Recognizing that most TVs rest on furniture versus being mounted on the wall, Sonos is adding a second TV speaker to its whole-home audio lineup. The incredibly thin Playbase is designed to sit underneath a flat-screen TV, connecting to it via an optical cable. As with Sonos’ earlier Playbar, the $699 Playbase can connect wirelessly to the company’s subwoofer and any pair of wireless speakers to form a 5.1-channel home theater audio system.
The rectangular speaker measures 28.35 inches wide and 14.17 inches deep, but is just 2.28 inches high and can support a TV weighing up to 75 pounds. The glass-filled polycarbonate enclosure houses six midrange drivers, three tweeters, and one woofer, with each speaker paired to its own Class D amplifier. As is typical of Sonos, the company did not disclose the amplifier output, but none of its previous speakers have left us wanting more volume.
We haven’t seen a sample yet, but Sonos’ marketing materials make much of the number of holes in the speaker’s grill: more than 43,000, with larger holes on the rounded corners to allow the woofer to move more air and render the grill “acoustically transparent.”
“We have built a product that can not only handle the complexities of home theater—delivering open and natural sound, clear dialogue, and immersive bass that fills the room—but also fits perfectly in any home environment,” Sonos Sound Experience Leader Giles Martin said in a press release.
The Playbase looks very much like a Sonos Play:5 that’s been squashed flat by a rolling pin. It has the same logo treatment and top-panel touch controls for volume, play/pause, and track forward/back. But the Playbase will have the same Dialogue Enhancement and Night Mode settings that were introduced with the company’s Playbar soundbar. The Playbase will also support Sonos’ Trueplay room-correction technology that can automatically fine-tune a Sonos speaker to get the best performance possible from whatever room the speaker is operating in.
The Playbase will support Dolby Digital surround sound, but not DTS. Both codecs are found in DVD discs, but Dolby dominates in the video-streaming market. Sonos is also not supporting the higher-resolution Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio encoding present on Blu-ray and Blu-ray HD discs--it can't, because those soundtracks require the bandwidth that an HDMI connection provides.
Why this matters: Sonos is the 800 pound gorilla in the whole-home audio market, so any new product it launches is of great interest. But it’s not the first company to pack a sound bar into a box that can support the weight of a TV. Tom Hannaher’s Zevox has been offering systems like this for years. Other competitors are coming on strong, too, with powerhouse brands ranging from Yamaha (MusicCast) to DTS (Play-Fi), and Denon (Heos) muscling in on Sonos’ networked-audio turf, in some cases with products that offer features Sonos doesn’t, such as support for high-resolution audio.
Sonos tells us its new Playbar will be available worldwide on April 4, and that we should get a review unit shortly before then. We’ll have a full hands-on review as soon as we can get our hands on one. Current Sonos customers who don't want to wait for the reviews can preorder the Playbase at Sonos.com now.