Sonos Playbar Review
Pros: Great sound, stylish, useful sound modes
Cons: Initial setup of the Sonos App can be finicky, expensive
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Sonos Playbar is an excellent audio machine and, in our opinion, delivers the best sound experience you're going to find without buying an expensive and complicated surround sound system.
The Sonos Playbar performed very well in our testing, earning the highest overall score.
In the sections that follow we discuss the Playbar's performance in all of the individual tests we conducted. We combine the scores from those individual tests to arrive at our overall scores.
Sound quality is where the Playbar really blew us away. It picked up the only perfect score of 10 out of 10 in our sound testing.
We were incredibly impressed with the truly immersive, room filling sound that the Playbar produced in our testing. When listening to this device, it is definitely hard to believe that so much sound is coming out of such a compact package. The speaker never exhibited even an ounce of clipping during our testing, even when playing the highest pitched and loudest notes we could. The powerful bass is far more than we would have expected from a self-contained soundbar. Sure it can't quite match the booming bass of models that have external subwoofers, but the Playbar's bass is well defined and clear, creating an overall sound that is much more full bodied than that of the bassier models. Overall the Playbar has unmatched clarity, with all the notes of even complicated and hectic musical numbers sounding well-defined and distinct. Bottom line, if you want the best sound a soundbar can produce, get the Playbar.
Ease of Use
Ease of use is the one area where the Playbar wasn't at the front of the class. It earned an average score of 6 out of 10 in a metric with scores ranging from 4 to 9.
The Playbar is incredibly easy to set up and use if you're connecting it to a TV, in this situation it's pretty much just plug and go. If you want to do anything further, like stream music from your phone or adjust the sound settings, you have to use the Sonos App. The app talks to the playbar via your home's wifi network. Once this connection is created it is quite solid, but in our testing we found that it could sometimes be a hassle to get both the Playbar and the app connected to the wifi network and communicating with each other.
Also, any music you stream to the playbar must go through the Sonos App. This means you'll have to sign into your Pandora, Amazon Music, and Spotify accounts within the Sonos App. This only needs to be done once, so it's not too much of a hassle. However, it doesn't mean that visitors will have download the Sonos App if they want to play music from their devices on the Playbar. This wifi system may sound a bit clunkier than a simple Bluetooth connection, but it does have some advantages. First off, once you start streaming music it is technically streaming straight to the Playbar from your wifi, and not going through your phone. This means the music won't be interrupted every time you get a notification on your phone. Also, if you decide to get more Sonos speakers for your house, you can easily control all of them from a single device.
The Playbar is one of the few Sonos products that does not offer AirPlay compatibility. However, f you have almost any other Sonos speaker in your home, Apple users can use AirPlay (essentially Apple's WiFi-centric version of Bluetooth) to stream almost any audio from their device through that speaker, and then pair it with the Playbar.
The Playbar was one of the better performers in our sound customization testing, missing the top score by just a single point.
The Sonos app offers a basic EQ panel that allows adjustment of the bass, treble, and balance. It also offers a few unique preset sound modes. Night Mode keeps things like dialogue at a normal volume, but reduces the volume of loud noises and very low bass. This allows you to watch TV at night without disturbing your neighbors. If you're always having trouble understanding what people are saying you can turn on Speech Enhancement. This boosts the frequencies that are generally associated with the human voice so you can always hear what people are saying, even if you're watching an action movie where the sound editor made all the explosions a bit too loud.
The Playbar was our favorite model from an aesthetic perspective, and it received the highest score in our design/style metric.
The all metal body and mesh speaker covering on the playbar lends a classic, elegant look. The simple lines are likewise refined and will likely blend right in mounted on any wall or placed on any TV stand. The one thing we weren't huge fans of was the dark grey accent at the bottom of the soundbar. We would have preferred an all black look, but the accent isn't too flashy and doesn't detract too much from the soundbar's overall sleek look.
The Sonos Playbar is one of the most expensive soundbars we tested. However, if you're looking for top notch sound and the ability to expand into a larger sound system, it is worth every penny. If you just want a solid upgrade from your TV's built-in speakers but don't want to pay for premium sound, the Samsung HW-K450 2.1 Channel offers a better overall value.
The Sonos Playbar is near perfection as far as soundbars go, providing top notch sound in a simple, self contained package. If you want the best sound you can get from a single speaker system, this is it.
— Max Mutter and Steven Tata