The latest addition to the Sonos family of music streamers, the $419 Play:3 is a more compact and affordable take on the company’s two-year-old S5, a hi-fi grade powered speaker that accesses the tunes stored within your PC over your home’s WiFi network to deliver audio wirelessly to remote rooms.
About the size of a bookshelf speaker, the Play:3 easily passes the crude (but accurate) test of speaker quality – weight – coming in at a smidge over 2.5kg. Its satisfying heft comprises an ABS cabinet and three drivers (Play:3, geddit?) each with a dedicated digital amplifier (whose output is not specified by Sonos), a mains power connection and a passive rear firing bass radiator to boost low-end performance.
The meaty little package is designed to sit horizontally, but vertical placement is also possible, with built-in sensors detecting orientation and changing sound output to compensate for the altered dispersion pattern. Stereo pairing – for separate right and left channel sound reproduction – is possible when two Play:3s are located in the same room, but their real appeal is in their ability to perform as an instant, retro-fittable multi-room music solution.
Plop one of these puppies into a bedroom, out on the deck and in the living room and you’ll enjoy synchronised playback of your favourite tunes as you move around the house, with control of volume, tracks and playlists provided by the free app you can download to your Android or Apple smartphone or tablet. You’re not limited to the music on your Mac or PC either, as Play:3 will connect to NAS drives and internet radio and podcast services from the likes AUPEO, Deezer, iheartradio, Last.fm, MOG, Napster, Pandora, Rdio, Rhapsody, SiriusXM Internet Radio, Spotify, Stitcher SmartRadio, TuneIn, Wolfgang’s Vault, and more.
Before any of this happens, though, the Play:3 needs to jump onto a wireless network, but with no WiFi built-into the Play:3 you need to add the Zone Bridge ($79) to your router to establish the special “SonosNet” wireless connection. A “wireless mesh” technology, this allows each Play:3 to pass the audio signal onto the next Play:3 (and the next, and the next, depending on how big your multi-room setup is). By breaking the distance the music needs to travel into short hops, a robust signal, with no audio lag, can be sustained without having to add hotspots to strengthen the transmission.
The Play:3 can also be connected via Ethernet directly into a router, allowing it to then share that internet connection among other Sonos players without the need for a Zone Bridge unit.