Now I’ve never personally been a fan of soundbar systems – yeah, they look cool and they’re a good replacement for the inbuilt speakers of any normal TV but I’d rather opt for a full 5.1 surround sound system where I’m properly immersed with what’s going on. The Sonos Playbar has changed my mind on that though – its 9 speaker bar system is nothing short of sublime, even as I’m sat writing this I’m playing my music through the dedicated Mac app to the Playbar wirelessly. It’s the little things in life!
Look and Feel
Let’s get down to it – as soon as you see the speaker you can see that it’s a premium product. The sleek design with only 2 inputs that are constantly in use (optical in and power) means that it’ll look good in front of your TV, on a table/stand or even mounted on the wall. There’s something very Apple-esque about it and how simplistic it is.
The setup of the Playbar is a bit confusing – something I initially struggled with when looking at the documentation that comes with the speaker. It sounds easy enough – just plug the speaker into your router and follow the setup instructions via the Sonos App for iPhone and Android. The problem I faced with this method was that my TV was nowhere near my router and during setup you’re required to plug in the supplied optical cable from your TV to the Playbar, something that wasn’t possible for me.
Thankfully I was also supplied with the Sonos Bridge (sold separately) which made the whole process a lot easier and I’d definitely recommend buying one if you decide to get this or any other Sonos product. All I had to do was plug the Bridge into my router and set that up via the app and it somehow communicates with your Playbar without having to connect it to your home WiFi – crazy, eh?
As I said earlier, you can download the Sonos app from your iOS or Android device and control the speaker and all its features from there. Not got a smartphone? No worries, there’s a Windows and Mac controller for Sonos available for download. As well as giving you amazing sound quality from your TV and games consoles, it also has a wireless HiFi built in allowing you to play music from a variety of sources including your iTunes library, a variety of online radio stations, Podcasts and even Spotify.
This is where I believe the Playbar comes into its own. It’s a nice feeling being able to wake up in the morning and put on your favourite song or radio station without even having to leave your bed. The app also has the ability to set an alarm or a timer meaning that you can be woken up/notified to your favourite song or radio station. The Mac app also has integration with the Mac’s keyboard music controls making it feel even easier and natural to use.
After all that, what does the speaker system actually sound like? Nothing short of amazing. Even watching familiar shows on Netflix, you can hear a level of clarity that you just don’t get from low end surround sound speakers/inbuilt TV speakers. I was quite sceptical about higher end speaker systems and whether it’s all just gimmicks and extras with the same sound quality as my £150 surround sound but nope, Sonos have got it so right with their 6 midrange and 3 tweeter speaker set up.
Sonos have stressed that the Playbar doesn’t just amplify sounds but make them a lot clearer – even giving the product the tag line “The Soundbar for Music Lovers“. I can confirm this – I’m a bit of a snob when it comes to music, in particular my headphones; I gave in to the £299 Bose QuietComfort 15’s and I have to say that the clarity of the Playbar is even more than my headphones, which I didn’t think was possible!
“Oh no, when I put the Playbar in front of my TV it blocks the IR signal receiver for my remote” is something you’ll never hear a Playbar owner say, thanks to the IR sensors at the front and back of the Playbar allowing the signal to travel through to the TV without interruption. It’s a small feature to add to the list of features that the Playbar has but it’s something that a lot of other soundbar manufacturers overlook.
Sounds amazing but still not too sure on the whole soundbar thing? Well they’ve got you covered there too. You can purchase a Sonos Sub and a pair of PLAY:3s which connect wirelessly to your Playbar and turn it from a soundbar 3.0 setup to a full 5.1 wireless surround sound experience. Sadly I didn’t have a chance to test out the extra components but make sure you let me know in the comments below if you’ve used them!
The Sonos Playbar is by far one of the best speaker systems that I’ve used once I got through the initial setup confusion. The clarity of the speakers are beautiful – the feeling you get when you hear the Playbar for the first time is a similar feeling to that when you have blocked up ears and you hear something properly for the first time. The price isn’t for everyone, coming in at £599 without a Bridge or the Sub/PLAY:3 speakers but if you’re looking for a new surround sound system, this is one that I’d definitely recommend. You can find out more info on the Playbar and pick one up directly from the Sonos website, which you can find here.
Have you had/heard a Sonos Playbar before? What do you think of it? Let me know via Twitter or in the comments section below!