Last week we were able to meet with Eric Nielsen and Scott Fink from Sonos to get an overview of Sonos’ latest speaker system, the Sonos PLAYBAR. Scott told us that Sonos’ goal is to bring their products to every home in America. Having used the Sonos PLAYBAR for a full week, I can see that goal is entirely reasonable. My wife even asked me, if I would buy one for the home. I take that as “when are we buying it?”
The PLAYBAR has nine class-D digital amplifiers tuned to deliver amazing results. The sound bar just measures three-feet wide but can fill an entire room with perfectly tuned full sound. The folks at Sonos call the PLAYBAR “the soundbar for music lovers” and I can’t disagree with them. PLAYBAR by itself is a remarkable great value at $699. Yes, the PLAYBAR is pricer than the $100-300 ones you can find down the aisles of your local Best Buy, but the PLAYBAR is much more than your average soundbar and delivers a higher-quality sound.
For such a robust sound system, the set-up was extremely quick when paired with the Sonos Bridge. After downloading the app from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, and pushing a few buttons, I was nearly ready to go. There are only two plugs you need to plug in to make the PLAYBAR work with your TV: the power cord and one single audio optical cable. There is no need to plug in any additional cables or to rewire any other cable TV or gaming consoles. Granted if you have any other audio equipment set up on your home theater, you may need to do some minimal rewiring.
The PLAYBAR can be paired with additional Sonos’ speakers, just simply pair the devices through the app, you can add or take away devices as you need. A perfect, super convenient example is if you currently have a Sonos 3 in any other room, you can bring those speakers in to the living room for movie night to give a more full sound by giving true surround sound. Which is a super convenient option if you can’t necessarily spend $3,500 on premium surround sound, you can choose to begin with one unit and build up as you see fit. As amazing as the Soundbar is by itself, a full Sonos surround sound set up is absolutely stunning.
As for controlling the volume, the app can take care of that function, but you can also control your TV or cable remote through the app and it seamlessly changes the volume. There is very little need to adjust any of the audio controls, but you can mount the PLAYBAR or have it sitting on a media console, you can have it have the speakers facing the audience or having it laid on its back. The PLAYBAR has some really power processors that do a ton of computing to make your sound quality absolutely amazing. Accelerometers built into the speaker know how to adjust the output depending on your orientation.
The Sonos app controls the entire Sonos ecosystem and broadcasts your music (music library, Pandora, Spotify, Amazon) through it. If your friends want to play their music when visiting your place they would download the app and pair the device to the Sonos ecosystem. You can add music to the playlist or move your song selection to be played next. The Sonos app is available on Mac OS, Windows, iOS, Android and Kindle. The folks at Sonos told us a Windows Phone Sonos app would be available once they see enough demand for it. Obviously, Sonos is in the business of making money, and they will build an app for a platform once they see a need to build one.
I put the Sonos PLAYBAR through a weeks worth of shows, music, basketball games, some video games and a handful of movies (including “The Dark Knight Rises”). The PLAYBAR worked admirably through each sample. Heck, even Bane almost sounds intelligible. Admirable may be selling the PLAYBAR short, it is simply amazing how much full-bodied sound comes out of such a small form factor. As you watch a movie you can not only see airplanes move from left to right, but you can hear the transition from left to right. The nine amplifiers act in a way where regardless of where you sit in relation to the PLAYBAR, you hear directional separation in the audio output.
Earlier, I mentioned Sonos considers the PLAYBAR to be the soundbar for music lovers and that statement cant be any more accurate. The PLAYBAR makes you fall in love with music and movies again. The quality of the PLAYBAR just opens up the sound to an entirely premium experience. One of the biggest complaints audiophiles have about digital music is how compression limits the music’s depth. I can honestly say that music on the PLAYBAR sounds exponentially better than played through a laptop, computer or TV’s standard speakers. I’m not sure when exactly the transition occurred, but the TV industry began throwing on really awful speakers to make them fit on the thinner sets and keeping costs low. Which is really unfortunate when you consider the massive improvements that have been made on the visual front. As consumers, we now have access to tons of high-definition video and audio content, through Blu-Ray, broadcast, streaming and downloadable formats, but we’ve only been able to unleash of the visual aspects through high definition LED and OLED sets at the sacrifice of audio performance. That is unless you were to shell out thousands of dollars for a premium audio system. Bose is a brand that is most consumers recognize and they make phenomenal audio equipment, but its its certainly not attainable to everyone, nor does Bose offer the robust app that connects to nearly any digital library. If you go cheaper and buy a basic soundbar, you’re not really improving the experience much, when all you’re doing is buying more of the same type of speakers that you’d find on a TV set (which are really nothing more than laptop speakers). More speakers don’t actually make better sound, without a powerful engine, all it is is just noise.
The Sonos PLAYBAR is a great addition to your home theater that gives your high-end flat screen the added sensory life it deserves. Remember when you saw those few extra “missing” inches when watching 16:9 content for the first time, or watching 480p vs. 1080p? The Sonos PLAYBAR does the audio equivalent of that, you hear so much more than listening to just the built-in speakers on a TV set. I don’t think I can go back to a PLAYBAR free world. Give it a try, once you get a sample of all it has to offer, you’ll be hooked yourself.