GADGET WATCH: Sonos Playbar

The audio-visual market has been having a good run over the past few years. But most of that success has been confined to Blu-ray players and DVRs. So far, there hasn’t been a mainstream sound system that has attracted the same attention as something like Beats’ headphone range.

Sonos has been quietly chugging along with its own products, and its latest effort, the Playbar, may actually be a viable option. But does it actually deliver a good enough sound for the price?

Hardware and features

The Sonos Playbar is designed as an all-in-one sound solution. The device is built in a rectangular shape, and is able to connect to devices straight from your television. The company brags you can wirelessly stream music from different music services, including iTunes.

The device connects to your television with an optical cable and power cord, with no other wires required. Android and iOS devices can connect through a home Wi-Fi network. Connectivity includes two Ethernet ports, an optical input and a power port.

What’s the consensus?

Over at Engadget, the publication notes the Playbar, which measures 900mm long, is a “handsome, if understated” piece of equipment.

With the exterior covered in black speaker cloth, and a fairly minimalist design, the device doesn’t make for much of a stand-out piece of furniture. But when you’re trying to develop a completely universal AV set-up, you don’t want anything too outlandish.

“The speakers are mounted in a super rigid, sealed plastic enclosure at a 45-degree angle, and it’s that angular sweet spot that’s key to providing good acoustic imaging whether the Playbar is mounted on the wall or lying flat on a TV cabinet.”

At The Verge, the publication said that unlike previous Sonos products, the Playbar is designed for the living room. That means it automatically detects audio signals from your television and switches with them automatically.

“There’s no audio juggling between Xbox, Apple TV, or a Blu-ray player; you only need to switch between the inputs on your TV (assuming your TV has optical audio out; more on that later).”

Such easy navigation is a great thing for time-poor pundits.

Over at The Next Web, the publication had good things to say about the sound quality, even remarking that the device shouldn’t be capable of playing notes as low as it can. However, it did note the device can get “painfully loud”.

“Sonos won’t go into specifics about the wattage being provided to the drivers, but suffice it to say that it’s more than enough to make things uncomfortable. We typically found ourselves listening at around 1/3rd volume, and anything above 1/2 was far too much for comfort.”

Finally at CNET, the publication said that although the device is rather “plain”, it packs a punch and complemented the in-built music software.

“The short story is Sonos gives you access to all of your digital music through a simple interface, including your personal library and a huge selection of streaming audio services like Amazon Cloud Player, Spotify, Pandora, and Rhapsody.”

“Sonos also excels at handling multi-room audio; Sonos components throughout your house can be synced or play separate audio. What’s most impressive is how simple Sonos makes everything.”

Who’s it for?

The Sonos Playbar is an expensive piece of equipment, setting you back nearly $1,000. But if you’re after a decent sound system, you could do a lot worse. The only question is whether you want a full 5.1 system.

If you’re looking for a budget solution, this is the best you’re going to get without buying a significantly more powerful system for a lot more money.


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