Sonos' wireless music system is excellent but the company's portfolio has changed significantly since the Play:3 was first introduced in 2011.

When the Sonos Play:3 arrived, the cheapest component available in the Sonos system was the old Play:5. Eight years on and the Play:3 is no longer available through Sonos, though you can still pick it up elsewhere, and newer speakers have been introduced, not only in the refreshed Play:5, but also in the smart Sonos One and portable Sonos Move.

With so much choice out there, not just from within the Sonos system itself, but from competitors too, is the Play:3 still worth considering if you can get your hands on one? Here's our review.

Design

  • 132 x 268 x 160mm
  • Black or white
  • Horizontal or vertical orientation

The Sonos Play:3 sits in the middle of the Sonos portfolio in terms of size, around where the Sonos Move is. It is around the same size as a child's shoebox, and around half the size of the Play:5, but larger than the Sonos One and Sonos One SL. Available in black or white colour options, like most of the Sonos portfolio, the Play:3 can be positioned vertically or horizontally.

An accelerometer automatically knows the orientation of the speaker and adjusts the sound accordingly, like the Sonos Play:5 does. Sadly the logo isn't as cleverly designed on the Play:3 as it is on the 2015 Play:5 so it looks better when horizontal.

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The sides and top of the Play:3 taper downwards towards the back, with the physical controls are positioned on top of the device. We say controls, but these controls consist of volume up and down, and a mute button, and nothing more, which is similar to the Play:1 but the Play:1 switches the mute button for a Play/Pause button.

More recent Sonos speakers opt for capacitive controls, allowing for a more streamlined design, but all are controlled via the Sonos app, available for iOS, Android, Mac or PC - which we will talk about in more detail in a minute.

Around the back of the Play:3, you'll find power and Ethernet sockets. The Sonos Play:3 requires constant power, much like the rest of the Sonos portfolio, except the Sonos Move, which is battery powered. When the Play:3 first launched, you needed a Sonos Bridge to connect it to your router wirelessly, but this is no longer the case. The Ethernet port might be required when you first set the Play:3 up but you will then be able to move it wherever you like in your home. 

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Set-up is very easy too. Plug the Play:3 in, create an account, and you're off - as long as you have a Wi-Fi connection. The Sonos app will guide you through the setup process step-by-step and you'll be able to perform software features like Trueplay, which will allow you to easily tune the Play:3 to its surroundings using the microphone on an iOS device.

The Sonos system is compatible with over 100 music services, from Apple Music and Spotify to lesser known options (you'll need accounts for each) and you'll also be able to connect a NAS drive, as well as play music from your smartphone, tablet or computer.

Control through the Sonos app

  • Group speakers
  • Search music services
  • Change EQ settings 

As mentioned, Sonos speakers are controlled through the Sonos app, which is available for iOS and Android smartphones, as well as PC and Macs. You can read our Sonos tips and tricks feature to find out everything you can do with the Sonos app, but there are multiple features available, not just searching for the song you want and sending it to your Play:3. 

Within the Sonos app, you'll be able to group the Play:3 with any other Sonos speakers you have, allowing you to play the same music in multiple rooms simultaneously. You can also choose to have different music in different rooms, if you have more than one Sonos speaker.

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The app also allows you to search across all your music streaming services in one place, and you can search via artist, song, album, playlist, station etc, making accessing what you want to listen to super easy. It's also possible to adjust EQ levels, change room names for the Sonos speakers you have setup and you can access Trueplay from the app too, in case you chose not to tune your speaker at setup.

For those lucky enough to have Sonos home theatre products - such as the Sonos Beam or Sonos Playbar and a Sonos Sub - along with two Play:3 speakers for example, you can set the Play:3 speakers up as surrounds in the Sonos app.

Voice control is available on the Sonos Play:3 too, but it isn't integrated like it is on the Sonos One, Sonos Beam or Sonos Move. If you have any of these three speakers, you can setup Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant in the Sonos app and then use them to control your Play:3, otherwise you'll need a Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant compatible device, like the Amazon Echo Dot or Google Home Mini to control the Play:3 using your voice.

Performance

  • One tweeter
  • Two mid-range drivers
  • One bass radiator

The Sonos Play:3 features three integrated speakers - one tweeter, two mid-range drivers, and one bass radiator. Each driver of the product is individually powered by a dedicated amplifier that blast out of the front of the unit. We play numerous different tracks and we've used the Play:3 to supply the music in our office (around 20 square metres) for years. It's also spent time in our kitchen - which is larger than our office - and it's handled both situations without a problem. 

Tracks we've played over the years have included everything from the Tron Legacy soundtrack to Dave Matthews Band to Nirvana to Foo Fighters as well as Hans Zimmer, Thomas Newton and a stack of other artists too. In a nutshell, we've been using this as our main music provider. In all cases the music sounds great.

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It's not as punchy as the Play:5, but it has been more than enough to fill our rooms with music, and without getting anywhere near the high volume levels. You'll find the Sonos Move almost comparable in terms of sound performance, though the Play:3 deals with the mid-range better. The Play:3 is also better than the Sonos One and Play:1 speakers, though this isn't surprising given both these devices are smaller.

The Play:3 happily copes with the high vocals in songs like Smells Like Teen Spirit for example while still coping with the low bass, as many of the Sonos speakers manage.

Like all Sonos speakers, two Play:3 speakers can be paired together to get true stereo sound too. This isn't just a case of the music you play being louder, but the speakers take dedicated sides - left and right. Something like Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon sounds really good when you have stereo sound set up. 

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There's one catch though - to stereo pair Sonos speakers, they have to be the same speaker so you can't mix and match Play:3 and a Sonos One together to achieve the same effect for example. It has to be two Play:3s, or two Play:5s. The only mixing and matching you can do is between the Sonos One and the Sonos One SL.

Verdict

The Sonos Play:3 is not widely available these days (we can only find it second hand), and it has been replaced by more appealing speakers within the Sonos portfolio, but it's still a great sounding speaker.

As with all Sonos speakers, the Play:3 offers easy setup, plenty of features from stereo pairing and Trueplay tuning, to voice control with a compatible Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant device.

Is the Play:3 worth buying if you can get hold of it? If you don't mind the slightly older design, then yes, because it still sounds great Sonos is always updating its speakers with software updates, constantly improving them years after they are released. Eight years on, we still use the Play:3 and we still love it.

It is worth considering the other Sonos speakers available though - such as the Beam that also sounds great but improves your TV sound too, or the Sonos Move which is around the same size as the Sonos Play:3 but portable with Bluetooth connectivity.

This review was first published in July 2011 and has been updated to reflect the current market.

Also consider

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Sonos Move

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The Sonos Move is a little more expensive than the Sonos Play:3 but it brings water resistance, a great sound quality, portability and Bluetooth audio. You can't use two Sonos Move as surrounds though so if you're considering the Play:3 to boost your TV sound, the Sonos Move isn't for you.

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Sonos Beam

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The Sonos Beam is a compact soundbar but it doubles up as a speaker, functioning exactly like other Sonos speakers, but offering TV connection too. It's a two-in-one device really, whilst also offering AirPlay 2 and built-in voice control.

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Sonos One SL

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The Sonos One SL is the same as the Sonos One smart speaker but it ditches built in voice control. It is smaller than the Play:3 so it doesn't deliver quite the same sound performance, but it is cheaper too and two Sonos One SL speakers can be combined as rear surrounds.