Sonos Playbar review
Sonos has built its reputation on its high-quality multi-room audio system and players, but for the Playbar soundbar the company is trying its hand at home cinema. This being Sonos, this isn't just another soundbar, as it fully integrates with the other Sonos players, including its recently revamped Play:5, becoming part of the multi-room system.
Out of the box it's a 3.0 system, with left, right and centre speakers, but you can use other Sonos players to turn it into 3.1 or 5.1 system. On paper, then, it's one of the most flexible soundbars and a product that can easily have its capabilities extended.
We're pleased to say that the Playbar has the build quality we'd expect from a Sonos product and it looks absolutely stunning. Its sleek lozenge shape looks great, while the aluminium detailing and black speaker mesh immediately give the impression that it's a high-end product.
You can wall-mount the Playbar or lie it flat in front of the TV
While it may be nice to look at, Sonos has made it practical, too. Thanks to the angled speakers and an accelerometer, the Playbar can automatically adjust its sound depending on whether it's laid flat on its feet or hung on a wall either below or above your TV, so it sounds good no matter where you put it.
As this is a Sonos product, setup couldn't be easier. If you've got a Sonos system already, you just hook up the power cable, connect it to your TV via its optical out, and use the controller to add it into your system, with the Playbar connecting over the proprietary wireless mesh network.
Doing it from scratch for a completely new install doesn't take much longer, although you have to have at least one device connected via a wired connection. Fortunately, there are two 10/100Mbit/s ports on the rear, so you can hook the Playbar up to your router and use the second port of another device, such as your TV. You'll also need to install one controller, which can be an iPhone, iPad, Android device, Windows PC or Mac.
As soon as the Playbar's detected, you're taken through a short configuration wizard. This plays a couple of tones for you, asking which one sounds better to help the system properly configure its sound. It also asks if you want to hook up a Sonos SUB for more bass and two Play:3 players to act as the rear speakers (more of this later).
Cleverly, an IR repeater is built into the front, which can be used to learn the volume up and down keys from your TV's remote, so you can control volume without needing a controller. However, it didn't recognise the remote from our brand-new Samsung F8000 Smart LED TV, although it did recognise remotes from some older TVs.
To get the most out of the soundbar, you need to have it connected to your TV, which means you'll need a model with an optical output, as this is the Playbar's only input. Most TVs have this output, particularly if you've got a model made in the last couple of years, but some older or cheaper sets don't.
You'll need to hook your TV up to the Playbar using optical S/PDIF
If yours doesn't you'll have to connect your device, such as set-top box, directly to the Playbar. That is a bit annoying though, as watching a film would mean moving the cable manually into the back of your DVD or Blu-ray player. Having a TV with an optical output is clearly the better way.
Finally, you'll also need to disable your TV's speakers, so that all sound is pumped to the Playbar only. Brilliantly, the Playbar automatically defaults to its optical input, so turning your TV gets you sound immediately without having to mess around.