The Sonos Wireless HiFi system is the latest craze in the audio community, but is it everything it is hyped up to be?
With a few weaknesses in terms of ease of setup, indexing and search capabilities, we're not convinced the Sonos wireless speaker system is the perfect way to organize and enjoy your digital music collection, but after an initial learning curve, it can help you simplify your music life in many ways. It basically gives you a universal remote for your music.
Many a music lover has simply accepted the limitations of using separate music players in different rooms of the house one system is for playing a personal music collection, one for playing radio stations, and one for music services like Pandora, SiriusXM and Spotify. Sometimes you get used to only being able to listen to digital radio in one room of the house and iTunes in another, for instance. The Sonos Wireless HiFi System is designed to help you streamline and simplify by giving you one way to control and play all digital music sources in all rooms of your house.
The Sonos Wireless HiFi System we tested came with a software disk and quick-start guide, an Ethernet cable, power cord and music player in our case the Play:3, meant to offer an ultra compact way to pump sound into the first room you want to integrate. You can choose to add additional Sonos speakers at any point in order to expand the system to other rooms of your house.
If you wish to have the Play:3 in the same room as your router (like an office or computer room), simply plug in the power for the Play:3 and connect the provided Ethernet cable from the Play:3 to your router. An onboard light will flash on the Play:3, right next to the onboard volume and mute controls.
As for installing the software, you will be required to press and hold the Volume + and Mute buttons simultaneously on the Play:3, while the status bar is loading. This connects the Play:3 to your computer and opens up a setup assistant. You ll then get a screen that confirms connection and lets you select a name for your speaker from a list, so you know which one is where bedroom, kitchen, etc. Next is an option for adding an additional Sonos component and then registration instructions.
When you click Done, a Sonos desktop controller window will automatically open. Then you have to give permission to the Sonos devices to link to your network and the indexing of your library can begin. We thought the indexing process took far too long and lacked the appropriate space for true music lovers. The Sonos indexing limit is about 80GB of music.
Connecting speakers in other rooms will require another Sonos component called the Bridge. This wireless setup is similar to setting up the Play:3.
The $50 Bridge is slightly larger than a second-gen Apple TV, and its purpose is similar; it transmits your tunes wirelessly to the Play:3 speaker boxes located throughout your home. It is vitally important that you follow the set-up steps in order. When we tested the system, we had to disconnect and reload the initial Play:3 (this time in the bedroom) and synchronize again after we loaded the Bridge in order to get it all working (and uninstall and reload the app, too). This was a bit annoying not difficult, but annoying.
Setting up the second Play:3 was a cinch, and soon we were independently controlling the speakers from the computer room. We could make the bathroom louder than the bedroom, or vice-versa, or mute one while the other continued to play. You can also lower the volume or mute them both as a group.
There s nothing stopping you from putting two Play:3 units in a single room, and even panning one of them left and the other right to fill a larger space.
The Play:3 is small but strangely powerful compared to what you might expect. Our testing revealed that the bass isn t too bad for a single speaker. It hits pretty well, and the sound is clean, if a bit flat. The treble is easier to pick out in the single speaker.
This system was more difficult than it should have been to set up; we weren't able to complete the configuration with an iPhone. Indexing the music takes too long and limits you to about 80GB of music. We also were disappointed that you cannot search by track, only artist. Hooking up an extra speaker involved re-indexing our music library pretty inconvenient. But the Sonos Wireless HiFi System does do what it is made to do streamline your music collection. You will be able to access and control radio stations, music services and your personal collections all in one spot, from your computer or phone. That is music to our ears.