Review: Sonos PLAYBAR

I have been a big fan of Sonos and their wireless audio systems for a while, so I was excited when we were offered a review device of their new product, the PLAYBAR.
First Impressions
There is no denying it, the PLAYBAR is a beautiful device – simple, but beautiful in its simplicity.   As with all Sonos components it is quite weighty, but the weight gives it a feeling of quality and sturdiness. You would certainly be happy to display it proudly on your TV stand, or mounted on your wall under your TV. (The wall mounting kit is not included, but can be bought from Sonos for £34.99)
The Set-up

 

One of the main reasons why I am such a fan of Sonos is that it is so simple to set up. Even with something as potentially complicated as the PLAYBAR, the set-up really could not be easier. The only wires that are required are the power cable, and an optical cable plugged into the back of your TV (assuming you already have another Sonos component or their Bridge plugged into your router).
You are guided through the remaining setup step-by-step using the controller – whether that’s the controller software on your computer, the smartphone app, or if you have their controller device. I was impressed that it even sets up the device to accept volume control via your standard TV remote.
Once set up correctly, the PLAYBAR will play sound from all sources that are connected to your TV.
Sound Quality
As with all Sonos equipment, the sound quality is solid.  If you pride yourself on being an audiophile, you may be slightly disappointed. However, for most people, the sound quality is very impressive. The room which I set it up in is usually wired for 7.1 surround sound, so obviously it could not quite compete with that in terms of providing an immersive sound experience, but the PLAYBAR’s 9 built in speakers still fared surprisingly well.  If you are only used to using the speakers built in to your TV, then this will absolutely blow you away.

Clever built-in electronics

It will come as no surprise to anyone who knows Sonos products that there is a lot of clever electronics built-in. Obviously all the networking components that allow it to connect with your Sonos network is in there, but there are other things too. There is an accelerometer that detects the PLAYBAR’s orientation (sitting flat, or wall mounted upright), which can adjust the EQ to provide the best sound quality accordingly. There is a night listening mode that enhances quieter sounds, but suppresses loud sounds. There is also an option for speech enhancement, meaning that you will be able to hear dialogue more easily over a soundtrack.

Extras

To further improve the sound, the PLAYBAR can easily be connected up with a Sonos SUB, providing 3.1 surround sound. This can be done in a simple step during the setup process. In addition, you can also connect up a couple of Sonos:3 speakers to use as back surround speakers, to give 5.1 surround sound. Unfortunately I have not been able to test this as I only have one Sonos:3 speaker (and no SUB!).
As well as connecting to your TV, it will of course still connect to any Sonos network you may already have, and the expected functionality is all there – a multitude of audio inputs including networked drives, internet radio, Spotify, Rdio, Last.fm, etc, plus the ability to group rooms together to play music throughout your home.

The cost
At £599, the PLAYBAR is not cheap. But then again, no Sonos component is that cheap, and as the old adage goes, you get what you pay for.  Whilst there may be cheaper alternatives out there, none will get you the same high level of quality and functionality but carried out in such a simple way, and with great design to boot.

If you want a true surround system, then going down the Sonos route is certainly going to hit your wallet hard. For a decent surround system, a PLAYBAR, a SUB, and two Sonos:3 speakers is going to set you back in the region of £1716.

The alternative is to buy an A/V receiver, a fair few speakers, and also a fair bit of speaker cabling. Of course, if you have the time and inclination to search for the right equipment and are happy to spend the effort in wiring it all and setting it all up correctly, then you could get a system which is just as good, if not better, for less than the cost of the Sonos. However, there are very few of us these days who have the patience quite frankly. This is where the simplicity of the Sonos really comes into its own, and so it could validly be argued that the Sonos system is extremely good value for money compared with the competition.
Wrap-Up
Over the years I have spent a lot of time and money in installing a 7.1 surround sound system which I am particularly proud of. So, for me, the PLAYBAR does not really fit in with that. Indeed, it is slightly disappointing that it isn’t compatible with existing surround sound systems. Having said that, I was impressed by the quality, and if I was looking into getting a surround sound system for the first time, I would strongly consider Sonos.
The PLAYBAR on its own is a beautiful piece of kit, and if you currently only use TV speakers, then I would highly recommend buying one.
For more information on the PLAYBAR, visit Sonos’ website at:
http://www.sonos.com/introducing/playbar
Or if you’ve heard enough and just buy it, visit their store:
http://www.sonos.com/shop/products/playbar

 

More pictures of the PLAYBAR and some screenshots of the setup process can be found in the gallery on our Facebook page.


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