Launches & Lunches – Sonos Play:3

Sonos launched its new Play:3 music system in Auckland today, just a week after its international debut.
As you would expect, there was much less razzamatazz to the local launch, but really, who needs the glitter and glam? Instead, NZ’s Sonos representative, Jason Lake, hired out a suite in the SKYCITY Grand hotel for two days, and rather than a group cluster with champagne and canapies, a more serious approach was taken: each journalist was given a one-on-one briefing, and shown how the Play:3 system can work in all areas of a home environment, from the lounge to the kitchen, and into the bedroom and bathroom.
A slight recap: Sonos is a company that can justifiably claim to have been a digital innovator. The company was amongst the first to create a system of networked music players linked throughout a house.
Like certain other “lifestyle”-oriented brands, Sonos gear – since the company’s inception in 2003 – has always been strong on design aesthetic, and fitting in with living décor. Until now, however, its technology has been ahead of the game for most consumers, and therefore has pretty much appealed only to early adopters.
Technology has now caught up a little, which should be to the company’s advantage, because its all about wirelessly streaming audio content via Android smartphone, iPhone or iPad straight to the Play:3 speakers.
What separates the Play:3 from many of its competitors is the Apple-like clear-thinking behind its design and application – and oh, its applications – as well as the construction and audio quality.
We hope to fully review the Play:3 at a later date, but here’s a basic rundown. You need a Sonos Bridge ($129), which connects to your wireless router before you can use the gear. You download the software application to your iPad, where you can control your whole music collection – unlike some proprietary systems, there’s no problem accessing iTunes. It will also allow you to tune in and listen to literally thousands of internet radio stations around the world, or to Apple Cloud collections. So, you’ve got an iPad (or iPhone or Android phone) to use as a remote control, and then you can have multiple Play:3 speakers throughout your home. Through the remote (or remotes plural) you can tell each speaker in the house to play a different selection.
The speaker itself, as you can see from the photos, is just big enough to pack a decent sonic punch. There’s a terrific amount of bass in these relatively diminutive wedges, with three dedicated D-Class amps and a ported behind. What I really liked (apart from the really very impressive sound) was the rubbery surrounds, which make it easy to turn the speaker over on its side, if you prefer it like that. The speakers then have the ability to reconfigure the sound to suit. The Play:3 costs $699.
Just a couple of years back, I would have been skeptical about a system like this working seamlessly in the backblocks of NZ, with its famously lagging broadband speeds. But it’s clear that we’ve reached a point where we can rely on our technology infrastructure enough to enable these fabulous “lifestyle” systems.
While this music fan mostly prefers the old-fashioned way of listening – the “sweet spot” between a couple of large floorstanding speakers – I can see the usefulness of something like the Play:3. And to be honest, the sound and the convenience and the sheer cleverness of this technology, together with its fairly affordable price bracket, make it seem like a very sweet deal. GARY STEEL

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