Sonos Play:1 vs. Play:3: Comparing Sound Quality, Value & Design

Cam Secore
Updated 07/19/2018

sonos play 1 vs play 3

After a month of testing, I determined Sonos Play:1 is the best Sonos speaker because of its better portability and sound quality compared to Play:3. Sonos Play:3 is a fine speaker and you’ll enjoy it, but it’s outdated and overpriced.

I’ll compare and contrast two Sonos speakers (Sonos Play:1 vs. Sonos Play:3) by evaluating four categories: sound quality, design, price, and other notes.

Sonos Play:1 & One

10
  • Sound Quality: It has two Class-D amplifiers and custom-built drivers. The bass is deeper than you’d expect from a small speaker and it has more depth than Play:3. Play:1 stays consistently crisp at all volume levels and has brilliant sound for its size.
  • Design: They’re four pounds, easily transportable and unobtrusive.
  • Price: Play:1 is $150. Sonos One is $200.
  • Note: Sonos One sounds the same as Play:1, but it has a better design, Alexa powers and works with AirPlay.
  • Note: They’re humidity-resistant, so you can keep them in your bathroom.

Best for you if...

You want the best sound and portability. Play:1 and One are just four pounds and sound terrific. Should you go with Play:1 or One? Sonos One feels like it’s in beta because Alexa isn’t fully baked, but it’s still worth $50 more than Play:1 because it works with AirPlay 2, has a nicer design, and Alexa will improve with software updates. Two together will overpower one Play:3.

Sonos Play:3

7
  • Sound Quality: It has three Class-D amplifiers and three custom-built drivers. It has a bit more bass and volume than Play:1, but the sound quality isn’t as good. The sound on Play:3 gets distorted at the higher volume levels.
  • Design: It weighs eight pounds and can stand tall or lie horizontally.
  • Price: Play:3 is $250 on Amazon.
  • Note: It hasn’t been updated since 2011 and probably should be cut from the lineup because it’s overpriced and has no place.
  • Note: It can sit on a stand or be mounted to a wall.

Best for you if...

You want an overpriced, ugly speaker with great sound quality. Play:3 can get louder than Play:1 and has more bass, but Play:1 sounds better overall and has more depth. If you’re looking for a better music-listening experience, go with Play:5. Play:5 is three times heavier than Play:1 but with the extra weight comes a ton of extra power. It’s the best sounding speaker in the $500 range.

 

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two sonos play 1 or one play 3

Sonos Play:1 & One

10

Sound Quality:

  • Sonos One & Sonos Play:1 sound solid when used independently, but you can use multiple speakers for surround-sound, too.
  • The bass is much deeper than I expected for a small speaker. And surprisingly, the sound on One has more depth than Play:3.

Design:

  • Sonos Play:1 looks solid and has physical buttons on the top.
  • Sonos One looks similar to Play:1, but the design was improved slightly. There are no physical buttons and the all-black color is gorgeous. The only downside to the Sonos One design is that it isn’t wall mountable.
  • Both weigh four pounds, making them easily transportable.

Other Notes:

  • They’re humidity resistant, so you can keep them in your bathroom.
  • Sonos One sounds the same as Play:1 and is the same internally. The difference is that One has built-in Alexa (with Google Assistant coming soon). There are a few issues with Alexa:
    • Alexa doesn’t work with a multi-room setup with other Sonos speakers. Apple Music doesn’t work natively. These are annoying constraints, but they’ll be fixed via software updates.
    • The Amazon setup process is tedious.
    • It’s hard to see if it’s is listening because it’s only signified by a tiny white light.

Sonos Play:3

7

Sound Quality:

  • It has three Class-D amplifiers and three custom-built drivers (compared to the Play:1’s two drivers). It has a bit more bass than Play:1.
  • While Play:3 gets louder than Play:1, the quality of the sound isn’t up to par with the Sonos One and Play:1, while Play:1 is $100 cheaper. You’re better off with a Play:5 or a pair of Play:1’s.
  • It sounds great overall, though it’s no match for the Play:5.

Design:

  • It’s not as aesthetically pleasing as Play:1, One, and Play:5 due to its strange shape and multiple colors.
  • It weighs eight pounds and has control buttons on the top.

Other Notes:

  • Play:3 can be used as a standalone speaker or as part of your surround-sound setup with the Playbar.
  • It hasn’t been updated since 2011 and probably should be cut from the lineup.
  • It can sit on a stand or be mounted to a wall.
  • It can sit horizontally or vertically and will optimize the sound as you change (stereo sound for horizontal, mono sound when vertical).

all my sonos

Similarities: Sonos One, Play:1, Play:3

  • Sonos doesn’t use Bluetooth. It runs off of your WiFi. Why is that a good thing?
    1. Bluetooth has a limited range; as soon as your phone is out of range, the music stops playing. With Sonos, on the other hand, as long as your speaker is in the range of WiFi (much broader range than Bluetooth) you’re all set.
    2. WiFi provides better sound quality. The audio is not compressed.
    3. The music will keep playing if your phone rings.
    4. More than one person can control the music at once (multiple devices can be in control simultaneously).
    5. Connecting to a Bluetooth speaker can be cumbersome, but Sonos only requires a one-time setup.
    6. Sonos speakers stream the music directly, so you don’t drain your phone’s battery.
  • All of the major streaming services are available within the Sonos app, including Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music, Google Play Music, Amazon Music Unlimited, Last.FM, iHeartRadio, SiriusXM, SoundCloud, and Tidal. Moreover, you can play music stored locally on your phone. Once someone signs into their Spotify account (or another service), everyone on the network has access to it. For example, one of my roommates pays for Spotify, the other has Google, and I use Apple Music. With the Sonos app, each of us has access to all three services.
  • Anyone with the app (who’s on the network) can add songs to the queue, which is my favorite feature. It’s brilliant for parties or when hanging out with friends. You can add songs from any of the streaming services.
  • You can buy as many Sonos speakers as you want and sync them. It’s also easy to disconnect if you want to run them separately. In theory, if all your friends brought over their Play:5s, you could arrange it so that they’re all playing from the same queue. I started with just one Sonos Playbar, but now I have four speakers and a subwoofer.
  • The speakers don’t have to be in the same room to work together simultaneously. You get a complete multi-room, surround-sound experience.
  • Sonos calibrates the speakers using Trueplay. During the setup, your speaker will play random sounds while you wave around your phone’s mic. The speaker analyzes your room’s acoustics and speaker positioning. Trueplay takes into account the size and shape of your room and adjusts the sound to match perfectly.
  • Sonos’ customer support is incredible. You can send a diagnostic report straight from your phone, and they’ll know exactly how to fix the problem.
  • The app is frequently updated with new features. The speaker firmware is also updated through the app.
  • It works with Spotify Connect, which is beneficial if you prefer to play music through the Spotify app rather than the Sonos app.
  • AirPlay 2 will be supported when Apple releases it in 2018.
  • Sonos speakers work with Amazon Echo without a cord. Once you have everything configured, just say “Alexa, play [artist] on [Sonos speaker name]” and you’ll be jamming in whatever room you asked it to play in.
  • No details were overlooked. For example, with the Play:5, Sonos made the box a carrying case with locking latches. Apple set the standard for product design and packaging, but Sonos is right there with them.
  • Anyone on the same WiFi network has access to the song queue, which is great most of the time. But there’s always that guy who decides to put a song in the queue no one wants. I’d like to see Sonos implement “admin access” for one person and give them control of who can contribute to the queue.
  • Sonos doesn’t have remotes. Everything is run through the app, and that’s kind of the whole point. I don’t need a remote but some people might.
  • Play:1s and Play:3s need to be connected to WiFi at all times because there are no 3.5mm in ports.