The Sonos® Play:1 is a wireless audio system that uses your WiFi network to transmit audio to high-quality portable speakers. The Santa Barbara-based company has been producing audio components since 2002, and their new Play:1 demonstrates their experience in the industry. The Play:1 is very compact at only 6.36 by 4.69 inches, but it produces a refined but powerful signal.
The Bridge device connects to your router using an Ethernet cord and transmits the wireless audio signal to the speakers. Alternatively, you could plug a Play:1 directly into your router and avoid the need for a Bridge. The Play:1 would then transmit the audio signal to the rest of the Sonos components. Play:1 speakers are humidity-resistant and designed to “survive in the bathroom while you’re taking a shower”. They can be also be mounted on a wall, allowing you to set them up almost anywhere you want. Audio is sent to the speakers using the Sonos Controller app. The app’s appearance could be updated to look more streamlined for iOS 7, but I found it quite navigable.
Setting up the system was relatively straightforward. First, plug the Sonos Bridge into your router, then pair each speaker to the system wirelessly using the Sonos app, which is available for Mac, Windows, iOS, and Android. You have to set up each speaker to be in a separate “room” in the app at first, then after that you can indicate you want to pair two speakers to be stereo. If you have any difficulty with setup, don’t hesitate to call Sonos support. I’ve had occasion to contact them in the past and they have been very effective.
When installing the Sonos app on your computer, you will be prompted to register with an email and zip code to add additional features. Then you update the Sonos Library with the music in your iTunes library. That may take a while depending on the size of your library. Then click on the Advanced tab and choose a time of day for your Sonos library to be updated with any changes to your iTunes library.
The speakers are responsive like a sports car, especially when the source is an iTunes library. Pandora sounded wonderful, but not as rock solid as the sound quality with iTunes. The mid-range and high end are beautifully balanced with the bass, resulting in cohesive performance.
A significant drawback is the Play:1 speakers don’t have an audio input other than Wi-Fi through the Sonos Controller app. That means the only audio sources that can be used are your iTunes library on your computer including Podcasts, or web services like Pandora, Rhapsody, or Spotify. You cannot get your television, Apple TV, iTunes Radio or iTunes Match to play on the Play:1 system. To play music from your iTunes library, your computer has to be running, and if your iTunes library is on an external hard drive it has to be connected.
For an audiophile on a limited budget, starting with a single Play:1 speaker is definitely a viable option. Currently Sonos is offering a Play:1 Gift Pack for $199 that includes a $49 Bridge for free, plus free shipping. Adding a second one later seems inevitable, but if you have a small living space, one Play:1 would be more that sufficient for many people’s needs.
I found that the the Sonos Play:1 speakers provided great audio quality, and would sincerely recommend them to anyone looking for a new audio system, especially as a gift for the holidays.