why to get into that. If you use a control and automation system, Sonos can be integrated with many of the majors, but it will require third-party divers and may not offer you all the functionality of the Sonos native app.
Like any of the Sonos speakers, if one speaker is all you have, you can connect it directly to your network with an Ethernet cable from your router. If you want to go wireless you need a Sonos Bridge, which cost $49. The company is offering a Bridge for free now with any PLAY:1, so consider that an incentive to pick up a pair.
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Grant Clauser has been covering home electronics for more than 10 years with editorial roles in several consumer and trade magazines. He's done ISF-level damage to hundreds of reviewed products and has had training from THX, the Home Acoustics Alliance, Control4 and Sencore. His latest book is Necessary Myths
. Follow him on Twitter @geclauser.