Sonos speakers already live all around your house — your living room, your bedroom, your bathroom. You might already have a Sonos speaker in the same room as your TV. You might already have a Playbar. If you don't, though, it might be because you don't have room underneath your TV — maybe it's not wall mounted, maybe it lives on a skinny entertainment unit. That's why Sonos has a new speaker for your TV, designed to live underneath it. It's called the Playbase.
TV speakers are, bar a few special exceptions, terrible. They're terrible at reproducing dialogue and low frequency effects and detail in just about any audio. They fire downwards or reflect sound off the wall behind your TV, not directly towards the listener sitting in an ideal TV-viewing position. Any kind of external speaker — and we've tried plenty — is a massive improvement. Sonos' speakers, though, are made just as much for music as they are for movies and TV viewing, and that
The flat, rounded-rectangle design of the Playbase means that it should fit snugly underneath almost all TV stands, but it should also be slight enough to fit between the two-legged designs of larger TVs from companies like Samsung or LG. Crucially, it's not especially tall — just 58mm in height — so it won't raise the TV far off your entertainment unit and make it uncomfortable to watch. Despite that, it still packs in 10 speakers and individual amplifier circuits for each, as well as a significant amount of processing power to drive Sonos' wireless multi-room audio features and audio customisation.
Just like Playbar, Playbase connects to your TV with a single optical digital audio cable, and the only other ingredient in this super-awesome audio mix is power. Playbase has a wired Ethernet connection if you want to use it, but you shouldn't — Sonos speakers are made to be enjoyed wirelessly. And, of course, you can set the Playbase up on its own as a single speaker or include Sonos' Sub or Play:1 or Play:3 speakers for surround effects.
70 per cent of TVs are sitting on furniture, not mounted to the wall, Sonos says. And that means for plenty of people, a Playbase might be a more appropriate solution than the Playbar. Playbar and Playbase will be priced identically in Australia at $999, with the idea that — since both sound a hell of a lot better than the tinny speakers crammed into the thin profile — buyers should feel comfortable choosing between the two based on design rather than some potential difference in sound.
The Playbase does have potential for slightly more powerful bass than the Playbar, though, thanks to its dedicated 5-inch woofer driver and S-shaped bass reflex port — the bass port also serves as an airflow vent, so the speaker actually cools itself down more the louder you play it. Otherwise it has six forward-firing midrange drivers (arranged in two banks of three for stereo imaging; Sonos uses phasing to emphasise stereo effects and stretch the speaker's soundstage), a central tweeter to improve the clarity of dialogue and two horn tweeters on the front corners of the Playbase that project high frequency sound out around your living space to extend that stereo effect.
Like other Sonos products, the Playbase works with Trueplay, the company's excellent room calibration and equalisation system that customises each speaker setup — whether it's one speaker or a surround setup of several — for whatever space they're played in. We're really looking forward to giving one a more extended test drive as soon as we can, but from our early listening session it's a seriously impressive piece of audio hardware, especially considering its miniscule size.
The Playbase will be out worldwide on April 4th, and you can pre-order directly from Sonos if you're especially keen.
Here's a video from Sonos that shows some of the years of work that's gone into developing the Playbase: