We’ve come up with all the reasons to choose either the Play 1 or Play 3 in this article.

We compare sound quality, bass response, connection options, and more.

You’ll discover which is the best setup for your home and the one setup you should avoid at all costs.

Entry Level

Sonos Play:1

Entry Level

Specs & Price: See Here

​Fuller Sound

Sonos Play:3

High End Features

Specs & Price: See Here

If you’re in the market for a smart speaker for your home or office, the Sonos Play 1 and Play 3 are a pair of the best options on the market.

At first glance, these two speakers may not seem as though they’re in the same cohort. The Sonos Play 1 and the Play 3 are different sizes and have different functionalities and sound quality. For most people, the question isn’t which Sonos model to buy a single instance of, though.

Most people tend to buy multiple Sonos Play 1s or a single Sonos Play 3. The reason behind this is the surround sound capability of the speakers. In this article, we’ll shed light on which speaker will be better for your needs and tell you what you should think about when comparing the two.  

Bottom Line Upfront

If you’re in a rush, here are the main reasons to purchase one product over the other.

​Sonos Play 1

  • You are planning on purchasing 2 because you want true stereo sound
  • You want the Amazon Echo version with the Alexa voice recognition software built in
  • You just want to check out the system to see what it’s all about (you can purchase additional speakers later)

Sonos Play 3

  • You want deeper bass and a larger frequency range
  • You only want one speaker that will fill the room up with sound
  • You are creating a larger system for your home theater and you need a center speaker

The Play 1 and Play 3 have different strengths, weaknesses, and features, so you’ll want to first figure out which things are most important to you.

Connectivity

Controlling your smart speaker with your phone is essential, and not all smart speakers are created equal. Luckily, both the Play 1 and the Play 3 are fully connectable to your phone and your computer, so you won’t have a problem with either.

Both speakers use wi-fi instead of Bluetooth, which can be a mixed blessing. Wi-fi performs much more stably, but you typically need to be connected to a wireless router to get a consistent signal.

Bluetooth is better for connecting things to your phone without the use of a central hub. For example, you’d need to use a Bluetooth compatible speaker if you wanted to play something directly on your phone while you were going camping or something similar.

This means that the speakers aren’t going to travel very effectively. If you’re still willing to use a lot of your phone’s data plan, you can still make a mobile hotspot and have the speaker connect to it just fine.

Software Compatibility

Likewise, for the software that the speakers are compatible with, the profiles of the speakers are very similar with one exception. The Play 3 we’re discussing doesn’t have the Amazon Alexa software build in, though the Play 1 does have a version with Alexa out of the box.

You can control the Alexa version of your Play 1 speaker with your voice, but you’ll need to use your phone or your computer to control your Play 3. You can easily use Spotify, Pandora, and any other service in the same way.

Another option is to purchase the play 1 and pair it with an Amazon Echo. These make great additional speakers for the echo dot.

Bass

This is where the two speakers start to diverge from each other significantly. The Play 3 has superior quality bass than the Play 1, and it has a much wider dynamic range. For any music that is seriously reliant on bass quality, the Play 1 is likely to sound slightly tinny.

The Play 3 is powerful and thus is great for large spaces that you would like to fill with sound. The Play 1 is plenty powerful too, but it just isn’t as large of a speaker and can’t deliver as much dynamic range as a result.

The Play 3 may be too powerful for enclosed spaces, but you can compensate by changing the mixer settings. Likewise, the Play 1 may not be powerful enough for large spaces, but it’s much harder to compensate for via mixing.

If bass quality is a make or break, the Play 3 is the winner.

Sound Quality

Bass aside, the Play 1 and the Play 3 are comparable when it comes to pure audio quality. Both systems deliver crisp sounds that are competitive with some of the outrageously priced speakers on the market.

When it comes to midrange sound, both speakers perform very favorably. It’s hard to tell which has the edge – it’s possible that they’re equal. One thing which is somewhat of a niche concern is music which has a significant amount of distortion in the mid-range.

This is typically electronic music or ambient music which also relies more on bass than on treble quality.

You’d assume that the Play 3 could handle this kind of music better because of its bass, but the strong bass can overpower the exaggerated mid-range, especially if the midrange is supposed to sound distorted.

You’ll probably have to turn the Play 1 to a higher volume to listen to this music with the highest quality – it’ll be a bit awkward to hear on the Play 3.

Because the Play 3 is so much bigger than the Play 1, its volume maximum is much louder, which is better for entertaining people. Conversely, the Play 1 is probably better for music that rides on vocals because it can capture the treble quality more effectively.

The difficulty in choosing between the two is nearly impossible to resolve in the case of music that requires deep bass tones but also very crisp treble tones like jazz. If you’re a jazz fanatic, the best choice is probably to purchase a pair of Play 1s and one Play 3.

As far as getting directional sound going, you’ll have a much better reproduction with two Play 1s. There’s a lot you can do with multiple speakers that you simply can’t do with one.  The Play 3 is pretty good for being a single speaker, but you’re not about to approach 5.1 surround sound.

Furthermore, the Sonos surround system setup is easy using the control app. You won’t need to struggle or think about where to put each speaker.  

Placement And Setup

Because surround sound is so important to get the most out of the Play 1, placement and setup are critical. 

Both the Play 1 and the Play 3 can be mounted on the wall, so you’ll have a lot of flexibility in positioning both. Where the two diverge is in the orientation of the speaker. Because the Play 3 is only one speaker and is designed to work alone, you can put it on any side and expect it to work.

The Play 1 has one correct orientation, and the sound quality will be very much reduced if you attempt anything different.

Mobility

The Play 1 and Play 3 are both easy to transport, but the Play 1 wins out because it’s much smaller. It’s very easy to transport several Play 1s, whereas one Play 3 may require a lot of playing Tetris with other luggage.

The speakers are both pretty resilient, but the Play 1 edges out the Play 3 in durability because of its cylindrical design. The Play 1 is also slightly moisture resistant, which means it can travel to riskier places than the Play 3 can without worry.

Sonos Play 1 Vs Play 3 Review

Key Features Of The Sonos Play 1

The Sonos Play 1 is a small yet potent speaker that’s very easy to move, setup, and enjoy with a high quality of sound.

The Play 1 is compatible with most of the popular music streaming services and can even connect to record players and other older audio hardware with the Sonos Connect add-on.

The Play 1 is great because it can fit wherever you have space and make you feel like you’re sitting in the recording room. 

The trebles produced by the speaker are distinct and delicate – far more so than the speaker’s bass, which tends to be a little weak. The Play 1 has two amplifiers and two speaker drivers.

The Play 1 is great for people who live in the same house and want the option of playing the same music out of multiple Play 1 speakers at the same time, but also the option to play separate songs on separate speakers. Making use of this functionality will be easy because the speakers are wireless.

The Play 1 is slightly older than the Play 3, but there’s no reason to suspect that Sonos will stop supporting the older speaker’s software. You’ll be able to access the speaker via your phone app or computer very easily.

Pros

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    Great treble sound
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    Small and portable
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    Easy to setup surround sound
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    Has An Amazon Alexa Version
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    Can produce different audio in different rooms

Cons

  • Weak bass
  • Low maximum volume
  • Only one orientation allowed
  • Mediocre wall mounting ability

Key Features Of The Sonos Play 3

The Sonos Play 3 is the Play 1’s larger and newer brother. The Play 3 is a mid-sized wireless speaker that brings a huge and powerful bass sound to the table.

 The Play 3’s ability to produce deep sound blows away the Play 1, as does its ability to produce high volume sounds without distortion.

The Play 3 is a lot bigger than the Play 1, though, so it’s a bit less portable. It’s the perfect speaker for a dinner party, but a bit unwieldy for a picnic.

Like the Play 1, the Play 3 is very easy to setup and connect to your phone or computer. All of the same streaming services that connect to the Play 1 connect to the Play 3.

The Play 3 doesn’t have an audio line in functionality, which is a shame because it’s nearly the perfect speaker for jam sessions. You may be able to mimic line-in functionality with the Sonos Connect add-on if you’re still interested in using the speaker for this purpose.

Finally, the Play 3’s surround sound quality simply isn’t as good as several Play 1s. The Play 3 has three speaker drivers and three amplifiers, but it can’t match geographically separated speakers when it comes to producing directional sound.

If you’re listening to music that’s inherently rich in treble tones, the Play 3 will need a little bit of mixing before the tones shine because the bass can be slightly overwhelming. It’s clear that the ability of the Play 1 to produce delicate sounds is much better than that of the Play 3.

Pros

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    High maximum volume
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    Excellent quality bass
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    Can be set up in multiple orientations
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    Easy wall mounting

Cons

  • Average directional sound capability
  • Heavy
  • Boring aesthetics
  • Can drown out higher treble notes

Wrapping Up

Now that we’ve wrapped up our Play 1 review and our Play 3 review, it’s time to think about how you’re going to use a speaker and where. Regarding versatility and general ability, one Play 1 speaker won’t be enough.

The speaker is plenty loud enough for one room, but you aren’t taking advantage of the system’s strengths by having only one speaker. You should probably purchase a pair of Play 1s if you intend to use the Play 1 system.

If you’re a surround sound buff that can’t enjoy a movie without 5.1 directional audio, purchasing a pair or a few of the Play 1s will be a great place to start; you can easily add on additional speakers when the time comes.

If you wanted to make a killer home theatre, you could even add a Play 3 in so that you’d have powerful bass. But for most people, two Play 1s will be a great setup.

One thing that you probably shouldn’t do is purchase one Play 1 and one Play 3. Doing so leaves you with only one sensible speaker configuration in which the Play 3 is in front of you and the Play 1 is behind you. The differential between the ability of each to make bass will lead to poor quality sound.

It’s better to stick to Play 1s if you want two speakers.

You could easily have one speaker in the kitchen and another in the shower or a bedroom; roommates will have an easy time splitting up music into individual rooms.

The Play 1 isn’t ideal for people that need volume and bass, though. The Play 3 has enough powerful bass to outclass most other medium-sized speakers on the market, and it isn’t even a fair comparison with the Play 1.

Likewise, if you only need your sound in one large room, the Play 3 is a better bet. It takes even less effort than the Play 1 to set up.

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