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Sonos Play:1 review

Andrew Williams



  • Recommended by TR
Sonos Play:1


Our Score


User Score


  • Small and convenient
  • Great sound quality for size
  • Good value


  • No aux input

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Review Price £169.99

Key Features: 1x mid-range driver; 1x tweeter; Integrated Wi-Fi; Wall-mountable

Manufacturer: Sonos

What is the Sonos Play:1?

The Sonos Play:1 is the new baby brother in Sonos's line-up of wireless speakers. It's the cheapest Sonos speaker ever, selling for £169 - with a free Sonos Bridge if you're quick enough (one comes bundled until the end of 2013).

There are some unavoidable sonic compromises in a small speaker like this, but Sonos has shown rivals how it should be done with the Play:1. This is probably Sonos's most impressive product to date.

Sonos Play:1 - Design

The Sonos Play:1 is designed to be the perfect gateway drug to the Sonos universe of wireless multi-room audio. It's small, it's cute in a stylish manner and at £170 it's not terrifyingly expensive.

Many pay a similar amount for dinky portable speaker systems and not-that-great headphones with rappers' names written on them (not just Dr. Dre).

Speakers like the Sonos Play:1 belong to a similar lifestyle-obsessed audio revolution as those products, but this one is not portable. Although small, the Sonos Play:1 is designed to more-or-less stay put in your house. It doesn't have a battery or a carry handle and it needs to stay within range of your Wi-Fi network to operate. As with most Sonos kit, there are no wired inputs to let you plug in other sources here.

If you're not familiar with the Sonos system, here's how it works - any music sent to the Sonos Play:1 is not streamed using AirPlay or Bluetooth, but Sonos's own software system. You access this through an iOS/Android app, with your computer or the dedicated Sonos remote control (which is pretty redundant in these smartphone-obsessed days).

The Sonos system incorporates loads of streaming services including Spotify, Deezer, Amazon Cloud Player. You don't need any separate apps, just Sonos's one.

Given how in-sync with the current growth of music streaming services Sonos is, it's quite odd to think how long the Sonos system has been around - the best part of a decade.

The Sonos Play:1 is easily the most accessible speaker Sonos has made, though. It's the prettiest, the smallest and the cheapest.

However, it's no less well-made than its bigger brothers. The sides of the Play:1 are covered by a single-piece grille that curves smoothly around its edges. The top and bottom are plastic, in part to give the Wi-Fi antennas somewhere to live (they can't sit behind an aluminium speaker grille without suffering from signal issues).

This is an almost alarmingly simple speaker, hardware-wise. It has a volume rocker and play/pause button on its top, and an Ethernet socket on its back. That's it, aside from the power jack and wall-mounting socket.

Sonos Play:1 - Setup

Without the disarming presence of a 3.5mm jack or iPod dock, starting up with a Sonos speaker can seem imposing.

There is a setup procedure to go through. To start, you need a Sonos Bridge. This plugs into your router, acting as the access point for your Sonos system, whether you have one speaker or 12 of the things.

Once that's connected, you just need to plug the Play:1 into the Bridge using an Ethernet cable. This 'pairs' the Play:1 and the Bridge. Download the app and then you’re through the worst of it.

Setting up a Sonos Play:1 does take a little while, especially if your router isn’t near where the speaker will live. But you only have to do it once.

Sonos Play:1 – Interface and App

Once you’re setup, the Sonos system is mostly a joy to use. Picking between rooms to operate is a doodle, the speakers are very responsive to commands and Sonos has produced versions of its app to make the best use of tablet and phone screens alike.

However, Sonos does take away much of the music discovery features of the streaming services it incorporates. In Spotify, for example, you can see new additions to the service, but there are none of the kinds of suggestions you get from Spotify elsewhere.

Sonos Play:1 app

The iPad edition of the Spotify app in particular could really do with a visual update too, especially now that with iOS 7 and Android 4.3 our phones are feeling slicker than ever. Get on it, Sonos.

On a side note, the Play:1 can also be used as a satellite speaker within a surround sound system using the Sonos Playbar, and two of the things can be made into a stereo pair.

Sonos Play:1 - Sound Quality

The Sonos Play:1 is an excellent small speaker, offering pretty much class-leading sound quality for a wireless speaker of this price and size. It does so without using measures generally employed by the competition.

Each Sonos Play:1 features two drivers, a mid-range/bass driver and a smaller tweeter – the same arrangement-up adopted by traditional bookshelf speakers. Of course, the Play:1 is quite different from a standard bookshelf hi-fi speaker. It has a smaller enclosure - not least because it has to fit in its own amplifier too - it has to be able to produce enough sound on its own, rather than as a pair.

All of these are issues Sonos has had to address. It does so by using much stronger-than-average magnets to allow the speaker cones to move back and forward much further than they would normally – 7mm back and 7mm forward according to Sonos. All manner of different strategies were tested during the two-plus years the Play:1 has been in development, including the passive radiators used by many small speakers, but this was found to be the best – so we were told anyway.

Either way, the Sonos Play:1 produces excellent, rich and meaty sound for its size. It has pretty neutral voicing, but the depth and scale of the bass the speaker is able to produce is very impressive.

Across the board, the Play:1 is higher-fidelity than we expected it to be, able to produce entry-level hi-fi-grade sound to fill small and medium-size rooms. ‘Entry-level hi-fi’ may sound like an insult, but it’s actually a serious compliment. This is a very small speaker, and one that doesn’t cost all that much given its high-grade construction and inclusion of Wi-Fi.

It’s a pleasant listen, with enough finesse, a rich enough tone and more than enough punch to make you forget the size of the speaker you’re listening to.

Naturally, with a speaker this size, there are going to be a few compromises. Bass depth is a little limited, as is treble extension. The Play:1 doesn’t give up on trying to reproduce sub-bass like many small speakers, but the volume of low bass it can create is limited.

Treble isn’t limited in such as conspicuous a way, but Sonos seems to have curtailed the top-end to avoid potential harshness when the speaker is pushed – that’s our guess anyway.

However, these are the impressions of someone who spends too listening to, and thinking about, speakers. Most people will simply be impressed by the scale, sheer volume and quality of sound that the Play:1 can crank out. This is undoubtedly one of the most impressive new audio products of the year.

Should I buy the Sonos Play:1?

The Sonos Play:1 is a great little speaker, and if you were tempted by the Sonos Play:3 but found it a bit too pricey, we have no hesitation in recommending the Play:1. It works just like any other Sonos Play-series speaker, and offers excellent sound for both the size and price.

Those who say Sonos is just for the rich can stop now.

However, we still think that for real audio quality obsessives, a Sonos system probably isn’t the right choice. The convenience of the Sonos speakers’ size and streaming software is something you pay for, so if you want absolutely the best sound for your buck, look for a ‘dumb’, less pretty speaker.

Put the Sonos Play:1 next to its direct rivals such as the Pure Jongo S3 and Logitech UE Smart Radio, and we know which one we’d pick. It’s the Sonos.


The Sonos Play:1 is probably the most impressive speaker we’ve seen from Sonos. It offers all the convenience of its streaming brothers in a smaller, cheaper form. Don’t expect it to power a party single-handed, but this speaker is simply brilliant.

If you're looking for something more portable read Best Portable Speakers

Our Score


User Score


October 14, 2013, 2:18 pm

how does it sound at low volumes? i tried the play:3 once and found that it only started to live above 1/3 of its volume scale. at lower volumes it sounded hardly better than my kitchen radio which made me send it back again, as i sometimes just want good quality background music without the need of drowning everything else.


October 14, 2013, 3:54 pm

I am in agreement with oluv.. most of the time all you want is to be able to fill a room with soft ambient music, but a lot of these portable speakers struggle to keep the sound rich and warm at these lower volumes. Are you able to provide some insight / recommendations?


October 14, 2013, 5:52 pm

Hi Peter, this isn't quite a portable speaker as it still needs mains power. It's a small wireless speaker meant for portability in the home. I'll ask Andrew about low level performance although if he hasn't mentioned it it probably means it's solid.

Jordan Whitworth

October 14, 2013, 7:13 pm

Hi Peter,

Sonos is a truly fantastic product in all of its forms, but if you want a genuinely portable speaker or set of speakers then you want to take a look at these two products from Ruark Audio - both of which are compatible with the battery pack they produce (additional cost of just under £50)

http://www.ruarkaudio.com/prod... - a single cabinet DAB radio with aux in priced from £159

http://www.ruarkaudio.com/prod... - a stereo pair with aptex bluetooth and aux in/sub out priced from £299

Sound quality is best in the MR1 - you honestly wouldn't believe you were streaming with bluetooth - and is just as good as Sonos but with the added convenience of being able to purchase a battery pack - just be aware that you pay the price of a Play:5 for the privilege!!

Hope that helps,

Tim Sutton

October 14, 2013, 9:03 pm

Deleted due to wrongness


October 14, 2013, 11:15 pm

Agree Sonos is terrific kit and comes into in own if you've got the bulk of your music stored digitally and want to have multiroom music either playing the same tune, or different stuff in eachy room. Not cheap but the quality is built in and the software keeps getting better and better. The Ipad/ iphone interface is fantastic to use to.

Alex Walsh

October 15, 2013, 7:56 am

SONOS streamers tend to work better at volume (once you've turned the Loudness setting off at any rate). Looking for one of these for the bedroom though, ideal size since we can't really fit a PLAY:3 in there (or justify the cost).


October 15, 2013, 11:18 am

The Play:1 is pretty good in this respect, thanks the way its traditional drivers don't rely on the volume produced (the Play:3 uses a passive radiator, which doesn't work in quite the same way as a normal driver). I'll try and spend some more time with it and add to the review is this is a common concern, though.


October 15, 2013, 11:36 am

Sonos could just tweak their "loudness" algorithm which now is rather a kind of global bass boost instead of real volume dependent adjustment.
but so far my suggestions weren't really taken serious.

One could of course add the expensive Sub as the "easiest" solution, but 2 Play:1 and the sub will make you spend 1000 bucks :-(


October 15, 2013, 11:37 am

peter, have you tried the bose soundlink mini? it sounds really rich at low volumes. it struggles a bit with treble clearness, but overall i sometimes prefer it over my fullsized airplay system.

Prem Desai

October 16, 2013, 6:41 am

Nice one Sonos. I've pre-ordered a couple of these.

If you already have Sonos components, then this is a no-brainier. Perfect for smaller rooms / bedroom.

Sonos have had a winning formula for years. No other manufacturer comes close to their style, quality, ease of use and flexibility. I have wasted money on a few.

Now, if only they made the Play 1 with a clock / weather forecast display - perfect bedside clock for me.


October 16, 2013, 9:12 pm

Try the soundlink mini by Bose same price with room filling sound. The only drawback is on the treble side which is a bit lacking.


October 17, 2013, 12:14 am

Would the Sonos Play1: work with a wifi network extender such as the Netgear WN3000RP-100UKS?
The router is too far away from the bedroom to give an adequate wifi signal, so all the bedroom wifi devices work off the Netgear extender for their internet access.
Not sure that once you pair the Sonos Bridge (in the living room connected to router) locallywith the Play 1: (using an ethernet cable), would the set up work if you then move the Play 1: speaker off to the Netgear derived wifi area in the bedroom?
Any Sonos experts out there have any experience with wifi network extenders?


October 17, 2013, 6:14 am

Is there a lag if you want to use it for audio while watching a movie off your laptop?


October 17, 2013, 1:22 pm

I would like to question a number of points in this article.
1. Only 1 Sonos component needs to be connected to the router, this does not need to be a bridge but is the cheapest.
2. The other Sonos components (I have both a 3 and 5) don't need to be connected via Ethernet to add them to the network if you have any other Sonos components (including a bridge).
To add a new component, you just select add component from the app and press a button/buttons on the new component.
Are you sure this is not the same for the Play:1.


October 28, 2013, 6:54 pm

I have a Zeppelin Air that I'm thinking of selling because it has the old 30-pin connector, and because I find that AirPlay can be pretty unreliable. What kind of Sonos setup would match the sound quality I get from the Zeppelin?



October 28, 2013, 6:56 pm

And a follow-up question. As far as I can tell, the Play:1 is based on the 802.11n wireless standard. If the intention is to build an expandable set of Sonos speakers over time, am I better of waiting until Sonos begins releasing 802.11ac speakers?



November 7, 2013, 3:37 pm

It´s the same, I have a stereo pair of them and I added them to the system pressing two buttons.


November 10, 2013, 10:36 pm

I was actually thinking about buying a Play 1 for this purpose, using an iPhone for the alarm and Sonos's Tune In radio function for the radio. I'd be interested in anyone else's view of this.



Jack Diamond

November 18, 2013, 4:04 pm

I have a similar issue in my house (converted barn - think long & skinny). My router is at one end with a play 5 plugged into it, halfway down the house in the hallway I have a wifi extender, and a pair of Play 1's with one of them plugged into the wifi extender itself. This acts as a good bridge to the speakers in the kitchen & dining room, and for the playbar & sub in the sitting room I've plugged them into a wall socket which uses the electricity cables to create a wired network with the Play 5 at the other end of the house. It's a bit convoluted but driven by necessity as the bandwidth in my part of the world is a bit prehistoric, and has resulted in a very stable network over quite a wide area.


November 19, 2013, 8:24 am

Wireless is not relevant. Sonos devices use their own wireless mesh system, independent of your wifi network. That's why you need to plug the bridge or attach another Sonos device to your Ethernet network / router.


November 19, 2013, 8:26 am

Can't use Sonos 1 for this. You need a Sonos device with a line in.


November 19, 2013, 8:31 am

Once your brIdge is connected, all Sonos devices (unless plugged in to your Ethernet network which most of mine are) connect to eachother using Sonos' own wireless mesh system. The more devices, the stronger the mesh. There is, of course a limit to how far devices can be from each other, but usually not a problem for most houses. To get greater coverage in the garden, I have a spare bridge connected to my Ethernet network, just in side the door to the garden.
If you don't have an Ethernet networK and spacing is too far, just buy an powerline Ethernet extender and connect the bridge to your router that way.


November 19, 2013, 8:39 am

I have about 10 Sonos devices in 2 houses - fantastic system and use it exactly as you suggested - alarm and sleep function work directly on Sonos, so your iphone doesn't need to be switched on. Other main use is seamless Spotify integration with all of our mobile devices (you can add tracks to Spotify playlists from within the Sonos controller) or direct streaming from our NAS. Ripped our large CD catalogue years ago and put them all in the loft! Like Apple products, Sonos is pure class and 'just works'. Adding a new device from the box takes all of 15 seconds to set up. Have Sonos Amp connected to speakers in kitchen ceiling, with spur via volume control in wall to outside speakers - great for parties. Just about to buy a Play 1 for en suite bathroom. You will not be disappointed!


November 19, 2013, 8:42 am

You may be right, but it think this misses the point. Sonos don't make portable speakers, they make seamless integrated music systems. One device on its own might be hard to justify, but it is when you have several that you see the brilliance of the system. In places where you need true HiFi fidelity, just connect the Amp or Connect devices to your own high quality speakers or audio amp.

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