This article first appeared in HWM Jan 2012.
We’ve previously reviewed the Sonos S5 (now called the Play:5 after a recent rebranding exercise), and found it an excellent solution for the home, assuming your home had some pretty large rooms. After all, having five drivers means some pretty powerful sound, and having to run them at 30% volume most of the time can be a little demoralizing.
Sonos gets around that with the much smaller Play:3, and as the model number indicates, it comes with three drivers in total, each powered by a dedicated Class-D amplifier. The only physical controls on the Play:3 are the volume control buttons, and a mute button. Actual control is handled by a dedicated Sonos controller (which costs more money, boo!), or control apps for iOS and Android smartphones (which are free, hooray!).
The speakers obviously need to be hooked up to the wall for power, while an Ethernet port at the back lets you connect it to the Internet (or to other existing Sonos gear you may already have). If wireless is your thing, the Play:3 connects to existing Sonos gear via SonosNet, a proprietary peer-to-peer mesh network that lets all your Sonos speakers communicate with one another. The only caveat to this is that you need the Sonos Bridge add-on, which lets you connect to the Internet wirelessly.
Properly set up, the Sonos system lets you stream music from your computer, off the network, or via the internet with services such as Spotify, Last.fm and a variety of others, so long as you have an active broadband connection.
The Play:3’s three speakers: one tweeter and two mid-range drivers – work reasonably well to fill a medium-sized room, and without the need to max out the volume control as well. The sound isn’t as well-rounded as the Play:5, which is understandable given that the larger device has five drivers, but everything from vocals to instrumentals sounded tight and sharp. Bass could be a little better if you’re into that sort of thing, but nothing really beats having a dedicated subwoofer in those situations.
The one thing the Play:3 has in its advantage versus the Play:5 is its ability to be positioned in different ways. You can have it in landscape or portrait orientations, depending on where you’re trying to squeeze it into (like a gap in your bookshelf, maybe?), or you can mount it on the wall. Sonos builds in an accelerometer so the Play:3 knows which direction it’s placed in, and automatically adjusts the sound. If you like, you could also pair two Play:3’s together in your living room on either side of your HDTV.
Overall, the Play:3 is an excellent addition to Sonos’ lineup, and given its flexibility, I do wish that they’d introduced this product sooner to Singapore shores, as the Play:5 I already own is quite overkill for what I usually use it for. Nonetheless, if wireless multi-room home audio is something you’re thinking of, there’s no better building block than the Play:3 to start with. Just remember to get the Bridge (formerly ZoneBridge 100) while you’re at it.