Friday, February 21, 2014

What I Use: Sonos Play:1

Sonos has been around for awhile and I have always been impressed by their wireless speaker systems. Unfortunately, the cost of those speakers kept me from trying them out for myself. That is until Sonos introduced the Play:1.


The $200 Sonos Play:1 is a compact wireless speaker. It offers high quality sound by streaming from your personal music library on your computer or from an iOS or Android device. The Play:1 also allows you to stream from various commercial streaming services such as Pandora, Spotify, Beats Music, and Amazon Cloud Player. Like all Sonos wireless speakers, the Play:1 supports a large range of music formats including popular ones such as mp3, aac, wma, and FLAC.

The Play:1 is designed to work as a standalone wireless speaker. You basically have two setup options. You can connect it directly into your home router via an Ethernet cable (included) or use the Sonos Bridge (which was free at the time I purchased the Play:1 in December), which also connects to your router but allows you to put the Play:1 anywhere in your house as long as it is within range of your wireless network. The Sonos Bridge also allows you to add additional Sonos wireless speakers throughout your house to create an expandable, multi-room music system. You can even add a second Play:1 speaker and sync them for an even better stereo experience.

Setting up the Play:1 was pretty straightforward and simple. Download and install the Sonos app on your computer, tablet or smartphone. Click on "Add Component." The prompts will tell you to press a button on the Sonos Bridge or two buttons on the Play:1, and the app will do the rest. That's it. No complicated or confusing configuring required. 

A few things to remember about the Play:1. First of all, it is not a Bluetooth speaker. You have to use Sonos' proprietary wireless standard in order for it to work properly. Another thing to remember is that you have to use the Sonos app (available for iOS and Android devices but NOT Windows Phone or devices running Windows RT) on your device to play music instead of your music player or service. For example, if you want to listen to Spotify, you would open the Sonos app and select Spotify instead of opening the Spotify app.

One thing that iTunes customers need to make note of when purchasing the Play:1 or any Sonos device is that prior to January 2009, iTunes music was copy-protected using a form of Digital Rights Management (DRM). The DRM protection prevents any iTunes-purchased music from being played through any non-Apple devices, including Sonos. If that is the case, you can burn the DRM-protected music to CD and then re-import them into iTunes.

In my opinion, the Sonos Play:1 is the best value you can find if you are looking for a home speaker (versus anything from it's closest competitor, Bose). Considering it's size, the sound quality is amazing. While it costs about as much as a decent Bluetooth speaker, it does not suffer from the range limitations and reliability issues associated with Bluetooth. Furthermore, it allows you to get the great features of the Sonos ecosystem at a lower cost and gives you the ability to expand to a larger Sonos music network for your home down the road.