So I’ve had a chance to mess around with Sonos’ Play:3 wireless HiFi audio speaker for about a month. Rather then spend just a few days or a weekend with it, I decided to speak some good ol’ quality time with the system to really get a feel. Sonos may not be as well-known as BOSE or have quite the same technology, but what it lacks, it makes up for in coolness, ease of use (setup, app and more) and form factor. The Play3 isn’t cheap, but it also isn’t overly expensive. At $299, it gives audiophiles a decent size speaker with networking capabilities and flexibility, but is it worth the price tag? Let’s find out.
Sonos was nice enough to send me a Play 3 and a wireless bridge. The bridge, is a small white box, about 4-inches across and acts as a wireless antenna, without it, you’d have to run an Ethernet cord into the back of the actually speaker which can limit your placement. The bridge simply plugs into the wall and then a short Ethernet cable plugs into your wireless router. As for the speaker itself, the Play 3 is gray box with a dark gray metal mesh covering the actual speakers, it has a nice and simple designed and surprisingly heavy, not cinder block heavy, but deceiving to the eye, so it feels high-end and well-built. It won’t win any awards for being unique, but it doesn’t need to, it’s a speaker. And don’t worry it won’t stand out like a sore thumb if you just put it in a book shelf or on a table.
The speaker is actually even easier to setup than the bridge, all you need to do is plug the power cord into the unit and then the wall. Literally that’s it, that is all there is to do. Now, in order to link the two (bridge and speaker) there’s a button on top of the bridge, press it down, then go to where you speaker is and press the same looking button on top of it, after a second or two, the two are paired together and you are all set. You’ll have to do that again when syncing the two with your computer or phone, more on that below.
Once you get the speakers and/or bridge paired together you’ll need to install the computer software. Don’t worry, Sonos packs in a CD that works on both PC and Mac, so you’re covered no matter what operating system you run. Simply follow the on-screen instructions and you’ll have the software installed in under 5 mins. Once you have that done, sync the speaker to your computer, the software again, will lead you through it. Now you can start to set up your music selection. With the Sonos player, you can pull music from iTunes or individual music folders and play your favorite playlists. Thanks to a new software update that came out, as I was reviewing the Play 3, you can now play even more music through your speaker from more sources.
In case you don’t use iTunes or just prefer something different for a change, Sonos has incorporated the ability to play music from Spotify, Pandora Radio, Sirius XM, Rdio, Last FM, Rhapsody, Slacker Radio and more. There isn’t a lack of options.
For the purpose of this review I mostly messed around using Spotify. In the music options you simply add a new music source and so I picked Spotify, I entered in my login and password and immediately saw my playlists and could begin picking one and even building a queue of what to play next. The really cool thing was that I could switch back over to Spotify’s app on my Mac, search for an album, artist or song and create a new playlist and when I go back to Sonos’ player, the new playlist was already there. With the desktop app you can control everything, including volume, song selection and more.
Now, here is the really cool part, if you have a smartphone like an iPhone or an Android phone, you can download Sonos’ free controller app. This app allows you to basically do what you’ve already been doing from your computer, but with the ease of being able to walk around your house with basically a remote for the speaker. I had a small party over at my place and it was nice to be able to have a conversation with someone, have drink in my left hand and my phone in the right and simple change my song queue, add more music and if the people got to loud, I could just turn up the volume, all from my phone.
If all that isn’t sweet enough for you, how’s this… aside from just doing one speaker in one room, you can also have one speaker in several rooms and have them playing different music in each room, at the same time. Much like the other Play unit, the Play5, you can also sync up more than one unit, so you can have two units in the same room giving you sort of a surround sound experience.
To quote Steve Jobs, the nice thing about Sonos and its software is that “it just works.” Anyone can pick it up and use it. Follow the simple instruction and in no time you’ll be a wiz at using this thing.
I know what you are thinking, that all sounds good in all, but how does the actual speaker sound. First things first, this isn’t a MartinLogan speaker, it’s a smaller wireless HiFi system. If you want ultra-high end stuff, go spend $3,400 on MartinLogan speakers. Sonos’ Play3 at $299 is great at what it does… and that is provideing you with clear audio without all the mess of wires and cables. Just to test it out, I turned the volume up rather loud and was pleased “not” to hear any distortion or static, which is great when you consider the music is being streamed over a wifi network. I would think anyone who enjoys music, would love the Sonos Play 3.
In another test, I decided to play a mixture of music ranging from Guns N’ Roses to Pitbull to even Beethoven and they all sounded great, with Beethoven sounding phenomenal when it was loud. It was refreshing to being able to hear the music and piano keys so clearly, unlike those speakers found in computers and the cheap ones that sell for $29.99.
For $299, it may be a little steep for some people to spend, not to mention the additional $49 if you need the bridge. Times are tough and unless you are a hardcore music fan or just someone who listens to a lot of music in your house and likes to entertain, you may find it difficult to drop that kind of cash on a speaker. But, if you do, I honestly believe you’ll be very happy.
You’ll be able to stream all your favorite songs that you’ve either purchased or subscribe to via iTunes or Spofity or virtually any other streaming music services. You’ll also get clear audio with the ability to control it from either your computer or anywhere in your house with a smartphone (for free).
When I sent this unit back to Sonos, I didn’t realize how much I was going to miss it in my home after a month, it was awesome to just plop down on the couch, pull out my phone and have music playing in the room, all in about 25 secs.
4.5 / 5