I think it's fair to say that not all wireless music systems are created equal. One of the best streaming speakers I've heard is the Play:5 from Sonos (formerly the Zoneplayer S5), but at US$400 a pop, a multi-room setup can get very expensive, very quickly. Sonos is now offering a cheaper way to enter its world of Hi-Fi audio streaming with the introduction of the Play:1 compact wireless speaker.

At 6.36 x 4.69 x 4.69 in (16.15 x 11.91 x 11.91 cm) and 4.08 lb (1.85 kg), the Play:1 is the smallest and lightest wireless speaker in the Sonos range. Priced at $199, it's also the least expensive. Its two Class-D digital amplifiers, a custom 3.5-in mid-woofer and a 1-inch long-throw tweeter are all hidden behind an all-round grille with an invisible welded seam that, according to Sonos, "has dual functionality, in that it is a heat sink as well as being a structural core to the build of the speaker."

The company says that its all-new smart processing technology gets more out of the unit's drivers than was previously possible, and helps ensure that listeners enjoy full-bodied, distortion-free sound, even at full volume.

To get the party started, at least one Sonos device needs to be connected to a home router. This can be the Play:1 itself via the included Ethernet port, or an appropriately-named Bridge unit to set up a dedicated AES-encrypted peer-to-peer wireless mesh network called SonosNet 2.0, which gives you the freedom to move the speaker (and any other Sonos system components) from room to room. The Play:1 does not have its own battery, though, so you'll also need to take wall outlet location into placement consideration.

There's a single play/pause/skip button on top of the speaker for physical playback control, as well as an up or down volume button, but users will need to use the Sonos Controller app for iOS, Android, Windows PC and Mac to start enjoying some music. The app is a one-stop shop for access to digital tunes from a variety of sources. You can connect to a music library on a computer, tablet, smartphone or cloud storage, or launch online services like Pandora, Deezer and Spotify, or choose from over 100,000 free internet radio stations, shows and podcasts. The app can also be used to configure multi-device setups.

The Play:1 can be used on its own, paired with a second unit for stereo, or integrated into a bigger Sonos multi-room home system. Two speakers can also be used with a Playbar and Sonos Sub to create a 5.1 home theater system. Though not waterproof or even water-resistant, the device has been built to survive high humidity, so it can safely pump out high-fidelity audio in a steaming shower room or beside a piping hot bath.

The Sonos Play:1 compact wireless speaker is available now in black with graphite grille or white with metallic grille. For a limited time, buyers will get a free Bridge unit (valued at $49) thrown in.

The speaker system is overviewed in the short promo video below.

Product page: Sonos Play:1