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Review: Sonos PLAYBASE – A Dense Slab Of Sound And Smarts

Without a sound bar, most TVs simply cannot reproduce muscular sound due to their ultra-slim profiles and bezel-less design. If a sound bar won’t fit on your TV console, Sonos believes that the PLAYBASE is your best solution. The PLAYBASE is engineered as a parallel product to the Sonos PLAYBAR that rivals it in power and smarts. Let’s have a look!

Build Quality and Design

The PLAYBASE looks and feels like a slate of marble. I got mine in white and it blended perfectly with my white TV cabinet. The base was wide enough to accommodate the table stand of my 48” TV, with more room to spare. It can also hold TVs weighing up to 35kgs.

Instead of a cloth of metal grill, the PLAYBASE has finely machined holes that span the front and sides. Behind that grill sits a total of 10 speaker drivers – 3 tweeters, 6 mid-range drivers, and a powerful down-firing woofer. To negate any chance of bass distortion, the woofer channels its acoustic energy through a purpose-built air chamber which amplifies the bass along the way.

All discrete ports are located at the back – a power port, an Ethernet LAN and Optical Audio input.

Features and Performance

Aside from being a great TV speaker, the PLAYBASE is also a powerful music streamer that can serve standalone, or work as part of an existing Sonos set up. You can also connect rear Sonos speakers along with a Sonos:SUB for a powerful home theatre rig. Source switching and volume controls can be done from within the Sonos App. 

There are touch sensors on top that operate your play/pause and volume controls. These were quite sensitive but to make life easier, you can set your TV remote to control the PLAYBASE’ volume too.

Great sound can be badly affected by your room’s acoustics. Never fear, Trueplay tuning can help the PLAYBASE adjust its sound to your room so that it will sound its best regardless of the room you put it in. The calibration process was so effective that I did not have any need to fine-tune the audio at all. (iOS only)

Like with other Sonos speakers, the PLAYBASE relies on the Sonos App for most of its features like accessing your music in your phone, your NAS server, or in your preferred music streaming service. (You will need to install the desktop App to access NAS music) Also, the Sonos App is home to the widest range of music streaming services that I’ve encountered in a single app, including Spotify, Deezer and Tidal! The App is clean, intuitive and easy to navigate.

sonosapp

The PLAYBASE also supports direct streaming from Spotify, through Spotify Connect. But what’s really missing here is the lack of DLNA, Airplay, Google Cast or Bluetooth. You can only enjoy audio from your TV or through the App and I find that pretty restrictive at times.

If I need to stream any audio from my laptop (like Podcasts), I can’t do it directly. I’ll need to connect my Macbook to my Apple TV first (Airplay), then switch on my TV to allow the signal to pass through to the PLAYBASE. In case you’re wondering, it does not have any analogue audio port either!

Sound Quality

The PLAYBASE is immensely powerful for its unassuming size. Deep and powerful lashings of bass that seemed to come from a separate subwoofer, focused and forward-sounding mid-range, and airy high registers. The PLAYBASE also excels at virtual stereo separation, extending its sound field a full metre away from the actual dimensions of the speaker. It excels at delivering a powerful, cinematic experience.

Watching an intensive gunfight scene from ‘Book Of Eli’ on Netflix, the PLAYBASE, gunshots felt loud and impactful with intermittent dialogue remaining loud and clear. This clarity was also obvious when I played this scene on low volume – important for midnight binges! The whole scene was like a canvas that opened up on front of me revealing details that I wouldn’t get with regular telly speakers.

Jumping on my PS4 I opened up my latest saved game on FFXV. The same clarity and impact was there but now I could feel a degree of 3D layering when I was driving in my car and other vehicles were passing by. It sounded like they were whizzing out of my TV screen!

For music, I enjoyed an alchemy of relaxed track separation, room-filling bass, and soaring mids when I played Little Mix’s ‘Secret Love Song’. Vocals sounded a little thin at the bottom (around the 512khz band) which caused it to sound a tad glassy.  But overall, listening to my pop tracks was a fun experience. The PLAYBASE also performs admirably for wide genres like Jazz, Rock and Classical music too.

What the PLAYBASE won’t do is virtual-surround. To get any surround sound at all, you’ll need two extra SONOS speakers at the back. On the flip side, getting the SONOS:Sub is entirely optional here due to the hefty bass that the PLAYBASE can pump out.

WiFi

The PLAYBASE will only connect to your 2.4Ghz WiFi, even if your router supports 5Ghz. On the plus side, it does its job really well and gives you longer range (up to 30m line of sight) and a more reliable wireless connection. I’m happy that the PLAYBASE delivered an experience free from signal drops or latency issues.

Price

At S$1299, the PLAYBASE is exactly the same price as the ubiquitous Sonos:PLAYBAR, and rightly so! It serves the same purpose and even has the same features, just in a different form. People shopping around for a pedestal speaker might find this expensive, since competitors have pedestals that cost below S$1000. But of all pedestal speakers, the PLAYBASE has the best sound and build quality. And this makes the deeper price point reasonable.

Conclusion

I never liked pedestal speakers because they generally looked bad and sounded worse! But Sonos had changed my perspective again with the PLAYBASE’s chiselled looks and spacious, powerful audio performance.

The PLAYBASE is available in Black or White.

Build Quality and Design (TV Pedestal Speaker)

  • Pros: Attractive clean slate design looks and feels like a solid block of marble. Offered in shades of black and white, and blends easily with my TV console. Wide enough to accommodate most mid-sized TVs on table stands that weigh up to 35kgs. A total of 10 powerful drivers inside, including a down firing woofer. All ports and connectors neatly hidden at the back.
  • Cons: None that I can think of!

Score: 5/5 (33.3%)

Performance and Features

  • Pros: A TV speaker that is a powerful WiFi music streamer. Clean, spacious and beefy sound for movies, video games and music.  WiFi connects reliably with no signal drops. Sonos App for streaming music from your phone, NAS and Music Streaming services (Desktop, iOS and Android devices). Can be a standalone or work as part of an existing Sonos multi-room or home theater set up. Touch sensors for play/pause and volume controls. Trueplay tuning assures optimal sound quality regardless of room acoustics. (iOS Only) Does not have a dedicated remote but TV remote can be programmed to control it.
  • Cons: Very limited streaming options – no DLNA, Airplay, Google Cast or Bluetooth. Cannot stream from external sources directly unless through the TV.

Score: 8/9 (29.6%)

Price

Score: 3/5 (19.98%)

Final Score: 8.3/10

Aaron. T.
Aaron's dream is to meet the celestial man in the sky who blessed him with huge ears, and shake his hand with a big smile. His typical day is split between getting Rekt on Battlefield 1 and making exciting YouTube reviews at www.youtube.com/loudwirelesssingapore

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