The Ultimate SONOS question. To Playbar or Playbase?
Playbar vs Playbase. The SONOS debate.
If you are like me, deciding to stay in and watch a movie rather than battle parking and expensive snacks at the local theatre, is an easy decision. However, to do so, you need cinematic quality sound. For me, I need to hear every explosion, music score, history making speech, and unforgettable one liner that a movie has to offer. With the addition of the playbase in April this year, the decision to playbase or playbar has left more than a few of our valued customers confused.
DESIGN & SPEC
The Playbase was designed specifically to offer a space-saving solution for your TV sound. We all know that today’s slim-line TV’s compromise on sound in order to be slim (but that’s another blog). Its engineering makes it sturdy enough to withstand the weight of your TV on top (up to 35kgs) and slim enough (3.8cm deep) to slide underneath your TV, so in effect, it takes up no more space than your TV.
The Playbar is ideal if your TV is already mounted to the wall. You can mount the Playbar to the wall directly underneath your TV with the addition of a wall mount, or you can attach the Playbar to your existing TV bracket with a range of accessories. It can also sit on furniture such as a TV stand but sitting at 85mm high, it does require more clearance than the Playbase and can intrude at the bottom of your TV screen. For my setup at home, the only option was the wall mount.
- Both the Playbar and Playbase have identical connections – an optical port for audio, one power supply port, and an ethernet port. Sonos keep things simple without compromising on quality. It also means you can swap them and you should have little issue with understanding the connections.
- The Playbase has 2 colour options – black and white. The Playbar like the Model T Ford, is only made in black.
- Unlike the Playbar, the Playbase has the new touch sensitive controls on the base of the product, comparable to the PLAY:5, meaning you can pause, skip, play previous and volume up and down at the slide or tap of a finger if you happen to be walking past.
- Both benefit from the Trueplay feature, allowing your speaker to calibrate and maximise performance based on your room’s dimensions. Trueplay also calibrates your personal seating position for an optimised audio experience.
- Both benefit from Night Mode & speech enhancement. Night Mode limits the loud parts of the audio and amplifies the quieter parts. This is a great feature not to disturb the rest of the house while listening. Speech enhancement is a great feature if you are having a hard time hearing what’s being said. Enabling this feature keeps the dialogue at a consistent level and reduces the volume of any loud sound effects.
- You can also pair your existing remote control for easy volume control.
- Sonos will also be integrating Amazon Alexa voice control later this year allowing Playbar & Playbase to be voice controlled. Stay tuned for this!
Let’s first look at the spec of each speaker. They are very similar, both of which containing 6 mid-range and 3 tweeters but the Playbase also has the benefit of a woofer to improve bass response. The Team at CTG listened to the two options side by side, and for us the Playbase got the nod. The playbase has piercing vocals, excellent bass response, of which the additional woofer really helps, and the wide soundstage created despite its form factor (close your eyes and it feels like sound is coming from each corner of the room as opposed to just centrally). The sound was crisp, crystal-clear and with zero distortion.
The PLAYBAR is wider in dimensions and as such, the sound travelled wider than the PLAYBASE offering a slightly further reaching sound stage. In real home usage, this means that if a car travelled from the right to the left of your TV screen the PLAYBAR will give a slightly more immersive effect due to its physical length. The sound from this speaker is deep, rich and completely unbiased, meaning it offers the perfect balance of low, medium and high frequencies. It’s kind and unobtrusive to the ears and in our mini Vs test, it reminded us why this product has won so many awards. It also really does look fantastic placed underneath a wall-mounted TV too.
At low volumes, the sound quality between the Playbar and Playbase was indistinguishable but turn them up louder, and the Playbase tended to output a sharper vocal quality.
The Playbar retails at $898, and Playbase at $999. We believe this pricing reflects a terrific investment, considering how easy the product is to use on a daily basis and the fantastic audio quality on offer. Of course, being part of the Sonos ecosystem, existing customers will also have the benefit of adding these to their current home setup. Customers completely new to Sonos can use it as the starting block to filling their home with music. Both Playbar & Playbase also have the upgrade potential to expand to a full 5.1 wireless surround system over time.