1,271 of 1,357 people found the following review helpful
on March 8, 2013
I'm a HUGE Sonos fan. I own 3 Play:5's and a Sub. I'd been wanting to replace my bulky 5.1 speaker system with a Playbar since it was rumored. All their products have incredible sound quality so I was optimistic about this set up.
Set up is easy, sound quality is good for the unit. It's a nice product and looks great while being easy to operate (although more reliant on the Sonos application than I'd prefer). It's the typical awesomeness that you get with any Sonos product.
When testing the Playbar with a direct connection to a device (e.g. Apple TV) and running it compared to my 5 speaker system through my receiver I was impressed with the quality. Sound was more spread out and filled the room better but dialog/center was ultimately a bit shallow feeling. If you turn on speech enhancement in the menu it helps out but something still feels slightly off. It's something you're unlikely to notice unless you're actively comparing like I was but to the Playbar's credit it was no slouch. I had a few people compare with me and everyone picked the typical 5.1 setup for better sound but had positive things to say about the Playbar - mainly noting its shallow feel in certain rangers and with dialog as the main issues.
Here's the issue though: Sonos says they want you to use your TV as a hub, all the inputs going to the TV and then optical audio out from the TV to the Playbar. Great idea - but the problem is that most TV's won't pass Dolby Digital (DD) 5.1 surround from HDMI to the digital/optical audio. If it's from the TV itself (such as Netflix on a smart TV) or input directly from the coaxial cable it will pass 5.1 through the optical port BUT not from HDMI. This is either required to be HDCP compliant or is a licensing/cost issue (not sure). There are a few tv's that do this but they're few and far between and hard to verify.
So if you have multiple sources (say an Xbox 360, Blu-Ray player, Apple TV, etc) there's no way for those sources to ever deliver 5.1 to the Playbar as Sonos intended (assuming you add a sub and some Play:3's to the mix). And you can't wire multiple inputs directly to the Playbar because they have a single input for the sake of simplicity. Normally I'm fine with this, but in light of the limitation with HDMI => optical pass through on TVs this became an oversight to me upon learning about the pass through issue. You can solve this by finding a TV or receiver that does pass through DD 5.1 through the optical audio, but you shouldn't have to. Alternatively you can use an optical audio switch, which is fine most of the time but may not work with a blu-ray player since Playbar lacks DTS support and are also limited on inputs, but this doesn't solve what to do for certain devices that don't have an optical audio port (e.g. most computers, Wii U, etc).
In the end you're left with a system that is capable of producing much better sound (especially if a sub and some Play:3s are added) that most everyone won't be able to hear and results in this not sounding as good as it costs. And that's just a shame to me.
++Easy set up
+Decent sound from stereo source
---Single optical input only
--No DTS support
--Entire package is expensive for 5.1 (or even 3.1)
The only scenario I can see this being a good thing is if you have a room where you want to add a Sonos component and a soundbar to and you want to do it in a single package without caring about other components, like for a Den or a bedroom. Any other solution seems like there'd be a better option.
Ultimately I'm disappointed. Had Sonos included multiple audio inputs or HDMI pass through, or even better yet HDMI switching (in place of a receiver) then this could have been an amazing piece. But the reliance on a single optical input being provided from the TV, one which will down convert any HDMI source's audio to stereo sound, in the name of simplicity just seems like a bad idea.
Had I known about the tv's not passing through audio I wouldn't have bought this. My mistake, honestly, but it just makes it baffling as to why Sonos didn't provide different input options. As it stands I'm returning it. Hopefully Sonos will look in to making an HDMI hub option as an accessory.
233 of 252 people found the following review helpful
The SONOS PlayBar may seem expensive for a sound bar, but only if you look at it as just a sound bar. Really it does much more (and I'll get to that). But first, as a sound bar, it works well and is pretty easy to set up: plug in the power cord and an optical cable from your TV and that's it, as far as audio connections go. To fully configure the unit and get it to work with your existing remote, you'll need to install the SONOS controller app (free) which runs on PC, Mac, Android and iOS devices. In the app is where you "add a device" (add the PlayBar to your home network) and establish the SONOS network in your home.
If you don't have any other SONOS products in your home already, you'll need to either connect the PlayBar to a network router or network switch with a standard network cable (one of which is included in the box), or purchase a SONOS BRIDGE which plugs into your network router and allows the PlayBar to connect to your network wirelessly. The reason you need this is that the SONOS mesh network is actually separate from your existing WiFi network (it makes its own), which is great because it doesn't interfere with regular WiFi traffic, and vice versa. This means fewer dropouts in your music.
UPDATE: in 2014, SONOS rolled out a software update that allows all existing SONOS speakers to work without the need for a Bridge. So as long as you have a solid WiFi connection in your home, any SONOS speaker (even a Play:1 or the PlayBar) can play music wirelessly.
Adding the PlayBar to your Sonos system requires pushing a couple of buttons on the unit itself when prompted by the app and then telling the SONOS app what room it's in. Then you can program the PlayBar to respond to your existing TV remote or cable/satellite remote. An on-screen wizard walks you through this. Tip! - If you can't get the PlayBar to recognize commands from your DISH or DIRECTV or cable remote, then you may need to first set up that other remote to control your TV. Most set top box remotes come without any TV remote commands pre-programmed into them so if you try to program it into the PlayBar, you won't get very far. This was a problem for me with a DISH remote until I first programmed the DISH remote to control my TV, then the PlayBar was able to see the remote and respond to it for volume control. Once you do that, you can do the basic operation of the bar (volume up/down) using your existing remote control, and you won't have to refer back to the app. The PlayBar's optical digital input automatically gets preference, so if you're listening to music on it, then turn on the TV, it will automatically switch over to TV sound.
In terms of sound quality, the PlayBar blows away any TV speakers I've heard. The thinner a TV gets, the worse it sounds. Speakers need some room to resonate, and the PlayBar has that, while flat panel TVs do not. Movie dialog, male or female vocals have a nice transparency on the PlayBar, treble and high frequencies are detailed without being harsh and bass response is tight, if not prodigious (there's only so much bass you can get from a small cabinet).
The PlayBar uses some acoustic and electronic techniques to expand the sound stage so it sounds wider than it is. I noticed this on a few songs and movies, but it was particularly obvious on Rush "2112" and on The Moody Blues "Wildest Dreams." The instruments appeared to be located outside the edges of the bar while vocals were locked in place in the center. There are a total of 9 speakers on the PlayBar (each with its own amplifier) and SONOS uses this entire array to create a coherent soundstage.
But, as good as it sounds, the PlayBar isn't perfect. Bass is on the lighter side, and if you use the EQ controls in the SONOS app to boost the bass, it gets a bit boomy. Also, the PlayBar can get a bit congested and harsh when pushed to higher sound levels, though this is definitely better if you add the Sonos sub. With the sub, the PlayBar can then allocate its amplification and drivers to the midrange and treble which are easier to drive without distortion. Also, these sonic deficiencies are only evident when comparing the unit to a dedicated surround sound system.
But there are two reasons why the PlayBar is unique and gets my recommendation: A.) it's upgradeable to fully discrete and wireless 5.1 surround (with the addition of the Sonos sub and a pair of Play:1 or Play:3 speakers) and B.) it's a SONOS! (more on that later). I tested the PlayBar on its own and then with the sub and play:3 rear speakers. Adding the sub and rear speakers was a simple as adding the initial PlayBar to the Sonos network, but there is a new option within the "room set-up" that allows you to group the play:3s, play:1s (or a Connect amp) as surround speakers for the PlayBar in the same room. The set-up wizard asks a couple of questions about distance from listening position to the rear speakers and (for the subwoofer) some questions about the levels, but that's about it.
With the Sub and Play:3s added, the system was able to reproduce discrete 5.1 channel Dolby Digital surround sound. I confirmed this using a 5.1 channel test track from one of Dolby's sampler discs as well as some movie clips and a couple of full length films. The PlayBar does not decode DTS but this may not be a show-stopper for some as few TVs output or pass through DTS. The issue with this or any sound bar that uses the TV's digital output for sound is that most TVs will not pass through a Dolby Digital 5.1 signal from source through to TV output. Some Sony TVs do it as well as some VIZIOs and some LGs (there may be others), but most TVs will drop the signal down to 2-channel output at the fiberoptic digital out. For this reason, I would have liked to see a second digital input on the PlayBar as well as DTS decoding. This way you could use one input for the TV and the second input for a DVD or Blu-ray Player to get discrete 5.1 sound from that. I can understand why SONOS chose this single-input approach - if there were an "input" function on the PlayBar to switch inputs, chances are things could have gotten confusing for some users. Still, for advanced users, the second input and DTS decoding would have been appreciated.
There is a workaround to this issue (not the DTS decoding, but the extra fiberoptic input), if you're willing to sacrifice some simplicity. You can buy a fiber optic digital audio switch box, connect your devices to this, plug its output into the PlayBar and then get discrete 5.1 surround from Dolby Digital content on a cable box, streaming set-top box, DVD player or Blu-ray player. There are several of these switches available on Amazon including this basic manual switch, and this more advanced remote-controlled switch. There are many others available like this.
In any case, The PlayBar does decode surround-encoded 2-channel PCM or Dolby Digital sound (which TVs do output) and will give you a reasonable surround sound stage even from this material as long as there is rear channel information encoded into the content. And if you do have a true 5.1 source, like the streaming apps built into your TV (Netflix, Vudu, Amazon VOD) or your TV's built-in ATSC tuner, then you will get even better sound with discrete 5.1 surround.
Watching a movie in full 5.1 Dolby Digital surround on the system is a vastly improved experience over the PlayBar alone: bass is deep and extended without being bloated; surround effects emanate from all around the room and overall dynamic range is enhanced as the PlayBar is able to concentrate all its power on the front three channels, without having to worry about surround or low bass. The only caveat? Adding the sub and play:3 rears brings the system cost from $700 to $about $1,800 and that's a bit steep.
SONOS: The Killer App for Music
In addition to being a sound bar, the PlayBar is also an independent wireless SONOS zone. This means you can fire up the SONOS app on your phone or tablet, access your digital music collection stored on a PC or local network drive (or in iTunes on an iPhone or iPad) and play it back through the PlayBar. You can also access a ton of different online music streaming services, some of which are free, and some of which require a subscription. I was finding songs and discovering new artists on Spotify, accessing my local MP3 collection on my PC and streaming Pandora radio stations just minutes after opening the box. And the nice thing about SONOS is that it manages music from these different services in a single playback queue - so one song came from Spotify, then a couple from one of my ripped CDs, the next from Spotify... you get the idea.
For those who say you can do that wireless music streaming stuff with AirPlay, or an AppleTV (etc.), I say, "poppycock!" Yes, AirPlay allows you to stream music from your phone, tablet or computer wirelessly. But to use Apple TV, you're limited to the Apple ecosystem (e.g. iTunes) and whichever apps Apple chooses to enable. SONOS is more of an open platform with support for different file formats as well as all of the most popular music streaming apps and services. Also with AppleTV and virtually any other streaming media box, you have to have the TV on and switched to the correct input in order to hear anything or see what's playing. For music listening, this just isn't convenient. With the PlayBar, everything is driven through the SONOS app on your smart phone, PC or tablet. Pick your music, press play and you're good to go. And when you want to switch back over to watching TV, the PlayBar handles that for you automatically so the sound matches the picture.
I found myself listening to a lot more music with the PlayBar in the living room, because it's not just easy but actually fun. If you're feeling adventurous (or home sick after a move) you can also access any of thousands of streaming internet radio stations, right within the app.
If you add on more SONOS components (Play:3, Play:5, etc.) throughout your home, you can decide which room gets which music, right from your smart phone, PC or tablet. It's an advanced multi-room audio system without the cost of installation or the need to rip up your walls. Also, with the PlayBar in the system and connected to your TV, you can pipe that TV sound to any other SONOS wireless zone in your home which was an unexpected bonus.
For TV listening, the PlayBar has some nice features which work standalone or with the full 5.1 system. "Night" mode compresses the dynamic range so you can hear whispered dialog and subtle surround effects without the loud parts of the movie being overpowering. "Speech enhancement" brings the dialog forward in the mix so you can make out what characters are saying, even when there are other distractions. You can use both at the same time or each feature independently. I tested both and found that they did make subtle but noticeable improvements to dialog intelligibility. And the Night mode did equalize differences between soft and quiet points. I found I could keep "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows," at a reasonable volume level and I didn't need to leap for the remote when the explosions kicked in. But for daytime movie viewing (and for music) I left these features turned off.
* Good sound overall, considering size
* Simple connection, set-up and operation
* Nice-looking unit
* Flexible installation
* SONOS app puts the world of music at your fingertips.
* Needs more bass
* Gets a bit congested at high volumes
* Could use a second fiberoptic input and DTS support
* Limited by TV's ability to pass through 5.1 surround
* A little pricey
Reviewing the PlayBar is a bit tricky. As a pure sound bar, it's a nice sounding simple solution that can plug and play with your existing TV and remote. But again, as a pure sound bar, it's expensive and doesn't offer the low bass extension of many more affordable sound bar/subwoofer combos. But unlike most sound bars, the PlayBar is upgradeable. Find the bass a bit light? Add a sub. Want to experience discrete surround sound? Add a pair of Play:1s as surrounds. This is something most other sound bars simply cannot do. But what really sets the PlayBar apart from every other sound bar on the planet is that it's also a SONOS wireless speaker with all the streaming musical goodness that the SONOS platform has to offer. You'll come for the enhanced sound from movies and TV, but you'll stay for the music. Recommended.
UPDATE (October, 2013): The rear channels of a PlayBar 5.1 system can now be the new less expensive Play:1 speakers, or you can use your own speakers with the CONNECT amp. The Play:3 is also still supported as a rear channel speaker for a PlayBar multi-channel system.
A more detailed review is available on Big Picture Big Sound (dot com).
389 of 426 people found the following review helpful
on March 5, 2013
We have a small 10'x12' game room for our Xbox 360 and Wii U. Each console is hooked up to a LG 47" LED TV. The video quality is fantastic but the sound left a lot to be desired. This "problem" needed a solution. I set four simple goals to address this.
1) The system had to sound great.
2) High Wife Acceptance Factor. :)
3) I did not want to run a separate A/V receiver. I simply don't have the room.
4) I did not want to run wires under the baseboards or carpet.
To achieve these goals I decided to build a complete Sonos Home Theater System, with the new PLAYBAR front and center (literally).
Here are the components I chose for my system:
- Sonos BRIDGE
- Sonos PLAYBAR
- Sonos SUB
- Sonos PLAY:3 (x2 as Surround Speakers)
Let's start with the setup. First thing I did was download the Sonos software for my laptop and hooked up the Wireless BRIDGE to my router. After the software downloaded and installed, getting the BRIDGE recognized by the software was as simple as pressing a button.
After the BRIDGE was set-up, I went on to tackle the PLAYBAR. Installation was equally as simple. An optical cable from the TV along with power from an outlet are the only two wires needed to get running. Press a couple buttons to sync the PLAYBAR with the BRIDGE, follow a few prompts in the software, disable the TV speakers, and the PLAYBAR is handling audio for my TV and game consoles. It was super-simple and a dramatic improvement in fidelity compared to the TV's built-in speakers.
Next up was adding the subwoofer and surrounds. I found a nice spot in the corner of the game room and hooked up the power cable to the sub. Press a button on the front of the SUB, follow a few prompts in the software, and the subwoofer is handling the low frequencies. Adding the two PLAY:3 surround speakers was just as easy. Provide power to each PLAY:3, press two buttons on each speaker, follow the prompts in the software, and your done.
My new Game Room/Home Theater system was complete. Installation took less than an hour from start to finish. No big bulky receiver, no running wires under the carpet or baseboards, and the wife approves!
How does it sound?
After minimal tweaking in the Calibration Menus I got the sound just right. Mids and highs are clean and crisp, voices are clear, and the SUB is in perfect lock-step delivering deep/tight bass to Movies, Music and Games. This is an incredibly balanced combination that fills the room with accurate, high-quality sound. I honestly wasn't expecting to be this impresssed. I'm stunned by quality delivered without a dedicated A/V receiver. Incredible job, Sonos!
Here are a few of the software features that I found most helpful.
1) You can turn off the white status light on each speaker. This is great if you find those lights to be a distraction when the room is dark.
2) You can enhance/amplify "Voice/Speech" which makes hearing dialog at low volume levels much easier.
3) Not all room seating is rectangular. When calibrating the Surround Speakers you have the option for setting distances independently for the main seating position. Note: This is somewhat limited as the only three options to choose from are less than 2ft, 2-10ft and over 10ft.
I took some screenshots of the software menus I found helpful. Check 'em out under Customer Images along with some photos of the PLAYBAR in my game room.
I almost forgot. A review wouldn't be complete without at least a "Con". Here is my one real pet peave. There are no official Windows RT or Windows Phone 8 apps. It would be great to use my Surface RT tablet and/or my Nokia Lumia 920 phone as a controller for the system.
That's it for now. Thanks for reading!
229 of 279 people found the following review helpful
on March 6, 2013
This is addition to my Sonos enabled home, so you can also read my reviews of other Sonos products. Sonos makes amazing home audio solutions, so whenever I add a component, I always write a review...
Summary : I was so excited by the concept of a Playbar. I have Sonos speakers in two other rooms of my house, but it is unfortunately not integrated in my two rooms with surround sound speaker systems. I would kill to have Sonos wireless music in those rooms, but seamlessly integrate with my existing A/V setups. That is what Playbar is for. Super exciting. While the setup experience and audio quality of Playbar is great and up to the usual Sonos quality bar, it unfortunately doesn't work with my Sharp Aqous TV, and I think that might be the tiny Achilles heel of this product. It probably works with most, but not every HDTV, due to a basic setup assumption. I love the Playbar concept, and it probably works great for most people!
I got this product to integrate into my main living room A/V experience. My LR is about 20'x16' with no separation from another 20'x16' dining room. Relatively big space to fill with audio. I've got a relatively generic 5 speaker setup, with no sub because everyone else in the house complains about the noise level when it is enabled ;-) I mounted my Sharp Aquos 46D62U on the wall, and ran HDMI and component
in-wall between a lower cabinet and the wall plate behind the Sharp. Pretty standard. I've got a number of HDMI sources running into a Onkyo amp, then one HDMI from the amp to the TV through the in-wall wiring. My goal in adding Playbar was to disable the existing room speakers, and use the Playbar as the audio source. I would get full Sonos integration plus audio from my existing PS3, Xbox 360, and AppleTV. Wee!
The out of the box experience was mostly to Sonos's standard quality level. I've come to expect that setup is very easy, and it was. They've added the steps needed to check audio coming from your TV source, and to configure your remote control to change volume on the Playbar. This all worked well for me.
The sound quality was also up to the high Sonos standards. I loved having my music collection seamlessly stream into my living room, finally. And as I'll explain in a minute, when I tested with an alternate TV, the audio quality for game (PS3, Xbox 360) and movie sources was quite good. I think for bigger rooms you'll want to add the Sonos Sub for depth, but for smaller rooms the sound was high quality and bright.
There were two big gotchas that will not affect everyone, but affected me. I think it is important to understand them before purchasing a Playbar:
1 - If you have an in-wall installation for your TV, adding/retrofitting Playbar into the environment is not hard, but requires some manual dexterity and a longer digital audio cable than ships in the box. Most people with an in-wall installation do not think of putting optical audio cables into the wall during the initial buildout. Audio was supposed to transfer via HDMI in the new world order. This means you have to difficultly get behind the TV (most of the time flush mounted), plug in an optical audio cable, then run this unsightly cable down from the TV to the Playbar. I went in-wall because I wanted a nice aesthetic, but that cable ruins the clean visual experience.
The optical cable that ships with the Playbar is way too short for most runs from the back of a wall mounted TV to the Playbar. Most TVs have their connections in the back to one side (right, often), so you have to run the optical cable back to center, then straight drop it to the center of the Playbar where its connectors are. If you don't want an oddly angled cable running from the Playbar to the TV, this involves a few 90 degree bends, which adds to the required cable length. The Sonos supplied short optical cable was in no way long enough for this, but as a bit of an audio geek, I had extra optical cables of various lengths. If you don't have extra optical cables of longer length, be prepared to buy one to finish this install. This is a rare "fit and finish" miss for Sonos.
2 - The basic premise of the Playbar solution is that you run all HDMI to the TV, then an optical audio cable from the TV to the Playbar. This is a huge assumption about the age of most people's TVs. New TVs have plenty of HDMI ports and the assumption that there is a working audio optical out is probably ok. What I learned is that my older (sold in 2006-2008 at high volume) but still good Sharp Aquos 46D62U has that optical audio out, but it was designed only for ATSC (over the air HDTV) audio. It is not a generic pass-through audio port. Translation, the Playbar does not work with my TV. But I had no way of knowing this when I got the Playbar. There is no list I could find of TVs that will not work with the Playbar, but I can guarantee these exist. It took me three hours of super geeking to learn all of this, buried in manuals and AVForum posts. In this way I'm not the average Sonos customer, as less of a geek would have gotten frustrated and taken something back well before this.
I trust Sonos, and assume that the vast majority of TVs work with this digital audio pass-through model. I grabbed a newer Sony TV I had stored and hooked it up outside my home theatre room, and it worked well. Maybe mine is a rare case, but I wonder with less expensive or older HDTVs, will Playbar work every time. Hopefully FAQs will quickly appear documenting the few TVs that won't work with Playbar, so you don't have to order something that has a very low but possible chance of not working with your TV...
All in all, I really love the Playbar concept, and wish, oh wish, it had worked in my main home theatre room. The sound quality is great and setup is a breeze. Now to convince my wife I need a new TV for the living room?!
32 of 37 people found the following review helpful
on December 9, 2013
If you're like me, you have probably scoured the Internet looking for the best over all soundbar, with the best value for the money. Something that will give you as close to a actual surround sound experience as possible, but be aesthetically pleasing enough to keep the wife happy. I can honestly say that the Sonos Playbar is it for me.
I recently purchased the Playbar and have it connected to a blu-ray, xbox, and cable box.
While I do think a Sub would make it sound even better, I have to say that I am extremely happy with the quality the soundbar alone gives. The sound quality is amazing! Nice, clean detail in the audio, with a great low-end without a sub.The speech enhancement feature is great for sports or content with a lot of dialogue, and the bar programs to your existing remote perfectly. The set up is cake and the size/look is perfect for my entertainment stand.
I have owned a Sonos Play3 for over a year now and am totally sold on the way they perform. I mean, bluetooth is great, but Sonos is a far superior product to your average bluetooth speaker or soundbar. Quality, content, range, expandability, independent room control. It's all there with Sonos. I knew that I wanted to incorporate this into my home theater system as well, but I initially had some concerns with the Playbar.
If you have done your research on this soundbar, then you probably have heard of the complaint that it only has one optical input and makes you pass all of your audio through your T.V. when using multiple sources. Most all T.V.'s can only output a PCM(digitally processed) audio signal, which basically means you're losing a good bit of quality. This comes into play majorly if you want true channel separation or are looking to incorporate a sub and rear channel speakers to this system. While, you may be happy with the quality you get by connecting the soundbar this way(it's certainly going to be far better than any T.V. speakers), I wanted to use this soundbar to it's full potential.
The solution? Get yourself a optical switcher that will let you bypass the T.V. and run all of you sources directly to the switcher. The output of the switcher will run to the soundbar, giving you amazing audio. I purchased the C2G Toslink Digital Audio Switcher off of Amazon for $40. It passes full 5.1 audio, thus giving your playbar a true 3.0 signal to work with. Your channels will be separated, clear, and it makes a HUGE difference. If you decide to grow your system with a Sub and rear speakers, (which I do) this switcher will make an even bigger impact.
Now, I've seen all the arguments...."I shouldn't have to buy another piece of equipment to make this $700 soundbar work", "Sonos should have designed it with more inputs", and "Sonos should have designed it to pass through HDMI."
The thing is... if you don't like Sonos, you won't like a SonosPlaybar. Yes It would be nice if the soundbar had more inputs, but Sonos is a company that does quality through simplicity. iPads only have one connection on them as well, and you either are an Apple person or you aren't. It's not necessarily their fault that T.V.'s output a crap audio signal. As T.V.'s progress I'm sure that they will improve on this, but for now there is a easy way around it.
For me, it was worth spending an extra $40 to unlock the full potential of this soundbar that my T.V. was hindering.
If you haven't tried Sonos, I would highly, highly recommend anyone with a reliable Wifi connection to buy this soundbar.
Now to start saving for the Sonos Sub.
24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on May 28, 2013
I'm a long time fan of sonos, and this Playbar is a great addition. The sound is truly excellent and the full integration with my sonos system makes this soundbar unbeatable for me. I use it along with the Sonos Sub (which I didn't need, but which makes for a mind blowing combo with the playbar.)
Among the features I most appreciate are the following:
- Sonos' ability to automatically revert to TV audio whenever the TV is turned on.
- Enhanced Speech mode making TV dialog especially clear.
- Late Night mode for softening louder sound bursts.
- The ability to use my IR remote to control the volume, AND the great full featured sonos controller apps for iphone, ipad, osx, windows, android etc. (IMO the best remote control interface ever for internet radio and total music streaming)
- Access to all my iTunes tracks, playlists, albums, artists, automatically updated every night.
- Streaming of 100,000 radio stations, so easy to to find and use with the sonos controller apps
- Pandora, Rhapsody, Spotify, and just about any other music service you could want. (I'm using Pandora and Rhapsody)
- Streaming of custom web sites by use of any streaming URL. (I use these for my JazzRadio.com stations.)
IMO, these features make the Playbar a great choice for people new to Sonos, and an obvious one for those who already have sonos.
A SOLUTION for DOLBY DIGITAL WITH PLAYBAR and ANY TV
Some folks have had issues in getting Dolby Digital from their TV optical out. Some older TV's have no optical out or no sound from their optical out when using HDMI, and some other TVs send only stereo to the optical out. See this sonos link for a list of TVs and their level of compatibility with the Playbar:
A very simple, fairly inexpensive solution to all of these audio problems, and one which has been working extremely well for me, is an HDMI Audio extractor, sometimes called a de-embedder, combined (if you have more than one source) with a simple hdmi switch. (An audio extractor is around $40. Monoprice has a 4x1 hdmi switch for $24 OR an 8x1 switch for $79, and Amazon has some good hdmi switches as well)
This solution is ideal for folks like myself, who are already using an HDMI switch, or for those using only a single source (in either of these cases you'd only need to buy the $40 audio extractor). But even if you'd have to buy an HDMI switch, this approach has some advantages over plugging all of your hdmi cables into the TV or using an integrated hdmi/optical switch:
- You need to run only 1 cable (just an hdmi cable) from your equipment location to the TV location. (eg. you can keep the hdmi switch near all of your sources, route its output hdmi cable, under the floor and behind walls, to the tv, and insert the audio extractor right by the TV and playbar. Giving you a very short convenient run for the optical audio cable.)
- Using a standalone HDMI switch, rather than TV switching, makes it much easier to add more sources in the future, eliminating difficult routing for the additional cables.
- An integrated hdmi/toslink switch will not work for sources with no digital out, such as a Roku3. This approach will.
The audio extractor I'm using is this one:
J-Tech Digital Premium Quality HDMI to HDMI + Audio (SPDIF + 3.5mm Stereo) Audio Extractor Converter .
You just plug your switcher's (or single source) HDMI output cable into this device's HDMI input instead of the TV. Connect a second HDMI cable from the HDMI output of this device to your TV's HDMI input. Connect the optical output of this device to the Playbar. Press the button to choose Digital Out and you're done.
I'm automatically getting dolby digital whenever my source has dolby digital, and stereo whenever my source has stereo. My picture quality and audio are excellent, and video audio sync is perfect. No problems of any kind. It's working well with my Roku 3, Apple TV, 2 Tivos, and a Sony BluRay DVD Player.
(Note however that, as with every other device I've seen, this unit does not convert dolby digital plus or DTS to either vanilla DD or to stereo for the digital out. If you're getting DD+ or DTS you'd have to switch that off at the source. An example of this is Netflix whose surround sound is DD+ on Roku. Because of that, I have Roku set up to give me stereo from Netflix and DD 5.1 from Amazon. Sonos is said to be working on Playbar DTS support.)
I'd seen a couple of suggestions for similar extractors but I had been unable to find reports from anyone who's USED one with the Playbar. So, if that has been holding you back, I hope this helps.
38 of 46 people found the following review helpful
on December 13, 2013
Until this Playbar can support DTS audio, it should be considered a waste of money. For $700 it should at least have more inputs and audio codecs for a soundbar. My Samsung E450 soundbar (worth $200) has more inputs and codecs than this thing. For a company that prides itself in modern audio technology, it sure lags behind much cheaper products like the $300 5.1 VIZIO soundbar (per CNet). If I was simply buying this for music I would rate it 4 stars, but Sonos endorses this as a home theater system, so until they fix this, it's garbage.
23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on January 10, 2014
The point of the soundbar is to declutter your hometheatre. Separate components of a 5.1 receiver and a sonos:connect will provide better sound for less money. So the main reason to buy this product is that it simplifies and declutters while providing a similar sound quality.
Unfortunately, by design it cannot do a very good job of the 5.1 part. The way it is meant to be used is to be plugged into your TV, so that it can amplify the audio for what you are watching. Unfortunately, almost no TV on the market can provide the 5.1 sound input the playbar requires. Without a 5.1 input, the playbar cannot provide 5.1 output. This is not a fault of the playbar, but of the HDMI spec; it can be read to prohibit TVs from providing the output the playbar needs.
In order to get the appropriate input to the playbar, some sort of HDMI switcher is needed, but now you are adding clutter to satisfy the needs of a product meant to declutter.
Sonos knows all of this of course, yet still markets this as a painless upgrade. I find that very misleading.
25 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on March 24, 2013
I don't consider myself "harry homeowner" when it comes to electronics or sound. I do a lot of research and will put money into something if I believe it is a good product. I had read a ton of reviews about this product both from Best Buy, Crutchfield, and here on Amazon. It was very difficult to find anyone that would give it less than five stars.
Although I had prewired my house for surround sound, I do have one room where there is just a flat-panel TV and I had zero interest in running any kind of wires behind the wall or making a mess. That is when I started looking into the sound bars. In years past it is also been impossible to find a good sub woofer that could wirelessly handle any kind of sound and come out as a good product. So I ended up going to Best Buy to get a demo of this and see if it is what I was looking for. The other bonuses for me was I want to be able to extend this system throughout my house on a need by need basis, and I also have an iPad and iPhone and like the idea of being able to control my entire electronics life with one device. Visually...not a universal remote.
Needless to say the demo sold me. I want out of there with a sound bar, a sub woofer, And a bridge-a necessary component if you want to link everything together like I want to. I cannot say enough about the ease of hooking all of this up. An elementary school student could do it. I give it five stars alone for the entire process out-of-the-box. I have now had it up for about 15 hours in have used the crap out of it. Both playing very high sound intensive movies, watching a hockey game, and streaming music from both Pandora, XM radio, and even local radio stations. This entire system reminds me very much of Apple. Extremely powerful and yet unbelievably simplistic. And yet has enough technical aspects to it To keep a person like me entertained and give me a ton of cool options to configure.
On the iPad app alone you can individually control speakers, sounds in individual rooms, move from program-to-program, all with a touch of a button.
The salesperson at Best Buy joked with me and said you'll be back in a couple months to add on to your Sonos system. I chuckled but not only do I think he's right but I'll probably be in quicker. Awesome sound, quality, and product.
24 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on January 8, 2014
I have invested in a lot of Sonos products and have been happily using them for years now, but this is the first time I've had buyer's remorse.
I bought the Playbar and two Play 1's to use as rear speakers for a surround setup. I A/B tested the setup using my existing tuner and traditional wired surround system and the Sonos rig stood up to the test. It was a little thinner and the spread was narrower, but the definition when it came to dialogue and music clarity were better with the Sonos setup. After a week of comparisons I decided to pull my wired system out of the room and remove my receiver so that I could set up the Sonos surround system as they suggest in the manual. This was when things started to fall apart.
Sonos wants you to connect the Playbar via optical Toslink directly to the TV, and run any external components through your TV. Unfortunately, due to DMCA copy protection regulation crap enforced by the big studios, almost no TVs pass Dolby Digital through the optical output. Only broadcast material that originates on the tuner inside the television will be heard in true surround sound. NO EXTERNAL SOURCES CAN BE HEARD IN SURROUND ON THE PLAYBAR IF CONNECTED AS SUGGESTED. This includes your cable or satellite box. ONLY A SMALL NUMBER OF NEW SONY TVs PASS DOLBY DIGITAL THROUGH THE OPTICAL OUTPUT.
In order to workaround this problem I had to purchase a $60 HDMI switcher that breaks out Toslink audio and run that into the Playbar. This works, but it's a little ridiculous that I need to do something like this when I've just spent $1100+ on a surround system (I actually downgraded because I refuse to buy the Sonos sub to replace my wired one). I could also bring my receiver back into the mix but that seemed a little ridiculous as well for just breaking out the audio to optical. The whole point of this transition was to give up a little in surround quality for ease of use, digital music integration, and less clutter!
I honestly am extremely puzzled by this design decision by Sonos, who is usually totally keyed in to user experience and excellent product design. I'm pretty bummed and wish I hadn't gone through with this.
If you don't care about surround, and just want improved stereo audio with Sonos quality and functionality, and are willing to pay a whopping $700 for it, then the Playbar is for you! But if this year's CES is any indication, there is about to be a whole lot of competition in the marketplace, and if I was you, I'd shop around a bit.