On The Money: The Sonos PLAY:1

With the holidays nearing, I’m sure some of you may be wondering what to get that special music lover on your Christmas list or perhaps looking for something to help you entertain during the many holiday parties that are surely over taking your calendar. Something that meets both those criteria is a good speaker, especially one that can switch between your library or a streaming music service seamlessly. Lucky for you, such a thing actually exists: The Sonos PLAY:1. But, though the PLAY:1 boasts some impressive features, is it everything it’s cracked up to be? Just sit right back while I tell you why the PLAY:1 is on the money.

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Out of the box, the PLAY:1 is a handsome piece of equipment. It’s available in black or white, with the grill of the speaker painted an attractive gray, so it’s pretty much guaranteed to match any decor. It’s also one of the simplest things to set up. While it’s preferable that you use the speaker with Sonos’ BRIDGE so that you can truly use the PLAY:1 in any room, it’s made so that you don’t have to have the BRIDGE to enjoy the system. Simply plug the speaker into an electrical outlet and connect it to your router to get things started. From there, you download the Sonos controller app to your smartphone, tablet or computer (or all of the above) and, after a quick and painless set-up, you’re free to use the speaker to your bidding. Also, the system is expandable. You can add as many PLAY:1s (or any of Sonos’ other speakers, the PLAY:3, PLAY:5, PLAYBAR or SUB) to your system as desired. And one of the best features is that each speaker can either be grouped together or act independently of each other (so if you want it to sound like a house party in your living room and an intimate evening of jazz in your bedroom, you can do just that).

Prior to the using the PLAY:1, the only wireless speaker I’d used was Jawbone‘s Jambox, a decent, portable Bluetooth speaker that easily paired with my devices. However, because it utilizes Bluetooth, the range of the device was limited and it was prone to dropouts. Also, the sound wasn’t as full as I would’ve liked, with the bass often drowning out the other sounds of the music. Essentially, while the Jambox would be perfect for, say, an impromptu party on the beach, it just didn’t cut it for playing music in my apartment.

This isn’t so with the PLAY:1. Playing my music library on the speakers didn’t seem to give it any trouble whatsoever. Despite its compact size, the speaker’s sound was able to get as loud or as quiet as I needed, easily filling a room or providing light background music for a writing session. The highs were crystal clear while the bass was rich and full without muddying the sound. And this proved true for any music I played, whether it was jazz, R&B, hip hop, house or whatever (including some of the more *ahem* ratchet, bass-heavy selections in my collection). And whenever I got bored with my collection, I had a plethora of other options at my disposal due to Sonos also having access to several Internet radio services, including TuneIn, Pandora, Rdio, Rhapsody, Spotify and Last.FM. They’ve also recently added Hype Machine to that list, making it possible to listen to music from your favorite blogs and websites with their own personal stations (not to play favorites, but I hear Hype Machine’s SoulBounce station is pretty damn dope #shamelessplug).

As with anything, there are some caveats at play here. Though no wires are needed to connect the PLAY:1 to your computer, tablet or smartphone, it still needs to be plugged into an electrical outlet in order to function. As well, the PLAY:1 doesn’t have a line-in option, so you can’t plug in your laptop or smartphone and play the latest YouTube video — and you would need the $699 PLAYBAR if you want to use the PLAY:1 as part of your home theater system. Another is that, while you do have subscription access to Spotify, Last.FM and the myriad other services, there are some music services, like Google Play Music and SoundCloud, that still aren’t available (though, it seems that Sonos is working on a SoundCloud solution).

The Sonos PLAY:1 is priced at $199, which, in this writer’s opinion, is kind of a steal for what it provides. You get great sound, easy access to Internet radio and wireless functionality all in one attractive, compact package — pretty much making it a one-stop solution in this digital music age (Hey, there’s a reason that the likes of Questlove and Janelle Monáe are Sonos brand ambassadors). And, making things even sweeter, Sonos is currently bundling the PLAY:1 with its BRIDGE at the $199 price point for the holidays, saving consumers $49. So, whether as a gift to a loved one or special purchase for yourself, you pretty much can’t go wrong with the PLAY:1.

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