Soundbars are quickly making their way into homes as a suitable replacement for your TV’s rather paltry speakers. Stylish yet loud enough to potentially wake your neighbors, soundbars come in all shapes and sizes and of course, prices. Sitting in at perhaps the higher end of the spectrum is the Sonos Playbar, an absolutely breathtaking piece of audio equipment that might end up burning a considerable hole in your pocket.
Build Quality & Design
Sonos are no stranger to the market, having released some superb multi-room audio devices over the years. While most of their products tend to lean towards enjoying music in whatever room you’re in, the Playbar is the first that is solely geared to pairing up with your TV.
The Playbar isn’t something you want to just admire from a distance – you want to get up and close to it, feel the soft fabric that hides the powerful speaker array, and marvel at the clean-cut edges and flattering build quality. The Playbar exudes style and sophistication, and there’s no denying that.
While other soundbars are capable of only a 2.0 or 2.1 listening experience, the Playbar delivers a 3.0 audio environment, thanks to its impressive selection of nine speakers. Six mid-range drivers and three tweeters are spaced out to deliver the best listening experience possible, with the end speakers tilting out at an angle to fill out a room as much as possible. The Playbar can be laid flat or mounted on a wall right under your TV – handy internals will optimize the sound based on what position the Playbar is in.
Apart from volume controls and a mute button, there’s little else to see on the Playbar, until you head around the back. Here you’ll find the power jack, two Ethernet ports, and an optical in port. This is where the Playbar hits its first snag – you’ll need to make sure that your TV has an optical out port in order to connect and use the Playbar. My lounge TV didn’t have an optical out port, so I had to set up the Playbar with my newer Samsung TV in the living room.
Connectivity & Setup
Setting up the Playbar was initially quite easy. You simply connect it to your TV using the optical cable, and connect it to your network using an Ethernet cable. If you don’t want to wire the Playbar to your network, you’ll need to purchase and use the Sonos Bridge, which acts as the middle-man in between your Playbar and your network.
Once your Playbar is set up on your network, you can then download and launch the accompanying app for iOS or Android. The app walks you through a few basic setup options, and within a few minutes you’ll be up and running. A very neat feature of the Playbar is that it has the ability to learn your TV remote’s audio controls – I was able to control the Playbar with my Sony TV remote within just under a minute, which makes things a lot more convenient.
Features & Audio Quality
The Sonos app is actually quite comprehensive, despite its somewhat dated interface. You have access to configuring your Playbar, but you also have a world of music services at your fingertips. In addition to streaming music from your network devices such as a NAS, you can tap into almost all the popular online streaming services, as well as access new and untested services to see if they work with your Playbar. This means that you’ve potentially got a limitless library of music to listen to, which can adapt to any scenario.
Listening to music on the Sonos Playbar is a dream come true – the device excels at producing crisp notes for classical pieces, while at the same time producing fairly full bass notes in pop and dance numbers. Likewise for movies, the sound was certainly loud, but lacked a certain bit of depth when there was a lot of action or explosions on screen. That lack of ‘depth’ can be instantly solved with the addition of the Sonos Sub, a subwoofer that pairs with the Playbar to deliver a more fuller audio experience. And if you want to create a true surround sound experience, you can add a pair of Play:3 speakers to provide audio from the rear. But while these additional speakers may sweeten your listening experience, they come at a rather hefty price tag. The entire 5.1 setup can set you back close to AED 10,000, so it’s certainly not something for the faint-hearted.
The Sonos Playbar is truly a gorgeous piece of equipment with exceptional audio quality when compared to other soundbars on the market. But its lack of alternate inputs and high price tag means that you’ll need to really think carefully before investing in it. However as a standard replacement for your TV speakers, nothing currently out there can even come close.