Viewing Review: Sonos' most affordable wireless speaker sounds very good for its size and price, but lacks an analog input - AVS Forum
Sonos' most affordable wireless speaker sounds very good for its size and price, but lacks an analog input Edit
by imagic Combined Rating: 3.8
The Sonos Play:1 is a device I'd never buy with my own money, yet I'm happy that I received one as a gift. Last January, I attended a press event at Bob and Ron's World Wide Stereo in Ardmore, PA....
Pros Cons
  • Compact, reliable (with Android), attractive, plays loud, expandable
  • No analog input or bluetooth connectivity

The Sonos Play:1 is a device I'd never buy with my own money, yet I'm happy that I received one as a gift. Last January, I attended a press event at Bob and Ron's World Wide Stereo in Ardmore, PA. The main event was lunch with renowned home-theater designer Keith Yates, and Sonos was a sponsor. On the way out, everyone who attended got a swag bag that included a Sonos Play: 1 speaker, which is how I ended up with one.

 

The Sonos Play:1 looks a lot like something Apple would design

 

Now that I've had the Play:1 for a few months, I'm still struggling to figure out what to do with it. The Play:1 is a mighty fine bit of audio engineering; it looks and sounds good considering its size, wireless functionality, and price. Its resemblance to Apple-designed products is uncanny, in terms of both appearance and operation. The speaker's wrap-around, perforated, brushed-aluminum grill is especially attractive and Apple-like, but as I discovered, it is distressingly easy to dent the aluminum. As a consequence, you have to handle the Play:1 with care to avoid cosmetic damage. Aside from that, the Play:1 feels very solid and well-made.

 
Intuitive software-based setup is a Sonos hallmark. Adding the Play:1 to my network using the Sonos app on my Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 Android tablet only took a couple of minutes. Once the link was established, browsing for music and playing it back was a piece of cake, thanks to the system's easy-to-use software, which is available for Mac, PC, iOS, and Android. The only surprise was when I went into the EQ setting and found that "loudness" was turned on by default. It only takes a second to turn loudness off, and the improvement in sound quality was noticeable.

 

Speaking of sound quality, I won't get too far into the nitty-gritty, because the Play:1 doesn't warrant the sort of scrutiny that a high-quality speaker demands. It sounds good enough, and it gets loud enough to do the job it needs to do. When I was testing the Sonos 5.1 system, I did take a minute to combine a pair of Play:1s with the Sonos Sub, and it did make for a fairly decent-sounding system—that happened to cost over $1000 for 2.1 channels. With Sonos, you pay for the wireless capability and ease of use; unfortunately, you don't get true hi-fi sound quality as part of the package—it's good sound, just not profound. The sound signature of the Play: 1 is dry and punchy, and I will give it credit for handling many genres without distorting when playing loud, but it does sound a bit compressed when pushed.

 

While I am not part of the demographic that buys Sonos gear—my stereo is large, full of wires, and industrial-looking—I can understand the wireless system's appeal. My priority is always sound quality, and I chose stereo components that offer higher performance than anything Sonos sells, yet my current speakers cost the same per unit as the Play:1. When it comes to Sonos, I appreciate the system's merits just as much as I recognize its limitations. For example, the Play:1 makes a very effective surround speaker when combined with a Sonos Playbar and SUB to make a 5.1 system, which I discuss in this review. Sonos' smallest speaker is also a great choice for a multi-room wireless-audio installation, given its size and sound quality. In fact, multi-room audio is the precise application that best takes advantage of the features that set Sonos apart from its wireless competition: reliability. I live in a three-story Philly rowhouse where I've tested the Play:1 in every corner of every floor—the wireless connection is always rock solid. 

 

The Play:1 and the Behringer B215XL shown in this picture cost the same: $200

 

Unfortunately, wireless connection is the only way you can get music to the Play: 1; in fact, my number one gripe with Sonos' smallest speaker is the lack of connectivity options. A simple analog input or Bluetooth connection would've made it far more appealing as a standalone speaker. As it stands, I cannot take the Play: 1 with me—let's say to a hotel room—and use it to play music from my phone. It simply doesn't work that way! Even an ad-hoc Wi-Fi connection would be acceptable, but as it stands, there is no way to connect a phone to a Play:1 without tapping into an existing network through a router or tethering a Sonos component to a computer. Hopefully, a forthcoming system update from Sonos will make it possible to establish an ad-hoc Wi-Fi connection between a phone or tablet and a Sonos component. If that happens, and it works, I will add half a star to my rating.

 

The Play:1 features an Ethernet port, but no Bluetooth or analog connectivity

 

Ultimately, how you use the Play:1 has a major impact on whether you get your money's worth. The cost of entry for a two-channel system is at least $400. At that price point, it's disappointing that the Play:1 cannot directly link to a tablet or phone; hopefully, the Sonos update will remedy that issue. When used as part of an integrated whole-house system, or as a part of a 5.1 surround system, the Play:1 makes a lot of sense. On its own, Sonos' least expensive speaker doesn't offer enough in terms of connectivity to make it worth the price, despite its respectable performance—at least not yet.

Comments
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jippy42 11-06-2014, 09:07 AM

Great review! I too wish there was some kind of 3.5 jack for convenience, but of course Sonos wants to push their wireless. I'm curious as to anyone's thoughts on the Sonos software, which has always been a huge pain for me since all my music is WAV through iTunes. Any thoughts or suggestions?

emcdade 06-08-2014, 09:06 PM

I just got a Play 1 today for use on my patio. It is really outstanding, and puts out plenty of good sound for its incredibly tiny footprint. The app is great and I have my entire music library from my server at my fingertips outside, without tying up my phone at all. It works perfectly for me and will coexist with two other 5.1 setups in the house already. My wife has already wished for an additional unit for the bedroom, and that never happens...

imagic 05-05-2014, 06:15 PM

"Single speaker review makes little sense where a system is greater than the sum of its components."

I agree, and a system review is coming. However, the Play:1 is sold on its own... so the comments are valid, even if it paints an incomplete picture.

Metric 04-29-2014, 03:39 PM

You evidently aren't the target audience for this device. The play:1 is an expansion to the play range that a lot of us love. No wires; whole house audio controlled from an ipad on my fridge is perfect for me. Play: 1 can be used with the soundbar and sub or embraced as a water resistant solo speaker in the bathroom.

The play:3 and 5 offer direct inputs. You can also purchase connect amp to your own speakers or connect which can line out to a higher quality amp.

It isn't audiophile stuff as low bitrate Pandora (and many of sonos's other sources) isn't aimed at that.

Single speaker review makes little sense where a system is greater than the sum of its components.

imagic 04-29-2014, 05:53 AM

"As for the direct connectivity, while I don't see a point for Bluetooth given it connects to the network, it can play music directly from Apple ios devices though that is useless to me as I use Windows Phone and occasionally android devices." - curtisb
 
When it comes to self-powered speakers, including a simple way to connect any music player to a stand-alone speaker is a no-brainer in my book.

 

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