Sonos Play:1 review

The most affordable Sonos system ever, but is it still the cream of the streaming crop?

TODO alt text

For

  • Can use as PlayBar surrounds
  • Great design
  • Affordable

Against

  • It's a mono speaker
  • A pair sounds better than one

The Sonos Play:1 is the company's most affordable speaker yet but with the rise of competition from Pure and Bose can it still remain top dog?

The first Sonos system hit shop floors almost a decade ago and was an instant hit for early digital music aficionados, desperate for a straightforward way to stream high-quality music around the house.

Amazingly, apart from hardware upgrades and a few software bolt-ons, the basic premise remains the same, justifying how right Sonos got it back in 2005. In fact, we still use the very first ZP100 as part of our current 'Zone' setup.

With recent additions to the line up – namely the Sonos PlayBar and Sonos SUB – Sonos is clearly looking to eat up some of the multi-channel cinema market with its simple streaming ethos. But getting started has remained pricey, until now.

The great-looking Sonos Play1 is a premium mono speaker that, for a limited time, comes with a free Sonos Bridge, meaning you can get started for £169.

It's by far the cheapest way – slashing around £200 off the previous 'lowest' price - and is sure to attract those who have been tempted in the past, as well as putting competitive pressure on Pure's Jongo range. But is a single unit good enough on its own?

Sonos Play 1: Performance

Our answer is twofold. As a solo device, the Play:1 chucks out a decent amount of audio wedge for its size. It takes woofer and tweeter cues from its bigger Sonos Play:3 cousin and shrinks the tech down into a package just bigger than a kilo bag of flour.

Sound at high volumes is poised but you'll need to tweak the EQ to move away from muddy thumps. The sound dispersion is impressive, however, and will fill a bedroom or smallish room no problem. But it's still mono – and you can't not but notice that.

Therefore, pairing it with another Play:1 has a dramatic effect. Music of all types is instantly more balanced and it copes with higher volumes much easier. In stereo mode, two Play:1's can fill a decent-sized room, with bass levels being notably impressive.

The downside – you've just spent £338 on a wireless stereo streaming setup. You can also add a Sonos SUB to the pair for ridiculous bass, but that's another £600 and a combined 2.1 setup just shy of £1000.

The Play:1's can be used as surround speakers for the PlayBar, replacing the need to exclusively use the more-expensive Play:3's. Here they're very effective and infinitely more subtle as surround channels. With their wrap-around grill and solid build, we think they're the best-looking Sonos speakers you can buy.

No line-in means no hardwiring an external audio source into the back. Yet, the Sonos software allows you to wirelessly stream anything on your phone (providing it's an iPhone) to the speaker. The only two connections are an ethernet port and power socket.

Sonos Play 1: Features

They're also completely sealed and humidity tested to work in a bathroom, yet you'll need a dodgy workaround to convert the UK plug to a two-pin socket. We wouldn't recommend it.

The Play:1 speakers are also the first to swap the mute button for a play/pause option. Pressing this on any Play:1 speaker will stop all music in the zone it's grouped with. Pressing it again almost instantly brings the music back.

Sonos has released a software upgrade to allow all existing ZonePlayers and speakers the same feature. It works a treat and is great for quickly pausing all tuneage if you can't get to a controller quick enough.

Other updates in the software now allow grouped zones to reinstate the music they were playing before being added to a wider group, while a double-press of the Play/Pause button (or Mute button on other devices) skips a track – much like an an in-line headphone remote double-click.

Sonos Play 1: Verdict

As a standalone unit, the Sonos Play:1 is the cheapest way to get yourself Sonos-ed up and will undoubtedly be an attractive Christmas treat. It looks good, sounds good (although better as a pair) and will doubtlessly impress anyone that hasn't experienced the power of the Sonos/Spotify tie up.

But to really take advantage of what Sonos is capable of, you'll still need to invest in a multi-room setup, which also remains multi-quid.

Sonos Play 1 release date: Out now

Sonos Play 1 price: £169