SONOS PLAY:1 Wireless Music System

Print
Provided By: SONOS
Price: $219 Online at Time of Publishing

 

Introduction:

There are quite a few options for Bluetooth speaker systems on the market today and these range in price from affordable Edifier systems to very expensive Bose systems and everything in between. While Bluetooth does offer a few benefits including affordability, compatibility and overall ease of use. The downside to systems that rely on the short-range Bluetooth technology is exactly that – the short range. While Bluetooth is a decent choice for in-room audio, once you get out of the room, you often drop signal and the music skips.

SONOS PLAY:1

The advantage of a system like the SONOS line of products is that they run on your network. They plug into your Ethernet - or connect by WiFi and that gives you much greater range. As long as you have access to your wireless network, you'll have full music playback ability. Another upside to the SONOS PLAY system is that it can be controlled from a Windows PC, Mac or smartphone including iOS and Android. This compatibility makes it a lot more attractive for playing music. Another pretty cool thing about the SONOS PLAY system is that it can bring multi-room sound to your home, office or party suite. They can quickly and easily be configured to play in stereo, band together for a full home-entertainment system or be streamed to independently.  It's this flexibility that makes the SONOS PLAY:1 and other PLAY products stand out in the crowded market of wireless speakers

 

About SONOS:

SONOS is an interesting company - even the name is a bit unique. With all capital letters the name SONOS looks the same upside down, right-side up or even in a mirror. That took a bit of thinking. If you want to find out a bit more about the company - catch their information below.

In 2002, we set out with a goal - to reinvent home audio for the digital age. Our vision was simple - fill every home with music and make listening a valued experience again. We're making it easy for everybody to listen to the music they love in every room of their home. To hear the songs they love, to discover new music they never knew existed, and to appreciate it all with the highest sound quality.

We're doing it all over the world - In more than 60 countries, in seven languages through thousands of retailers. We're constantly looking for ways to improve the experience - with new products, new software and continually investing in ways to provide our customers the best experience possible. We're doing what we set out to do. Changing the way people listen to music - one home at a time.

Bundle

 

First Look:

Everything I've ever seen from SONOS, in person or online, is always top notch. They take a lot of care to make sure their products are well designed and well built. The SONOS PLAY:1 is no exception. The overall feel and finish of the product is excellent. While you can see seems in the manufacturing (unlike many current Apple products), the quality and build is still very good. While the SONOS PLAY:1 is not all that big, it is heavy. They either pack a lot of metal weights into it to give it an appearance and feel for quality – or it's an actual quality product.

Profile
Profile

Side Profile
Side Profile

   

PLAY:1 Rear
PLAY:1 Rear

PLAY:1 Rear Profile
PLAY:1 Rear Profile

 

The front and sides of the SONOS PLAY:1 are very plain and while the unit comes in a white or black model, the majority of the PLAY:1 is just speaker grill and is grey. Regardless, the nice white finish gives it a cheerful and bright aesthetic and compliments every room at my office and home. The top and bottom of our review sample are white and this is also where most of magic, controls and connections are located. 

The top of the unit houses the pairing button as well as the on-speaker volume control. As we'll see later in this review there are hardware as well as software controls for this unit and they work together very well.

PLAY:1 Top
PLAY:1 Top

PLAY:1 Bottom
PLAY:1 Bottom

 

The bottom of the SONOS PLAY:1 houses the power connector and the rear of the unit is where the network cable plugs into the unit. Also on the back of the PLAY:1 is a 1/4-inch threaded hole for wall-mounting the speaker. This is a standard single-bolt wall mount and this helps make your speaker installation more flexible.

As we noticed above, the bundle includes a flat network cable and this helps make your installation a little more classy as it helps get rid of the round blue network cables that would make your classy SONOS installation look very tacky.  All in all, this is a nice looking unit - but as with any product, looks are only part of the battle. We'll have to find out in a wee bit how it performs.
 
On the next page we'll take a look at the bridge before we jump into the software portion of this review.

SONOS Bridge:

In order to connect to the SONOS PLAY:1, you'll need a SONOS Bridge. Thankfully, SONOS is now including a free bridge with the purchase of their other hardware. Other than that, this would end up being a very expensive proposition. As it is, when priced at $219CDN (currently), the SONOS isn't that cheap. Things like the bridge help negate the price a bit.

As far as what the bridge looks like, you can check it out below. Suffice to say it's a simple device that is a gateway to the SONOS products and takes care of things like synchronizing, identity and more of the SONOS speakers connected to your network. It comes with a pair of Ethernet connections so that you can plug this into your network and then the PLAY:1 into it if you are running out of ports on your router/network switch.

Bridge - Bundle
Bridge Bundle

Bridge - Front Profile
Bridge - Front Profile

 

Bridge - Rear Profile
Bridge - Rear Profile

Bridge - Top
Bridge - Top

On the next page we'll take a quick look at the PC Software before we jump into the mobile application.


 

PC Software & Setup:

The PC Software that controls the SONOS PLAY:1 is also used to control and steam music to any and all of their other products as well. Once you've got everything plugged into your network, you are prompted to press a button on the bridge and then the PLAY:1 to connect them to the software. You'll have to do this on the mobile application as well. Once this is done, you are good to go and you can name the product and the room in which it is located. This way if you end up with more than one PLAY:1 on your network you can choose to play the same music to both, or play different music to each of the SONOS components on your network. This idea is the single feature that makes SONOS stand out way above other companies – the ease of multi-room audio. It's fantastic as to what you can do with SONOS.

Setup

 

The software not only allows you to play music right from your PC, but also from your music library. This is handy if you have a shared media library but also have some local media on your PC. You can also set the SONOS PLAY:1 to use a sleep timer, act as an alarm clock and an internet radio station. SONOS supports a ton of streaming services from Pandora to Slacker to TuneIn Radio and a lot more.
 

PC Interface
PC Interface

PC Interface
PC Interface

Sleep Timer & Now Playing
Sleep Timer & Now Playing

 

Settings
Settings

Alarms
Alarm Setup

 

On the next page we'll continue with the review and take a look at the mobile software.


Mobile Software & Testing:

On the mobile side of things I used my Nexus 5 and the experience couldn't be better. The mobile app is not crippled in any way when compared to the desktop application and I could connect to shared media, play local content from my phone, connect to streaming services, manage playlists, add favorites and more - all from my phone. I'm very impressed with the ability to control absolutely everything - including SONOS PLAY:1 setup from my device.

Music

Music

More Music

More Music

Even More Music

Even More Music

 

Another interesting thing to note is how the software synchronizes together. By this I mean that when you change songs, volume and more on the either the mobile application or the desktop application, the results are immediately seen on the other device. If I wiggle the volume slider on my phone, the desktop application does the same thing - with very little lag. The software runs very smoothly and when using Wi-Fi over Bluetooth, there is a lot more bandwidth available to reflect these changes.

Radio

Radio

Local Radio

Local Radio

Info & Options

Info & Options

 

I'm impressed.

Now Playing

 

On the last page we'll cover some testing and then wrap things up with our final thoughts.


Testing & General Usage:

The downside to testing a single PLAY:1 is that we can't create a "stereo pair" or play different streams to each of the devices. That being said, what we can test is the range, quality and overall performance of the SONOS PLAY:1 - both software and hardware. As previously mentioned, the software is very good. I can't complain about anything with it at all. It works exactly as advertised and it seems to be very well thought out. Everything I needed to access was where it logically should be and it just plain works.

I love that the software sync's between PCs, mobile and more - almost instantly and seamlessly. It's a great package that is simple to use and to figure out.

In terms of hardware, the performance of the PLAY:1 is a bit of a mixed bag to me. All by itself it's a mono speaker. There is not stereo sound and while the quality sounds good, there is something about the lack of audio separation with a single speaker that leaves me feeling a little flat.

That's not to say the quality is bad. It certainly is decent and the bass and treble are mixed well and provide a good listening experience. Thankfully there is a place where you can adjust bass and treble for the SONOS PLAY:1 as changing Windows sound settings does not affect this speaker at all. You have to wrap your mind around the fact that the SONOS PLAY:1 is not attached to your PC and is in fact a stand-alone system. You have to interface with separate software to make changes.

 

What this does is pretty cool. While you are playing music to the speaker in one part of your office, you can at the same time use your PC or phone to play local music through that devices media player. Neither will affect the other and this is pretty cool.

While the sound quality isn't all that bad - it's not the greatest out of the box either. For most music, you'll want to increase the bass response of the PLAY:1 as it feels and sounds a little thin. Once you've tweaked the sound a bit to your liking, you'll feel better about it. With that in mind, I believe that adding a second PLAY:1 in a stereo pair would greatly help the music quality and give you a much better experience. Still, by itself, it’s not a bad way to go.

The volume gets pretty loud - and while it won't hurt your ears or rattle cups on your desk, it does provide a "good enough" listening experience by itself in your office. If I had a couple of these, I could see them fit really well in a larger room, but the single speaker is just a bit weak for a large environment.

 

Conclusion:

As I wrap up this review of the SONOS PLAY:1 it may sound like I'm not happy with the product - but that couldn't be farther from the truth. The fact is, I love the PLAY:1, but I want more. I want flexibility. I want the true mutli-room experience. I want stereo. I want a fuller richer sound that comes from putting one of these on each side of my office - on each side of my TV - on each side of my bedroom.

I could happily have six of these and fill my house with a variety of music and audio that is different for every room in the house or at times all synchronized for an amazing in-home experience. The downside is that I'd be in for $1200 if I got what I wanted. In all truth, for what the SONOS offers, that's not a bad price. Still, the SONOS PLAY:1 is a starter kit by itself but if you could snag a couple of these I think you would be very, very happy.

The software thankfully only makes this product better. We tested and played with both the PC and Android software packages and both worked very well. The software was smooth, fluid and never had any instability no matter how much I messed with it during the weeks I played around with the SONOS PLAY:1.

In terms of audio quality, it's very good. It's not perfect, but it's very good and should be more than adequate for what it is designed to do. That's what confuses me a bit. The PLAY:1 is a decent speaker, but not many people will want to have just one. Consumers will want to have a couple of these to really enjoy the quality and fullness as well as multi-room capabilities. With that in mind, I believe they should sell a SONOS PLAY:1 x2 kit.

The SONOS PLAY:1 is a great setup and if you snag a couple of these, you'll likely be very happy. The overall build quality of the hardware as well as the engineering of the software is fantastic. I'm a fan.

 

Pros:
  • Great software
  • Build quality
  • Decent audio quality
  • Easy to use and setup
  • Comes with the SONOS Bridge
  • Flexible options and easy to setup/add other SONOS gear

 

Cons:

  • Needs a pair to really appreciate quality, functionality
  • Not cheap

 

If you are in the market for a cheap Bluetooth speaker, the SONOS PLAY:1 is not for you. If you're shopping for a speaker system for your home or office that allows you to play music wirelessly in any and every room that you are in, the SONOS PLAY:1 is a great place to start. The ability to pair, separate, stream and enjoy great music and audio everywhere you are, is absolutely fantastic.

The SONOS PLAY:1 has a lot going for it and I just put two on my list.

Silver

I'd like to thank SONOS for sending over the PLAY:1 for a review. If you have any questions, comments or general feedback, please head on over and post it in our forum at the link below.