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Customer Review

1,983 of 2,089 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sonos 101 and the Play:3, July 30, 2011
This review is from: SONOS PLAY:3 Smart Speaker for Streaming Music (Black) (Electronics)
*** Note: Updated January 1, 2015 - see new section at end ***

Here's the problem with Sonos. Most of these reviews are worthless for a new customer as they have no concept what the various components do, how they fit together and what they should get! In fact, I will say that Sonos could significantly improve the messaging of their products. Think about it -- is a new customer going to have any idea what ZonePlayer or Bridge means. Even their website is quite confusing for someone new to all of this stuff. For example, they sell a ZonePlayer120 and ZonePlayer90, which have vastly different functionality. Sonos should just get rid of their marketing folks and hire some people from Apple to fix the messaging confusion. My advice for folks who want to learn more about Sonos is to find a friend with one or go to local stereo shop. Fortunately, the folks on the tech-side of Sonos know what the heck they are doing and why I give this 5 stars!

OK, I just bought a new Black Play:3 along with the Bridge. In a nutshell, here is probably all you need to know:

- Why... The Play:3 is essentially for folks who want to listen to their digital music through a high-quality speaker system that is wirelessly connected to sources of music. Typically, the music is coming from your computer's library (e.g., iTunes) or some internet service such as Pandora or TuneIn (internet radio). How do you control all of this -- by using one of their nifty free apps which run on iPhones, iPod Touch, Androids, iPads (with more to come).

- The Play:3 is your speaker component where sound comes out of. The only connection to worry about is AC power. The beauty of this is that you can move your speaker anywhere in your house at will just as you would with a clock radio.

- The Bridge is a little white box that connects to your WiFi router. It functions to stream music from the source to your Play:3 speaker, wherever that may be. Sure, you don't really need this $50 box as you could plug your Play:3 into your router, but then you defeat much of the purpose for getting a Sonos (wireless portability).

- Sonos makes setup of everything about as easy as possible. If you have a firewall (e.g., at workplace), then things become a little more complicated (you're best off just calling tech support instead of wasting hours figuring it out, which I know many have done).

- I decided to copy my entire iTunes library to a network (NAS) drive and just have Sonos access this. Essentially, I have a portable 500GB Western Digital USB drive connected to my Apple Airport Extreme base station. It is ridiculously easy to setup. The advantage of this is that my music is always available instead of needing my computer to be turned on. Also, much of disk space on my Macbook Pro is used for photos and videos. I should say that another reason I did this was because I am running Mac OS Lion, which is not yet supported by Sonos (but this will be addressed very soon).

- The nice thing about Sonos is that I can easily expand my system later on. For example, I can buy another Play:3 so that I can setup the two in stereo. Or I can create multiple zones in my house (e.g., bedroom, living room) with each Play:3 playing different music at the same time.

- The main limitation of the Play:3 is that there is no line-in jack. This means you cannot connect an outside audio source such as a CD player. And because of this limitation, you cannot configure it using an Apple Airport Express to stream from your iOS device using Apple's Airplay technology. The Play:5 system has a line-in if you really some of these features. Personally, I would love to see Sonos come out with a cheap little white box that just has some line-in audio jacks (including optical). This box could address some of the Play:3 limitations as well as offering an easy way to connect the Sonos system to an Apple TV.

Overall, I am extremely pleased with my purchase and will likely buy another Play:3 shortly to further enhance my system. It just works...and sounds great!

*** Update January 1, 2015 ***
I wanted to do a brief update on a number of things.

- OK, many folks have pointed out that Sonos no longer requires you to have a Bridge as you can use your existing WiFi (since Summer of 2014). I still prefer using the dedicated Sonos network as it has better range than my WiFi although the new Boost component can address this issue in a similar manner if using WiFi. The other thing to know is that Sonos often offers bundles where the Bridge is free ($49 normally). So try to get one of these deals if you can, but I wouldn't pay extra unless you know your home has areas where the WiFi signal is not strong and you might want to have a Sonos component there.

- There seems to be a lot of confusion these days comparing a Sonos speaker like the Play:1 and other wireless Bluetooth speakers like those made by UE, Jawbone, and Bose. First off, we should be clear that the term "wireless" refers to the connection between the speaker and sound source. All Sonos speakers require power from an electrical outlet whereas many Bluetooth ones are powered by battery. The other difference folks misunderstand is that Sonos does not directly output sound that's coming from your computer like a Bluetooth speaker can. It primarily accesses the music library (e.g., iTunes) on your computer (or from a NAS drive). If you want to stream what is playing from your computer to Sonos, you need a Sonos component which has a line-in. Most folks use either a Play:5 or a Connect. You can certainly have a wired connection between your computer and the line-in port of your Sonos component, but I like to use my Connect with a dedicated Airport Express so that I can stream wirelessly via AirPlay. I also use the Connect to stream to my older home stereo.

- I recently picked up one of Neil Young's Pono players so I can start listening to more high definition lossless music on the go (e.g., FLAC, ALAC files). One of the things to be aware of with Sonos is that while they do support many of these file formats, they are limited to 16 bit files. A CD that you rip to a lossless format such as Apple's ALAC will have a 44.1/16 sampling rate, which Sonos, Media Player and iTunes support. If you want to purchase higher quality music such as 44.1/24, 96/24 or 192/24, which you can get from Pono Music Store, HDTracks or Archive.org, Sonos does NOT currently support these formats. The reason I bring this up is that I do think these formats will become more popular in the future so folks should know Sonos limitations.
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Showing 1-10 of 83 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Oct 8, 2011 6:25:15 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 8, 2011 6:32:44 AM PDT
B. Strom says:
Nice review...... I had no idea you could split two units into left and right channel. Very cool and I am sold. I listened to a Sonos3 at Target and was not thrilled by the limited stereo-separation, but a wireless L and R pair should sound great. Thanks again.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 8, 2011 10:26:18 PM PDT
Thanks. I was about to reply to you about the Stereo Mode, but I see you updated your original comment. I'm glad you had a chance to listen to them at Target. I wasn't even aware that Target sold Sonos. I assume they weren't discounted there, right? If they didn't sound too great, it may have been because they were too close to each other. I believe that Sonos recommends they be at least 8' between each other.

Posted on Oct 18, 2011 4:57:42 PM PDT
Gautam Kene says:
You should clarify your description so people know that you cannot play wirelessly DIRECTLY from the source. The source has to play into the Bridge, which then transmits to the speaker. That means you need to have the Bridge in addition to the speaker, and you have to have the Bridge with you at all times.

For people who want a truly wireless system, this is not it. You cannot take only the Play:3 speaker with you to a park and listen to your MP3 collection on your iPhone without plugging your iPhone into it. For that kind of capability, you need the Bose SoundLink Wireless Speaker.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 18, 2011 9:04:48 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 18, 2011 9:05:08 PM PDT
I think my description is pretty clear already on this. If you're talking about portability around the house or anywhere within range of your WiFi, Sonos is a far superior option to the Bose SoundLink.

Certainly, if you are looking for portability where you can take your speaker with you on a trip such as to the beach, then a wireless Bluetooth speaker is a great way to go (just make sure to charge your speaker before you go).

Personally, I would probably pick the Jawbone JAMBOX over the Bose SoundLink right now. I think both sound quite good, but one can often find a deal on a JAMBOX for around $150, which is half the cost of the Bose. Also, I think the features and software in the JAMBOX (e.g., conferencing) are a bit more advanced that what Bose has today. BTW, do you work for or have any affiliation with Bose?

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 20, 2011 1:43:12 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 20, 2011 2:12:56 AM PDT
Gautam Kene says:
Other than having gone to MIT, I have no relationship to Bose. I bought both the Sonos and Bose. I decided against JamBox because there are several YouTube videos that compare it and the Bose, and the Bose is noticeably better - miles ahead. If you are having an outdoor party, no one is going to be able to hear the JamBox. Sonos does the best audio, but unless you are in range of your home WiFi, it is useless.

So audio quality you have 1) Sonos, 2) Bose, then 3) JamBox. For practicality, you have 1) JamBox, 2) Bose, 3) Sonos. For price, you have 1) JamBox, 2) Bose, 3) Sonos.

I guess it depends on where your priorities are. But given your excellent review, I thought it would be good to make sure people understood that "wireless" on the Sonos only refers to the lack of wires between the base station and the speakers. As you said, Sonos does not make this clear, and if you read the other reviews, others have bought it mistaking it for a wireless Bluetooth speaker, which it is not.

So where you say "speaker system that is wirelessly connected to sources of music," it should read, "speaker system that is wirelessly connected to a central base station, which is physically connected to your WiFi router, with the sources of music connected either physically or through your home WiFi network."

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 22, 2011 10:22:04 PM PDT
Having gone to MIT, I'm sure you're a pretty bright person. So I still don't see why we're even trying to make some sort of comparison here between a system (Sonos), which is obviously designed for home use versus a stand-alone portable unit. It's like comparing apples to oranges. Why even bother? By that logic, you could try to make the same argument with a Bose Lifestyle home system, but I don't think one would do that. BTW, I also own a Bose Lifestyle system, which I've had for a number of years now, so nothing against Bose on my end. Again, I just don't see the value even comparing these two options as they're targeting different needs.

Posted on Nov 3, 2011 7:34:23 AM PDT
I couldn't agree more about the poor Sonos website. I learned more from this post in one minute than I did spending half an hour paging through the Sonsos site.

Posted on Nov 13, 2011 3:13:56 PM PST
Doug Jones says:
This guy knows what he is talking about. The marketing of the Sonos components is very confusing. I already have a bridge for the sonos and still was confused by what components were required to run the Sonos Play 3. Ideally I would like it if you could also have a Bluetooth connection to the Play 3 so you don't have to keep your main component that is hooked into the router on all the time and can just stream from your iPhone. The Jawbone Jambox does this and understand it sounds pretty good.

Posted on Jan 8, 2012 6:40:54 AM PST
Thanks for taking the time to write such a complete review of the Sonos system. Truly appreciate it! It has helped me make a final decision on Sonos 5.

Posted on Feb 1, 2012 12:47:17 PM PST
Thank you so much for that review! You are spot-on -- I am new to this system and could not decipher the marketing mumbo-jumbo. Your review gave me what I needed to know...
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