The Sonos PLAY:3 produced the crispest, clearest sound of any of the speakers we tested. Combining that with nice, resonant bass, this speaker lives up to Sonos' stellar reputation. If you're looking for a single speaker, we think the Bose SoundTouch 20, with its slightly more sonorous bass and simple Bluetooth connection, is a better choice for most people. However, if you're looking to build a multiple speaker system, you cannot beat the Sonos ecosystem, and the PLAY:3 is the perfect centerpiece. If you're looking for a bit more oomph, you can also upgrade to the PLAY:5.
Sonos PLAY:3 Review
Pros: Excellent sound, easy to connect/control multiple speakers
Cons: Expensive, no simple Bluetooth connection
Our Analysis and Test Results
The PLAY:3's exceptional clarity makes it great for those that like acoustic music and talk radio, and the adeptness of the Sonos app at making multiple speakers play nice with one another makes the brand far and away our top recommendation for anyone looking to build a multi-speaker system.
We used a plethora of tests split up into four different testing metrics in order to ascertain which home wireless speakers are the best. Below we describe those metrics, and how the Sonos PLAY:3 performed in each.
Ultimately the Sonos PLAY:3 shared the top score in our sound quality testing with the Bose SoundTouch 20, but we feel these two speakers sound appreciably different.
The PLAY:3 strong point is its clarity. It produced the crispest, most articulated sound of all the speakers we tested. Listening to acoustic music, vocals, and talk radio sounded clearly superior on the PLAY:3. The speaker also produces quite powerful bass, but it is bested by the Bose SoundTouch 20 in this capacity. While the Bose can't match the Clarity of the Sonos, its slightly more powerful bass makes any music with instruments and vocals at the low end of the register (percussion, bass guitars, tubas, Barry White, etc.) sound a bit better than it does on the Sonos. Both of these speakers sound excellent, but if we're splitting hairs we think acoustic aficionados will prefer the sound of the Sonos PLAY:3, and those with more eclectic tastes will most likely prefer the Bose SoundTouch 20.
We placed user friendliness of the Sonos models we tested around average and just behind that of the Bose models we examined.
First the bad: Sonos speakers do not offer a Bluetooth connection. This may seem like heresy for those that love their wireless devices, but Sonos forces you to connect to their speakers over a WiFi network via their app rather than through the now ubiquitous Bluetooth. This has some advantages, like the fact that a phone call won't interrupt your music and that HD music streaming services will likely be of better quality, but this may be annoying for those that like to play multiple different things through multiple different devices. It also makes it harder to play things that aren't music streaming services, like YouTube and Netflix. Somewhat compounding this problem is the fact that most of theSonos' speakers do not have physical audio ports. If you upgrade to the PLAY:5 of Playbar you get physical audio ports, but the smaller speakers lack them.
Now the good. The Sonos app makes connecting multiple speakers and controlling what is being played through each, incredibly easy. In comparison Bose's app makes this task glitchy and frustrating. If you want a house-wide music system with a speaker in each room, you can't beat Sonos' user interface.
Smart Home Compatibility
Sonos has an Alexa skill, making it easy to use Alex devices with their speakers. They even make a smart speaker called the One that has Alexa built-in. Sonos claims Google Home software compatibility is on the way, but they have not put a specific date on that. The PLAY:3 does not have any physical audio ports, making it very difficult to connect to any other devices.
The PLAY:3 was one of the louder speakers we tested, falling just behind the Bose SoundTouch 20 and the Marshall Stanmore in our volume tests.
This speaker easily filled up our high-ceilinged, 600 square foot testing room with sound. However, filling that room up with people would likely dampen the sound noticeably, whereas the Bose SoundTouch 20 would do a bit better keeping the music loud in such a situation. If you really want more power you can upgrade to the PLAY:5, but it carries a larger price tag.
The PLAY:3 requires you to stream music via the internet, either over WiFi or through its ethernet port, using the Sonos app as a remote control. This means that audiophiles that subscribe to HD music streaming services will get a higher quality signal, but the lack of Bluetooth does feel limiting. It makes hearing things like youTube and Netflix through the speaker very challenging, if not impossible. This earned the PLAY:3 a somewhat mediocre connectivity score..
With a list price of $300, the Sonos PLAY:3 is slightly less expensive than its main competition from Bose. If you just want one speaker, we think the added convenience of a Bluetooth connection is worth the extra price of the Bose. However, if you want to build up a multiple speaker system, the PLAY:3 is a great choice and offers a relatively good value.
The Sonos PLAY:3 is a great starting point if you're looking to build a multi-room, multi-speaker system. However, The lack of Bluetooth is limiting, and if you just want to have one speaker to rule them all, we'd recommend the Bose SoundTouch 20.
— Max Mutter and Steven Tata