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Sonos Playbar Review

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Stunning design, superb sound quality but, oh my the price

by Greg Hook Apr 2, 2018 at 8:52 AM

  • Home AV review

    71

    Recommended
    Sonos Playbar Review
    SRP: £699.00

    What is the Sonos Playbar?

    It wasn’t always the case that you could place a speaker anywhere in the house and stream music to it. Go back just over a decade and you would be living in a world full of cables and physical media. But then Sonos came along. They are responsible for one of the greatest innovations of recent years – the ability to easily stream audio from one device to another. Back in 2005 when their first product came out, the ZP100, there were comparable products available but none that had the simplicity of use that is still synonymous with the Sonos brand today.

    Given how poor TV speakers are these days, even very high-end ones, soundbars and soundbases are now becoming an increasingly popular solution to improve a set's audio, especially if a full surround sound system isn't possible. It should come as no surprise that given their experience in this field Sonos also offer a solution. Their Sonos Playbar, although priced at a rather wallet busting £699, does have a very tasty specification including 9 amplifiers, 3 tweeters and 6 mid-woofers together with the trademark Sonos ease of use. Read on to see if the Playbar offers a performance worthy of the price tag.

    Design, Connections and Control?

    If the chances of getting a full surround sound system are slim to none, then the Sonos Playbar shouldn’t cause any issues. It’s one of the nicest designed and impressive looking soundbars we’ve seen to date with a black fabric covering around the stylish curved front, top and rear faces and an attractive dark silver metallic finish to the top and bottom edges.
    Sonos PlayBar Design, Connections and Control?
    The controls are nicely hidden away on the right side of the unit and the connections all come out of the rear, so when in position it looks very clean and attractive. It is definitely not something you want to hide away. Sonos have tried to keep the unsightly cabling to the bare minimum and unlike other soundbars that aim to offer an all-in-one solution, no HDMI connections are present. You simply get the power connection, optical digital audio in and two 10/100Mbps Ethernet ports if your Wi-Fi is particularly flakey.
    Sonos PlayBar Design, Connections and Control?
    The idea is that the Playbar can play any audio that your TV can play. So if you have a Blu-ray player, Games Console or Sky box all connected to your TV, then the Playbar can play it, providing of course that your TV has a digital optical out connection. The controls are very simple with just a volume up and down and pause/play buttons. You will only really need these to initially setup the device as the Playbar works with your TV remote and of course the easy to use app which we will come to later in this review.

    With some soundbars, you can occasionally have issues with low TV stands where the soundbar encroaches into the screen area. Here with the Playbar that shouldn’t be the case for the majority of TVs as it measures only 85mm high x 900mm wide x 140mm deep and weighs 5.4kg. The Playbar has been designed to cover all bases, so if you definitely can’t have it in front of the TV, then it can be wall mounted or even placed in a cabinet below the TV.

    Specifications and Features

    As this is Sonos, the Playbar is not just a Soundbar for your TV, it is of course also a smart speaker that you can stream music to from anywhere in the home, via the app available on both iOS and Android. The app is also used to control the Playbar including the volume and works with over 30 streaming services such as Apple Music, Amazon Music, Tidal, Soundcloud and many more that you probably haven’t even heard of.
    Sonos PlayBar Specifications and Features
    The Playbar supports Dolby Digital, but it does not work with DTS audio signals. So you will need to ensure your TV or Blu-ray player can convert the signal to one supported by the Playbar.

    How was it setup and tested?

    A big part of the Sonos ethos is to create products that are very easy to setup and use and this is the case here with the Playbar. It has an inbuilt IR repeater so comes with no remote control itself (although we did spend a minute or two double-checking the box to make sure we hadn’t missed it) as during the initial setup you can use any remote that you care to for volume control.

    You don’t even need an instruction manual, the installation and setup are very easy to follow via the Sonos app. It will guide you through simple step-by-step instructions for the connections, changing your TV’s settings if needs be for the optical out connection and then setting up the Trueplay tuning if you so wish.
    Sonos PlayBar How was it setup and tested?
    For those with amplifiers, Trueplay is similar to Audyssey calibration that some modern amplifiers include that comes with that little microphone out of the box to complete the optimal setup. Here with Trueplay it uses your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch to carry out a full room calibration. Rather than with Audyssey where it takes the calibration from fixed points, the Trueplay calibration will have you walking all around the room, waving your iPhone up and down like you are some crazy person. Unfortunately, whilst the Sonos app is available for Android, the Trueplay setup is only on iOS.

    That’s about all as far as setup is concerned, it barely took 5 minutes in total including the Trueplay calibration and you are then ready to put it to use. It really couldn’t have been any simpler. The app itself is very well made and nicely laid out and includes a lot of features and settings you don’t often see with soundbars. Such as tweaking the bass and treble (which does not affect the Trueplay calibration), adding an audio delay if you are having lip sync issues and even disabling the speaker controls and turning the speaker light off if you so wish.

    Within the settings you can also add the Sonos Sub (£699) for improved bass (much improved we would hope at that price), plus a pair of any of the Sonos One (£349), Play:1 (£298), Play:3 (£498) or Play:5 (£998) speakers to function as the left and right rear surround channels. This would make for a very aesthetically pleasing surround sound system, but one that is rather expensive to say the least especially if you go for the Play:5 option!
    Sonos PlayBar How was it setup and tested?
    Following the installation and setup we then gave it a full and thorough test from a variety of sources such as Blu-ray, Sky and Netflix and a wide range of audio from the likes of Apple Music and Amazon Music.

    Performance

    The Sonos Playbar has a gorgeous design and a very impressive sound but comes at a price

    No soundbar can beat a proper surround sound system, but for a quality experience with an impressive front soundstage, the Sonos Playbar gives a very good account of itself but at £699 you should expect nothing less. The nine speakers (three tweeters and six mid-woofers) are designed in a phased speaker array which Sonos claims delivers directionality and a wider sound stage. This was particularly noticeable during our testing. Coupled with the Trueplay calibration, we could sit anywhere in the room and not really notice a reduction in the audio quality.

    Whilst the Playbar is perfectly acceptable without Trueplay, we would recommend you have it enabled as it subtly improved the sound across the board. The front soundstage was more noticeable together with a much tighter bass and refined audio quality.

    Sonos PlayBar Performance
    Firstly, with movies and TV from Sky and Netflix, the audio quality was impressive with the front soundstage working perfectly with effects moving from left to right immediately noticeable. With some more budget soundbars you can instantly tell the audio is coming from a small speaker in the soundbar, that’s not the case here with the Playbar. The vocals were spot on and weren’t drowned out at all and had an impressive clarity to them. The bass was excellent, although it could have done with being a bit tighter during some bass heavy scenes, such as those in the Transformers movies where it just strayed into being slightly too booming.

    Testing with our favourite Blu-ray, Hans Zimmer Live in Prague, the quality was excellent. The entire range of the orchestra could be heard at all times, even down to the finest detail. Unfortunately, as before when the music became very bass heavy, the Playbar didn’t quite cope with it, but this was only in a very few extreme cases and certainly wasn’t the norm.

    Moving on to music and the Playbar continued to impress here. We tested with a variety of tracks such as The Sound of Silence by Disturbed, Rocket Man by Elton John, Pink’s Beautiful Trauma and a (not so) old favourite of ours, the speaker destroying Sail by Awolnation. Between the movie/TV audio and the music audio we were more impressed with the music quality. Sail by Awolnation is a particularly good test of a speaker and cheaper speakers can’t normally cope with the heavy bass, but here the Playbar did very well, coping better than it did with the movie bass. All the tracks we played had superb clear and crips vocals and all the details were noticeable, no issues at all with the music performance of the Playbar. Very impressive.

    Conclusion

    8
    AVForumsSCORE
    OUT OF
    10

    Pros

    • Impressive sound quality
    • Stunning music performance
    • Very easy to setup
    • Intuitive and simple app
    • Can be expanded with Sonos Sub and speakers
    • Remote learning feature

    Cons

    • Very pricey
    • Occasional heavy bass
    • No HDMI connections
    You own this Total 4
    You want this Total 3
    You had this Total 0

    Sonos Playbar Review

    Should I buy one?

    At £699.99 the Playbar from Sonos is at the top end of soundbar price points. With the competition usually including a separate subwoofer and HDMI connections, the Playbar includes none of those at this price. In fact, if you use the facility to turn the Playbar into a 5.1 system by adding the Sonos Sub and a pair of Sonos Play:3 you would be looking at £1,896. Which comparably could get you a very nice receiver and set of 5.1 speakers. But then with Sonos it’s not always about the price.

    What you get for the £699 is a premium product. One that offers an effortless install and setup, excellent build quality, a design that is both simple and stunning and an app that has clearly been developed over time to give you the best interface Sonos can provide.

    We were impressed across the board with how the Playbar coped with audio from TV and Movies and a variety of music. Apart from a few odd occasions with overly heavy bass, the soundstage, audio clarity and overall tone was superb. So if you already have a Sonos system or a looking for a simple but effective way of boosting the sound of your TV, then the Player is definitely worth considering.

    What alternatives are available?

    We couldn't get away from that price point though. For example you could get the Denon HEOS soundbar which has similar features for £649 but also includes a separate subwoofer, HDMI and can cope with DTS audio too. If you are a fan of Sonos or if you already have some of their products, then the Sonos Playbar would be a worthy addition to your system as you will most likely already be familiar with their high end prices, but even if you don’t it is still a product we would recommend as it is such an excellent piece of kit, it just comes with a very high price tag.

    MORE: Read All Soundbar and Soundbase Reviews


    Suggested retail price when reviewed: £699.00

    The Rundown

    Build Quality

    9

    Connectivity

    8

    Ease of use

    10

    Sound Quality

    9

    Features

    9

    Value for Money

    7

    Verdict

    8

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