Technology Review: SONOS Play:1 Wireless HiFi with Bridge

All week as part of ARIA Week celebrations in Sydney, SONOS have been giving away Play:1 Wireless HiFi systems. We were lucky enough to get our hands on one last week, which now sits comfortably indeed at AU HQ and thought we’d bring you our thoughts!

Over the years we at the AU have enjoyed our fair share of speaker systems, and have rarely been wholly impressed by the power of the speaker – related to its size – nor the WiFi capabilities (often disguised as mediocre Bluetooth connectivity), with the exception of some of the more portable units (which this is not, in spite of its size – it’s as heavy as a brick!). With this in mind, it’s of my personal opinion that the new SONOS Play:1 speakers are some of the finest we’ve come across, even when comparing to more expensive ranges.

Setting them up does take some time, as with most WiFi speakers, though this effort is more than worth it. If you buy the speaker by itself, you have the ability to plug it straight into a router and connect to your computer wirelessly, however if you buy the SONOS Bridge you connect THAT to the router and then you’re able to position the speaker wherever you’d like.

Our speaker was quite close to the Bridge so I can’t speak for great distances, however this was the first wireless speaker that I’ve come across that hasn’t dealt with interruption from other wireless networks in the area; and we have a lot going on at AU HQ. I figure much of this is due to different sorts of technologies being in play in Australia than in the product’s country of origin. Or maybe we’ve just had poor routers in the past. All the same, we have seen no interruptions here and there’s something to be said for that.

The system interplays with a branded program you install in your computer. Much like using iTunes for the first time, it takes a while to get your library on there – and it’s in this respect the system suffers its main flaw. I have to create new playlists and spend hours re-connecting my hundreds of GBs of music to the new system (i’m probably an exception in size though). It would be a lot easier with an iTunes plugin, or an ability to play straight out of existing apps. I can only imagine that’s forthcoming long term…

This is more than made up for, however, by the program’s integration with the TuneIn digital radio program, as well as apps like Deezer. It allows you to seemlessly connect to almost any digital station in the world, and services like Deezer allow you to play just about any song in the universe! And it’s here where we find one of our favourite features of the system.

Once you’ve connected it once to a digital station, if you leave the speaker plugged in it will remember this and continue to play it every time you press play on the unit, even if your computer isn’t in use. In some respects this makes the unit a fairly high powered digital radio, but without the necessity for all the bits and pieces that keep digital radios from being the powerful unit that Play:1 is.

And that’s the other thing. This is a unit small in size, but powerful in nature. It’s heavier than you expect it to be (I related it to a brick earlier…), with a powerful 3.5-inch woofer within to ensure you get some perfect yet powerful sound, especially impressive given its size. Indeed, it can get LOUD if you want it to, and the power of the above means that no matter the volume you’re going to enjoy sound largely uninterrupted in terms of quality.

The only real trouble now is just having the one speaker. We’re interested to see how the system works when multiple speakers sit on the same network in the same room. From our experiences so far, we reckon this would work well, and from our research online it seems to suggest most agree, though owning the Bridge unit would be essential in this. The SONOS program makes it easy to add more components to your system, so they certainly encourage bulk purchases.

There’s no doubt a lot we still have to learn about our new toys; perhaps its powers and abilities haven’t been quite realised, especially sitting solo. But the fact is that we have not stopped using the unit since we received it. Stand out sound quality, a great size and fantastic features that will no doubt only improve as time goes on and new applications are integrated with the unit. Oh and the price, at AU$299, is great value for what you get, though no doubt some may scoff at that price for a single speaker – however, keep in mind most retailers are offering a bundle deal with the Bridge, which retails at AU$75, until the end of the year.

This said, it’s not long ago where something of this quality would have set us back double this – at least! Even SONOS’ own Play:5 unit is of comparable quality, despite being double the price. Great sound is now attainable in a small size and at a reasonable price, and it seems that SONOS are leading that push. But be warned: good sound is addictive.


With the release of a major software update, Sonos 5.1, customers can set up and run SONOS on their own existing WiFi network. From now on, a wired connection to the router or a SONOS BRIDGE is no longer required.

The Bridge will still be available for those users who have limited or unreliable WiFi connectivity, and the SONOS 3.1 and 5.1 home theater setups still require a wired connection. The standalone PLAYBAR, however, is exempt from this.

Larry Heath

Founding Editor and Publisher of the AU review. Currently based in Toronto, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter @larry_heath or on Instagram @larryheath.