Review: Sonos Play:1 packs big sound in small unit

Oct 14, 2013 by Ryan Nakashima
In this Oct. 4, 2013 photo, Sonos Inc. CEO John MacFarlane touches a button on the Play:1 in West Hollywood, Calif. The little brother to the wireless speaker company's Play:3 and Play:5 speakers packs a big sound in a small package. And thanks to its smaller price tag and a new promotion that lasts through the end of the year, you can now hook up a room in stereo sound for just under $400. (AP Photo/Ryan Nakashima)

I've been looking around for a while for a way to wire up my home for sound, without all the wires. I hadn't been satisfied with the options, partly because of the high prices. Then I met Sonos' Play:1.

The little brother to the wireless speaker company's Play:3 and Play:5 speakers packs a big in a small package. And thanks to its littler price tag and a new promotion that lasts through the end of the year, you can now hook up a room in for just under $400.

Sonos is ranked third behind Bose and Jawbone in the U.S. wireless speaker market, which represents about 8 percent of the $8.4 billion annual market for audio equipment including headphones, according to research firm NPD Group. But Sonos offers a sound system that other manufacturers such as Samsung and Bose are only starting to imitate.

Sonos streams music over the Internet, or from your computer, using your home's Wi-Fi network. After plugging in its Bridge adapter to your router, you can then plug in as many speakers as you want to power outlets throughout your home, and they are all linked wirelessly. Pairing two speakers in one room creates a stereo effect and you can listen to different things in different rooms. Each speaker is both a Wi-Fi receiver and transmitter, creating a mesh network that allows even owners of large homes to place speakers into every nook and cranny far from the central hub. All of this is controllable from an app on your mobile phone, tablet or computer.

The Play:1, which launches Monday, has heft like a big pickle jar and weighs 4.08 pounds. That's about a pound and a half lighter than the Play:3, which is more bread-loaf size; and 5 pounds lighter than the Play:5, which is about as big as a bread box. The Play:1's compact body fits snugly on top of a counter or bookshelf and gives off a very large and well-defined sound with plenty of bass and crisp-sounding high notes.

The Play:1 costs $199, the Play:3 costs $299 and the Play:5 costs $399. The company is throwing in the $49 Bridge for free during its promotional push, so the entry-level price of outfitting a room with two speakers in stereo sound has fallen to $400 from what would have been $650. To me, that's a big deal.

NPD analyst Ben Arnold says the price cut is smart because it brings Sonos' entry-level product closer to the price of fast-selling Bluetooth-enabled portable wireless speakers, such as No. 2 maker Jawbone's Mini Jambox, which retails for $180. Other wireless speakers that connect to mobile devices using Bluetooth like the HDMX Jam sell for as little as $32.

"The premium end of the market is still growing but people are just buying these speakers up like crazy. Why not tap into this very active part of the market and pull more people in?" he said.

I found that it was super easy to install two Play:1 devices and the Bridge. I didn't need the manual. After downloading the free app, I was walked through the process, pushing a button on each device as I was prompted, and letting the software figure it out. Each speaker has only two buttons—one for play/pause and a volume toggle—so it's hard to screw up.

I played music from Pandora and Rdio, both streaming music services that interact well with the Sonos app. Even at half the possible volume, I reached what I consider louder-than-party-level in a roughly 700-square-foot space.

Santa Barbara, California-based Sonos Inc. has its speakers installed in more than a million homes and has approximately doubled its revenue in the last year, according to CEO John MacFarlane. The latest device is "designed to be a no-regrets, first-try entry," he said.

I'd say the company resoundingly succeeded with a that far outpunches its size.

Explore further: Mini Jambox speakers play to smartphone lifestyles

5 /5 (1 vote)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Review: Wireless speakers great fit for phone use

Jun 28, 2012

(AP) -- Diminutive wireless speakers are filling the shelves at electronics stores. They're proving to be the ideal accessory for people who listen to the bulk of their music on mobile phones.

Recreate the concert in the living room

Dec 17, 2012

Hear music of concert hall quality at any place in the room from a stereo recording. The device created by EPFL spin-off Illusonic creates an "acoustic space."

Jambox a boombox for the smart gadget era

Nov 04, 2010

Jawbone has packed the monster sound of a boombox in a pocket-sized "Jambox" that wirelessly adds home-theater sound to mobile gadgets from smartphones to tablet computers.

Recommended for you

Five features an Amazon phone might offer

19 minutes ago

Rumors of an Amazon smartphone reached a fever pitch this week, with The Wall Street Journal reporting that the device could be due out this year.

Sony's PlayStation 4 sales top seven million

Apr 17, 2014

Sony says it has sold seven million PlayStation 4 worldwide since its launch last year and admitted it can't make them fast enough, in a welcome change of fortune for the Japanese consumer electronics giant.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

pats
not rated yet Oct 22, 2013
Kudos to you, Ryan, for such an in depth, intelligent review.
We are a household of Sonos lovers - because we love music,
(and movies with a great home theater setup- thanks to Sonos).
Years ago we wired a house for sound - that was an incredible amount of work and took a whole lot of wire, drilling, etc. Sonos has changed all that.

We got the Play1 speaker for a small office and it absolutely does not disappoint.
It's small, it's elegant, and sounds surprisingly good,
along with the capability to stream music to our heart's content.
I encourage anyone to give Sonos a try.
Now's a good time because they are offering a free bridge with a speaker purchase.

I don't usually have much respect for Squidoo lenses but I found
one that has the details for the free bridge, as well as info
on how to get free overnight shipping on any Sonos product.
Just do a search in Squidoo for Sonos Playbar for TV
and you'll find it.

More news stories

LinkedIn membership hits 300 million

The career-focused social network LinkedIn announced Friday it has 300 million members, with more than half the total outside the United States.

Researchers uncover likely creator of Bitcoin

The primary author of the celebrated Bitcoin paper, and therefore probable creator of Bitcoin, is most likely Nick Szabo, a blogger and former George Washington University law professor, according to students ...

Under some LED bulbs whites aren't 'whiter than white'

For years, companies have been adding whiteners to laundry detergent, paints, plastics, paper and fabrics to make whites look "whiter than white," but now, with a switch away from incandescent and fluorescent lighting, different ...

Magnitude-7.2 earthquake shakes Mexican capital

A powerful magnitude-7.2 earthquake shook central and southern Mexico on Friday, sending panicked people into the streets. Some walls cracked and fell, but there were no reports of major damage or casualties.

Plants with dormant seeds give rise to more species

Seeds that sprout as soon as they're planted may be good news for a garden. But wild plants need to be more careful. In the wild, a plant whose seeds sprouted at the first warm spell or rainy day would risk disaster. More ...

Researchers successfully clone adult human stem cells

(Phys.org) —An international team of researchers, led by Robert Lanza, of Advanced Cell Technology, has announced that they have performed the first successful cloning of adult human skin cells into stem ...