Sonos Play:3 HiFi System Review

I got a chance to review the new Play:3 unit from Sonos, and I must say I am very impressed. Not to talk up the Sonos brand any more than I already have in the past, but the Sonos Wireless HiFi System is a group of devices that let you stream music wirelessly throughout your house. You can stream music from your iTunes Library that is located on a computer that is connected to your home network, or choose from a number of sources including, but not limited to:

…And over 100,000 free radio stations worldwide

What makes Sonos an ideal choice for those looking to distribute music throughout their house is the fact that you don’t need to run any wires (with the exception of a power cord) to use any of the equipment. My friend plugged in his professional audio kit he got from Graham Slee HiFi and he tells me that there is a fantastic range of equipment that compliments the Sonos. Simply connect one of the Sonos devices to your router, and you can keep adding units to anywhere you want music wirelessly because the devices create a wireless mesh network that doesn’t interfere with your current network.

The Sonos device that the good folks from Sonos sent me was a pair of the brand-spankin’ new Play:3 units – “the small, sexy, tuck in a corner and blow off the roof all-in-on Sonos Player” (their words, not mine). So I decided to put their words to the test to see how good these new speakers are.

Design

At $299, The Play:3 is the entry level audio output device from Sonos that comes in either white or black and can be stack horizontally or vertically. I tried both orientations and the Play:3 does look pretty good in either. The Play:3 are as about as large as an old-school clock radio and would look good on a desk, bookshelf, dresser, nightstand or hanging on a wall in a kitchen.

The cool thing about Sonos is that any of the units can connect to your router to stream media to other devices throughout your home. So the only connections that the Play:3 has in back is for the power cord and an ethernet jack, Which should speak to the simplicity of setting up the device.

Setup

Setting up any of the Sonos units is a simple as connecting them to your router via a the ethernet connection. With the provided setup disc, I pointed the Play:3 unit to my music library that is located on a NAS device. I use an old Windows laptop as a media server that pulls content from the NAS. That way, I don’t have to make sure my personal laptop is connected in order to stream music.

Once the sonos software that was installed on my server was satisfied with where my media was located (I did have to do some extra steps to share my music across my network so the Sonos software could see it), it indexed my library for quick access from any of my Sonos controllers. If you’re pulling your media directly from a personal computer, setup is even easier. Adding the Play:3 units was as simple as making the software “listen” as I pressed the “mute” and “volume up” button on the unit. The process works for adding different controllers as well.

Control

“Pick your poision” – Sonos makes it stupid-easy to control your library from a multitude of devices. There is a separate Sonos Controller remote that you can purchase for $349 or you can just use the free Sonos desktop/laptop software that’s compatible for Windows and Mac. OR you can do what I did and download the free mobile apps for iPhone/iPod Touch, iPad, or Android. I have an iPhone, iPad, and Android device, and all were able to connect to my Sonos setup and control my content.

The MAIN feature that sets Sonos apart from other methods of streaming music to several devices, is that each individual Sonos device connected to your network can listen to different content at the same time. In other words, I can be in the office listening to iTunes music, and Mrs. Tech can listen to a Pandora music station in the bedroom. With a couple of taps from my iPhone, I can go into “Party Mode” and force both units to play the same music throughout the house. I currently own a couple of Apple AirPlay Express units that I have connected around my house, but through iTunes I can only turn units on or off, and control the volume. I can’t play different sources at the same time (well played Sonos, well played)

Back to Sonos, I can search all the music from my iTunes libary and play immediately, or add songs to a queue to be played later. I can also create Sonos playlists to quickly play music. It would’ve been killer if the software could automatically read and refresh my iTunes playlists that I already manage instead of manually exporting and importing them into Sonos. But that is the only knock I have against the software. Everything else like adding radio stations or online media services, controlling the sound (treble, bass, volume, etc) and managing additional settings like social networking integration was easy-peasy.

Sound

This little device packs a punch. The bass could be just a little bit deeper, but these things can handle just about everything you can throw at it. The two units I was sent would more than handle the job if I had some friends/family over for a get-together, and not just because my family would be amazed that I can control it all with my Android smartphone either. Using the controller software on my laptop, smartphone or tablet, I can control the equalizer to dial in the sound effect I want.

Another cool feature (That I of course tried) was setting up the two units in one room in “Stereo Mode” that set up one unit as a left channel and the other as a right channel speaker. That lack of deep base I mentioned earlier…you can scratch that when I set them up in this configuration.

If you really want a larger sound, you can either take a look at a Play:5 device: add a ZonePlayer 120 with a built-in amplifier to a pair of speakers; or a ZonePlayer 90 to a already powered stereo system for music just the way you want it.

Outro

Sonos dubs their new Play:3 device as “the small, sexy, tuck in a corner and blow off the roof all-in-on Sonos Player”. Do I think the unit’s bite is a big as its bark? If you want quality sound to fill a decent sized area, Hellz yeah the moniker fits! If you’re looking to rock a ultimate house party…A couple of the Sonos Play:3 units from Sonos (at $299 a piece set up in Stereo Mode) may just do the trick as well.

It’s just a shame that I have to send these bad-boys back. I wonder if Sonos would let me keep them indefinitely so I can closely examine “wear n tear” over the lifetime of their units.

*Sends the Sonos marketing rep an email*

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