Pinterest Stumbleupon Whatsapp
Ads by Google

This is a review I didn’t want to write. I’ve been putting it off for the past month. Why? Because the Sonos PLAY:1 is awesome, and once this post goes live, a lucky MakeUseOf reader will win the two I was sent to play with.

The PLAY:1 is the entry level model in Sonos’s line of smart speakers. While a single Sonos is good, you’re meant to invest in a whole network of them to kit out your house. Each speaker can be controlled separately — or linked together — from your smartphone or computer.

This is what I made of the PLAY:1

How the Sonos PLAY:1 Works

The Sonos PLAY:1 is more than just a speaker. It’s a lot easier to think of it as a speaker with a small computer attached Turn An Old Amp Into A Smart Streaming Speaker With Raspberry Pi Turn An Old Amp Into A Smart Streaming Speaker With Raspberry Pi The ultimate self-contained music streaming speaker, with support for Spotify, Google Music, SoundCloud and Airplay. Let's do it. Read More than anything else.

On the device there are three buttons: Play/Pause, Volume Up and Volume Down. That’s it. The only way to control it is using the Sonos Controller app on your computer or smartphone. It’s available for iOS, Android, OS X, and Windows. If you use a different operating system, you’re out of luck.

Ads by Google

Unless you’re streaming content from your phone or computer, the Sonos does all the hard work. It’s connected to your Wi-Fi network and, if you’re listening to content from a service like Spotify or TuneIn, it pulls in all the content itself. It’s not like an AirPlay or Bluetooth speaker where your phone is just beaming the information to a dumb speaker, the Sonos has a brain of its own. This is the biggest difference between a Sonos and most other wireless speakers.

How the Speakers Sound

Let’s get this out of the way, with the PLAY:1 you are paying a premium for the Sonos’s intelligence and brand. The speakers sound great, but they’re not cheap.

Right now a PLAY:1 – the cheapest model in the range – is $200 on Amazon. As we’ll see later in this review, you need at least two to get the full use out of the Sonos system so you’re looking at a minimum set up cost of $400. Sonos does offer the CONNECT which turns your existing audio setup into a Sonos system however, rather than being an entry point, each Connect costs $350 dollars.

With this sort of budget to play with, if sound quality is all you’re after, you can probably invest in a better setup.

This isn’t to say the PLAY:1 sounds bad. I didn’t do any frequency response testing, just listened to tens of hours of Spotify over the last two months. I was always impressed with the audio quality. There’s a surprising amount of bass for such a small package, and the midtones and highend all sound good. The default EQ didn’t do anything weird to any of the music I listened to.

The biggest compliment I can pay the PLAY:1 is that its sound is room filling. There was no room in my house for which a single speaker wasn’t enough. Sonos make larger speakers — the PLAY:3 and PLAY:5 — but I never felt that I needed their extra ooomph.

sonos play 1- overview

The All Important Apps

The Sonos Controller apps are a hugely important part of the whole experience. I found that I just tucked the speaker away and forgot about it. My only interaction was using the apps. It felt like a natural extension of my phone and computer. There were very few occasions when I used the hardware buttons.

It’s fortunate then, that the app experience is a good one. Both the smartphone and PC apps give you full control over your Sonos system. You can control what’s playing on each speaker, create playlists, search and add tracks from any of the supported services, and essentially do anything you want.

sonos play 1- ios

For all the features the app has, it never feels bloated. I spent a lot of time using the Spotify streaming feature and, while the Sonos app’s layout wasn’t quite as good as the official Spotify app, it was completely satisfactory user experience. The same is true of the other channels. The official apps will always have a slight edge — Sonos is essentially taking ten different apps and averaging their controls to have a system that works okay for everything — but five minutes with the app is all you’ll need to get to grips with things.

UI wise, the app is functional rather than anything particularly stunning. This is just another side effect of having to work for so many different services — it’s hard to do great design when you’re working with so many different APIs. The one criticism I’d have is the headache inducing splash screen when you load the app. The Sonos surrounded by lines is an optical illusion, and an unpleasant one at that. Seeing it every time I opened the app got old, fast!

sonos play 1- logo

The Setup Process

Setting up the Sonos is brainless. The short instruction manual talks you through it in full but you basically connect your smartphone or computer to the Sonos’s Wi-Fi network, then add your actual Wi-Fi details. It will restart, connect to your network, download any updates, and then be ready to use.

Adding a second Sonos is even easier. You just turn it on, go to the app and choose add new device. The Sonos network will do the rest.

A system like Sonos can seem intimidating, but it really is easy. I’d have no problem recommending this to people who avoid most technology. If you can use a smartphone, you can use a Sonos.

sonos play 1- top controls

A Sound System for Your House

The biggest draw of a Sonos is that it’s a system for your whole house. Add a speaker in each room and you can control what’s playing in each place from a single app.

The idea is that if you want to listen to the Red Hot Chilli Peppers in the kitchen while your roommate plays Marvin Gaye in the bedroom, you can. Alternatively, if you’re moving from one room to another, you can just use the app to pair the two rooms so your music continues seamlessly. If you’re throwing a party it gets even better, you can link every room there. Put on a big Spotify playlist and just let the Sonos system take care of everything.

My two room Sonos setup really worked exactly like that. In the best possible way, it just worked. Any changes I made were instantaneous. When the two speakers were both playing together they kept perfectly in sync. You could even have them in the same room and use them as a set of dual speakers.

After a few weeks I began to get annoyed when I went into a room and there wasn’t a Sonos there.

Downsides

As should be abundantly clear by now, I’m a big fan of the Sonos system. It isn’t however without some drawbacks.

First, the Sonos system is expensive. As good as the app is, it’s not really worth it for a single speaker. You need to be using the multi-room features to get your money’s worth, and even then, they’re still expensive. Cost is going to be a major barrier to entry for a lot of people.

Second, while you can stream media that’s on your phone, you can’t stream directly from your phone or computer in any other app. This is all well and good if you keep a library on your phone, but if like me you listen to audiobooks using Audible then you won’t be able to play them on your Sonos.

Third, there are some notable omissions in the list of supported services. The biggest of them is the newly released Apple Music. While Sonos may be able to work out something with Apple, I’m not optimistic. There’s also things like Audible that, theoretically at least, would be far easier for Sonos to add. It’s a small complaint though: the number of services offered does more than enough to cover most use cases.

sonos play 1 design

Wrapping Up

If you’re looking to invest in a speaker system for your home, Sonos is the way to go — as long as you have the budget. I’m a big fan of the app but I’m not sure I can recommend getting a single Sonos speaker: a good Bluetooth or AirPlay speaker would have pretty much the same function. You really do need to buy at least two. If I had $1000 dollars to spend on audio gear, without a shadow of a doubt every penny would be spent on a full Sonos system.

Other than budget, the only reasons not to use a Sonos are your OS or streaming service of choice isn’t supported.

If you’ve got the money and can get at least two… Buy! Buy! Buy!
Sonos PLAY:1 Compact Wireless Smart Speaker for Streaming Music (Black) Sonos PLAY:1 Compact Wireless Smart Speaker for Streaming Music (Black) Mini but Mighty. Fits in any space, fills any room with surprisingly rich and powerful sound. Buy Now At Amazon $169.00

Sonos PLAY:1 Set Giveaway

Send your products to be reviewed. Contact James Bruce for further details.

  1. Abdur-_-786
    November 15, 2015 at 9:09 pm

    Do we have a winner? :)

  2. Garba Indmix
    October 12, 2015 at 1:22 pm

    Who is the winner?

  3. Abdurrasheed Desai
    October 10, 2015 at 10:37 pm

    Has the winner been announced somewhere SOOO nervous

  4. Abdurrasheed Desai
    October 4, 2015 at 2:13 pm

    Winner? so nervous

  5. Antonio Inuso
    September 25, 2015 at 7:40 pm

    The winner is?

  6. Livia Costa
    September 14, 2015 at 8:29 pm

    Awesome! Never had a Wireless Speaker before. :)

  7. Edmond Leung
    September 9, 2015 at 3:39 am

    Wow, prize amazon gc is fab. & splendid. 2 fingers snap. It is tight, fly & off the chain. Thank you for the awesomeness, the contest, and generosity. :) Pick me, pick me!

  8. alfred chan
    September 8, 2015 at 2:54 am

    This is tempting piece!!

  9. thrtk3
    September 7, 2015 at 10:53 pm

    Look at the Archt- One. It connects many ways and you can optimize for you room.

  10. Jeff Schallenberg
    September 5, 2015 at 5:50 pm

    Sonos now has competition in the form of Qualcomm's AllPlay. Several speaker manufacturers including Monster and Panasonic have adopted the AllPlay system.

    But if you're on a budget, the $59 Gramofon is the ticket for a full-house AllPlay solution.

    I have two Gramofons - one for my livingroom Harmann Kardon SoundSticks, another for my bedroom table radio (Boston Acoustics).

    With AllPlay, I am able to select music for either or both speaker systems. I prefer to have the two systems synchronized so the same music echoes throughout my home

    http://gramofon.com/

  11. Colin McAllister
    September 5, 2015 at 11:33 am

    I have to use my Sonos-1 via a bridge. I have found wi-fi access in this manner flakey, and if I move the speaker from room A to room B I often have to set the system up again. I also hate having to keep 2 things plugged in all the time. Sound quality is of little importance if you have no sound because the wi-fi has to be reset!

    Add the cost of the bridge *and* speaker and Sonos just isn't worth it. There are other devices I can use to play my music collection (e.g. my internet radio) and that are more portable from room to room. I'm keeping the Sonos now because it was a Christmas gift and I would get peanuts for it second-hand, but I won't be buying another.

  12. Holger Vogt
    September 5, 2015 at 6:26 am

    For Mac users there is a little workaround to stream any audio to your Sonos system. The software SonoAir uses the Apple's airplay and it works quite well: http://sonoair.mihosoft.eu/

  13. unknown2070270179
    September 4, 2015 at 10:43 pm

    I wish i had the money for all these sorts of things.

  14. aareece
    September 4, 2015 at 7:32 pm

    I am in the process of deciding what speaker(s) to get so I can stream podcasts from my computer to other rooms in my house. Thanks for a nice review to help me decide.

  15. jshaw
    September 4, 2015 at 7:14 pm

    I already have 2 SONOS Play 3s. They are great, even with no bluetooth. I would love to win and add a Play 1 (it would prod me to buy a second Play 1)

  16. Steven Klimasewski
    September 4, 2015 at 2:12 pm

    Its a shame there is no fallback option for bluetooth streaming, I mean I know bluetooth has quality limitations but it would be useful. For example I've got an android phone so I'm set there but I run linux mint as my main OS and I have bluetooth on my computer it would be nice to be able to stream from that too. Oh well, I remember testing out the older Sonos model 5 a couple years ago and really enjoying the sound that came out of such a small space. Sadly I had to return it and did not have the money for one. Music is a very important part of my day and not having any decent speakers really sucks!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *