Sonos, the high end digital music system, continues to lower its entry price with the release today of the Play:3, which packs a high-quality set of speakers with the electronics necessary to stream music from your PC or the Web.
At $299 each, the Play:3 still isn't exactly cheap, but it is a major step towards affordability for a system that used to cost at least $1000. While you can run just one Play:3 (as long as you connect it directly to your router), to get the full benefits of the Sonos system, you'll want at least two.
That will allow you to use Sonos's killer feature, the ability to play the same music in sync in different rooms of your house. A couple other qualities that set Sonos apart: You don't need to keep your computer on for the system to access streaming music services. And Sonos components automatically create a mesh network to communicate among themselves. That network is frequently more reliable than your home's Wi-Fi network.
In addition to playing music stored on a PC or Mac, Sonos hooks into a large number of Web streaming services, including Rhapsody, Napster, Pandora and, most recently, Spotify.
The Play:3 is a trapezoidal device that would fit into a shoebox with plenty of room to spare. It contains three amplifiers and drivers, two fewer than Sonos's first self-contained device, the $399 Play:5 (formerly known as the S5).
In the brief opportunity i had to listen to both, I felt I could hear a difference. The Play:3's sound felt a little less detailed than that of the Play:5, as you might expect. But the sound was still full, crisp and loud if you pushed it. Make no mistake: Sonos knows how to engineer speakers.
The Play:3 weighs a bit less than the Play:5, but its the new device's smaller size that opens up some new possibilities. Because its a little over half the height of the Play:5, it will be much less dominating on a living room side table (that's helpful because the design, while not ugly, isn't necessarily what you want to make a centerpiece of your room).
The Play:3 has a threaded hole on the back which lets you mount it on the wall or in the corner of a room.
One nifty feature of the Play:3: You can set it horizontally or vertically without affecting the sound. A component within the device detects its orientation and changes the equalization of the speakers to accommodate the position.
The Play:3 is available immediately and we should have a review unit soon, so stay tuned for my impressions after I've had more of a chance to listen.
This story, "Sonos Releases Smaller, Cheaper All-in-One Sound System" was originally published by PCWorld.