The smart home is well and truly here, making our lives not just more connected, but easier as well. While there are plenty of “utility” devices like smart locks and smart light bulbs, there are also plenty of great devices designed for our entertainment. Case in point: smart speakers.
Sonos has been at the forefront of smart speaker innovation for some time now, and I recently had a chance to take a good look at the Sonos Play:1 connected speaker.
The first thing you’ll notice about the Play:1 — before you even set it up — is its design. And boy is it a beautiful speaker. It’s sleek and stylish, and the people who made it clearly have attention to detail. For example, the power cable is ‘L’ shaped, and plugs in at the bottom of the speaker, running out of the bottom to make it as simplistic as possible. Sure, it wouldn’t be a problem if the power cable simply plugged into the speaker, but it’s the small things that count when it comes to great design.
The speaker isn’t overly large, but it’s built like a speaker that stays home — it’s not portable, and it’s not supposed to be. It’s almost 7 inches tall and 5 inches wide, making it subtle enough to sit next to your TV or on a side-table without being overbearing in the room, but large enough to deliver some serious volume if you need it.
On the top of the device, you’ll notice three buttons — a pause/play button, and a volume rocker. Theoretically, you shouldn’t actually ever need to use these buttons, as you can control everything from your phone, but it’s nice to have the option in case your phone is in the other room or something.
Setting up the device is relatively easy, but it will take a few minutes. Once you’ve plugged in the speaker for the first time, you’ll need to download the Sonos app, after which you simply follow the instructions on the app to get the device set up. I was unable to set it up completely over Wi-Fi, so I had to use the included ethernet cable to plug the speaker into my router, but thankfully that was only needed for setup and I was able to move the speaker anywhere I wanted afterwards. Overall, the setup process took around 10 minutes, which certainly isn’t long, but the device isn’t simply plug and play by any means.
Sonos speakers are compatible with a huge range of music streaming services– a few of the major ones include Google Play Music, Spotify, Pandora, and so on. It also works with a bunch of more niche services, like 7Digital, 8tracks, Hearts of Space, and more. To set up the account, you simply choose the account you want to use from the list, log in, and you’re all set. Setting up my device with Google Play Music was an absolute breeze, and you can even control your music through some native apps if you so choose — for example, I used Google Play Music, and I was able to simply cast music to the speaker through the Play Music app, meaning I could use the arguably better designed Google Play Music app.
The first thing to note about the sound of this speaker is that it’s a mono speaker — what that means is that there’s no separation between left and right. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, and it makes sense considering the form of the speaker. Not only that, but if you get two of the speakers you can have stereo separation.
I listened to music mainly in my living room, which is a medium-sized space with around 7-7.5 ft high ceilings. The volume of the speaker was certainly enough to blast music when I was alone, but if you’re planning on playing DJ for a party, you might want more than one Play:1. While the volume wasn’t overly loud, the good thing about that was that even at the highest volume, the speakers didn’t distort.
Sound quality in general was pretty good but not spectacular. The speakers seem to lack a little sparkle in the high end, however you can EQ the speakers to taste, which is nice — you might want to do so, especially considering music sounds different in different rooms. The speaker also sounded a tiny bit dull in the bass department, especially when out in the open. In a corner, the bass was a little more prominent (which makes sense considering how low frequencies work), but again, the EQ will be your friend.
The best thing about these speakers isn’t the design, nor the sound — the best thing is the price. While some smart speakers will run well into the multiple hundreds of dollars, the Play:1 sits at $199 (current price at Amazon) — certainly not bad at all, especially for a speaker as beautifully designed as this. Sure, the audio quality could use some work, but that can be in the hands of the user considering the built in EQ. If you’re looking for a basic smart speaker, this is most certainly a good choice.