Wireless multi-room music streaming may sound fairly daunting to a technophobe, but the Play:3 is very simple to set up. If you already have a Sonos system set up, it's a case of plug, pair and play, if not there are just a couple of extra steps to follow. Sonos really has made it incredibly easy.
For such a small speaker, the Play:3 manages to fill a good-sized room with sound, although it's worth thinking carefully about placement as the drop off as you move to the side or back of the unit is quite significant.
Music playback from both a Spotify account and your existing MP3s is very satisfying; the Play:3 handles bass better than we'd expected with just a hint of fuzziness, but its trebles are occasionally a bit tinny, especially at higher volumes.
Inside the Play:3, there are three dedicated amps that work with the three interior speakers; one tweeter, two mid-range drivers and a bass radiator. This means it's lacking one tweeter and one subwoofer driver compared to the Play:5.
So yes, there's a drop in sound quality – compared to the Play:5 you lose a that rich creamy quality to playback.
It's not the speaker for audiophiles who'll notice and hate that slight fuzz, who'll pick up on when distortion is that little bit too distorted and a bit jarring on the ear.
But there is the option to install two Play:3 units in one room for stereo playback, which should round the sound out. We haven't tried it yet, though; we're waiting on a second Play:3 unit to arrive, and will bring you our verdict on this next week.
Because you've got the option to turn the Play:3 on its side and slot it on to a shelf in portrait mode, you might think you're going to get unbalanced playback because the speakers are formatted for landscape – but you'd be wrong; there's an accelerometer inside the casing that detects when its turned on its side and adjusts the playback accordingly. It works really well; you'll notice the music shifting and the sound changing as you turn the speaker, and once its in place, there's minimal difference between the two.
On the software side of things, we're not in love with Sonos' proprietary player; although it has no trouble finding music folders and syncing existing playlists from iTunes and Spotify, the queuing system is a bit clunky and, at times, slow to respond.
However, the free Sonos iPhone app is excellent. Changes made to the volume and playlists are immediately reflected by the speaker and switching between playlists was straightforward.
The only problem we had with the app was with navigation; at times it's easy to get bogged down in a mire of now playing and the existing queue, and a little too difficult to get back to the main home screen.