[ Review ] Sonos Playbase – All About That Base

[ Review ] Sonos Playbase – All About That Base

Audio aficionados who have a predilection for wireless kit are usually intimately familiar with Sonos’ range of hardware that are not only wireless but are also able to hook up with other Sonos speakers to form larger audio ensembles. Their current line-up of kit currently covers the gamut from the diminutive Play 1 that’s ideal for a compact single room setup all the way to the massive Playbar soundbar that’s designed to kick out enough sound to fill a living room and ideally, be bolted to a wall as the centrepiece of a home AV ensemble. Not everyone is particularly keen to drill holes in the masonry nor do all home setups allow for it, which is where Sonos’ massive edifice the Playbase comes into play.

Occupying the same niche as the rectangular Playbar, the Playbase is about as wide and flat as the Playbar is long though both are approximately the same length with the same purpose – to fill an entire room with sound. The Playbase though is wider, flatter and shaped much like a curved flat box of sorts. Designed to be plonked under a TV stand and to support tellies up to 35kg in weight, the Playbase bears all the usual hallmarks of Sonos’ minimalist design with a clean, polished look and a minimum of buttonry to mar its smooth finish. Look up close and you can notice a series of 43,000 microscopic drilled holes line the front and sides with only the Sonos logo emblazoned on the front giving a hint as to what the Playbase does.
There’s only one obvious button recessed on the side of it to pair up the Playbase to other Sonos speakers or to your existing home network with the rest of the controls consisting of a set of touch-sensitive buttons to control the volume and playback. These controls are essentially a redundancy measure that you likely won’t use as you’re able to control it remotely via the Sonos Controller app on your Android phone or iPhone. The rear only sports an optical audio output, an Ethernet port and a power cable to keep it juiced.
Crammed within its posh looking if rather weighty 8.86kg casing are ten speakers each individually paired with its own dedicated Class-D amplifier that consists of three front-facing tweeters, a subwoofer along with half a dozen mid-range drivers too.  Taken at a glance, it’s almost indistinguishable from the furniture and looks like an art deco pedestal though it’s only on close inspection that you are able to ascertain its true nature.

Setup and Play
From an engineering standpoint, the Playbase is a marvel of design as they’ve managed to create an acoustically impressive dispenser of sound from what is essentially a flat pedestal; hardly the most ideal form factor for speakers. The fact that it is designed to do so while having a humongous telly placed on it without any degradation in audio quality is quite a feat indeed.

Getting it out of the box took some effort seeing its unusual form factor but getting it set up was an absolute doddle as the wonderful lack of cabling means getting up it up and running simply requires you to plonk it down where you want it before hooking up, at most, two cables – one power cable to juice it and an optical digital audio output to your telly. After that, it’s simply a matter of downloading their companion app which walks you through the whole pairing process as it searches for nearby Sonos speakers and then hooks them up to your WI-Fi network  and you’re essentially sorted with the ability to play tunes from your TV or wirelessly from any device.

To make sure that you enjoy optimum audio quality, the Playbase uses Sonos’ unique Trueplay tech that adjusts the acoustic performance of your Sonos speakers based on where they are emplaced in a room. This is done via an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch with IOS 7 or higher with you walking about the room holding it to give the app an idea how sound bounces off around the immediate area around your Sonos speakers;  this option is only available for iOS users though as they’ve demurred on making it available for Android on account of the sheer number and variation of devices running it out there. Theoretically, you could loan a mate’s iPhone to get this portion set up so it’s not that big a hurdle. There’s a marked difference with and without it so it’s well worth the trouble to persuade an associate with an iPhone to drop by so you can borrow their phone for a few minutes. Fortunately, once it’s done it’ll remember the settings unless you move the speakers.

We plonked it right in the middle of a conventionally shaped (read – squarish) living room with an obligatory sofa in the middle and a coffee table in the centre and put the Playbase to work with a variety of movies on Bluray, streamed music and some console gaming too. We weren’t able to test it with a multi Sonos speaker setup but the Playbase was more than capable of handling things on its own for most users.

First off was a selection of Ramin Djawadi’s signature tracks including the Game of Thrones theme, his work on Pacific Rim and, of course, his sublime work on Westworld helmed by his cover of the Rolling Stones’ ‘Paint it Black’. Ramin’s version starts off with a sparse introduction, slowly layering on additional instruments to the track before hitting the crescendo. The Playbase handled the track like a champ with each instrument sounding distinct with Djawadi’s intricate work sounding exquisite to the ears. The bold, brassy and loud Pacific Rim theme sounded especially inspiring with the song’s rich percussion sections, guitar and trombones sounding amazing on the Playbase. We also field tested it with some of Joanna Wang’s vocal tracks ranging from some of her earliest work to her more experimental tracks of recent vintage and her deep, lustrous voice sounded rich and beautifully clean.

For movies, we put the Playbase up against the first Matrix movie as well as Saving Private Ryan on Bluray. Both movies are intense action laden affairs that can test the mettle of any speaker but the Playbase did not disappoint. The classic battle in the Lobby with Neo and Trinity prancing about beating the seven shades out of a horde of hapless mooks had the Playbase serving up a vivid soundstage and distinct reports from the host of small arms used in the short, intense sequence. Saving Private Ryan’s initial scene with Tom Hanks storming Normandy sounded as if you’re right there with the Rangers taking MG42 fire on the beaches. Even when ramped up to maximum, the Playbase delivered the goods with excellent clarity without any distortion while serving up wall rumbling bass; at one point the neighbours were wondering if we’d suddenly set up a shooting range indoors .

On the gaming front, we tested it with Modern Warfare 3 on campaign mode and in team deathmatch and the Playbase’s decent soundstaging helped to distinguish where hostiles were approximately were on the map along with some pretty beefy explosions thrown in for good measure. It’s not exactly what you’d get with a dedicated multi-speaker setup but the Playbase handled it in an extremely competent fashion that tops the vast majority of other solo speaker dock setups with sufficiently vivid enough staging to distinguish most hostiles within a 180-degree swath ahead of you.
The Playbase’s immense versatility in playing tracks straight off mobile devices also made it see more use as all you need to get the music flowing is to simply just play it on your phone.. If you’re one to sign up for music streaming services, the Playbase works wonderfully with Spotify so you can enjoy a perpetual cornucopia of tracks.

Price and Conclusion
The Playbase clocks in at a substantial RM4,299 which, if you look at it, is still cheaper than an iPhone X. For the price of entry, you’re getting a wireless speaker dock that effectively eliminates the snake pit full of cabling underfoot with many other speaker setups. The fact that you’re able to pair it up to become a part of larger multi-room Sonos systems also makes it a very compelling proposition indeed once you’ve drummed up enough cash.

In terms of performance, the Playbase blew us away with a convincing soundstage, sufficiently beefy bass as well as clear and clean vocals. There’s some annoyance of course like the fact that their Trueplay option needs an iOS device to get it working but it’s well worth the trouble to do so. If you’re looking for an easy to install, wireless home audio setup with solid audio performance, the Sonos Playbase won’t disappoint you.

What We Liked Easy pairing and set up, beautiful design, excellent audio quality, Trueplay tech, awesome bass
What We Didn’t Trueplay only works with iPhones
We Say If you only have space and the budget for just one wireless speaker in your living room the Sonos Playbase is the definitive choice with the ability to tackle music, movies and gaming alike with deft aplomb.

Price RM4,299
Speakers – 10 amplified speaker drivers – 6 midrange, 3 tweeters, 1 woofer
Connectivity 10/100Mbps Ethernet port, Wi-Fi
Size/Weight 720×380 x 580mm / 8.55kg
*Review unit courtesy of TCAcoustic


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