Assault on home radio continues with Sonos Play:1

It has been a roiling 7 days in the Internet-enabled home speaker category. Nearly simultaneous with the launches of Samsung Shape (RAIN coverage here) and the Bose SoundTouch (RAIN coverage here), legacy WiFi-speaker company Sonos releases a low-cost addition to its lineup, the Play:1. Well, relatively low-cost. WiFi speakers comprise a premium, pricey category of consumer electronics.

Sonos is marketing the Play:1 is “Mini but Mighty.” At $199 per speaker, another tagline could be, “Economical yet Expensive.” While these app-controlled devices open up a gateway between the user’s music collection and home spaces, thereby encroaching on radio-owned territory, the price differential between the two reception technologies is daunting. The Bose SoundTouch ranges from $400 to $700 per speaker (each speaker provides mono audio in one room), and the higher-end Play:5 from Sonos is priced at $400 on Amazon. Clearly, there is a vast expanse of downside pricing to be explored, and the Play:1 is reaching into that market. 

Does it reach far enough to attract new buyers? Time will tell. Anyone considering a Play:5 or SoundTouch, but hasn’t yet pulled the trigger, might be pushed over the edge by the alluring possibility of wiring up two rooms for the same price. And there is this: when you consider the cost reduction implicit in moving from the purchased-music model of ownership to the accessed-music model, the presumed savings from unbought CDs can be transferred into wireless home audio for streaming music.

RAIN does not particularly advocate for WiFi speakers. But their very existence, and traction in the high-end market, is an indicator of how streaming audio is rewriting the personal economics of music consumption.

Brad Hill