The estimated reading time for this post is 5 minutes
Well my Sonos Play:1 warranty is now void less than 24 hours after being delivered. This isn’t going to be one of those sexy extreme unboxing it instead of my personal experience in making my first Sonos speaker more portable and more accessible by powering it via USB. In short, I stripped apart a new Sonos Play:1 speaker and added the circuitry to power the unit using USB.
I love music and listening to a few stations on the radio. We have radios scattered throughout the house. This tends to result in me not listening to any of my music or playlists because of the convenience of having a radio in almost every room in the house. I’d say I listen to music or the radio far more than I watch TV. Sonos speakers have always been a ‘thing’ on my ‘for the house’ list and after experiencing them while visiting some friends recently (who highly recommended them mind) I decided to buy a Play:1 and give Sonos a try!
I’m now in love with Sonos speakers and question why it has taken me so long to buy one. They’re amazing!
The build quality is great (inside and out!) and more importantly the sound quality is superb (okay so maybe the bass is a bit overdriven on the Play:1 which causes excess bass driven vibrations at times). They kick the ass out of any of my other Bluetooth speakers. I will no doubt buy more Sonos speakers to have throughout the house but until then, I just have the one Play:1 to play with. Which is why I wanted more flexible to move this Sonos Play:1 around the house – from the study to the kitchen to the bathroom, garden and bedroom. This is the reason for this post.
I have plenty of sockets I could power the Sonos Play:1 from both inside the house and out, but I felt USB powered comments would give me the greatest flexibility to move it around. We even have those power outlets with USB included in them which this was another reason to add USB power. Plus I just love tearing things apart I guess.
Struggling with power with volume above 80%
So what gives, nothing other than volume at the top end. I have the same issue with the power consumption of the Play:1, if the volume is above 80% the unit requires more power than what can be supplied. This causes sound distortion and is demonstrated in one of the videos that inspired me to do this hack in the first place (Sonos PLAY:1 USB powered, how-to!!). Anything above 80% volume is really kicking it in the first place so I’m not troubled by this compromise.
The wireless performance of a portable Play:1 is really impressive. I moved it throughout the house and garden and I’ve yet to experience the Play:1 stop streaming due to connectivity issues. This in part is down to the quality of my home network but credit, where credit is due Sonos, has done a great job here. When I travel, I travel with my trusted MiFi device. It replicates my home SSID. This means any of my devices connect just like they would at home and don’t need any more config. I could, therefore, take my Sonos speaker with me when on the road, staying away or travelling, assuming you have an amazing data plan or a music library accessible by the Sonos speaker!
Hacking apart the Sonos Play:1
I won’t detail the specific steps involved, in part, I don’t want to be hit with the bill for replacement Sonos speakers. But also because I managed perfectly by watching two YouTube videos – Sonos PLAY:1 USB powered, how-to!! and Howto open Sonos PLAY:1 – Part 1. Happy for you to reach out to me for any questions or help if you’re trying this out yourself.
Basically, I took the Sonos Play:1 apart, carefully pulled the circuitry out. I then added a micro USB socket and step up converter that takes the 5.5V current from a USB input and increases it to 24V to power the Sonos speaker. The only thing I did differently from these videos was that I included the micro USB socket. This makes the cable detachable like most other devices. I intend to use the Play:1 in various locations and didn’t want to lose the figure eight mains power lead nor have a USB cable attached all the time. Win, win!
What I used to pull this off.
- Micro USB PCB board (remember power out from a USB requires pin VCC to Positive and GND to GND)
- Dremel used to drill and shape the hole used for the micro USB socket on both the speak enclosure and the speaker cage cover
- Power step-up converter to increase the USB power from 5V to 24V
- 5.5mm USB to a power socket for testing power from a USB power source
- Solderless 5.5mm female socket, again for testing with the above lead
- Glue gun – the cables and terminals inside the Sonos Play:1 are very well insulated with what appears to be a PVA like glue gun insulation – I did similar with my soldering joints and used the glue gun to secure the step-up converter
- Soldiering skills
- A good set of Torx screwdrivers
- A Jenga like a mind to work out the best place for the extra step up converter component and micro USB socket while still being able to put it all back together again
- Dappy looking zip bag to enclose the speaker and battery and make it even more transportable and big buggy pram clip – for example hanging the Sonos under the garden parasol
- USB power source or a USB battery and micro USB lead to make your Sonos speaker portable – my current battery is a Repower PB19 a 4.5amp 17000MaH
- Heavy duty Velcro to stick the battery to the speaker
My portable Play:1 will live on.
I completely get why you would have a Sonos in almost every room. Until a time when I do, this solution will suffice perfectly thank you. Once I am fully Sonos’ed in every room, my Portable Sonos Play:1 will live on with its dappy looking pull string bag.