The way we listen to our music at home has evolved over the years. Alongside innovations in streaming services and travel-friendly portable devices, the multi-room wireless speaker industry is ever-developing to meet customer demand.
Two such products designed in response to this are the Play:1 by Sonos, and the Soundtouch 10 by Bose. Both items offer an affordable and convenient music player for your home, with the option to add further speakers in other rooms to create a richer listening experience.
But despite their fundamental similarities, both items have strengths and flaws that could make either ideal or unsuitable depending on your needs. Here we will be looking at what distinguishes each product, how they measure up against each other and ultimately determine which one is right for you.
Both the Sonos Play:1 and the Bose Soundtouch 10 are compact pieces of gear, designed for aesthetic appeal and offering far more than their diminutive size would suggest.
The Play:1 is the smallest and cheapest speaker in the Sonos range, offering an affordable yet sleekly designed multi-room option. The plastic top and bottom serve mainly as functional bookends to the thick one-piece metal grille that curves smoothly around the centre. This gives the Play:1 the same visual appeal as its more expensive siblings in the Sonos range.
Standing at a modest 16cm tall, the Play:1 will fit snugly in most places. This makes it ideal for placing on a bookshelf, the corner of a desk, or even left somewhere convenient in the kitchen. Its timeless and robust design will suit most homes, and it packs the kind of weight that lets you know you own a high-quality piece of kit. The Play:1 also comes in black or white, allowing you to pick the one that suits you best.
The Bose Soundtouch 10 is a Sonos alternative that carries certain similarities to the Play:1 in its design. It too comes in black or white, and whilst it is marginally larger than the Play:1 it is still certainly compact enough to fit in your living space. It is also narrower than the Play:1, allowing you to place it wherever you like.
This classic design may be very functional but it fails to capture the visual appeal of the Play:1. It is worth remembering, however, that this is a music player and its appearance should not be given undue or excessive importance.
It is here that we start to see how the Play:1 and Soundtouch 10 really differ. While both are fundamentally music speakers, the different features they offer may be what influences your decision to purchase one over the other.
The Sonos Play:1 is simple to set up and sports an easy-to-use app that allows you to connect and stream music through services such as Spotify, Soundcloud and Napster, as well as the content stored on your phone and computer. Notably, however, there is no iTunes Radio or Airplay streaming option. Neither is there an official Sonos Windows Phone app, effectively meaning that owners of Windows phones have their options severely limited with the Play:1.
There is likewise no aux input or even a Bluetooth connectivity option, with all streaming being done via the internal Play:1 wifi system that devices will connect to. This means that an internet connection is constantly needed to make use of the speaker, which obviously may be an issue if your internet service provider is not the most reliable or you live in an area with poor signal. You can purchase a Sonos Boost to remedy signal problems but this is a pricey solution to an already pricey speaker.
For those happy to fully embrace wireless streaming, however, the Play:1 offers a simple yet beautifully effective hardware setup. There is only an Ethernet socket, play/pause button, and volume rocker, making this a streamlined listening experience. The Play:1 and Sonos speaker range has a wide selection of Sonos accessories available from different suppliers and manufacturers.
The Bose Soundtouch 10, meanwhile, likewise offers wifi connectivity but supports only Spotify, Deezer and internet radio. However, with its Bluetooth functionality, it can be used to, connect various audio sources as long as the streaming device stays within range. It also thankfully has a 3.5mm input which makes more traditional connectivity possible.
Additionally, there are control buttons on the speaker along with a remote control which makes interacting with the Soundtouch 10 simple and easy. This is combined with the optional presets that makes it arguably more versatile than the Play:1.
For all the differences between the Play:1 and Soundtouch 10, many will find the actual audio quality to be the most important factor in deciding which to purchase.
The Sonos Play:1 has one driver for the mid and bass frequencies and another for the treble. This is typical of bookshelf speakers, though the Play:1 has a modified design that allows it more internal cone movement than normal. Consequently, the Play:1 delivers an extraordinary level of audio quality for such a small speaker.
This new design also allows the sound to fill out a room much better, making the Play:1 punch well above its weight. Bass frequencies are full and deep, the mid-range is defined and weighty, while the treble is clear and devoid of the scratchiness you find in cheaper speakers.
Unfortunately the same cannot be said about the Bose Soundtouch 10, which trails behind the Play:1 in sound quality. While both are mono speakers, the Soundtouch 10 lacks the impressive performance that makes the Play:1 a joy to own
The Soundtouch 10 is very warm in its audio delivery, which may suit certain styles of music. For most genres, however, this warmth results in the music sounding muddy and poorly defined. Lower mids are swallowed up by overenthusiastic bass frequencies, and this is only made worse by the distortion that becomes evident as the volume increases.
Less discerning listeners may not notice the shortcoming in the sound quality of the Soundtouch 10, but few could honestly call its performance much more than adequate.
So which is best?
The Sonos Play:1 deal and Bose Soundtouch 10 both offer advantages and disadvantages depending on where your priorities lie. The Play:1 gives superior sound and aesthetic appeal, while the Soundtouch 10 offers more input options and convenience through its remote control.
Ultimately, however, this is a music player and many will base their decision primarily on the quality of the audio output. In this regard, for those happy to exclusively use its streaming functions, the Sonos Play:1 presents a clear winner. Those more concerned with having an aux input and greater ease of use may prefer the Soundtouch 10, but for many, this will not be a sufficient substitute for the superior audio quality of the Play:1.