sonos

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 system we received consisted of two Sonos Play:1 wireless speakers and one Sonos Bridge. Available in black or white, Play:1 speakers are $199.  The Sonos Bridge comes in white only and is $49.

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.

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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.

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10 Responses to “Review: Sonos Play:1 Wi-Fi system is a fantastic and affordable audio solution”

  1. a affordable audio solution to me is one that is free, not 250.00

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  2. If you get a Sons Connect box, that has audio inputs, allowing you to connect other AV gear and stream the sound to the Play 1.

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  3. I have a hard time understanding the hype surrounding Sonos, particularly when it has such little compatibility with Apple’s ecosystem. This part of the review stuck out for me:

    “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.”

    Why go through all of that trouble? Especially when AirPlay makes it so easy already. No thanks.

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    • The review doesn’t mention that you can stream music from most NAS boxes so you can move your music to a NAS and not need a computer running. You can stream music stored on iOS and Android devices directly giving AirPlay like functionality.

      If AirPlay is a big part of your world you can get connect an AirPort Express to a Play:5, Connect:Amp or Connect and you will be able to use AirPlay across the whole system on all the speakers at the same time if you like. This is something you can’t do with AirPlay alone as that will only send audio to a single device.

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      • @ John Anderson – You’re right! In my opinion, this is the Killer App(lication) for a Sonos system. If you have a large library of music files, and (like me) have struggled for years to find a good, seamless way to play music around the house, Sonos is your answer. Trust me, I’ve tried EVERY possible way to set up my ~500GB music library so that I can listen to it flexibly around the house. I’ve tried bluetooth receivers to my home stereo, tabletop bluetooth radios like the Bose units, Logitech Airplay units, etc. etc. etc. NOTHING works easily and reliably enough to continue working for my wife and kids while I’m out of town for a couple of days (the ultimate test of any A/V system). With Sonos, I just shared the music library on a Synology NAS (which also hosts all my movies, home video, photo archives, and local backups of all the laptops in the family). I then pointed the Sonos at the shared folder on the NAS and voila – the entire music library is available to any room in the house with a touch of an iPhone, an iPad, or even a Kindle! It just works. Always. Yes, it ain’t cheap – $600 for the NAS, A few hundred more for 4 x 3TB drives (but the NAS does a lot more than just music). And then the Sonos equipment. The nice thing about Sonos is you can start out at $200 with a Play:1 (+ free bridge) and then build from there.

        For audiophiles, you can connect the Sonos to your existing sound system(s) to feed your music library and enjoy all the benefits of the music library management and streaming content.

        Think of Sonos as being three distinct parts: (1) Music Library/Source management (2) Remote controls, and (3) Speaker gear. Of the three, the third is the least significant, IMO but the one that seems to garner the most attention. It may be why some people don’t understand the “big deal” about Sonos..

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  4. Apple’s AirPort Express. $99
    Dual-band Wifi, Speaker, Printer. Sounds better to me.

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  5. Samuel Scott says:

    @John S. Wilson
    There was an update not that long ago that allowed you to stream music from the device you are using.
    For example, with an ipad, iphone or android phone, there is a new menu labeled “This Mobile Device” which will have your music library on your device. Airplay has always been a 1to1 option, and has denied android users. This allows you to stream music from your apple or android phone to multiple units at once. Try get airplay to do that without being complicated :P
    The media server part of it (streaming music from a pc or nas drive) is not limited to Itunes. Windows media player servers work, along with MediaMonkey servers. Most NAS drives, or routers with NAS support will also be compatible. Sonos is not an apple exclusive product. They decided to make it usable by anyone, and they have done just that.

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  6. sophiloren28 says:

    once i have sonos play 5 and I was quite happy with that. Currently i have another sonos and this was Sonos Play 1…. after getting new sonos play 1 i sold my poor sonos play 5 hehe :) you know sonos play 1 just rock my expectation and I got a worthy handy wireless speaker

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