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Sonos Playbase review

When we heard Sonos was making a sound base, we knew the company was taking a hell of a risk. That’s because many of today’s TVs simply won’t fit on top of them.

A sound base is a flat box of a speaker designed to sit underneath a TV’s stand. That’s fine if your TV has a central pedestal stand, but many TV today are supported by legs splayed far to either side, and many standard sound bases don’t fit under them.

But the Sonos Playbase is no standard, well, anything. Just over 2 inches tall, it’s squat enough to nestle beneath larger splayed-leg TV sets. Most smaller ones won’t fit, however, so the potential audience for the Playbase is smaller than that of the Sonos Playbar, the company’s more conventionally designed sound bar.

That’s too bad, because the Playbase is the best home theater component Sonos has created. With gorgeous looks and vista-like sound, it’s the kind of do-everything all-in-one speaker the Playbar never was. While the sound bar really needs the optional (expensive) Sonos Sub, the Playbase does perfectly well without it.

The Sonos Playbase is available now for $699/£699/AU$999, the same price as the Playbar. Between the two, as long as your TV fits, the Playbase is by far the better option.

Design


Sarah Tew/CNET

The Sonos Playbase is a seemingly solid piece of (quality) plastic, available in either black or white. Around the front of the speaker curls a grille designed to completely hide not only the drivers but also a bass exhaust port on one side. The controls and minimalist aesthetic resemble the latest Play:5 speaker.

Believe it or not, there’s a bass port in this photo.


Sarah Tew/CNET

The top of the speaker is reinforced and designed to hold televisions up to 75 pounds (34 kilograms). You can also use the Playbar with the new splayed-leg “clawfoot” style of stand too — if the space between the tabletop and the bottom of the screen can accommodate the Playbar’s 2.28-inch (58mm) height.

The LeEco “clawfoot” TV fit over the top of the Playbase just fine.


Sarah Tew/CNET

We tried a number of different clawfoot TVs with mixed success. The 55-inch LeEco X55 and 65-inch Vizio D series worked best, straddling the Playbase with ample clearance, while a 55-inch TCL Roku TV and a 50-inch Vizio E-series didn’t. If you want this style of speaker and your TV doesn’t fit, there is a $150 third-party Playbase stand available.

The Playbase comes without a remote, but using the Sonos app you can program your TV clicker to mute and alter the volume of the speaker. Note that it no longer has an onboard calibration mic — Sonos’ Trueplay app removed the need for that.

Features

The Sonos Playbase is a home theater component first and foremost — one that just happens to integrate with Sonos’ excellent multiroom music system. It connects via an optical cable to your TV and will decode Dolby Digital but sadly not DTS as well.

A minimalist set of connections


Sarah Tew/CNET

The Playbase includes six midrange drivers, three tweeters and a woofer feeding a bass port, which the company calls the S-tube. This port snakes through the chassis, giving the unit its weighty bass response while also passively cooling the components inside. (And yes, Sonos engineers told us they’d considered calling it the PlayBASS.)

Like other Sonos speakers, the Playbase uses Wi-Fi to stream music from dozens of services and network devices using Sonos’ proprietary whole-home system. While Sonos was one of the first such systems, it now has plenty of competition from the likes of Bose’s SoundTouch, DTS Play-Fi, Samsung Shape, Google’s Chromecast Audio and more.

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