Sonos like to keep things simple, at least for us anyway.
Since its very first product the company has sold itself as providing premium, wireless audio with the absolute minimum amount of fuss. To guarantee products that fit the bill Sonos’ products take years to design and produce.
For its fans, these gaps are worth the wait. Their speakers are expensive but for that premium you get a product that sounds superb and thanks to an app-led ecosystem, can be updated with new features and new music services in minutes.
The Playbase continues this tradition in almost every regard, something that will come as a relief to others, and be frustrating for some.
The Playbase is less a brand-new product and more of a realisation about how people use sound systems in relation to their TV.
Playbase acknowledges what many audio companies have realised which is that the easiest way to add a soundbar to your TV is to literally put your TV on top of it.
Lets start with the design. Playbase is arguably Sonos’ best-looking product to date. The black looks and feels like the spare part for a grand piano, high praise considering the body is made almost entirely from high-quality plastic and not polished wood.
On the top there’s three subtle touch-sensitive buttons that allow you to play, pause, skip tracks and change volume.
The Playbase has a reassuring 8.6kg heft to it as well, thanks not only to the design but also the 10 powerful drivers that are crammed into its relatively thin frame.
Those 10 drivers include a six midrange, three tweeters and a custom built woofer that snakes throughout the back of the unit.
Which brings us rather neatly onto the sound.
As you’d expect from a Sonos product, the Playbase sounds really good. What we weren’t expecting was just how good.
Despite its potential for being incredibly bass-heavy, the Playbase delivers a sound that’s incredibly wide and precise. While it’s not entirely surround sound the Playbase has an uncanny ability to truly split the left and right to each side of the room. The sound profile itself is punchy, accurate and crystal clear when it needs to be. This isn’t a particularly warm-sounding system, instead opting for clarity and breadth of range.
We tested it with a gruelling range of musical styles and inputs from delicate choral music to punishing soundscapes courtesy of Mass Effect: Andromeda on our PlayStation 4 Pro.
The bass goes well beyond that deep punch you usually get from multi-range speakers and instead can become a thunderous rumble when needed. It’s no substitute for the Sub but it’s pretty close.
In terms of connectivity this is where Sonos divides opinion. Just like its other products the Playbase features an optical port, ethernet port and power cable.
That’s it. There’s no HDMI support nor is there support for DTS, something that home cinema fanatics will find as annoying as they found it when Sonos confirmed that the Playbar wouldn’t have it either.
Sonos argues that the vast majority of formats people will be watching (Netflix, Apple TV, Chromecast etc) don’t support this anyway and in fairness, it’s a good point. The Playbar and Playbase have never pretended to be the home cinema fanatic’s speaker of choice and they’re not planning to do it now.
One rather confusing omission is the lack of a microphone. Considering Sonos confirmed it was working on Alexa support and voice control it seems almost baffling to then launch a speaker that costs £699 and doesn’t come with, at the very least, something to show that it’s capable of having the feature added in the future.
Last but not least is the app. Sonos’ app remains as solid as ever and thanks to new features like Trueplay you can tweak each speaker to have a sound profile that fits your own tastes.
Who should buy the Sonos Playbase?
The Playbase, just like every other Sonos product is about adding to a family that you already own. If you already have Sonos in your house and are looking for a way of seriously beefing up your TV then the Playbase is an expensive, but remarkable speaker that looks as stunning as it sounds.
Who shouldn’t buy the Sonos Playbase?
The Playbase is just not the first Sonos product you buy. For starters it’s £699. If you’re looking for a home cinema system and you don’t own any Sonos speakers whatsoever we just can’t recommend that you jump in at the deep end with this. The Playbase will be, for many, an extravagant icing on the cake of Sonos products they’ve spent many many years slowly gaining.
The Sonos Playbase is available now for £699.
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