Hands On: Sonos PLAY:1 Wireless Speaker

The PLAY:1 is the cheapest Sonos Speaker and you'll probably want several of them.


Oct. 14, 2013 — by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Sonos has carved a strong place for itself in the home audio market for its easy-to-use wireless music system. Now it’s a bit easier to own. The new Sonos PLAY:1 speaker, at $199, is the cheapest Sonos product (not counting the Bridge) on the market, but it’s every bit as easy to use as the rest of the Sonos family.

If you’re a fan of Sonos, you already know how it works—connect your Sonos gear, fire up the app and play whatever music you want. The PLAY:1 works exactly the same.

The PLAY:1 is the company’s smallest speaker. It contains two drivers—a midrange and a tweeter plus built-in digital amplification.

Like the larger PLAY:3, the PLAY:1 can be used alone or paired for true stereo. If you want a little more bass, you can add the Sonos subwoofer ($700). The PLAY:1 also can be combined with the Sonos PLAYBAR soundbar as the two rear channels to make a surround setup.

The PLAY:1, available in white or black/gray, is about the size of a coffee can. On top are two buttons: a volume up/down rocker and a play/pause button. That last button is something new for Sonos. Previous Sonos speakers included a mute button in that spot. If you press the button twice quickly your music will skip to the next track. That’s a nice little fix that relieves you from having to open up your phone app just to advance a song.

I spent the weekend listening to two PLAY:1 speakers, both as stand-alone speakers and as a stereo pair and found the new model easy to like.

READ: Sonos PLAY:3 Review Here.

For people who already own some Sonos components and just want to add an inexpensive speaker to another room, such as a bedroom or den, the PLAY:1 works well. I simply plugged in the power cords on the two PLAY:1s, opened up the Sonos app on my iPhone (a system update for the Sonos components was required first) and then went into the settings menu to add additional devices. Within minutes the system had found and configured the PLAY:1s. I then named them for the rooms they were located and proceeded to send music their way.

Through the Sonos app (iOS or Android) you can listen to nearly any online music system you can think of, including Pandora, Spotify, Slacker, internet radio… all of them. You can also listen to your own network-accessible music or tunes stored on your phone via an AirPlay-like feature that uses Wi-Fi. Just like the rest of the Sonos system, you can play different music in each room or the same music all over the house. An update to the Sonos app also allows you to use the same app for multiple houses. If you have Sonos in both your main house and vacation home, this improvement will be valuable to you.

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.

Sonos PLAY:1 Speaker
$199

See Also:
Samsung Launches Sonos-like Wireless Music System
Wireless Audio System Basics
What You Need to Know About Wireless Networks
Review: Control4 Wireless Music Bridge



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