Review: SONOS Playbase

SONOS recently released their latest speaker, the SONOS Playbase and its a product with a difference. The company already offers a soundbar that sits in front of your TV,...

SONOS recently released their latest speaker, the SONOS Playbase and its a product with a difference. The company already offers a soundbar that sits in front of your TV, the Playbar, but after looking at the data around how people configure their living rooms and home theaters, SONOS realised there’s a gap in the market. Many people don’t wall-mount their TVs, whether its because they’re renting and they can’t or they simply don’t want the hassle and cost of wall mounting, so many people leave their TVs on a low-line unit. So what about the sound?

We all know even the best TV speakers are still junk, so what do you do if you don’t want a sound bar that sits in front of your TV? SONOS believes the Playbase, where your TV sits on top of the speaker, is the perfect solution.

Design

The Playbase is like any other SONOS product, incredibly well made, attention to detail and looks the part. Given we don’t have other products on the market that are speakers that go under the TV, its hard to give any sense of comparison here, but in the right colour, it’ll blend right in. The Plabase, like the Sub and Play speakers, come in both black and white which should match with most entertainment setups.

The SONOS Playbase is 5.8cm high, 72cm wide and 38cm deep. It weighs 8.6 kg which isn’t light, but once its in place, you won’t need to move it. The Playbase can support up to 35kg in weight, so if your TV, including the stand is less than that, you’re good to go.

There is somewhat of a tension created with a new device like this. The tension between who’s responsibility it is to accommodate the variety of stands that support our large TVs. There’s actually a crazy variety as each manufacturer tries to differentiate the appearance of their displays. Previously the only consideration that needed to be made was the height, allowing enough room for a sound bar to be placed in front of the display while not blocking the lower part of the picture, or obscuring the infrared port for the control.

With Playbase now on the market, manufactuers will need to consider the profile of the Playbase. When reviewing the Playbase, I also had the 55″ Hisense Series 7 ULED TV in for review. Its exactly TVs like this that don’t actually work with the Playbase. The stands are 2, small plastic L shapes that look great, but only provide a single mounting position, so the feet won’t actually reach to the lowline unit when the TV is placed on the Playbase. They need to be almost double the current height. Like I said, this is part the responsibility of SONOS for making a product this tall, but now its in the market, also the responsibility of TV manufactuers to accommodate such a product that very well may be placed below their product, ultimately because they cheaped out on sound.

Sound quality

Inside the SONOS Playbase lies no less than 10 amplified speaker drivers, made up of 6 mid-range, 3 tweeters, and one woofer as well as 10 Class-D digital amplifiers.
The sound that comes from the Playbase is substantial for a single product, and at this price point, you’d expect solid performance. That’s exactly what you get, with crystal clear dialog and solid bass during intense action scenes or music playback. Of course your experience is made even even better when paired with a SONOS Sub and a couple of Play:1 or Play:3 rear speakers for full surround sound.

It’s incredibly difficult to relay online audio quality, especially given this was filmed on a mobile phone, then compressed through YouTube, but so you’ve at least had some approximation of the sound, here’s a quick video of the latest Transformer’s trailer, playing 4K on the 65″ Samsung Q7F QLED TV outputting directly through optical to the Playbase.

Features

The Playbase supports Trueplay, SONOS’s smart software that automatically optimises the audio output by understanding the environment its configured in. If you have the challenge of watching movies at night, while others in the house are trying to sleep, the Night Sound mode will lower the loudest sounds and boost soft noises to flatten out the noise spectrum. This means when you set a volume level you’re happy with, there’s no surprises.

Setup and control

The SONOS Playbase features a seriously easy setup with just 2 cables to connect, the power and optical. You can connect it via Ethernet, but certainly don’t have to. Props to SONOS for including an Ethernet and Optical cable in the box, something not often done and leaves you with the first job of running to the store to get a cable, not a great out of the box experience.

The mobile app lets you connect the Playbase to your SONOS setup, or add it if its your first device. Just push the connect button on the side when you’re told to, during the setup process. In seconds, you’ll be up and running and be able to listen to content from your TV, or one of the extensive list of online music services available.

You can adjust the basics of the sound EQ like bass, treble, and choose loudness mode or not (I did, but don’ thave neighbours yet). This enables you to get the sound closer to your own preference, but I would like to see SONOS add more EQ adjustments. Sure, we don’t need crappy virtual theatre modes that sound awful, but the further ability to fine tune the lower, mid and high end outputs would be nice.

This is the first SONOS device with a touch-interface directly on the device. These touch controls are great if need to adjust the Playbase immediately, like if your phone rings, rather than search for the TV remote or try to switch apps on your phone to mute the TV. These capacitive touch controls not only control volume up and down, but also function for music apps, allowing you to skip to the previous or next track, and play/pause.

Like other SONOS products, you get to choose if you want the LED indicator on or off, which is easy to toggle through the app.

Specs

Power & Networking

Power supply
Auto-switching 100-240 V, 50-60 Hz AC universal input.

WiFi, not Bluetooth
Connects to your home WiFi network with any 802.11b/g, 2.4 GHz broadcast-capable router for uninterrupted wireless streaming.

Ethernet port
A single Ethernet port can connect PLAYBASE to a wired home network.

System requirements
TV with optical audio output.
Broadband internet in your home.
Sonos Controller App.
 

Price and availability

SONOS Playbase is actually on back order right until the 30th July, but once its back in stock, you can pick it up from SONOS direct through their new online store, or through one of their many retail partners like JB Hi-Fi. The Playbase costs A$999.00 or the same as the regular price for the Playbar.

Overall

At the end of the day, despite the complexity around which TVs will work with with the Playbase and which won’t, SONOS have absolutely done it again with another stellar product. The sound quality is amazing and after switching my home theatre setup (including Sub and 2x Play:1 rear speakers) between the Playbar and Playbase, there really isn’t a lot of difference between the two.

Basically this product gives more people more options for mounting, which means more potential SONOS customers. That said, if you are even contemplating a wall-mount in the future, the Playbar would be the better option. Ultimately there’ll be potential customers who’s situation will clearly dictate which one to buy, while a small percentage will have a hard decision to make. As hard as that is, you can’t really go wrong.

 

9
SONOS Playbase
The Good
  • Sound quality
  • Simplicity
  • Featues
The Bad
  • Adds to the SONOS addiction
  • Design
    8.5
  • Sound
    9.5
  • Features
    9.5
  • Value
    8.5
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