OVER the past decade, Sonos has built up a formidable reputation as one of the world’s leading manufacturers of wireless streaming equipment.
Sonos Play 1 speaker; RRP £169
Revered by audiophiles for its sonic quality and distinctive aesthetics, the Californian firm has remained one step ahead in an increasingly competitive marketplace by taking a leaf out of Apple’s book and offering premium products.
Ideal introduction to Sonos brand
It is a strategy that has meant prospective Sonos customers have had to pay a little more, but with the release of the Play 1, the company has proved it possible to minimise costs without sacrificing its trademark performance, making for a speaker that serves as an ideal standalone introduction to its range, or an excellent sound option for the bedroom or kitchen for those with an existing Sonos setup.
Inspired by the Play 3, the compact chassis of the Play 1 can be deceptive. Weighing in at 2.7kg, the speaker has a reassuring heft and build quality that shows up cheaper, plasticky Bluetooth devices; a steel grille covering the front gives it a sturdy yet minimal design.
This approach is mirrored on the back and bottom, where there is only a power connection and an ethernet input for those hooking the speaker up directly to a router.
Easy and rewarding
At first, the inability to hook up an external hard drive or computer feels like a missed opportunity, but once connected to a home wireless network (using either a Sonos bridge or a physical ethernet cable) playing music from any of the devices that clutter the average home is easy, responsive and rewarding.
Controlling the output to the speaker via the Sonos app makes for a functional if aesthetically spartan experience. From a device’s internal music library and tracks stored elsewhere on the same home network through to streaming services like Spotify and Napster, choosing a playlist is straightforward, although compared to other manufacturer-specific applications the layout is not quite so easy on the eye.
Irrespective of the music chosen or the equaliser settings, however, the output is superb. In small to medium sized rooms, the Play 1 excels with a deep, satisfying low end that never squeezes out the mid-range. With one speaker, the sound fills the space convincingly and leaves you wondering how such quality is possible for less than £200. Pair up two of them and the stereo separation is given added depth and volume without ever becoming distorted.
Hard to beat for budget
As longtime Sonos users will attest, the ability to mix and match a range of speakers can produce the ideal sound for nearly any room. The Play 1 is the ideal way to enter the fray for a relatively inexpensive outlay. Some may view it the first step towards an expensive setup boasting multiple speakers and subs, but by itself, it works just fine. If you are considering a mid-budget speaker, you will struggle to beat the Play 1 for price and performance.