Sonos vs. Bose: Wireless Home Music Systems

If you have thousands of tunes that need to be let free from either your computer or your iPhone, a wireless home music system is a great investment. Forget stereo cables, amplifiers and receivers because all you need is one wireless speaker and a gadget or two lying around the house (i.e. cell phone). The Play3 from Sonos is perfect for multi-room use and can be used in up to 32 different rooms around the house, allowing users simultaneous playback in all rooms or different music zones wherever they go. If you're looking to expand your audio system gradually, then Sonos has plenty to offer. The Soundlink will suit those who need to take their music with them wherever they go and who value good audio performance in a compact, simple, yet stylish package.

Covered in this report

Playback in multiple rooms can be simultaneous without delays or echoes

Can stream internet based radio and audio services such as Spotify and Pandora with ease

Best for: Multi-room use - as it can sync zones throughout the house simultaneously or play different music in separate zones

Bluetooth compatible - simply pair your iPhone to your speaker and play music directly

Portability - The Soundlink has 8 hours of battery life and can be taken anywhere

Best for: Portability - as it comes with its own protective case, the ability to be charged in several countries all over the world and features a durable, yet suprisingly light design which is just 2.9 pounds


Let’s Talk Sound

The Sonos Play 3 is an all-in-one system that plays digital music with lifelike sound. It features 3 speaker drivers powered by three dedicated digital amps. You can also pair two speakers for clean, balanced, stereo sound by placing them horizontally rather than vertically. One bass radiator will give you deep, rumbling bass and a tweeter will take care of the high notes.

        3-driver speaker system
        3 digital amps
        2 Mid-range drivers
        1 Bass radiator

The Bose Soundlink has a rich bass for such a small speaker system and its clever design featuring opposing speakers makes sure there is no vibration or distortion, even at high volumes. Whilst you can’t expect a sub-woofer performance from a speaker this small, the Soundlink has impressive, crisp detail, even at maximum volume.

    2 Dual opposing bass speakers which thrust sound out from front and back (which also stops vibration)
    4 Mid-range 2 inch neodymium driver speakers which are double stacked
    Uses proprietary speaker technology

The Verdict? Bose’s Soundlink has 6 speaker drivers vs. Sonos' 3 and plays loud and for such a small device, that’s super loud. What makes the Bose offering even better is that there’s no distortion, even at top volume.

Ease of Use

Sonos Play3

If you love iTunes, you’re going to be a little disappointed with the offering from Sonos. Playing iTunes will involve using Sonos management software and a panel on your remote which shows your music queue, player controls, connected devices and the ‘now playing’ track. You’ll be able to scroll through your tunes alphabetically, organized much the same as iTunes via track name, artist, genre etc. but with a large library things are going to get messy. In fact, to do just about anything with the Sonos remote app you can expect to use at least three to four taps and it makes for cumbersome fingertip aerobics.

On the plus side, Sonos can index your music library in half the time that it takes iTunes and you can switch between iTunes, streaming sources and NAS box stored music effortlessly.

There is no remote control provided with the Play3 and only three buttons on the speaker unit which are volume up, down and mute. Sonos do have a remote that can be purchased separately, but for the cost involved, the sensible option would be to download the free ‘remote control’ mobile app.

Bose Soundlink

The Soundlink has an endearing feature, which is that as soon as you open its magnetic cover, it turns itself on and similarly, when you replace the cover the device switches itself off. The cover also doubles as a stand. Pairing the device via Bluetooth couldn’t be easier and takes a few seconds, but you are limited to one device at a time although your Soundlink will be able to remember up to six of your paired gadgets for future use. You can use most apple devices (iPad, iPod, iPhone) to control your iTunes music and with the power and volume buttons on the Soundlink, there is no need for an additional remote although Bose do provide a mobile app, much like Sonos, which does the job effectively.

As soon as you switch it on the Soundlink will begin to search automatically for any Bluetooth devices that it can pair itself with and around 20 seconds later it will be up and running, streaming your music.

The Verdict? Bose is simplicity in itself, with little needed in the way of set-up  and will suit those who want their music playing in seconds without needing to read a lengthy instructions leaflet. Sonos isn’t too complicated, but it will require more in the way of computer skills than its competitor.

Pros and Cons

Sonos Play 3 Pros:

    Those serious about music can play from several speakers all around the house simultaneously
    Much cheaper than a professional multi-room hard wired stereo set-up
    App lets you use your iPhone/Android phone as a remote control
    Turn two Play3 speakers in one room into separate left and right channel speakers for extra loud stereo party sound
    When placed vertically, the Play3 speaker will switch automatically to Mono
    One touch connection
    Music can be stored on up to 16 different computers and this includes Apple Mac’s and NAS

Sonos Play 3 Cons:

    You’ll need to install software to use it
    Not portable – it’s heavy, needs to be plugged in and requires a WiFi/Ethernet internet connection
    Heavier as its boxed weight is 5kg compared to the Soundlink’s 3.6kg
    You’ll need a bridge to play it wirelessly elsewhere in the house at additional cost (around $49)
    Speakers have little stereo separation and clarity is lacking compared to that of the Soundlink – although Sonos also offer the larger and more expensive Play5 which cures the problem, but for considerable additional cost
    Sonos management software won’t automatically update your music library
    You can’t plug and play with regards to iTunes – you have to use the Sonos management software and this involves queues, player controls, a now playing panel and your connected devices to confuse things
    No auxiliary input, which means you can’t listen directly to music from a mobile device for fault-free playback
    You’ll need your computer (which houses iTunes) running in the background – which can be annoying if you just want to pull out your Smartphone and play

Bose Soundlink Pros:

    Can play music from your smart phone, iPod, iPad or iPod directly
    Portable – when the battery is charged you can carry it with you anywhere for up to 8hrs of playback
    Portable abroad –no bulky travel adapters/converters are needed as the device features interchangeable prongs to solve the problem
    Bluetooth pairing will allow you to stream music from a computer running iTunes, digital radio and streaming services such as Rdio, or any of your Apple devices
    3.5mm auxiliary input will allow you to play music/stream directly from other sources such as iPhone
    Can purchase additional units and stream your music into multiple rooms around the house
    Easy app lets you use your iPhone/iPad/iPod or Android phone as a remote control
    Wireless range of 33ft
    No software needs to be installed
    An internet connection is not required
    USB port for software upgrades
    30 Day money-back guarantee

Bose Soundlink Cons:

    Slight lag when listening to streaming services such as Spotify
    Whoever holds a smart phone can pair their device to your speaker and control your music
    The device controlling your music (i.e. iPhone) will need to be in range of the Soundlink
    Linking several speakers is possible but you won’t be able to play different music on them

Verdict? Simply put, the Play3 isn’t versatile enough. Bose allow you to play music directly from your iPod/iPad/iPhone and cut out the middle man entirely. Sonos will require you to download software, turn on your computer and have your unit plugged into the wall to listen to iTunes, and you’ll need an internet connection. When you consider that the Soundlink is portable too, Sonos’ only real advantage over Bose is its multi-room function.


The Play3 is sold in white and black models. All in all, it’s a bit boring and there’s nothing much to get excited about. One of its better design features is that if you place the speaker horizontally, you’ll get normal playback and if you place it vertically it will play in mono, allowing you to pair two speakers together for detailed stereo performance.

The Bose Soundlink is available in black. It has rather elegant lines, as only Bose can do, and there are a range of protective stylish covers that come in different shades of nylon and leather. The Bose stand automatically turns the speaker off when it’s closed and premium versions of the speaker have an ‘automotive-grade’ chrome trim. The neat, square design, its rechargeable battery and tested durability make it ideal for travel.

Verdict? Bose soundlink wins by a rather large margin. Not only are there more options available to personalize your device with Bose, you can’t fail to notice that its design features are somewhat superior.


If you want a music system throughout your house which can stream virtually any music on the planet, including more than 1000 free radio stations, podcasts and shows – then Sonos is for you. If ease-of-use and portability are important to you, then Bose wins hands down.