Sonos is a big player in the audio industry, and the Playbar and Playbase are two of their most expensive rigs. It can be tricky to choose one, mainly because you can end up with a lesser-quality device.
So, we’ve done a full audio test on both systems to find out their similarities and differences, and if they’re worth the hefty price tag.
Sonos Playbase or Sonos Playbar?
Features Comparison: Sonos Playbase and Playbar
While the Playbase and Playbar are slim devices, they have different shapes. The Sonos Playbase features a wide, flat top design where TVs can sit on. The Playbar is long and rectangular like most products. You can place either speaker in front of TVs or mount it on the wall.
Acoustically transparent grilles design the front of the Sonos Playbase. The capacitive buttons are on top, including the Volume and Play/Pause. On the left side, there’s the pairing button. And finally, connectivity ports and the power supply are located on the rear.
As for the Playbar, it has an outdated look compared to others on the market. Sonos hasn’t updated its design, and the years reflect on the look of the speaker. Comparing the Sonos Beam vs Playbar, that latter looks like an older model.
Instead of the capacitive buttons, the Playbar has physical controls on its side, like the Volume and Play/Pause. You’ll find the optical audio input, power supply port, and two Ethernet ports at the rear of the system design.
Both devices are limited in terms of connections, connecting via optical cable. They lack HDMI in their design, which the newer Sonos Beam does have. But more on that later.
Going back to the design, the Playbase wins this round because of its sleeker look that blends in with any interior. Both the Sonos Beam and Playbase are available in black and white colors. This is another design advantage compared to the Playbar, which only has a black and dark silver combo.
In the Sonos Playbase VS Playbar battle, they’re almost equal when it comes to connections. That is, they lack the same thing — HDMI and HDMI ARC.
Both the Playbase and Playbar connect to your TV via digital optical cable. For many, this sounds disappointing considering the steep price, especially since modern models on Amazon nowadays have an HDMI cable connection.
Then again, it’s not the end-all-be-all of connections. Digital optical is fine, but it doesn’t support advanced sound formats or relay video signals. That said, make sure that your TV has a digital optical port before buying either speaker in-store or on Amazon.
You can also connect both speakers to other components other than TVs. This includes using soundbars on consoles like the PS4, cable boxes, and Blu-ray players. The setup will be different though, as you’ll be connecting the components to the TV instead.
And aside from the wired connection, you can also use Wi-Fi to set it up with your smartphone — but we’ll discuss this later.
On the whole, the Playbase and Playbar have pretty much the same connections, except for their Ethernet port. The Playbase has only one Ethernet port, while the Sonos Play Bar has two — allowing you to connect your TV to the internet.
Dimensions and Specifications
With the difference in shape and design, there’s also a distinct difference in size between the Sonos Playbase VS Playbar.
On the one hand, we have the flat Playbase, which measures 720mm wide, 58mm tall, and 380mm deep. It’s a little heavy at 8.6kg, but that’s fair considering it can carry TVs up to 34kg.
Meanwhile, the Sonos Playbar has a size of 900mm wide, 140mm tall, and 85mm deep. The height is much higher than the Playbase, but it still barely covers the bottom of your TV. It also weighs lighter at 5.4kg.
When you look at the specs sheet of both the Playbase and Playbar, they’re pretty similar to each other. They both have Wi-Fi support, Amazon Alexa integration, a digital optical connection, access to wireless streaming services, remote control, mobile app support, and the ability to connect with other Sonos speakers.
Plus, they also have night mode and voice enhancement features for better quality and sound experience. If you like watching movies or streaming music, these sound modes make a big difference.
Where the speakers differ is in the number of drivers. The Sonos Playbase is equipped with ten drivers, each with Class-D digital amplifiers . It features 6 mid-range, three tweeters, and one woofer.
The Sonos Playbar features nine sound drivers — six mid-range drivers and three tweeters. Each driver also features Class-D digital amplifiers, similar to the Sonos Playbase.
TruePlay is another common function between the two speakers. TruePlay allows you to tune the device to the room by analyzing the surfaces and acoustics of the space. TruePlay then optimizes the sound bar so you can get excellent sound.
To boost the sound of low frequencies, a Sonos sub can power both the Playbase and Playbar speakers. You can also create a full multi-room system for your TV because the Playbase and Playbar are compatible with the Play:1, Play:3, Play:5, or Sonos One for the rear modules.
That said, we tip our hats to the Playbar because it’s lighter than the Sonos Playbase. Its shape allows it to occupy less space you can wall-mount it above the TV.
Sound Quality: Playbar VS Playbase
Of course, this Sonos Playbase VS Playbar review wouldn’t be complete without discussing the quality of sound. After all, it’s the heart of any comparison of soundbars, Sonos included.
The difference in the number of drivers is the main factor that sets these two multi-room devices apart. As mentioned, the Playbase is a ten-speaker system, whereas the Playbar is a nine-speaker system.
With the S-shaped woofer of the Playbase, you get a deeper and richer experience with the lows. This makes the low frequencies pop more, which is great for toe-tapping music or living room-shaking explosions when you stream movies or television shows.
This extra woofer is absent in the Playbar, which results in a duller sound of low frequencies. While this is true, our sound tests in our listening room reflect that this sound bar sounds slightly better than the Sonos Playbase.
When in actual use, there is very little difference between these two Sonos speakers. It’s hard to notice for the average user but dedicated audiophiles may spot the difference. In our tests, the overall sound quality is better in the Playbar.
This speaker provides a more well-balanced soundstage compared to the Playbase. The latter’s S-woofer makes the lows overpowering at times, and it’s too loud if you watch heavily-sounded movies like Transformers or Inception.
When it comes to the Playbar’s sound, the lows aren’t overkilled even in scenes with loud explosions. We find this an advantage instead of a flaw since this Sonos soundbar evens the playing field with the lows and highs.
And for wall-to-wall surround sound in rooms, you can connect Play:1 speakers to the Playbar. The Sonos Playbase allows this too.
Both the Playbar and the Playbase speakers have the same price. However, if you wish to add more Sonos speakers, such us setting up with Sonos Play 3, to your home setup, that can also bump up the price.
But since the Playbar can be wall-mounted, you must purchase a wall-mount kit. It’s quite an inconvenience that the wall-mount kit is not included in the price of the package itself, especially since most products that can be wall-mounted already have everything you need in the box.
At the end of the day, it’s only a matter of preference which device you choose between the Playbase and Playbar. Putting price aside, each speaker offers a great sound experience, Amazon Alexa voice control, subwoofer support, easy setup with TVs, and smart wireless features. Both can stream music too.
In the price aspect of the Sonos Playbase VS Playbar comparison, there’s no winner since they’re both at the same price point and with the same pros and cons despite some differences.
Setup Process for Sonos Playbar and Playbase
For any speaker, it should only take a few minutes to complete the setup without you having to read wordy instructions and watch lengthy Youtube tutorials.
In this case, both the Playbase and Playbar have essentially the same setup. You connect the multi-room speaker to your TV using the digital optical cable, download the Sonos mobile application, and let the Sonos app walk you through the entire setup process of Playbar and Playbase.
Since you don’t have to read the manual for the step-by-step procedure, you’ll be able to use and power up your speaker in no time. Then again, should you encounter any setup problems, you can always consult the manual or contact the support team.
To control either Sonos speaker, you can use an IR remote control, Amazon Alexa voice control, or the mobile app — which we’ll get to in a bit.
We find Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant to be incredibly useful at this price, as voice control usually is a convenient feature. Other devices like the Beam are also built with Amazon Alexa, and it’s clear that this smart feature can be more helpful than the remote.
Mobile apps are popular with today’s speakers, and when it comes to the soundbar, Sonos has kept up with its software.
In our reviews, we find the Sonos app well-designed and easy to use. It doesn’t leave you stuck figuring out the functions, which is really how it should be for any app, especially those that can stream music. It’s also compatible with Android and iOS.
Besides setting up and tweaking the speaker settings such as volume, you can use the Sonos app for streaming music from Groove, Spotify, and Tidal. If you already have personal music playlists stored in your drive, you can play those too instead of streaming.
Apple Airplay 2 support is a luxury feature more than a necessity in the music experience, and the Playbase is compatible with it. Unfortunately, the Playbar doesn’t support it, like other Sonos speakers.
Still, if you prefer the Playbar and Apple Airplay, you can buy the Airplay-enabled Sonos One.
In our reviews, another area where these two Sonos speakers differ is the Ethernet port. The Playbase (like the Beam) only features one port, but the Playbar has two.
Two Ethernet ports give you more convenience during movie or music streaming. Typically, you’d use one port to connect the sound bar to your home network and the other port to connect other devices to the internet.
If you have a Smart TV, for example, you can enjoy fast and lag-free streaming of movies with that extra Ethernet port. If that sounds good, it’s clear that the Playbar is the one you need, even if the two speakers can stream music.
There are four different ways you can control the Playbase and Playbar: the standard IR remote control, Sonos app, Amazon Alexa, or the on-device controls.
The Playbar features physical control buttons that are set on the side panel for play, pause, and volume. It’s a little outdated, but it’s not that big of a deal.
For the Playbase, you get three touch-interface control buttons in front of the speaker. The controls include Play, Pause, Track Change, and Volume. Wall-mounted or not, you can easily control and power up either speaker. These controls on the system are useful if you misplace the remote in the room.
Playbase VS Playbar Mounting Options
Only one of these Sonos speakers can be wall-mounted – the Playbar. It’s a standard sound bar shape that offers you two mounting options — either you mount it on the wall or you simply place it on top of your TV rack.
On the other hand, Playbase is a sound device made to support TVs and can’t be mounted on the wall. It can handle up to 34 kg of weight, blending in with the TV and interior.
Since the Playbar is the one that offers wall-mounting option for TVs, it wins this round.
Sonos Soundbars Support
Whichever one you purchase, the Playbar and the Playbase can offer stellar support from Sonos. Though we think you would hardly use it, it’s good that Sonos has a good customer service team in case you encounter any problems with your device at home.
We tried contacting them a few times for these reviews, and the experience was not frustrating at all. It’s good that we didn’t have to wait long to get in touch with an actual person and they make sure that the experience is smooth.
Is Sonos Playbase better than Playbar?
No, the Sonos Playbase isn’t better than Playbar. While the extra woofer on the Playbase provides resonant lows, the Playbar offers a more room-filling sound that nicely balances the lows and the treble without drowning out the details.
What is the difference between the Sonos Playbar and Playbase?
The difference between the Sonos Playbar and Playbase is the number of drivers, with the Playbar having nine and the Playbase having ten. The Playbar also features an added Ethernet port and can be wall-mounted. The Playbase, on the other hand, has Airplay 2 support and touch controls.
Overall Winner: Sonos Playbar
In the Sonos Playbase VS Playbar battle, the Playbar gets our winning verdict. Although they can stream music and have similar functions such as Class-D digital amplifiers and TruePlay, this sound bar offers an extra Ethernet port, a wall mounting option, a wider soundstage, and an overall better audio quality.