Product: Sonos Play:3
Rating: Strong Recommend*
Wireless music has always been a pain to set up, making it a domain reserved for those who with superior technical skills or those who can pay to have it set up for them. The Sonos Play:3 music player wants to bring the wireless music to the masses with their easy-to-set-up Play:3 system, paired with devices many of us already own. Its design is simple, from the way it looks to how painless everything about it is. Read on to see how this system brought big sounds in a small package.
Front of the speaker. You can see the three hidden speakers peeking out from behind the grille.
The Sonos Play:3's design is very simple yet well thought out. It looks like it's just one speaker, but packed within are three separate speakers that make more sound than its size might suggests. We really dig the understated design, you can put it in any room and it won't clash with your decore. We particular liked the ability to stand the player vertically, so we can stow it away in tight places. We can definitely imagine one of these blending in with the books on a bookshelf.
Even though the Play:3 is controlled through computer or mobile apps, it does have some physical buttons on it. So even if we don't have the controller nearby, we were be able to mute or control the volume of the system. Since it is designed to be placed vertically, Sonos placed rubber feet on the side of the speakers so we weren't confused on which way to turn the speaker. The EQ also adjust itself when it is in the vertical orientation, so its sound won't be affected. All in all, we like how the Play:3 is put together and won't mind having it out in the open in our apartment.
The Sonos Play:3 just hiding amongst books on a shelf
The setup for the Play:3 is dead simple. There are two options for initial set up, either plug in one of the speakers or a "Bridge" (purchased separately) to your wireless router and set it up with the Sonos app your Mac or PC and it's ready to go. This does mean that if you only had one speaker it will be restricted to wherever your wireless router is, unless you purchase a Bridge.
To add on a speaker is super simple as well, just simply plug in the additional speaker, set the app to detect, and follow the instructions. Although Sonos recommends to set up the first speaker through the Mac/PC app, the additional speakers can be set up using their mobile apps which comes in both iOS and Android flavors.
The Bridge ($49) serves as a connector at your router in place of your first speaker
The sound is surprisingly good for such a small system. In a smaller, enclosed room, we could hear the low end of the music, but not feel like we're getting pounded. However, one player did feel insufficient in our open living/dining room. The feature Sonos came up with that will remedy this, is the ability to create a stereo pair with multiple players. This can be done easily through any of the apps, and will instant transform your players into a two speaker systems.
We also really enjoyed the ability to group different speakers so they will play the same music simultaneously. This feature came in super handy for our summer barbecue, where our guests never missed a beat when moving inside and out.
We saved the best for last. The apps that Sonos developed is what this system is really about. All of the music played through a number of the app controllers. You can share music from iTunes on your Mac or PC, or use a variety of popular included music services such as Pandora, Rdio and Spotify. These music services are pretty well integrated into the Sonos app, for example we could still "Thumbs up" a song on Pandora just like we could on the Pandora web app. However, keep in mind that most music services, such as Rdio and Spotify, do require paid premium accounts to be able to play on the Sonos system.
We had the opportunity to test out the Mac app, iPhone app, iPad app, and the Android app. First off, we were impressed by the responsiveness of all the apps, volume changes and switching between songs are instantaneous if your device is within good wifi range. All of the apps are really well thought out, from basic control functions down to the details like the ability to turn off the indicator light for when we put it in our bedroom. We can definitely tell the good people at Sonos put a lot of thoughts and effort into making all the apps easy to use yet complete with powerful functions.
The Android and iPhone apps are very intuitive and natural to use, but since there isn't much screen real estate, some options require a lot of button presses to get to. Otherwise, the Android/iPhone app is just as powerful as the iPad or Mac app with most of the functions and controls. The app itself is very stable and we never had a problem with the app freezing or controllers not responding to touch.
Our favorite of all the controller options is the iPad app, with its large interface and clearly laid out controls. Since the interface is very similar to the native iPod app, it took no time at all for us to pick up. Unlike the Android/iPhone app, the iPad app is fully functional just like the Mac app. It has options to set sleep timers and alarm, as well as the ability to set up music services. We actually prefer the iPad app to the Mac app, not only because iPad is more portable than our laptops, but the controls on the iPad makes picking out that perfect song more fun.
The powerful mobile apps is Sonos biggest strength, but also its biggest weakness. Since music can only be played through the Sonos apps, which means that we weren't able to play the music that's on our mobile device. This is not a big deal if all your music is synced across the different platforms. Also, when we just started using the system, we had to keep reminding ourselves that this is only for music, because we kept wishing that it'd double as our speakers when we were watching videos.
One last note, the latest software update is not fully compatible with OSX Lion, it leaves the ability to share your iTunes library crippled. However, Sonos promised a software update very soon. For now, we'll just have to stick to using Pandora.
Should you buy it?
The Sonos Play:3 is geared towards a very specific market of getting-more-serious music listeners, for whom MP3 or online music services provides sufficient audio quality. Although considerably lower priced than its competitors, at $299 it is still a sizable chunk of cash for average consumers to plunk down just to listen to some music. On top of that, the Play:3's full potential is not realized unless a Bridge and additional speakers are purchased, which means more money out of the pocket. We'd recommend the Play:3 for anyone who wants more sound than the average computer speakers could provide, and those who wants their music on demand when they are at home.
- Easy of use; both setup and the apps
- Versatile; ability to group speakers and create stereo pairs
- Good sound
- Music share on Lion is not yet supported
- Can only play music through Sonos app
- Could get pricey with additional components
Apartment Therapy Media makes every effort to test and review products fairly and transparently. The views expressed in this review are the personal views of the reviewer and this particular product review was not sponsored or paid for in any way by the manufacturer or an agent working on their behalf. However, the manufacturer did give us the product for testing and review purposes.