10 March, 2017
Sonos' designers have structured the Playbase to withstand the weight of a TV "for years" and it feels that way.
Speaker-base sales began to shrink not only because many speaker/TV combos looked top-heavy but also because more and more TVs were introduced with separate left and right feet, retailers and suppliers told TWICE. Enter the Sonos Playbase, a TV stand with a built-in center-channel speaker that works on its own or with a subwoofer and rear speakers. Many sound bases were too tall to fit under the screens of TVs with two feet, they said.
The Sanus Swiveling TV Base is available now in the United States, priced $150, and will sell through Sonos.com in the United Kingdom in April for £150. Instead of a long skinny bar, the Playbase is more of an oval shape. If you prefer your TV to be sat on furniture, and you don't have a load of space, then the Playbase might be for you.
Sonos says the Playbase and the Playbar should sound about the same, but I'd disagree.
"Options equal confusion", said Kallai of the decision against offering multiple types of inputs on Playbase and Playbar.
"Ah", you're likely saying, "but Sonos can't make their products voice controllable". "Rarely will you find anything different on ARC than what's on optical for any content, and it's harder to route HDMI [ARC] cable", explained Hilmar Lehnert, director of audio systems engineering.
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But home theater enthusiasts might be disappointed with some of the technical details. Some streaming services deliver surround in both formats.
The result is a sound stage much wider than the speaker itself.
The new Sonos PLAYBASE packs 10 drivers (six mid-range drivers, three tweeters and one woofer) into a device that is 58mm high, and the front grille sports more than 43,000 holes for a design that Sonos says is "acoustically transparent". The woofer's exhaust also blows over the Playbase's internal electronics to keep it cool.
Unveiled on Tuesday, the Playbase will start shipping in early April with a steep $699 price tag that's nevertheless in line with Sonos's other wireless home audio products, like the Playbar. Basically this measures the room and tweaks the sound to suit the environment.
But there's yet another confounding design choice that Sonos made with the Playbase as the company readies support for Amazon's Alexa and (hopefully) other voice assistants.
The video also provides insight into how Sonos worked to make sure the antennas are placed so they are able to perform multiroom functions with reliability. With product characterized by sleek, simple designs and crystal clear sound, it's no wonder Sonos has managed to maintain its position at the top of the market despite increased competition; it seems like every consumer electronics company out there is trying to get a piece of the wireless speaker business, though some companies have fared better than others. But for that money you're getting a speaker with an elegant, built-to-last design, and one that can easily stream your favorite songs from Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play, and other services when it's not being used to heighten the immersion of Netflix, Blu-rays, or video games.