When it comes to making Wireless HiFi Systems, Sonos has been leading the pack for years. Their latest system, the Sono PLAY:3 offers the same great Sonos package users have come to expect, in a more compact and affordable form-factor than its bigger brother, the PLAY:5. Available in dark gray, or white, the PLAY:3 system measures just 5.2 x 10.6 x 6.3 inches. Its design is not only compact, but it’s also minimalist and should fit in to just about every environment. We’re especially liking its diminutive size, since it’s more suitable for a New York apartment than so many other serious speaker systems. The system is also designed to lay flat or to stand vertically.
There are no complicated wires involved to get up and running either. Just plug the AC adapter into the Sonos Play Speaker and it will connect wirelessly to your network – once you’ve attached the Sonos Bridge to your network. Yes, the Sonos Bridge which retails for $49.99, is required for the PLAY:3 to work. So to get started, first you’ll need to connect the Sonos Bridge to your router. Than you can set-up the PLAY:3 Wireless HiFi System wherever you want. The Bridge will allow your devices to connect to the PLAY:3 wirelessly. Sonos provides you with software for both Mac, PC, as well as apps for the iPhone, iPad and for Android phones. Set-up was simple and we were up and running within minutes. Although, you aren’t required to use a computer for set-up – you can just use an iPad or whatever, it is recommended to perform the initial set-up on a computer. When you install the software on your computer the first time, the Sonos Desktop Controller software will scan for all of your music files so that it can stream it to the PLAY:3. The Sonos desktop software was even able to recognize the media files located on my Time Capsule drive.
The Sonos Desktop Controller lets you access radio stations, music services and create playlists. But if you ask us, it’s the iPad and iPhone app that really shine. These apps are polished and offer robust control over your PLAY:3 system. From within the apps you can control the PLAY:3′s volume, EQ settings, and you can also control different Zones. Zones are different rooms where you might have different Sonos speaker systems set-up. With Sonos, you can play a different music track on each of these different systems in different rooms of your home. Or you can have them all play the same track simultaneously. And you can control all of this right from within the Sonos app.
Sonos doesn’t only stream your music library over to the PLAY:3, but it also lets you listen to local radio stations. But forget local radio, to unleash the biggest potential of the Sonos system you have to start using its supported music services. Fortunately, Sonos supports every popular music service you can think of – Pandora, Spotify, Rhapsody, Rdio, iHeartRadio, Napster, SiriusXM, last.fm and more. However, in order to access these services you will have to first register your device with Sonos. Until you do that, you wont be able to use these services with your PLAY:3 system. Fortunately, the Sonos app does an excellent job of integrating all of these different music services. I easily searched through Spotify and added Spotify tracks to my listening queue on the App. From within the App, I was also able to access my personal Pandora stations. All in all, the Sonos apps work seamlessly with these other services, so that you never have to leave the app.
Now on-to the audi0 experience provided by the PLAY:3. The first time we listened to it, we could barely believe what amazing sonics were coming out of such a small speaker. The PLAY:3 is a three driver speaker system which features one tweeter, two mid-range drivers, and one bass radiator. Each driver of the product is individually powered by a dedicated amplifier. Overall, the PLAY:3 provides a rich and warm audio experience, the likes of which you would expect from a larger, more expensive speaker system. If you buy two PLAY:3 systems, you can have them work together – one serving as a left channel, and the other as a right channel. When they work together, the audio experience is even more intense and adds another dimension to the music – and the music tends to sound even fuller with more body. That said, a single PLAY:3 system on its own provides great audio too. As a matter of fact, even at louder volumes, the sound doesn’t get too distorted the way so many smaller speakers tend to do.
The new Sonos PLAY:3 system might be the most affordable speaker system from Sonos yet, but it doesn’t lack in punch. The sonics coming from this system are phenomenal, and they sound like something that you would expect from a more expensive speaker system. The system is also easy to set-up, and easy to use with complimenting polished apps. Plus, with support for all of the popular music services, there is something for everyone here. If you can afford it, buying two of these little guys and using them in tandem will knock your socks off. But even if you cant, just a single PLAY:3 system will impress. Furthermore, even if you’re not quite an audiophile, the Sonos PLAY:3 system is one of those gadgets that you might not understand the appeal of, until you’ve tried it out for yourself. But once you do, you’ll likely be hooked. Fortunately, Sonos has a 45 day return policy, so that should give customers plenty of time to decide if the system is for them or not. The Sonos Play:3 system retails for $299 at Amazon.
The Good: Amazing sound at this price point, polished apps, easy to set-up and use, great size for apartment dwellers, combination of 2 speakers adds another dimension – but single system alone is very powerful.
The Bad: Now Sonos is more affordable than ever, but you still need to shell out money for the $49 Bridge. Would be nice if there was an easy way to integrate it into pre-existing stereo setup.
Update 07/31/11: So it turns out that you don’t technically need the bridge for the PLAY:3 to run on a network. The PLAY:3 does have a built-in ethernet port for connecting to your local network. However, if you want it to work wirelessly on your network, you need the Bridge. Special thanks to the commenter who let us know about this!