Sonos has completed its wireless speaker offering for the home with the Playbase. It is a sound "bar" that is not a bar, but a base for the TV. It is not always practical to place a bar and few televisions hang on the wall. Sonos already had its Playbar, plus a subwoofer and its separate speakers. But the higher volume available has allowed Sonos to offer something very special with the Playbase as we have seen. Its price is 799 euros .
This is the Playbase
With a width of 72cm, a bottom of 38cm, and a height of just 5.8cm, the Playbase doesn't seem all that big. Even less in the elegant white color that the unit had for this test. As its name suggests, it is intended to serve as the basis for a television . Sonos says it holds up to 35kg, so we can put a TV up to about 60 inches on top.
In its interior it contains no less than ten speakers . There are seven in the front area, and two on the sides, for mids and highs. Then there's the bass on the inside, with a 13cm cone in (obviously) horizontal position. The front grille is key and its 43,000 holes have different diameters. The result of that speaker arrangement is that the music plays with a wide scene, as we will see later.
Unlike other soundbars, which include multiple inputs, the Sonos Playbase is straightforward. It has only one network connection (in addition to Wifi) and one optical digital one. Sonos claims that this connection is secure and does not have the complications of HDMI (true), and that the TV will be the "core" of the equipment. The sources we have will be connected to it, and the difference will be that the TV will not sound but that it will send the sound through fiber optics to the Playbase.
Unpacking: a luxury
Although we cannot say that Sonos products are cheap, the truth is that it is a pleasure to unpack one . It is an experience similar to an Apple device, a Samsung mobile, something from Bose ... a luxury. In this case, the Playbase comes in a design box protected by a double-layer cardboard box with a neutral exterior appearance. Once the “briefcase” that is the Sonos packaging itself has been removed, we must remove two side locks. After that, we can open the "locks" that will allow the cover to slide, leaving the Playbase exposed.
The device is protected by a fine fabric cover that can even serve as a dust cover later on. In cardboard boxes, all very well conceived, we have the basic instructions and cables. The power cable, finished in fine rubber and whose terminal is personalized, deserves its mention… it is not just any cable. And the Playbase itself, in addition to being heavy (almost 9 kg), looks impeccably finished wherever you look at it.
Sonos recommends placing the Playbase under a television. It holds 35 kg and the truth is that the surface (fiber-reinforced plastic) looks strong, although not entirely solid. What we do not recommend is to "fit" it on a shelf if the furniture where we have the television has them. It will sound much better, without generating unwanted bass resonances, without furniture nearby. The Playbase itself has three handy touch buttons to advance or rewind songs, pause playback, or increase / decrease the volume.
Once placed, and if -as in our case- it is the first Sonos device, you have to download the application on the mobile (iOS or Android). The application itself, once downloaded, will propose to install a new Sonos. We will follow the instructions and, in our case ... we will get to the point where the wireless-only connection does not end. It may depend on the type of password used, but it is not a big problem. You will have to connect an Ethernet cable, so it may be a good idea to do this before placing the Playbase in its final place. There it was all fast, a touch of the only button on the device (on the right side) was enough to recognize it. After that step everything will work via WiFi without a problem (although we can choose to leave it connected to the network cable).
One connection remains to be made: the optical digital cable from the television to the Playbase. Sonos recommends that the TV be the “hub” to which all sources connect . And so it should be, because the Playbase has no other sound input. If our television does not have an optical digital output, we will have to look for an adapter from coaxial in the market (they exist). Another detail to keep in mind is that through this digital cable we can only send Dolby Digital format (or PCM sound of a lifetime). The Playbase only understands these two and in the digital output menu of the television it will be convenient to make sure to deactivate other formats (DTS).
We have already commented that the application guides us through the configuration. We must highlight how refined the Sonos App is . It's one of the few times that you really enjoy installing something or following its instructions. Too many times we find orders that are badly translated or that refer to another device, but not with Sonos. It is another detail, such as the quality of the packaging or the finish of the products, that justifies a higher price.
Once launched, the application is our favorite remote control. But since the Playbase assumes we'll use it with a TV, it has another surprise in store. The application itself, at the end of the installation, asks us to take the TV remote control. Yes, the one on the TV: following the simple instructions, it will become the volume control of the Playbase, learning its code. Very simple and with a lot of logic, because with that control (of the television) it will be where we choose channels or sources and control the volume day by day.
A last step in the configuration would be to activate Trueplay. Sonos calls its acoustic correction system that way . Using an iOS device, emit various sounds to measure unwanted resonances and echoes and correct them. Given the precision of the calibration of Apple devices, and the lack of it in Android, Trueplay can only be done with iOS ... and we are left without trying it. A pity, because it is also recorded for that room (it can be activated or deactivated with Android). But she caught us without an iPhone or iPad available in the office (at the blacksmith's house…).
Another very noteworthy section of the Sonos application is related to music service settings . Usually the applications that accompany speakers or network music systems give access to the most popular ones. But in Sonos they have left almost none out ... I counted forty! Of course there are the best known: Spotify, Tidal, Apple Music, Google Music, Amazon Music, Last.fm… impressive. Another good point in Sonos' favor, their system is fully DLNA compatible. This means that we can use our favorite application (for example BubbleUPnP) to send you music and control its volume.
For other more "intimate" settings, or to configure other Sonos, we will logically need its native application . For example, we can add a Sonos wireless active subwoofer to the PlayBase. We recommend it for medium or large rooms and more for cinema than for music, because as we will see, the internal woofer of the Playbase already gives a lot of itself. We can also add rear speakers to complete a home theater system. The Playbase will serve as front channels (left, right and center) and the two extra channels (Sonos Play 1 for example) as surround effects.
The audition begins
For practical reasons we perform this test in our office instead of, as usual, in my home system. But that helped us figure out how the Playbase fits into a more common situation. That is, in a room or room without acoustic treatment and with normal decoration. We place it on a table with a not very large television on top. The installation as described above had no more anecdotes than following the Sonos application (and initially connecting to the wired network).
From the moment the first note sounds, you can see that the Sonos Playbase is not just another soundbar . And that its price is not justified only by its finish, packaging or refined application. No, the Sonos "rings". The first thing that is shocking is the amount of bass it is capable of reproducing. With its innocent appearance (less than 6 cm tall) it is easy to forget that it contains a 13 cm woofer with direct digital amplification. In fact, with mastered music with mobile phones or anorexic speakers in mind, we will need to tweak the low frequencies down.
We let the Playbase take its first notes for a while without listening too carefully. Any loudspeaker needs some filming (electronic and mechanical components) and it is unfair to value its sound without allowing it. Meanwhile we become familiar with other settings of the application. In Room Settings, "EQ", we can tweak the sound: enhance or reduce treble and bass, and activate or not "Loudness".
The treble level always seemed balanced to me and our room was not very “dressed”. Perhaps a brighter room requires a downward adjustment (I doubt it) but surely one with more curtains, sofas, etc., does ask for a higher point to avoid sounding muffled. On the contrary, at no time did I feel the need to raise the bass , but to lower it several points depending on the music. The room would be a little less than 20 square meters: without that volume the Playbase offered plenty of bass, it's easy to imagine what it's capable of ...
Loudness is a curious setting: on the one hand, it acts as “loudness”, that is, it increases the bass and treble at a low volume. Thus, with music at moderate or even low levels, it was very well received because otherwise the ear misses those frequencies. When we increase the volume, the effect decreases (well programmed), so I recommend leaving it on always, especially if we also adjust the bass (down). On the other hand, it clearly increases the spatial effect of the music. Turning it on projects a louder and wider soundstage.
Wide sound scene
Recall that we have two side tweeters, one central, and six mid-range speakers arranged frontally. Sonos' acoustic study has been successful because they manage to sound surprisingly coherent. In addition to their placement, they have behind a lot of electronics (digital DSP) and the famous grid of 43,000 holes with increasing diameters towards the sides. The music is projected across the walls of the room, even beyond : it offers the virtual impression of listening to a band in front of us occupying the entire wall. Just what any stereo worthy of the name should do.
We had attended the Sonos presentation and there we could listen to some movie clips, we started with other family members. Excellent voice reproduction thanks to clarity of mids and highs. It's essential in a speaker to be used with a television, and the Playbase passes this test with flying colors. The sound projection gives realism to dynamic scenes , and the internal woofer more than enough "foundation" not to miss more bass. Really, only in movies where the presence of rear sound effects adds a lot of excitement or intrigue, we can miss those physical speakers. For that we already know that it is easy to add a pair of Sonos Play 1s (at about 200 euros a piece).
With the "hot" Playbase we accessed our Tidal account to listen to well-known songs. By the way, the Sonos barely heats up: the surface is not over warm. To confirm the sensations with soundtracks, we started with orchestra and choirs. It was overwhelming how the Playbase reproduced the Swedish choir of the Cantate Domino label, even at very high volume. It is a test in which much more expensive systems succumb, but the Sonos showed no distortion and did show detail, space and energy.
Listening to less complex music, jazz trios or chamber classical, the good feelings remained . The sound scene was presented in front of us with good amplitude and with correct delineation. Far from a too holographic or hyper-realistic scene and, deep down, far from real direct listening. Very enjoyable, and also not very critical of the listening position, another point in favor for family use. When going up gear, a new surprise for how we enjoyed Supertramp or Dire Straits songs. The good bass of the Playbase set the pace, its good mids and highs allowed you to enjoy voices and guitars. Excellent.
We have been very pleasantly surprised by the quality, and quantity, of sound that the Sonos Playbase is capable of offering . It really is a device that is a luxury to install, see, touch, use and listen to. And when we say “quantity” we are not exaggerating… There were moments during the test when, despite having the door to the room closed, my colleagues were unable to speak on the phone. Luckily it was daytime and the neighbors were away. Either that, or they liked our music and that's why the police didn't show up.
Today's televisions offer outstanding picture quality but, with few exceptions, their sound is unacceptable. The Sonos Playbase offers the equivalent of those images pleasure to our ears . It does this with an elegant device and minimally intrusive with the decoration. An easy device to install, and very easy to use on a daily basis. The Sonos Playbase is the ideal sound companion to turn a modern TV into a complete entertainment center. We can give you a recommendation without conditions.
|Type||Sound system with 3 active ways|
|Connections||WiFi, Ethernet, Digital Audio (Optical)|
|Direct controls||Track forward / backward / pause, Volume. Recognizes TV's IR remote control.|
|Application||Sonos Controller (installation, configuration, control) for iOS or Android.|
|Internal speakers||Treble (3), Middle (6), Bass (1)|
|Recognized sound formats||Dolby Digital or PCM (fiber optic). MP3, AAC, AIFF, Flac, WAV, WMA, Ogg (WiFi).|
|Amplification||10 channels Class D|
|Colors||Semi-gloss black or white|
|Dimensions||720 x 380 x 58 mm (150 grams)|
|Weight (supported load)||8,600 grams (35 Kg maximum)|