Sonos Playbar review - Hands on
Posted on 12 Feb 2013 at 16:08, by Tom Morgan
Sonos has officially launched the Playbar, the company's first sound bar designed for films and home cinema systems as well as music. Beyond boosting your TV's audio output, it uses Sonos's proprietary wireless mesh technology to link with existing Sonos equipment to stream music from your own collection or directly from the internet. We spent some time with the system earlier today to bring you our first impressions.
Inside its three-foot long, all-aluminium body, the Playbar has nine separate speaker drivers; six mid-range and three tweeters, which are angled at 40 degrees to suit both mounting on the wall and placing below a television. It automatically detects which orientation you've installed it in using an integrated accelerometer, and adjusts its audio output accordingly. The Sonos logo is conveniently onmi-directional, so you can hang it either way up.
With electronic DJ Deadmau5 pumping through the system, we were impressed with the Playbar's ability to manage thumping bass, crisp high-end and a powerful mid-range. There was ample detail from more delicate acoustic tracks, while Jazz from Miles Davis has real presence.
The Playbar recognises when it's playing TV audio and adjusts accordingly, creating real separation during the short demos of Star Trek and Super 8. The centre tweeter always managed to produce clear speech, even with explosions kicking out of the mid-range drivers.
With a pair of Play:3 speakers as wireless rear satellites and a Sonos Sub connected to the system, the Playbar takes on an entirely new level of immersion, creating room-shaking bass and effective surround sound. Because it connects using a digital optical cable, you're limited to Dolby Digital 5.1 rather than the Dolby True HD or DTS-MA soundtracks on many Blu-rays, but the effects are still very convincing.
An IR blaster on the front of the unit learns from your other equipment during the setup process, detecting the main TV brands including Sony, Panasonic and Samsung. Even if your TV remote isn't detected, you can teach it with a few simple button presses to give you full control over volume using a single remote. There are IR repeaters at the back of the unit, to ensure it never blocks off the signal to your TV when positioned in front of it.
Also around the back are two Ethernet inputs, a power port and the digital optical audio input that connects the unit to your TV. It also has dual-band Wi-Fi to connect to other Sonos equipment.
Based on what we've seen, the Playbar could be exactly what Sonos owners need to upgrade their home cinema system. It's a capable sound bar in its own right, with integrated streaming being a real bonus, but it's when you pair it with other Sonos kit that it truly amazes. We'll have to wait until we've fully tested it to bring you our full review, which hopefully won't be too long from now.
"Sonos has transformed the way people listen to music throughout the home and now we’re bringing our wireless HiFi approach to home theatre,” John MacFarlane, Sonos CEO, said of the announcement. “Playbar will change everything about the sound experience in your living room, bringing together amazing Hi-Fi sound for your TV and wireless access to the world’s music in a radically simple way.”
The Playbar will go on sale directly from Sonos, as well as through the company's retail partners, on the 5th of March for £599.
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