I was tremendously lucky to have been lent a pair of Sonos Play:3 wireless speakers and the Ethernet bridge to try for a few weeks and I can say without a doubt—wow, just freakin’ wow.
Before I get into the guts of the review, let me tell you about the Play:3 speaker and how it works. The speaker has both an Ethernet port and built-in wireless connectivity. If you have only one Sonos speaker and no Bridge device (I’ll get to that in a moment), you connect the speaker with an Ethernet cable to your router to get it on your network. Right, you can’t just “connect it” via WiFi if you have a speaker alone. Once connected you fire up the installer app on your Mac to find, configure, and update (if needed—there have been two updates for the devices since I’ve had them) the speaker. Once configured you don’t need to use the Mac app at all to send music to the speaker because it can then remotely connect to your iTunes library (even if iTunes isn’t running—it’s just looking for the files) via the iOS apps (which I think are the best part of the whole system) to play music.
Oh but the Sonos apps aren’t limited to just your iTunes music, no, no. You can connect to radio stations with TuneIn, Rdio, Last.fm, SiriusXM, my favorite Songza, as well as (just added recently) the music you have on your iOS device. Essentially I’ve found I can listen to so much music through the Sonos I don’t know where to start sometimes.
Now, let’s talk about the Bridge and adding another speaker to the set up (which I did). If you have the Bridge, then the Sonos speaker unit doesn’t have to be connected to your router, the Bridge does that work for you. So, same idea, connect the Bridge to your router, configure (update, etc) through the helper app, then you can plug in and connect wirelessly all the speaker. The connection process was amazingly easy. Once I had the Bridge and one Speaker added, I could just add the second speaker through the iOS app. I believe I could have added the first speaker through iOS as well, once the Bridge was connected, but I was following the directions.
Speaking of directions, Sonos did a pretty good job at making everything clear and easy to get things set up and turned on in the right order.
One of the things I was concerned about was the range of the bridge or if it piggybacks onto my entire wireless network. While I put one Sonos Play:3 at my desk, I put the other two floors up in the kitchen. I was worried that the Bridge/network wouldn’t be able to find it or that the music quality would be degraded with it so far from the primary source. Well, I don’t know how they work their networking magic (and I don’t really care), but the speaker two floors above the router and Bridge (there is a range extender on the floor between, I will point out) plays music and connects as smoothly, quickly, and easily as the one that is in the same room as the router.
Let’s talk apps.
I haven’t, honestly, used the Mac app since I set the speakers up. I haven’t needed it. The iOS apps (free and there is an iPhone version as well as an iPad version) let me manage everything I want and need with the Sonos Play:3. Changing what I’m listening to, adjusting settings (really there is nothing to adjust), updating the speakers’ and Bridge’s software everything I’ve done through the apps.
Picking what you want to listen to and where you want to listen to it is just easy as you’d really want. Tap the speaker to connect to (I have them named Tris’ Office and Kitchen), then what you want to play. In one room you could be listening to Songza’s Jazz Christmas, but in another room your favorite dance playlist from iTunes. If you want to play the same music in each room, then you just tap the simple “Group” button, then the speakers to group together (so if you had 3 speakers you could group just two of them together) and then start playing music. I easily went from listening to a great playlist in my office to listening to the same playlist and song in the kitchen just with a couple taps as I walked up the stairs. It was that easy and the upstairs speaker was in perfect sync with the downstairs.
Brilliant? Oh yeah.
The Sonos Play:3 is one unit with all the speakers built-in. The question would be then, how does it sound? I have pretty diverse listening habits from rock to jazz to classical…all in the same workday. So I think I’m a pretty fair judge of how things sound. I also have the added bonus of a trained ear around to listen as well (my wife). Without hesitation, I can say I’ve been blown away with the speakers. I went from a pair of decent (not great, but decent) desktop speakers I connected through AirPlay (or directly to my iPad) to compare to the Sonos and … wow.
Rich, full, nuanced sound. Everything I threw at it sounded awesome. Didn’t matter if it was classic jazz, classical piano, or classic rock…it all sounds great.
You can also add a sub-woofer to the package, which I have available to me to try, to push the sound to even richer depths. Personally, the speaker alone is amazing.
What does my classically trained, voice teacher, professional singer spouse think of the quality of the music? She completely agrees with my own impressions. Listening to some jazz christmas tunes in the kitchen she said: “I hope we don’t have to return these soon…maybe we should buy them…” By the way, she never has any interest in getting more audio stuff in the house. I’m the big AirPlay and music listener in the house (if I don’t have music playing I can’t work or write).
Well, I do wish it was AirPlay and not it’s own app. It is minorly inconvenient to have to switch apps to listen to music in my office to the living room (where the Apple TV is connected to the home theater system). Really, it’s minor. The Sonos app is nice, I wish I could interact with my Songza playlists more (I can skip songs, but I can’t thumbs up or down them in the Sonos app), but really that’s not a huge deal.
Playing music from iOS when using the iTunes share or Songza or other Internet radio doesn’t drain the battery much at all. Since the speaker is actually doing the connecting to the Internet, not my iOS device. However if you use the new feature to play music from your iOS device to the Sonos, that will drain your battery, just like if you were using AirPlay (maybe more/faster). The iOS device (in my case my iPad mini) is constantly sending data to the speaker and that uses battery. I also found that since I have very little actually music on my iPad mini (iTunes Match FTW) that the playlist jumped around a lot when it hit a song that wasn’t completely downloaded.
These aren’t cheap speakers. The Play:3 lists right now for $329 and the Bridge is usually (or if you need one) $59, but Sonos is selling them together as a gift pack where you get the Bridge for free with the Play:3.
However, I think they Sonos speakers are well, well worth the price. I might even have to move the Kitchen speaker to the living room because I think the sound is richer than my home theater system. This is a highly recommended buy for music lovers.
Sources: Sonos shop.