It was generally accepted that Sonos was one of the more expensive media streamers available, although the quality of the multi-room system was generally enough to persuade a lot of people to spend the cash. For everyone else there’s now the Play:1. With this product, the company has now opened up the system to a new range of people and has managed to solve three issues in one go: it now has a player that’s cheap enough to compete, one that is small and discrete enough to tuck away anywhere, and now there’s no need for the wireless bridge, as the player can hook directly into your existing Wi-Fi network.
Fitting in with the company’s recent strategy, the new player can be expanded, either by combining two together to increase sound quality or by adding them in with a Sonos Playbar for a full surround-sound system. If you’re looking to get into full-on multi-room audio, the Play:1 is certainly an interesting proposition on paper.
Similar in size to a bookcase speaker, the Play:1, despite its low price, is every bit the quality piece of Sonos kit we’ve come to expect from the company. Its stylish curved body is wrapped in a continuous mesh grill that looks absolutely gorgeous. With both black and white finishes available, you can easily buy the model that fits in with your home. Pick the Play:1 up and you notice immediately that it has the same reassuring heaviness that the other Sonos players have; it’s immediately clear that this is a quality bit of kit.
Sonos Play:1 wireless
As with Sonos’ other products, the Play:1 is a wireless speaker, giving you a lot of freedom as to where you place it. As Sonos has its own proprietary wireless mesh network, it used to be that you’d need to buy a Bridge product to plug into your router (or connect another player via Ethernet). Now, Sonos has updated the player’s firmware, so you can simply connect the player to your Wi-Fi network, removing the need for the Bridge entirely and making getting into Sonos even cheaper.
If you want to expand your system and find that some players are out of reach of your wireless network, then you can simply hook a Bridge into the system (or connect the Play:1 or other player via Ethernet) and your Sonos system will automatically switch back to the traditional Mesh network. In this mode every player acts as a repeater, giving you much better coverage and reliability than you get with Wi-Fi.
On top of that Sonos has released the Boost, which is like a turbo-powered Bridge delivering, as Sonos says, “enterprise-grade wireless capabilities”. Most homes will be fine with Wi-Fi or a Bridge, but for difficult environments, the Boost ensures that Sonos will work everywhere.
Sonos Play:1 sound quality
The Play:1 is something of a departure for Sonos, as it’s the first player from the company that’s mono only. So, can this small, mono player deliver the sound quality that we’ve come to expect from the company? In short, the answer is n emphatic yes and it’s largely down to some clever engineering inside.
Inside, Sonos has fitted a tweeter and a brand-new 3.5in mid-range driver (each has its own amp), which has more cone movement than a speaker that size usually does. So, while a speaker that size would normally have cone movement of 6mm, this one moves 14mm. More cone movement means more air movement, which means bigger sound. On top of that the crossover between the tweeter and driver has been customised, so it’s much lower than normal. Sonos says that this means that you lose the directionality of the speaker, so your music should fill the room no matter where you put it.
It has to be said that a single Play:1 more than adequately fills a room. With music blaring through it, it’s difficult to work out exactly where the speaker is and you can comfortably walk around without losing any detail in tracks. Sound quality is generally excellent, as we’ve come to expect from Sonos. Thanks to the high build quality and attention to detail, you can pump it up to full volume without any vibration or distortion. Despite the fact that there are just two speakers inside, the Play:1 has pretty amazing range. For the vast majority of music, there’s the thump of bass, a balanced mid-range and a sharp, but not too bright, high-end. Listening to a selection of rock, classical and rap, you can pick out the subtle details in each track.
Obviously, with only mono sound and just the two speakers, there are some limitations to what it can do. Play a track that’s really designed with stereo in mind and you lose some of the effect. For example Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here starts off completely in the right-track, until the solo acoustic guitar kicks in on both the left and right. It’s a great effect and, after the quiet start to the song, it suddenly jumps into life. Similarly, Enough Space by the Foo Fighters has a wonderful intro where a guitar swirls around the left and right channels; with a single speaker you lose some of that effect.
Listening to a track that really demands the most out of a system, such as John William’s The Imperial March from The Empire Strikes Back, doesn’t quite to jump to life in the same way on this system. Although the entire range is audible, the Play:1 on its own doesn’t quite have the presence to really bring the track to life.
That’s not to say that the Play:1 isn’t good, it’s just a matter of knowing its limitations. For the vast majority of tracks and internet radio, the Play:1 is very accomplished and the fact that something so small can produce such big sound is impressive. For a small room, or perhaps a guest bedroom, the Play:1 is a brilliant addition to any Sonos system.