Take a look at the cheapest Sonos speaker yet: the Sonos Play:1. It certainly proves Sonos knows a thing or two about streaming.
The company has led the multiroom streaming market for years. It consistently churns out well-designed products that are easy to use and sound great. And crucially, it's embraced all of the major streaming services (and some smaller ones) as partners – not competition.
However, Sonos has also been one of the pricier options, particularly compared with some newer competitors. So to redress the balance, the company has set the Play:1 at a competitor-matching £170. And it proves to be a rather tempting buy.
Getting the Play:1 up and running is as easy as with any other piece of Sonos kit, although it’s worth noting that if the Play:1 is your first item of Sonos equipment, it will need to be hardwired to your router via ethernet.
MORE: Sonos Play:3 review
If you want to put it in a different room to your router, you can pick up the Sonos Bridge (£39) to do that job instead.
The Sonos Controller, which you’ll need for setup and beyond, is available for iOS and Android, Mac and Windows. This connects to the Sonos system using your home wi-fi network. Whichever way you choose to use it, setting up a new speaker is as simple as following its instructions – it took us a matter of minutes to get up and running.
You can then tune in to over 100,000 internet radio stations; stream from services such as Spotify, Rdio, Napster, Amazon Cloud Player and Last.fm (though it's worth noting you'll need premium accounts of these services to do so); and access music stored locally on your device or home network, like on a NAS device, for example.
Whatever you choose to listen to can then be streamed to other Sonos speakers around the house, or you can play different tracks in different rooms. And it’s all easily controllable via the app.
While you must use the Sonos app to use the speakers, it's still an open platform, with more streaming services being added all the time. We can’t imagine there’s anything you’d want to stream that the app can't handle – and it’s a much more stable connection than Bluetooth or AirPlay.
We're surprised at the sonic scale this small unit can push out. There’s impressive weight here, with plenty of power and attack to the punching bass line of Kendrick Lamar’s The Recipe.
Elsewhere, the rumbling bass of Kanye West’s I Am A God sounds rich and solid, but never boomy or out of control. It’s an impressive performance, and certainly shows up the Pure Jongo S3, which sounds lightweight and insubstantial in comparison.
MORE: Sonos Play:5 review
There’s great clarity and insight to vocals too, which take centre stage in the Play:1’s presentation. Feed it something gentler, like Lana Del Ray’s Born to Die, and the vocals sound rich, detailed and full-bodied, with the treble open and controlled. Dynamics are handled well and rhythmically it’s strong too, holding something as delicate and precise as Mumford & Sons’ Little Lion Man together with ease.
It's not scared of going loud either, and will easily fill a good-sized room without much issue.
More after the break
The Play:1 also features new Sonos processing technology that aims to minimise distortion at full volume, and we think it’s been pretty successful. We’d shy away from listening that loud for long periods, though: the treble can start to sound a touch harsh. Knock it down a few notches from the maximum, though, and it's a well-judged, well-balanced listen - there are EQ settings within the Sonos app to tinker with to your liking too.
Performance is as stable as any other Sonos product we’ve ever tested, with no dropouts at all during our period of testing.
As for how it looks, you only need to pick up the petite Play:1 to know it’s a premium product. It’s solid, heavier than you might think, and is the first Sonos product to have a more upright design.
The dominant feature is the seamless steel grille, and you won’t find its sleek design blemished too much by connections or controls either. Designed to be used solely as part of the Sonos streaming network, it simply has a power connection hidden on the bottom of the unit and an ethernet input on the back. There's no line-level input for hardwiring external devices, for example, which is disappointing and feels like a missed opportunity to expand the Play: 1's usability.
On the top of the unit are volume controls and a Play/Pause button, which replaces the mute button found on other Sonos speakers. This now lets you pause a track and return to it even a day or so later, with almost immediate playback. Other Sonos speakers will see this functionality brought to existing speakers via a software update soon.
As we’ve seen in previous Sonos speakers, the Play:1 is available in black or white finishes. And, like its Play:3 sibling, it can be used with another Play:1 in a stereo set up.
Configure them like this and performance is bolstered significantly. Bass is even more solid, instrument separation improves, smaller details are picked up with more confidence and sound can go noticeably louder without distortion.It’s a well-balanced listen too, with the two speakers working well together for a good spread of sound. The bonus is that you aren't limited in where you can put them, since they don’t need to be wired together.
It’s a well-balanced listen too, with the two speakers working well together for a good spread of sound and great stereo imaging. The bonus is that you aren't limited in where you can put them, since they don’t need to be wired together - you can even separate them into single units again if your needs or setup change down the line.
Sonos hasn't forgotten home cinema fans, either. You can add two Play:1 speakers to a Sonos Playbar and Sub setup to act as satellites and create a surround-sound system for your movies. Previously Play:3 speakers were suggested for this purpose, but Sonos has told us it sees Play:1s as a much better fit, particularly because of their form factor and cheaper price tag.
The Play:1 has won us over in the exactly the same way the Play:3 and Play:5 did. It’s ease of use is a huge draw, but this is backed up by a fantastic sound quality and an affordable price.
Whether you’re looking to get started on your Sonos journey, or you’re adding bits to an existing set-up, you won’t regret finding a spot for the Play:1 in your home.
MORE: Sonos PlayBar review