We have had a fair bit of coverage of the Sonos Wireless Hi-Fi System over the past few weeks. As I noted in my initial review of the system, I only had the review units in my home for 23 hours before I went and ordered my own. I was impressed by the ease of use, the overall sound quality, and the vast amount of music that was available to me through the Sonos eco-system. It was by no means an inexpensive purchase but I have not had a single moment of buyer’s remorse. At this point I am a Sonos evangelist and have gotten at least two other homes to jump into the world of Sonos Wireless HiFi.
Last week we were among the sites invited to view the company’s new speaker system before it was formally announced. The PLAY:3 speaker system is the lowest priced stand-alone speaker component from the company and allows those interested in the system to get a taste of what it has to offer for more easily than ever. Yes, so long as you are only planning to use the PLAY:3 in close proximity to your router you can get into Sonos for just $299. (If you won’t be using it in the same room as the router you’ll need to spend an additional $49 and purchase a BRIDGE so the wireless system can connect to the Internet.)
The company was kind enough to send me two of the new PLAY:3 speakers for review and I have had an enjoyable time checking them out. We covered most of the relevant specifications and details in our news post (which can be found here) so this review is more about taking a closer look and offering some of the ways the PLAY:3 adds to the Sonos offerings. There are, in fact, 3 ways in which I think the PLAY:3 adds a great deal to the overall Sonos catalogue.
Here’s what the company has to say about their new speaker.
THE SMALLER, SEXIER, TUCK IN THE CORNER AND BLOW OUT THE ROOF, ALL-IN-ONE PLAYER.Stream your entire music library, music services, and radio stationsControl wirelessly, easy to set upStart with one, expand everywhereVersatile enough to put anywhere — horizontal or vertical3 driver HiFi speaker system
CRYSTAL-CLEAR, ROOM-FILLING SOUND
3 SPEAKERS POWERED BY 3 DEDICATED DIGITAL AMPLIFIERS The PLAY:3 uses 3 state-of the-art digital amplifiers individually coupled with 3 speakers to deliver great sound to any room. The wireless music system provides pure, clean sound that is perfect for bringing room filling music to a kitchen, bedroom, office, or just about any room in your home. A bass radiator produces powerful low notes while two mid-range drivers and one tweeter fills out the sound.
CLASS-D AMPLIFIERS State of the art, great sounding amplifiers that are light weight, powerful and very energy efficient in standby and use.
TWEETER 1 tweeter creates a crisp and accurate high frequency response.
MID-RANGE DRIVERS 2 dedicated mid-range drivers ensure the faithful reproduction of mid-range frequencies crucial for accurate playback of vocals and instruments.
BASS RADIATOR A bass radiator is tuned to use the energized air volume inside of PLAY:3 to provide deep, clean and surprisingly powerful bass from such a small package.
ALL-DIGITAL SOUND ARCHITECTURE From the recording studio to your home the music is reproduced as the artist intended. All filter settings, active equalization, and time-alignment are done in the digital domain through state-of-the-art DSP circuitry so there’s absolutely no loss of audio quality or energy.
ADJUSTABLE BASS AND TREBLE CONTROLS Optimize sound performance using zone-specific bass, treble, balance, and loudness controls. Adjust volume by individual zone or by groups of zones.
ACCESS ALL THE MUSIC ON EARTH
PRE-LOADED INTERNET RADIO STATIONS — FREE OF CHARGE Get over 100,000 free radio stations, shows, and podcasts — all for free. And you can tune in without turning on your computer. Browse for stations or type in specific call letters or a radio host you love.
ENDLESS MUSIC FROM THE MOST POPULAR ONLINE MUSIC SERVICES Sonos works seamlessly with Anubis.fm, AUPEO!, Deezer, iheartradio, Last.fm, MOG, Napster®, Pandora®, Rdio®, Rhapsody®, SiriusXM™ Internet Radio, Spotify®, Stitcher SmartRadio(tm), TuneIn, Wolfgang’s Vault®, and downloads from any service offering DRM-free tracks. (Service availability varies by region.)
COMPUTER-FREE MUSIC PLAYBACK Get instant access to millions of songs and thousands of radio stations — without ripping, downloading or turning on a computer. Sonos connects directly to these services over the Internet and then streams the music to the rooms of your choice.
PLAY THE MUSIC ON YOUR COMPUTER IN ANY ROOM Play music stored on up to 16 PCs, Macs or NAS (Network Attached Storage) devices on your home network, supporting the most popular audio formats, from iTunes® to MP3.
LISTEN TO MUSIC THAT’S STORED ON AN IPOD OR IPHONE Dock, charge and wirelessly play the music from an iPod or iPhone with the Sonos DOCK (sold separately).
OTHER COOL FEATURES
EASY INTERNET CONNECTIVITY FOR OTHER PRODUCTS IN YOUR HOUSE When wirelessly connected to a BRIDGE or another Player, you can use the Ethernet port on the back of your PLAY:3 to bring standard Internet connectivity to your set-top box, DVR, PC, game console or network hard drive.
TOP-PANEL VOLUME AND MUTE CONTROLS Provides quick access to volume and mute controls when you don’t have a Controller in hand.
MULTIPLE ORIENTATIONS Position the PLAY:3 in a horizontal or vertical orientation to make a perfect fit into tight spots around you home like on bookshelves, nightstands, corners, or just about anywhere else. The EQ automatically adjusts so the sound you hear is always great, not matter what orientation you use.
RUBBER FEET Place the PLAY:3 on any kind of surface in your home without fear of scratches or scrapes.
CONTROL IT ALL WITH YOUR SMARTPHONE, TABLET AND MORE
CONTROL ALL YOUR MUSIC AND ROOMS WITH YOUR ANDROID™ SMARTPHONE, IPHONE®, IPOD TOUCH®, AND IPAD™ Free Sonos Controller apps for Android, iPhone and iPad let you control your zone players, music on the Internet and your computer right from the palm of your hand. Download the apps for free on the iTunes App Store or Android Market™.
INTEGRATED, MULTI-ROOM CONTROL If you have multiple players, you can control what music is playing in every room in your house, from anywhere in your house. Sonos Controllers aren’t tied to a specific player, so you can use any Controller to control the music and the volume in all your rooms.
FIND AND PLAY YOUR FAVORITE SONGS IN AN INSTANT Browse or search for songs and stations, choose the music, and control the volume from anywhere in the home.
WIRELESS CONNECTIVITY The Android smartphone, iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad connect to your Sonos system through your home WiFi network.
INCLUDES SONOS CONTROLLER FOR MAC OR PC Turn any Mac or PC desktop or laptop computer in your home into a Controller. The software is included for free with every ZonePlayer.
DEDICATED SONOS CONTROL (SOLD SEPARATELY) Increase your control with a dedicated touch screen Sonos CONTROL featuring instant-on, dedicated buttons and long battery life.
WIRELESS MULTI-ROOM MUSIC WITH SONOSNET 2.0
BUILT-IN WIRELESS CAPABILITY The PLAY:3 can go anywhere, delivering music to any room in your house, wirelessly. Players and Controllers establish their own secure wireless mesh network that delivers the extensive range and superior performance you need to get music all over your house.
NOTE: To get started, you must wire either one player or BRIDGE to your home network using a standard Ethernet cable.
SONOSNET 2.0 WIRELESS MESH NETWORK TECHNOLOGY Provides whole-house coverage, ensures synchronous music playback, and avoids sources of wireless interference. Incorporating sophisticated MIMO (multiple input, multiple output) technology, SonosNet uses multiple antennas and radios together to boost signal strength and reach remote locations.
Works with any mix of ZonePlayers
Compatible with all previous generations of Sonos ZonePlayers, CONTROL, and BRIDGE
PLAY A DIFFERENT SONG IN EVERY ROOM, AT THE SAME TIME Tune in to an Internet radio station in the bedroom, stream a music service in the kitchen and play a song from your music library in the living room — simultaneously.
LISTEN TO THE SAME SONG IN EVERY ROOM, IN PERFECT SYNCHRONIZATION Play the same song in different rooms, simultaneously, without echoes or delays. Add or drop rooms from your zone grouping and still be in sync.
SIMPLE SETUP AND EXPANDABLE DESIGN
SIMPLE SETUP No technical or wireless expertise required. Put a PLAY:3 in any room where you want music, plug it in and enjoy. Wire one PLAY:3 or BRIDGE (sold separately) to your router to access a world of music on the Internet. The Sonos System Setup software provides simple on-screen prompts on any Sonos CONTROL. With the touch of a few buttons, you’ll be playing music all over the house in minutes.
EXPANDABLE WIRELESS SYSTEM Expand your wireless music system room by room. Wirelessly add more PLAY:3s to your house and enjoy true multi-room music.
SIMPLE TO MOVE The PLAY:3 is so small that it is easy to move to the backyard, deck or any other room. Simply pick it up, plug it in, and enjoy the music.
AUTOMATIC SOFTWARE UPDATES
NEW FEATURES AND MUSIC SERVICES DELIVERED AUTOMATICALLY — AND FOR FREE The Sonos system keeps getting better over time with new features and music services. Once the Sonos system has been registered, Sonos will automatically notify you when software updates are available. Simply press one button and your system updates itself.
The system comes in a simple box with some new, more engaging graphics than before. (The release of the PLAY:3 coincided with an overall graphic redesign that includes the company’s mobile apps and a change in the naming structure of the company’s products.)
Open the box and you’ll find a bit of paperwork and a CD containing set up information, a user guide and software.
It all looks a little bit Apple–esque with the one exception that Apple no longer includes optical media with their hardware.
Beneath the software and paperwork you’ll find the speaker wrapped in plastic. Below it there is a power cord and an ethernet cable. You won’t need the ethernet cable if you have a BRIDGE but you will if you plan on using the system in close proximity to the router.
The speaker itself is as simple as simple can be. If you are familiar with the company’s other offerings it will immediately be recognizable. The front grill hides 3 speakers, the company name is on a plate which sits in the lower middle portion of the grill and there are 3 controls on top.
The first two controls are for volume up and volume down. The one control that stands alone behind it is a mute button. These buttons also serve as the means for connecting a new speaker to an existing system. (Check our initial review for details as this is the EXACT same setup as before.)
The back of the speaker has the port for the power cord with the ethernet jack jack above it. There is a standard 1/4″ /20 threaded mounting socket that makes it possible to hang/mount the speaker. The holes across most of the back allow the small speaker to pump out a fair bit of base. I’m not an audiophile but I like my music and I didn’t impressed by the depth and breath of the sound pumped out from these small speaker systems.
Missing on the PLAY:3 as compared to the PLAY:5 (formerly the S5) is a second Ethernet port and line in and our jacks. Yes, while the PLAY:5 is wired for Apple’s AirPlay compatibility the PLAY:3 isn’t. This isn’t a big deal but if you DO want AirPlay access you’ll need something other than the PLAY:3 in at least one location.
One of the more unusual things about this speaker is that it can be placed in either a horizontal position (as I have come to expect having used the PLAY:5 for a few weeks) or it can be turned end over end and placed in a vertical position. This vertical position allows the speaker to sit on a bookshelf and take up minimal space. An unusual piece of technology built into each of these speakers is a sensor that lets the electronics inside know whether the speaker is a horizontal or a vertical position. If horizontal it pumps out music in stereo (although obviously the separation is minimal because it is a fixed speaker). When vertical the speaker automatically converts to mono so the speakers don’t pump out stereo in a vertical manner. There is an additional reason for it that we will come to shortly.
Here’s a look at the speaker from the top down.
There are 3 arguments that I think someone could make for choosing this PLAY:3 speaker over one of the company’s other offerings.
The 1st argument in favor of the PLAY:3 is simply the price. At $299 the PLAY:3 is relatively inexpensive and a good way to try out Sonos’ goal of allowing us to “Stream all the music on earth”. Again, if you’re using it in close proximity to your router you only need one PLAY:3 to get started but if you are going to be using it in a room different than the router you’ll need to spend an additional $49 on a Sonos BRIDGE. Still, that is under $350 and the quality of the sound and the flexibility that you get for your money can’t be matched in my opinion.
There is a 2nd reason the PLAY:3 might be a good choice is the size. The picture above says it all. When I initially purchased my system I decided that I wanted a PLAY:5 speaker in my study, one in the living room/kitchen, a third in the den and a final PLAY:5 on the night table next to the bed. It sounds great and it works well as an alarm clock to boot. But it is big. It’s really, really big. And it kind of overtakes the night table. (And Elana doesn’t really like it there.)
The new smaller sibling PLAY:3 is MUCH smaller. In fact I think it is perfect on the night table next to the bed.
This side-by-side gives you a sense of how much smaller the PLAY:3 is than the PLAY:5.
So that’s reason number two– if you are in a smaller space or placing the device on a small surface the smaller footprint of the PLAY:3 will work just fine, especially if you put it in portrait.
And then there is reason number 3 why the PLAY:3 is a great choice for the Sonos-enabled home– true stereo sound Sonos-style.
Place one of the speakers in portrait and the electronics inside convert the sound to mono. Then, if you go into the Sonos software you can quickly choose to turn this speaker into one half of “a stereo pair”. Do the same thing with a 2nd PLAY:3 speaker and it becomes the second half of the stereo pair. Now have 6 speakers (three in each) working as a stereo system bringing huge sound and phenomenal stereo separation. Sure, you could do this with the larger PLAY:5 sibling but then you’re talking about $800 worth of speaker system. Here you’re getting huge sound for under $600. It’s still pricey but the quality you get and the size of the sound coming from these 6 speakers is amazing.
And if that isn’t enough you can go one step further and add another speaker unit. While writing this post I had the two PLAY:3 speakers as a stereo pair AND one of my PLAY:5s joined to them. That’s 11 speakers pumping our the music that is literally surrounding me and it is awesome!
One of the things I learned about Sonos already is that most of the people who make a purchase from them come back and make additional purchases within a relatively short period of time. I know that I’m one of those people. If you have and, like me, you have been thinking about adding some additional rooms to your system it’s a less expensive way to do just that and despite the small size of the new speaker I don’t think you will find that you are compromising much, if anything, on the sound.
If you don’t have Sonos already the PLAY:3 is a less expensive way to put your toe into the water. And with a money back guarantee there is actually no risk other than getting sucked into to buying more Sonos equipped rooms than you planned. (and that’s not such a bad thing is it?)
All in all I recommend this speaker and the entire Sonos family of Wireless Hi-Fi audio without reservation.
MSRP: PLAY:3- $299, PLAY:5 $3.99
What I Like: Everything! Big, excellent sound; Easy setup; Easy to use; Easily controlled from a variety of devices using the Sonos app; Lower entry price; use in landscape or portrait; easily created stereo-pair
What Needs Improvement: The system is close to perfect, but I would like to see a battery-powered offering, and I miss Slacker radio support; AirPlay support requires having at least one other audio component