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Sonos PLAYBAR TV Soundbar/ Wireless Streaming TV and Music Speaker. Works with Alexa.
- Complements HD television screens with crisp and powerful sound from nine amplified speaker drivers. Wirelessly streams all your favorite music services too.
- Connect your Playbar to any Amazon Echo or Alexa-enabled device, then just ask for the music you love.
- Syncs wirelessly with other Sonos speakers so you can listen to TV or music in perfect sync, throughout your home.
- Pair with two PLAY:1s and a SUB for a 5.1 surround system, the ultimate home theater experience.
- Simple two-cord setup. One for power and one for the TV. Control from your existing TV remote, or wirelessly connect on the Sonos app from your smart device.
- Enhances speech for extra clarity. Turn on night sound to enhance quiet sounds at lower volumes and reduce the intensity of loud sounds.
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|Sold By||Amazon.com||Amazon.com||Amazon.com||Electronics Expo||Amazon.com||Huppins|
|Item Dimensions||5.51 x 35.43 x 3.33 in||21.5 x 3.38 x 2.75 in||18.44 x 38.56 x 8.69 in||10.5 x 10.5 x 46 in||16.5 x 30 x 20.5 in||40 x 2.8 x 4.1 in|
|Item Weight||11.9 lbs||3.7 lbs||23.8 lbs||27 lbs||30 lbs||7 lbs|
|Speaker Type||Soundbars||Soundbars||Soundbar||Wireless, Surround, Soundbar||Speaker Systems||Surround|
Complements HD television screens with richly textured HiFi sound. Wirelessly streams all the music on earth. Simple to set up, control and expand. Understands and speaks most IR remotes language Can be controlled by free apps for your Android, iPhone or iPad. Plays all sources plugged in to your HDTV
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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.
** Update **
The landscape has changed in terms of tvs that do pass 5.1 through and it's better. It's still difficult to determine precisely so I'd suggest checking forums to see if your TV does in indeed pass 5.1 out. My 2015 LG OLED does not but I'm under the impression the 2017 models do, possibly the 2016 models for example. That all said I think my points made above still stand. Most existing TVs don't do this and it's still very hard to verify.
Additionally I'd like to note the omission of another audio format, Dolby Atmos. Sonos says they elected to omit this on the Playbase (the related product to this) because so few things used it and they wanted to focus on streaming but the issue is this limits user choice. Vudu, Netflix, and iTunes support or will support Dolby Atmos. There are likely more services that do as well.
They have their very specific viewpoint of how people should use this product and with what (5.1 over optical in DD, steaming services) and that options aren't needed. There are better products out there, especially for the total money spent. I'm not saying there's no market for this or it's terrible - if you have a TV that passes 5.1 and you don't care about DTS and Dolby Atmos it's a fine product and exactly the scenario that Sonos has in mind. But if you want options or don't have a TV that will and you'll be limited to stereo, look elsewhere then. You can do better or cheaper. It's just a shame that Sonos continues to limit this product as, when it works as they want it to, it's great.
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).
Sonos continues to be a top notch company that puts out quality products and support. Looking forward to the release of TruePlay later on this year.