We've long been enamored of Sonos' musical streaming technology and its wireless speakers, whether it's the
S5 Play:5, the Play:3 or the Sub. But, what if you're looking for some Sonos gear that can stream your favorite MOG or Spotify playlist and deliver surround sound on movie night? Well, you're in luck, because the Playbar has arrived, packing all of Sonos' streaming capabilities you know and love in a soundbar form factor.
It's got nine speakers: six 8-centimeter (3.15-inch) aluminum cone mids powered by neodymium magnets and three 2.5-centimeter (1-inch) titanium dome tweeters. It connects to TVs, game consoles and cable boxes via Toslink cable and wires into home networks via Gigabit Ethernet or wireless connectivity can be had for those who own a Sonos Bridge. Naturally, it can be controlled by the Sonos app, but volume can also be toggled by your TV remote, thanks to the IR receivers on board and the remote codes stored on Sonos' servers.
Naturally, Playbar can deliver simulated surround sound on its own, but it can also be paired with Sonos' other speakers to deliver true 5.1 channel sound should your wallet be willing and able. Speaking of, the Playbar goes on sale worldwide on March 5th for $699, €699 or £599 depending which part of the globe you call home. We got to see (and hear) the Playbar for ourselves at Sonos HQ in Santa Barbara, California and chat with the folks who built it, so join us after the break to learn more about the company's first foray into home theater.
Sonos Playbar hands-on
Sonos Playbar press shots
First things first, the Playbar looks, and sounds good. Really good. Its an understated bar covered in high-grade black speaker cloth, with an extruded aluminum plate running along the bottom that, in addition to providing some visual contrast, serves as a heat sink for the sealed speakers and electronics that lay within. Each end is capped with a textured black material and is ringed with the same aluminum that adorns the bottom. A volume rocker and mute button reside on the left end alongside an LED indicator light, and there are a pair of IR receivers embedded in the aluminum baseplate.
Build quality is top-notch all around, with high quality materials and super solid construction -- 20 screws hold the bar together, every interior wire is wrapped in foam tape, and every joint is sealed by a gasket to prevent unwanted buzzing, regardless of volume level.
Whether we were listening to Pink Floyd or watching a clip from Super 8, the Playbar delivered the high fidelity audio we've come to expect from Sonos. Speaking and singing voices are replicated faithfully, and the unit shines in the high and mid range. While it provides very tight, clean bass by itself, we found that the Playbar benefitted greatly from the presence of a Sonos Sub. With the sub, movie sound effects had a much richer, theater-like sound, and bass-heavy tunes got some welcome low-end punch. That's not to say the Playbar doesn't sound good solo, it's just that the experience was significantly improved when the Sub was added into the mix.
The Playbar is a flexible bit of kit, in that it can be mounted on walls or laid flat and still sound fantastic. It can accomplish that trick thanks to its speakers' 45-degree baffle angle and an on-board accelerometer that automatically tailors the speakers output accordingly (just like the Play:3). The thoughtful engineering doesn't stop there, either. Each of the nine speakers -- which are specially constructed to Sonos' specifications -- has its own attached amp tuned to match that specific driver's acoustics. This differs from traditional stereo setups where one amp pushes gobs of current to all connected speakers. Sonos' solution is much more efficient in terms of space and power needed for optimal performance, according to Hilmar Lehnert, the Playbar's Senior Engineering Program Manager.
Lehnert also informed us that the Playbar's brain is a fully-fledged Linux computer powered by 800Mhz Motorola PowerPC silicon and hundreds of megabytes worth of RAM and NAND storage. Alas, when asked whether Sonos would encourage/allow folks to hack the Playbar, we were told that while the hardware is capable, the company's unwilling. Why? Because granting such access could irrevocably futz up the sound Sonos has so carefully crafted.
The Playbar also packs a pair of enterprise-grade WiFi radios (both 2.4 and 5Ghz) and three antennas that utilize Sonos' proprietary SonosNet peer-to-peer networking mesh that allows all Sonos devices to talk to each other. That SonosNet technology is specially engineered to provide the super low latency needed to ensure that the audio coming out of the bar and any other connected Sonos speakers is properly synced with the video on screen -- and it works.
Does the Playbar's capable hardware and software black magic make for a compelling home theater option? Our initial impressions were good, but you'll have to wait for our full review for the final verdict.
INTRODUCING SONOS PLAYBAR
Unleash Your TV Sound. Unleash All The Music On Earth.
• Sonos HiFi sound for TV with nine amplified speakers
• Listen to all the music on earth – from any source
• Simple to set up, control and expand
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – February 12, 2013 – Sonos, Inc., the leading manufacturer of wireless audio systems, today introduced SONOS PLAYBAR™, the soundbar for music lovers. PLAYBAR brings immersive HiFi sound to the TV and, being a full Wireless HiFi System, streams all the music on earth through one easy-to-use player. HiFi meets HiDef globally beginning March 5. To see a preview video of PLAYBAR, visit www.sonos.com/playbar.
"Sonos has transformed the way people listen to music throughout the home and now we're bringing our wireless HiFi approach to home theater," said John MacFarlane, CEO, Sonos, Inc. "PLAYBAR will change everything about the sound experience in your living room, bringing together amazing HiFi sound for your TV and wireless access to the world's music in a radically simple way."
The sophisticated all-in-one design of PLAYBAR combines exposed aluminum with high performance speaker fabric for a look that's timeless, understated and because it does not require a subwoofer or speaker wire, easily fits into any room and setup. Its built-in sensors help PLAYBAR automatically adjust EQ and channel orientation so it can lie flat on the TV stand or rotate for low profile wall-mounting above or below the TV.
Under the hood, PLAYBAR gets its punch from nine individually amplified speakers: six mid-woofers to deliver deep, rich low-frequency sounds, and three tweeters for crystal clear high-frequency detail. PLAYBAR's advanced speaker array technology combines hardware and software to create a surprisingly wide soundstage beyond the physical soundbar, while maintaining crisp, centered vocals. Whether you are watching a movie, playing a game or streaming a song from Pandora or Spotify, PLAYBAR will always sound much clearer, not just louder.
Designed for easy setup and use, PLAYBAR connects to the TV with a single optical cable, playing everything that is connected to it, including cable boxes, Blu-ray players and game consoles. It understands common audio formats output by TVs including Dolby® Digital. Customers can control the volume or mute with a regular TV remote or with one of the free Sonos Controller apps for iPhone, iPad, Android, Mac or PC. PLAYBAR works seamlessly within the Sonos wireless audio family: Pair PLAYBAR with the award-winning SONOS SUB for deep waves of spine-curling, jaw-dropping sound and add a pair of PLAY:3s to act as wireless surround speakers for an immersive 5.1 home theater surround sound experience.
PLAYBAR will retail for $699 USD (€699, £599) and will be available for purchase at Sonos.com, Amazon.com, Best Buy / Magnolia Home Theater, P.C. Richard & Son and many other retailers around the world. For more information on SONOS PLAYBAR, including technical specifications and more, please visit Sonos.com/playbar.
Sonos also released a free software update for the Sonos Wireless HiFi System. Sonos System Software 4.0 introduces enhancements that make it faster and easier to play all the music on earth. Sonos Favorites provides one-touch access to your favorite music from any Sonos source (music library, streaming services and radio stations), right from the music menu. The Sonos Controller for Android features a new widget that allows you to control Sonos directly from your Android home screen. Plus, the Sonos Controller for iPhone has been optimized for the larger screen of the iPhone5. The free one-button software update is available now.
Additional product images and screenshots: pr.sonos.com
View and embed product demonstration: www.youtube.com/sonos