Last month Sonos unveiled its new Playbase hi-fi speaker that fits under your TV, and now the premium TV and music speaker is available to purchase in white or black. Playbase is an interesting alternative to the typical sound bar form factor and has benefits like accommodating more living room setups. Check out our hands-on with the new Sonos Playbase for much more.
Sonos Playbase connects to TVs over the opticial audio cable and includes ten class-d digital amps plus “six midrange, three tweeters, and one woofer, all custom designed for the speaker’s acoustic architecture” all in a single package.
Translation for the non-audio world: Playbase is a really loud speaker all on its own with deep, rumbling lows and clear, precise highs and plenty of clarity in the middle.
Spoken word is easily heard and in-app audio enhancements help you listen in quiet environments without being too jarring, and movies sound theatrical with Playbase alone. You can even use Sonos Trueplay to fine tune music playback to your environment.
The design of Playbase is rather unique when compared to the typical sound bar. Playbase is definitely not a small and compact speaker.
It’s slightly less wide than your typical sound bar and has a similar height (which is a tad bit taller than the fourth generation Apple TV), while its base form factor makes it feel like a large slab of a speaker.
Specifically, it measures 2.28 x 28.35 x 14.17 inches which Sonos notes is its thinnest speaker. Sonos also says Playbase can support TV sets up to 77 pounds, but you’ll want to keep its surface dimensions in mind.
My living room TV meets the weight requirement but stands on feet on either side, not a centered base, which was incompatible with Playbase in my case. My smaller bedroom TV was no issue, although you’ll want to measure your TV stand surface as well.
(Sanus has also created a $149 swivel TV base designed specifically for Sonos Playbase that fits 32-60 inch displays that may be worth checking out.)
Playbase is the first new hardware product from Sonos since the second-gen Play:5 was unveiled in September 2015, and Sonos has included its new playback control style as you would expect. This lets you tap or swipe, not click, to toggle volume, change tracks, and play or pause audio.
If you prefer clicky buttons, you’ll have to stick to the older Playbar. Personally, I highly prefer the sleeker, modern button approach on Play:5 and Playbase. They’re prominently located and visually blend in with the rest of the speaker.
Like the Playbar, Sonos includes two TV-specific in-app features for audio playback: Night Sound and Speech Enhancement. Night Sound levels out audio output so you don’t have to repeatedly crank up the volume to hear quiet audio and jump to turn volume down when something crashes. Speech enhancement is another audio tweak tuned for TVs that comes in handy. You’ll also find a sleep timer included in the Sonos app for muting audio playback after a set duration.
When Playbase is set up, the Sonos app adds a dedicated TV section to the sidebar navigation for audio control. This works just like the Play:5’s line-in audio playback option. Playbase automatically switches between music playback and TV audio when you turn on a connected TV, and the Sonos app will prompt you to confirm when overriding TV audio output with music playback. Playbase easily works with existing TV remotes for changing volume, although I especially appreciated iPhone volume control during testing.
In-app volume control is especially useful if you use Playbase with Apple TV, the iPhone Remote app, and a TV that can turn on and off from the Apple TV remote. This lets you use your iPhone as your only remote for power, navigation, and volume control.
Using Playbase with Apple TV also makes it super easy to use the Sonos speaker for playback using apps like Podcasts that otherwise don’t work well or at all with Sonos. Apple Music works directly over the Internet to Playbase or through Apple TV to Playbase.
As a music speaker, Playbase at $699 is pricier than the flagship Sonos Play:5 ($499) hi-fi speaker and overall is less compact. Playbase is a flat slab of speaker compared to the Play:5’s standard box design. You probably wouldn’t pick a Playbase as a music speaker without a TV since that’s half the point of it, but it’s certainly a hi-fi speaker just like the Play:5.
Music played through Playbase sounds top-notch, and music played during movies and TV shows just sounds better because Sonos knows music. (I think this is partially why I’ve been playing the Interstellar soundtrack over Apple Music after testing Playbase with the film…)
For my review unit, I opted for white to match my living room TV stand with the idea that it would disappear under my silver-accented TV with gray feet. The white finish still matched my bedroom dresser that my bedroom TV sits on, although the black finish would blend much better with this particular TV base and likely with most TVs.
Playbase is an excellent audio solution if you want the fidelity of a Sonos Playbar but can’t accommodate the sound bar form factor or just prefer the slab form factor.