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Sonos PLAY:1 Review

Good sound, but lack of Bluetooth makes it not great in a single speaker system
Top Pick Award
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Price:   $200 List | $149 at Amazon
Pros:  Good sound, easy to connect with other speakers
Cons:  Lack of Bluetooth can be limiting if used as a standalone speaker
Manufacturer:   Sonos
By Max Mutter and Steven Tata  ⋅  Nov 15, 2018
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62
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#6 of 8
  • Sound Quality - 40% 7
  • User Friendliness - 20% 6
  • Volume - 20% 4
  • Connectivity - 20% 7

Our Verdict

Part of what makes Sonos so attractive as a multi-speaker system is the fact that its smallest speaker, the PLAY:1 sounds so good. It has both deeper bass and better clarity than the similarly sized Bose SoundTouch 10, and often sells for a bit less to boot. This makes it relatively inexpensive to put a small speaker in each room of your home, or to dot a larger room with a few speakers to get truly immersive sound. If all you want is one small speaker we think the added convenience of a Bluetooth connection makes the Bose SoundTouch 10 a better choice overall, but the PLAY:1 is perfect for building out your multi-speaker system. Also, if you're looking for Alexa capability built in, the $200 Sonos ONE offers just that.


Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Sonos PLAY:1 is the best sounding of the small speakers we tested, and the Sonos ecosystem makes it the perfect building block for a multiple speaker system. However, its lack of a Bluetooth connection may feel somewhat limiting if you want to use it as a standalone speaker.


Want a Larger Speaker as you Stereo Centerpiece?


Like the looks of the Play:1 and its Alexa-enabled sibling, the ONE, but want something a bit heftier and more powerful to anchor your home audio system? Sonos certainly has you covered. We think the best option, especially if you have a TV, is one of their soundbars. The $400, Alexa-enabled Beam is a great deal considering how fantastic it sounds, but if you need some more oomf the $700 Playbar is a great choice, though it lacks built-in Alexa. If soundbars aren't your style the $500 PLAY:5 is the largest non-cinema speaker that Sonos makes.

Performance Comparison


The PLAY:1 did fairly well across the board in our testing. We used four different testing metrics to determine the scores you can see in the table above. You can read about how well the PLAY:1 performed in each of those metrics in the sections below.

Sound Quality


The PLAY:1 was just behind the top scoring and significantly larger models in our sound quality testing, earning a 7 out of 10. It was also one point ahead of its main rival, the Bose SoundTouch 10. It has both slightly more powerful bass and slightly crisper clarity than the SoundTouch 10. This difference is minor, but certainly noticeable in a side-by-side comparison. The PLAY:1 is noticabley less powerful than the field leading Bose Home Speaker 500, but you can get two PLAY:1s for the same price, providing more of a surround sound experience.

User Friendliness


Ultimately we awarded the Sonos speakers that we tested a middle-of-the-road user friendliness score, but the user friendliness of Sonos speakers really depends on how you use them. If you want to link multiple speakers together and listen to music mostly through streaming service (Pandora, Amazon Music, itunes, etc.) the experience is flawless. The Sonos app makes managing multiple speakers a breeze, and once you've logged into your streaming services through the app finding all your favorite music is simple. The music even streams over WiFi, which means better quality for you HD music subscribers and that the music won't stop when you get a text message. Managing multiple speakers and streaming via WiFi works much better with the Sonos app than with the Bose apps.

you can control volume and play/pause on the speaker itself  everything else is done through the app.
you can control volume and play/pause on the speaker itself, everything else is done through the app.

If you want to listen to anything outside of streaming services, things get a bit trickier. Sonos does not include Bluetooth capability in their speakers, so if you want to link your computer to one of their speakers and listen to the audio from YouTube or Netflix, you're pretty much out of luck. There are some third party software solutions that try to get around this problem, but in our experience they're unreliable. The only real option is to get one of the more expensive Sonos speakers that have a physical line in (like the $400 Beam, the $500 PLAY:5, or the $700 Playbar) or the $350 Sonos Connect (which creates a compatible wireless audio signal) and physically plug your computer in. For these circumstances all of the other models we tested are much more user friendly, as they all have simple Bluetooth connections that can turn them into the main audio output for any Bluetooth enabled device.

If you do decide to upgrade to the Sonos ONE it adds AirPlay functionality. Though this service technically connects over WiFi, it essentially works the same as Bluetooth, playing any audio that comes out of your phone over the speaker. Also, you just need one Sonos ONE to get your phone hooked up to your Sonos system. You can then dot the rest of your house with PLAY:1s and have the ONE beam the audio to all of them at once.

Smart Home Compatibility


Sonos has an Alexa skill that makes it work flawlessly with any Alexa device. You can even get the Sonos ONE, which is the same speaker but with Alexa built right in. The ONE sells for $200, which is $50 more than the Play:1.

Sonos has also said it's working on software compatibility for Google Home, but there's no timeline on that yet. Without a physical audio port you can't hook up any other smart home devices the PLAY:1.

Volume


The PLAY:1 was one of the quietest speakers we tested, about even with the Bose SoundTouch 10. It filled up our 600 square foot testing room with no issues, but putting a few people in that room did noticeably dampen the sound. This speaker may struggle a bit if you're trying to have a big dance party, but generally it's plenty loud enough.

The PLAY:1's only port is is for an ethernet cable.
The PLAY:1's only port is is for an ethernet cable.

Connectivity


The PLAY:1, as a standalone speaker, can only be accessed via an internet connection, whether it be WiFi or via its ethernet port. There is no Bluetooth Connection and no audio port. If you get one of the bigger speakers that does have an audio port you can plug anything into that speaker, and then it can wirelessly beam that input to the PLAY:1 as well. If you're looking for a single, standalone speaker, we would suggest getting one with Bluetooth like the Bose SoundTouch 10.

Value


Value is a bit tricky with the PLAY:1. As a standalone speaker, its list price of $150 feels a bit steep, namely because it forces you to integrate into the Sonos ecosystem and doesn't offer the versatility of a Bluetooth connection. If you want a single small speaker, we think the Bose SoundTouch 10 is a much better value, even though it's sound quality is slightly inferior. However, if you want to build a multi-speaker system the Sonos ecosystem is excellent and the PLAY:1 is a great sounding and somewhat reasonably priced addition to your sound system.

Conclusion


The Sonos PLAY:1 is a great speaker to add onto your existing Sonos sound system. If you're looking for a single, small speaker, however, we think the Bose Soundtouch 10 is a better option with its more versatile connection options.

Other Versions


Sonos One
-Price: $200

-Same speaker, but with Alexa built-in


Max Mutter and Steven Tata