The Sonos PLAY:1 packs a significant punch considering its size though we would have loved to see a battery-operated option.
The PLAY:1 is arguably the best looking speaker in the Sonos range. The cylindrical shaped speaker has well rounded corners, a largely uninterrupted stainless steel grill that wraps around the outside, and a matte plastic base and top.
The PLAY:1 is available in black and white variants, with the silver trim alongside the speaker grill, and the Sonos branding remaining the same colour on both models.
The PLAY:1 has just three buttons on the top — volume up and down, and a play/pause button.
Sonos says the speaker is designed to be always on, and claims it uses minimal electricity when not playing music.
The design of the play/pause button also enables users to simply walk up to the speaker and press play to immediately begin playing the last track they were listening to.
The PLAY:1 requires a power outlet to work and lacks the portability of similar sized Bluetooth speakers.
Like all Sonos products, the speaker only works when paired with Sonos' wireless Bridge device (which plugs into your router via Ethernet), or by plugging directly into an Ethernet port.
The PLAY:1 lacks a 3.5mm analog line input to play music directly, so you can only use it with the Sonos app on your computer or mobile device.
Sonos says the PLAY:1 has been designed to withstand strong humidity, such as a bathroom with a running shower, but the speaker is not waterproof or water resistant.
If you already own an existing Sonos speaker or PLAYBAR, adding the PLAY:1 to your home music setup is simple.
The speaker is connected to your home Internet via the Sonos Bridge or directly through an Ethernet port. Sonos sells the Bridge as a seperate $75 accessory, but at the time of writing it comes bundled free with any PLAY:1 purchase.
The PLAY:1 requires the Sonos Controller app installed on your smartphone, tablet or computer. Using the app, you can play music from various sources including your local music library, and a number of music and radio services from the Internet.
You can’t access a local music library on a Sonos system without your PC or Mac being active, and there's no way to use the device without the controller app.
The app works reasonably well but the interface could definitely use an overhaul and creating a playlist isn't as simple as we would like.
The real highlight of Sonos is the lengthy list of Internet music services it's compatible with. The extensive list includes Spotify, Rdio, Pandora, Deezer, MOG, JB Hi-Fi Now, Songl, TuneIn Radio and more.
One notable omission is Google’s relatively new Play Music All Access service.
The PLAY:1 produces surprisingly good sound quality considering its size. The device is powered by one 3.5in mid-woofer and one tweeter, each with its own custom design amplifier.
Although the speaker is front-firing, it does a pretty good job of proving reasonable sound when you're not listening in its direct line of sight.
Audiophiles will remain unimpressed with the lack of stereo separation, but most everyday users will be more than happy with the performance of the PLAY:1 given its size.
We were particularly impressed with the mid-range, although the standard EQ setting is too bass heavy and tends to muddle mids.
During testing, we found the PLAY:1 excelled playing acoustic, jazz and rap music but wasn't as impressive when listening to heavy rock and metal tracks.
Volume levels are excellent for a speaker this size, and the PLAY:1 definitely packs enough punch to fill a medium-large sized room with sound.
If you're coming from the larger PLAY:3 you may long for a bit of extra bass, but we were constantly surprised with performance during testing.
The beauty of the Sonos system comes when you pair multiple speakers together. In the PLAY:1's case, it means that two devices can be paired together for stereo listening.