Now that I know about Sonos Playbase, I wonder if Sonos was spying on me.
When the company announced Playbase Tuesday, it noted that roughly 70% of all flat screen TVs in the U.S. are not mounted to the wall. It felt like a stat pulled directly from my home. I have five HDTVs; only one is mounted to a wall. The others sit on counters and furniture. One of them has a sound bar that slightly obscures the bottom of the screen.
This fact about people like me led Sonos to an acoustic epiphany: the sound bar they currently sell, the wall-mountable Playbar, doesn’t meet the needs of most HDTV owners. More importantly, the new sound bar they were trying to design should not be a bar, at all, but a platform.
That’s right, someone finally figured out that it might make more sense to put the TV on top of the external audio device that virtually all ultra-thin HDTVs need.
Finally. Thank you.
But I have other questions. How big of a TV can Playbase hold? More importantly, how did they fit all the audio equipment, including the woofer, in that 28.35-inch wide x 14.17-inch deep by 2.28-inch tall chassis?
Turns out that Playbase, which is part of Sonos’ growing home theater line, can handle a 75-pound TV (a 65-inch 4K LED TV from LG weighs roughly 60 pounds with a stand); the body is made of a strong resin called glass-filled polycarbonate. And, yes, it does include a woofer.
Inside Playbase’s rather minimalist design are 10 digital amplifiers: six mid-range speakers, three tweeters and the woofer. The speakers are arrayed just behind the grill’s 43,000 individually-drilled holes. The grill runs the full width of the speaker and even curves around the corners. To fit in a woofer, Sonos turned it so it faces down toward the base and then built a special, “S-shaped” air-chamber to manage the air-pressure behind the woofer’s thumps.
The system also supports Sonos Trueplay technology, which lets you fine-turn your sound experience for wherever you place Playbase.
Shipping April 4, the $699 sound system connects to your TV, via a single, optical cable. To achieve true 5:1 surround audio, you will need a pair of Sonos speakers, which Playbase can connect to wirelessly. It can also connect wirelessly to a stand-alone sub-woofer. Playbase can be controlled via the Sonos app or through touch controls on the top surface of the speaker.
Later this year, Sonos will add voice control via an Amazon Echo Dot and Alexa integration.
Without first-hand test results, I can’t tell you if the Playbase dampens any vibration between the speaker and the TV resting on top of it or if that unusually-designed woofer delivers the room-shaking, theater-like experience I demand. We’ll know for certain when I test Playbase next month.