Sonos Playbar review
On the buttons: David Phelan has ears-on time with an impressive new sound system
Thursday 21 February 2013
Sonos is a company whose reputation is building through word of mouth.
It makes attractive systems with speakers that stream music from your PC, tablet or the internet to multiple rooms. So, if your music is on your Mac in the study downstairs, Sonos will grab it from there and play it on a stereo speaker system in the living room, and another one in the bedroom, say. Or it will play different music in different rooms at the same time.
It's a highly sophisticated system, though its success lies in the combination of its utter simplicity to set up and the remarkably high quality of its audio output. Your music may be compressed but the Sonos makes it sound as good as it possibly can.
It works well with the music you have on your computer hard disk but really excels when you link it to your Spotify account, for instance, so you can stream from a massively wide range of tracks. You need a premium Spotify for this, please note.
The stereo speaker unit, called the Play:5 was joined by a smaller, cheaper version called Play:3 and last year by a big whomping sub-woofer.
Now the company has launched the Playbar, a neat-looking speaker bar designed to improve the sound from your TV. The shape of flatscreens – and the clue is in the name – is rarely conducive to good audio. Some manufacturers, notably Sony, have found ways round this with speakers in the stand under the TV, or bolted onto the side.
But on the whole, the audio from television is likely to be underwhelming. Place a soundbar like this one from Sonos under the telly and the effect is transformational.
The Sonos Playbar has multiple speakers to create a wider, more immersive effect. They're placed at 45 degree angles so the Playbar works just as well whether it's hung on the wall under (or above) the TV or laid flat on its side under the goggle box. Happily, the Sonos logo looks the same both ways up.
We'll come back to the Playbar, which will go on sale shortly for £599, when we've tested it properly. For now, the fact that it works with all other Sonos components is a useful bonus. And the company claims it will work as a standalone speaker system for your audio as well, so it may cannibalise sales of the Sonos Play:5 – or even mean that you don't need a separate hi-fi.
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