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Sonos Playbar Review

Sonos Playbar Review

Thoughtfully designed and well-made, the Sonos Playbar is the soundbar of choice for people who want an all-around upgrade. It’s especially popular with music enthusiasts, particularly because it incorporates Sonos’ top-of-the-line digital music software.

This model does come with a higher price tag, so we ran a full Sonos Playbar review in our listening room and written the results below.

Pros

Cons

Many other brands have entered the multi-room, wireless soundbar market,  but the Sonos Playbar remains a compelling one. This is mainly because of the sleek interface and its capability to support new services and features. 

Of course, the Sonos One is a great available alternative if all you wish from the soundbar is to listen to good music. But the fact that the Sonos Playbar can connect you to the TV has an added advantage.

Design

Sonos products have a minimalist yet elegant design, and the Sonos Playbar is no different (the Sonos Playbar feels outdated design-wise compared to the Playbase and other Sonos models, though). It may seem like a simple and unassuming add-on to your home theater system, but the difference in audio quality and performance is astounding. 

Sporting a height of only 3.35 inches, the Playbar design keeps out of your way and won’t block the remote sensor. And even if it does, the soundbar is still capable of relaying the remote signals out the back, guaranteeing control.

The construction of the Playbar is also sturdy and will last for a long time. The aluminum frame puts it ahead of other competitive products since there are many soundbars made of plastic.

It measures at 35.43 inches in length, the perfect size for 36-50 inch TVs. And with surround sound, the Sonos Playbar will undoubtedly outperform default TV speakers any day.

The flatter shape of the soundbar is a design choice. There’s even an IR repeater built-in so all the instructions you input on the remote control are received by the TV even if the Playbar is lying in front of the unit. An IR sensor is available as well, which means the Playbar could respond to the volume control of the TV remote.

connections for Sonos Playbar

The Sonos Playbar features 9 whopping drivers (speakers) in a compact frame. As each speaker is capable of multi-directional sound, the audio is powerful regardless of the content or media that’s onscreen.

For higher-pitched tones, the Sonos Playbar has three tweeters embedded that deliver the highest frequency response for sharper notes. While you don’t get a sub with this unit, it features 6 mid-woofers.

The mid-woofers are designed to channel the lower tones and sound effects through the left and right drivers, while the dialogue is propelled from the center. All the drivers, woofers, and tweeters work together to create balanced sounds and a thumpy bass.

We would have preferred for the Playbar to come with a display screen, but it does have good indicator lights that help you identify the speaker settings. 

See which we prefer design-wise between the Playbar and the Bose Soundtouch 300 here.

Sonos Playbar Overview

Setting up

When it came to the actual setup of the Sonos Playbar , we found it easy for the most part. First, you should download the compatible iOS or Android app. Use the Controller app to guide you through the sound bar setup with step-by-step instructions that are easy to follow. 

The only thing that tech newbies may trip up on is the MacBook configuration for digital music library sharing. There are a few technical layers that can still tricky be tricky even with Sonos guides.

Setup is fairly easy because everything you need is in the box. Aside from the soundbar itself, the contents include the power cord, ethernet cable, the digital optical cable, and of course, the paperwork. Wall-mounting is easy with keyhole brackets already in place at the back.

If you want to add some bass power with a Sonos sub, the lows will sound better. In all our reviews on the site, we emphasize that it’s better to purchase something with a sub if you want the best surround sound.

Connection

Even though digital optical connection is the sole way to link the Playbar to the TV, connecting through the optical audio output is better because it’s simpler. After all, you can still get Dolby Digital by letting your Blu-ray player do the decoding.

However, our audio experts agree that having the option of connecting multiple devices through two or three HDMI inputs would’ve been incredibly useful.

We recommend checking your TV before purchasing the Sonos Playbar. Even though optical inputs are now common, older TVs might not have it. Theoretically,  this configuration works well, but you can be limited by the number of input connections your TV has. 

If you still prefer a HDMI, the Sonos Beam is another model you can check out. However, the digital cable connection is more than capable of producing Dolby Digital and stereo sound with no latency.

At the back panel of the Sonos Playbar, you’ll also find two Ethernet jacks. That’s because it requires using a wired Ethernet connection, unless you have another Sonos device in your living room. These Ethernet sockets also allow wireless connection with other components such as a smart TV or internet by using the Sonos network.

Control

In terms of control, you’ll mostly use your remote or the Controller app. The app is easily downloadable and the soundbar can be configured to work with your existing TV remote.

The Sonos Playbar doesn’t have its own remote. This may make you feel like you aren’t getting the full-package, but who really wants another remote floating around?

You can easily use your existing remote to program the soundbar and save on one extra component to keep track of. However, there might be some occasional setup messages that will pop up on the screen.

On the Playbar itself is a control panel located on the right side of the soundbar. It’s a simple interface, with nothing more than the volume controls, the power button, as well as play/pause.

One downside in this Sonos system is the absence of voice control, which the Sonos Beam has. Alexa and Google Assistant can be handy, but these voice control options are not present in the Playbar.

Audio Quality

During our initial tests, this soundbar didn’t seem very special although it does have an elevated sound compared to TV speakers. We tried listening to some local news first, but the Playbar didn’t do much.

When we decided to play some music, that’s when the Playbar put on a performance. The sound quality was rich and the finer details of sound were brought out. The high and mid frequencies are well-balanced, ultimately resulting in immersive media and content.

But for thumping beats, the Playbar needs more punch to it. If you’re a bass fan, you might need to buy a separate Sonos sub, but that doubles the cost of the soundbar. On our part, the sub is not a cheap upgrade. 

Nevertheless, the overall performance of the Sonos Playbar is excellent. The Sonos speakers execute tones nicely and consistently all throughout. And because you can use it to stream audio from services like Spotify, Deezer, Tidal, Audible, Rhapsody, and other apps, you have convenient access to your tracks any time.

We do recommend pairing the Playbar with the sub and two Play:3 speakers to get that 5.1 surround sound Sonos system. The Play:3 speakers further boost the performance of the sound bar by supporting Dolby Digital and creating pseudo-surround from stereo signals.

Even though it’s a bit much to claim that the Sonos Playbar could add Hi-Fi sounds to the TV, this is a really good sounding unit that provides better sound than stereo. It also does a lot more than other soundbars do like these mentioned here.

Since it only has optical audio input, this Sonos speaker system is incapable of any of the HDMI supported sound decoding such as DTS, Dolby Atmos, and 5.1 PCM among others. Such sound technologies are the epitome of clear audio, which is another reason why it’s quite a shame that we can’t use HDMI.

Harmonic distortion in the Sonos speakers is minimal. If set at regular volumes, the soundbar produces clear and crisp sound without audible distortion.

If you like loud music, even at maximum volume the soundbar may exhibit some compression for bass notes. However, the harmonic distortion is minimal.

The stereo dynamics of the Playbar is excellent. This is one soundbar capable of reaching all corners of a large room without the need to add external Sonos speakers.

Overall, the Sonos Playbar is a typical Sonos unit at heart and offers access to a great amount of music streaming services. It can play pretty much every content you have stored in your NAS device or computer.

Tuning

The main attraction of the Sonos Playbar, especially in customer reviews [1], are its sound enhancing features. It comes with room correction, which means a little microphone embedded in the device can analyze the acoustics of your room and adjust the soundbar accordingly.

It can detect its own placement and automatically tune itself to deliver the best acoustics. It doesn’t matter where you place it, the sound will be able to reach you wherever you are sitting.

The Sonos Playbar is tuned by Oscar-winning sound engineers, providing great virtual surround sound out of the box. However, the Playbar is also a sensitive piece of equipment.

There is also a speech enhancement feature with the Sonos Playbar. This feature can be found in the app, which can also be used to do most of the adjustments for you. Enabling speech enhancement will not only let you enjoy the clearer dialogue, but it will better the sound effects as well.

You can also adjust the bass and treble levels to what you prefer. All of the tuning and controls can be done within the Sonos app. If you don’t like loud volumes, The Sonos Playbar also lets you adjust the loudness settings.

Speaking of loudness, the auto-volume function is one good part out of its many features. The Sonos Playbar is able to compress the volume between varying programs. In other words, regardless of content, it keeps the volume even and at the best level. 

It doesn’t matter if you are watching a calming nature show or an explosive action movie, the range and audio levels are full and balanced.

You can also see which has better tuning between the Sonos Play 1 or Bose Soundtouch 10

Placement

The Sonos Playbar is designed to deliver sound from every direction. The slim profile is easily mountable on the wall or placed on a flat surface. 

Once it finds its new home, the Playbar will automatically adjust and tune itself to get a better audio experience at home. It’s quite a lightweight soundbar as well, which does add maneuverability.

The Playbar sounds its best when it’s set with the wider edge facing the outside. So even if the TV is not wall mounted, we recommend that the soundbar stands out on the thin edge for better audio.

If you decide for the standard laid down position, the feet of the Playbar doesn’t lift the piece very high. It will not straddle the TV pedestal the way that Yamaha YSP models do. Then again, that’s a better orientation because it won’t block your TV’s IR blaster. 

As mentioned, you can use the Sonos Playbar in a wireless set-up too, even though you need to connect one wired device in the network.

Buildable Speaker System

Even though we only tested the soundbar for this Sonos Playbar review, this model is a buildable home theater system that can become Sonos 5.1. That’s actually one of the best things you get with this speaker. 

Through the built-in Wi-Fi, you can set up the device to connect to speakers in different rooms. This way, everyone in the house can come together and enjoy what’s played with elevated sound without having to be in the same room.

The Wi-Fi will allow you to connect multiple devices as well and play your favorite tunes. With the Sonos app, you can then categorize the Playbar speakers into different zones and customize your playing options that way.

Sonos S2 app

The Sonos Wi-Fi multi-room speaker system works well with Google and Android. However, you need to have at least one Sonos component with a wired Ethernet connection in your network if you want to use wireless options.

Unfortunately, this Sonos system doesn’t support Bluetooth at this time. This was also another surprising realization because Bluetooth is a staple feature that many products are using. However, the Wi-Fi does make up for this and allows wireless streaming.

Price

The Sonos Playbar is not the cheapest option out there, and this could be a turnoff for some people, especially considering the lack of certain features like Bluetooth support, a remote, HDMI connection, to name a few.

However, what you get with the Sonos Playbar is a robust built, modern design, a control center in the form of the app or your existing remote, sound customization, a buildable speaker system, and much more.

Using the Sonos Playbar, our audio experts agree that it’s worth the price you pay in terms of setup, sound range, and customization.

Want to add more components for a complete system? Check out our favorite floor standing speakers under 10000.

Sonos Playbar Review Conclusion

The Sonos Playbar offers the typical Sonos sound experience which is deep, wide and detailed out of the box. The dynamic soundstage offered by the Playbar is great and you can upgrade the product with a Sonos sub and two Play:3 speakers. 

Unfortunately, this sound bar lacks HDMI ports, Alexa and Google Assistant, and DTS support. While the Playbar gives an excellent performance, it doesn’t push the sound into a room as much as other products. 

If you are just looking for great movie sound, the Yamaha YAS speaker models will suit you better. However, if you’re looking to seriously upgrade your music experience, this is the soundbar for you.

If you want to see how another popular Sonos soundbar fares compared to other models, you can start by reading the Sonos Beam VS Bose Solo 5 comparison.

If you’re looking for cheaper soundbars, check these:

Best Soundbars Under $100 Reviews
Best Soundbars Under $150 Reviews

Willie Greer

Willie Greer is the founder of The Product Analyst. A cinephile, he has made it a personal quest to achieve the awesomest home theater possible. He now shares what he has learned through the years on the site, and has enlisted the help of tech-savvy colleagues in providing more insight about today’s most sought-after gadgets.
Willie Greer

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