The Sonos Play:3 is a wireless speaker unit designed to connect to your wireless network and provided you with a high quality speaker unit on the network, similar to plugging in an Airport Express with a Hifi. The difference with Sonos is you can combine multiple speaker units together so it effectively allows you to build up a wifi speaker system as your budget allows.
This review has probably been one of the tougher reviews to do for the simple reason that its not something I personally purchased. This may sound like an odd excuse but because I didn't buy it, I didn't do the usual research before buying it and therefore some of my expectations of the unit were a little wrong.
It may seem like a strange disclaimer to start with, but this unit is proof that you need to understand what you are buying before you buy it or you could find yourself having to purchase additional components, and in my case, because I give the unit back at the end of the review, it wouldn't have been practical to purchase additional components.
Unboxing and Setup
The Play 3 comes in a standard box which includes power cable, network cable, manuals and software for getting the Sonos software up and running on your machine. Getting the Play 3 connected is a pretty simple process if you follow the manual (for Mac at least, I can't vouch for the Windows version), although its worth noting that the speaker has to be plugged directly into your router for the initial setup.
This is where my first issue with the router arose. The issue I'm talking about is the requirement for the unit to be plugged directly into the wireless router you're connecting to because its not a true wireless device on its own. This means that if you want it to work as a purely wireless unit, just buying this unit isn't enough, you need something called the Bridge which costs about $80. This meant during my testing I could only test the unit where my router was located. Interestingly enough I have my Airport Express connected to my wifi network and the Play 3 wouldn't work using this shared connection. This means if you have multiple wifi devices connected to your network, you won't be able to use the Play 3 connected to one of these unless thats the primary wifi location you connect to. In my case thats not possible and not wanting to test the router in the confines of my tiny office at home, I ran a 20m network cable out my office to my lounge where the Sonos was tested. The short and sweet of this however is if you plan on getting this device, the Bridge should also be on your price list because this is when the device truly becomes powerful.
Sonos is supplied with a software package called Sonos Desktop Controller and you can also download iOS and Android apps from the app store to control the device using your phone. The software is easy to install, easy to use and easy to setup although I had some issues relating to the firewall on OSX so I suggest you check their FAQ if you have similar issues.
Some users may be annoyed to find out that it doesn't work directly off iTunes, but fear not, it does actually import your playlists so you can still play your playlists directly from the Sonos software on your Mac or iPhone.
It also may surprise people to find out that it doesn't actually play music directly from your phone. The software uses the shared playlist on your Laptop/Desktop, which in some respects make sense because you're not running down your battery, but if you have mates around who want to play music, you'll have to find another way to do it. It does however all you to add songs to your playlist, along with a variety of other options. There is also software for the iPad which supports a large screen format.
The software also incorporates digital radio providing a large number of digital radio stations and music. You can also use your location as a means to identify all the key radio stations but you can search by Music Type, Sport, Talk etc.
Its a bit of a shock when you pick up the Sonos Play 3 for the first time. Its actually pretty heavy which is a tribute to the build quality of the unit. This is not a cheap and nasty as you've probably gathered from the $400+ price tag, but the actual quality of this unit is immediate from the moment you start using it. The attention to detail is amazing and the overall finish of the unit is really good.
When you buy a speaker system, one of the key criteria is always sound quality and this is one area the Sonos Play 3 won't disappoint you. Sound quality is astounding for the size and this is substantially better than the Bose Sounddock. Unfortunately as I only had a single unit, it was possible to test the speaker in multi speaker configuration.
If you're looking for a small speaker which is versatile enough to be used at home for casual music, powerful enough to be used for parties and expandable so you can grow it as your budget allows. Even as the budget orientated speaker in the range, the sound quality is astounding and would probably keep all but the most serious audiophiles happy. Whilst it does have some shortcomings (wifi requires a separate controller), its a powerful piece of equipment and comes highly recommended.