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Review: Sonos PLAY:3 Rocks Some Serious Bass

If you’ve got more dough to spare and a little more space, the SONOS PLAY:3 might be worth the trip downtown. But read this in-depth review first!

Build Quality and Design

Clean and simple, this is made to save you precious desk space even in your bedroom, but packs a serious rig. Namely, one tweeter and two mid-bass range drivers muscled by a trinity of Class-D Amplifiers!

Unlike the PLAY:1, there’re no indication here that its humidity-proof, so I wouldn’t risk installing it by the pool. But it will fit into most nooks and crannies because the PLAY:3 can be placed flat or upright, taking up just a teeny bit more space than the PLAY:1s. You can pick it in either Black or White, two very safe colours for most home interiors!

sonos-play3-front
Image taken by: Aaron T.

 

Who needs a remote control these days? Apparently that’s what Sonos thought when they didn’t pack one in. You’re pretty much reliant on the Sonos App (iOS/Android/PC/Mac) for all your controls. The mobile app is pretty zippy but someone forgot to bring the desktop Sonos App into the 2010s!

Phone’s charging in the bedroom? You can still activate your last playlist and control the volume. Like the PLAY:1, the speaker has three buttons for volume and music controls.

sonos-blk-play3
Image courtesy: Sonos

As with the PLAY:1s, you can buy one more for a stereo config, or step it up with a Sonos PlayBar and Sonos:SUB for a full home theatre! Why? The better to binge on Netflix with, my dear!

My only complaint about the design? It looks rather plain and edgy unlike the sleek, rounded-edge design mode of the PLAY:1 and PLAY:5.

Performance and Features

Features

The PLAY:3 connected well with my network without a hitch. It’s not Dual-Band capable so you’ll need to ensure your phone’s on the 2.4ghz network! Likewise my bedroom repeater was able to pick it up as well. Playing music in two different rooms meant I won’t have to raise the volume to make my speaker heard everywhere.

Like all current Sonos speakers, the PLAY:3 supports TruePlay tuning to optimise its sound according to your room’s acoustics. It’s a nice feature that uses your iPhone’s mic to sense the way sound bounces about in your room. So that it sounds more like showroom-quality! Notice I said iPhone? That’s because this feature is not supported on Android phones!

sonosapp
Sonos Mobile App. Image Captured By: Aaron T.

Once everything’s set up, the App pretty much becomes your main control interface. The Sonos App encourages you to explore the many music services that Sonos supports like Apple Music, Tidal or Amazon Music. Or if you’re a radio-head, thousands of internet radio stations in TunedIn Radio should leave you well satisfied. Like, having a year’s supply of Nutella.

sonosdesktop
Notice how different it looks from the mobile app. Image Captured By: Aaron T.

Don’t like the App? If you’re a Spotify subscriber, you can stream directly to the PLAY:3 from within the Spotify App!

Sadly, the user-experience is not entirely seamless. My life’s music collection is stored in my NAS file directory, but it didn’t detect it automatically. So I had to download the Sonos App on my Mac and manually point it out. This is probably the only annoying thing about it because other brands detect it without any intervention from me. Once that’s done, I had no issues playing standard MP3s or Hi-Res files. Load times were real zippy as well!

Sound Quality

Remember I said that it’s rigged with 2 mid-bass drivers? That means it will have a deeper and relaxed bass extension as compared to the smaller PLAY:1. At least on paper, anyway. You might even think it’s stereo! So I did an audio test and here’s what I discovered.

Now for its size, it sounded really impressive. It hits all the right spots as far as bass, mids and highs are concerned. Overall it sounded balanced and the bass did not sound bloated at all, nor were the highs too shrill. Definitely the handiwork of TruePlay tuning! It may not be much louder than the PLAY:1, but it’s hard to imagine that it’s only a little bit bigger.

When playing music like ‘Waiting on the world to change’ from John Mayer, my room was soaked in rich and bouncy bass that got my fingers tapping. His vocals were slightly brightened up but never got too fizzy. Percussions had great pace and just the right tinge of much needed air.

For a speaker with three drivers side by side, most might think it will provide stereo separation. No, it didn’t do that for me when I was playing ‘I’m in the mood for love’, one of my faves in the Persuasive Percussions album. It did sound quite spacious like in an actual chamber though, and I liked the clarity.

You will get great stereo separation if you paired two PLAY:3s together. Music will sound much more relaxed with a killer of a soundstage – even with complex and intensive arrangements. In short, it sounds more like a HiFi System.
Its audio benefits outweigh its shortcomings, but I miss playing audio from other sources like YouTube or Netflix. With no connectivity options, the PLAY:3 will only take audio from the App or your NAS server. There’s not even an audio jack!

sonos-rear-play3
Image Courtesy: expert reviews.co.uk

Price

Other WiFi speaker brands don’t support Apple Music or most services found in the Sonos App. Also, the PLAY:3 is the only one in its category that can optimise its sound to fit the room it’s placed in. End-2017, voice-assistant support is also coming to the PLAY:3 to better position it as a great IoT product. However, products like the Oppo Sonica has stereo separation and better sound staging as a standalone. I also prefer having more ways to play my media that may not be music all the time. Against something similar in size, features and performance, the S$559 Sonos PLAY: 3 is moderately good value.

Conclusion

Being sandwiched in the middle In terms of price point, the PLAY:3 is like that unfortunate middle child. The smallest gets the most attention while the largest is the flagship. But therein lies its special niche! I will recommend it to those who wants something closer to the PLAY:5 in performance but a size and price point closer to PLAY:1. Compared to rivals from other brands, the PLAY:3, with its decent sound and large array of streaming services) will satisfy our curious adventurer who loves going where no music lover has gone before.

So here’s the final tally:

Build Quality and Design (Wireless Speakers)

  • Pros: Clean and simple design that’s only a bit bigger than the PLAY:1. Densely packed with powerful drivers and electronics. Can be placed upright or sideways. 3-button volume and music controls. Has a nice App (iOS/Android/Mac/PC) that takes care of all controls and music streaming. Can be set up in stereo or as part of a 5.1 Channel Home Theatre. Two different colours to choose from.
  • Cons: Desktop App looks very dated. Speaker does not sport the same sleek organic design as the PLAY:1 or PLAY:5.

Score: 7/9 (25.9%)

Performance and Features

  • Pros: Connects easily to my WiFi Network, even for another PLAY:3 connected to my repeater. TruePlay tuning achieved best possible sound settings in my room’s unique acoustics. Sonos App quickly loads up music services and songs from NAS drive, and contains many more music streaming services to explore than other brands. Recognises different file formats, both regular and Hi-Res. Loud and effortless sound output despite its small size. Deep and relaxed bass extension, loud and clear mids and bright highs. Output in stereo has more relaxed sound with great staging, even with more complex arrangements.
  • Cons: Does not detect NAS music server automatically. Will not output in stereo as a standalone. No other connectivity options except for the App. TruePlay tuning only works for iPhones.

Score: 8/12 (22.22%)

Price

The S$559 Sonos PLAY:3 is priced against the Bose SoundTouch 20 III (S$699) and OPPO Sonia ($499). Both have more connectivity options as the PLAY:3 but they both support only a fraction of the music services that the PLAY:3 can stream directly from. Hence I will rate the PLAY:3 as average value for money.

Score: 3/5 (19.98%)

Final Score: 6.8/10

Aaron. T.
Aaron's dream is to meet the celestial man in the sky who blessed him with huge ears, and shake his hand with a big smile. His typical day is split between getting Rekt on Battlefield 1 and making exciting YouTube reviews at www.youtube.com/loudwirelesssingapore

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