Sonos doesn't launch a new product every month, or even every year, but when it does, they always seem to be worth the wait. Enter its latest speaker, the PlayBase, which joins the PlayBar in the home theatre line-up.
The PlayBase is designed to slide underneath your TV rather than mount on the wall like the PlayBar and it's a beautiful looking device. Here are our first impressions.
Sonos PlayBase preview: Design
Sonos has some fabulous speakers in its portfolio, especially the newer ones, but the new PlayBase is by far the sleekest of the lot.
The PlayBase measures 720 x 380mm and it is just 58mm high, making it the slimmest speaker offered by Sonos. The company said the aim was to allow it to "disappear into the home" and the new device certainly achieves this with no unnecessary details.
The top of the PlayBase is smooth to touch, and super flat, allowing for a TV and its stand to sit firmly on top, while the rounded corners of the PlayBase give an overall softer and consequently lovely finish.
There are no apparent joins anywhere on the PlayBase, delivering a seamless look with clean lines that makes the speaker seem as though it has been created from a single sheet of material.
All the internals are wrapped within a glass-filled polycarbonate exterior to ensure vibrations are kept to a minimum and the speaker can withstand the weight of TVs up to 34kgs, but despite being plastic, it really doesn't look it. Instead, the PlayBase has a premium and considered finish that would fit in most homes.
Like the redesigned Play:5, the PlayBase has capacitive touch controls at the top and the Sonos tag is positioned at the front of the speaker in the centre within the acoustically transparent grille. This grille is made up of over 43,000 holes (apparently, we didn't count) and like the Play:5, the Sonos tag also has very small holes drilled into it to ensure the sound isn't compromised.
The grille also features a staggered pattern in order to hide the internals of the PlayBase better, while the holes of the grille are five different sizes from the front to the sides of the PlayBase to allow for better ventilation of the woofer.
At the left of the PlayBase is the pairing button, while the rear has the connection ports in an inset moulded section, hiding the power cables as much as possible. There is an Ethernet port, optical audio input and a power supply at the rear, with the PlayBase requiring a broadband connection, power and a TV with optical audio output in order to work. Yes, like the Playbar there is no HDMI which some might not be overly thrilled about.
The PlayBase is available in black and white colour options, like the Play:5, Play:1 and the SUB, but our favourite is definitely the white as the PlayBase's design details are more apparent on the lighter option and therefore more striking, presenting the attention to detail put into the design of this new device.
Sonos PlayBase preview: Features
The Sonos PlayBase connects to the Sonos platform wirelessly, like the rest of the Sonos line up. This means you'll be able to control it via the Sonos app, or select partner apps, like Spotify, and you'll have access to over 80 music services.
It also means that you'll also be able to control PlayBase using your voice later in 2017 when Amazon Alexa compatibility appears, though Sonos has yet to detail an exact date for this feature.
As the PlayBase is a TV speaker as well as another Sonos multi-room speaker though, you'll also be able to control volume via your TV remote and it will send TV sound to other Sonos speakers in your setup. For example, you could group your Play:5 in the kitchen to the PlayBase in your living room in order to hear the football or Strictly Come Dancing while cooking.
The Sonos PlayBase also has the same features as the PlayBar, including Dialogue Enhancement, which enhances vocal clarity and Night Mode, which tones down the bass during loud action scenes. The PlayBase is also compatible with Trueplay, which is a software feature that adjusts the sound of the speaker to the specifics of the room.
Sonos PlayBase preview: Sound quality
The Sonos PlayBase features ten class-D digital amplifiers, along with a ten-driver speaker system comprising six mid-range drivers, three tweeters and one woofer, all of which have been custom designed for the PlayBase.
Sonos claims the result is a sound stage that is much wider than the speaker itself, which our experience suggested was indeed the case. We heard the PlayBase on its own, as well as in a 5:1 setup with a SUB and two Play:1's and both were very impressive.
Naturally, there is more significant bass when the SUB is involved but the PlayBase is more than capable on its own, filling the room with sound. We listened to a Beyonce track, a Radiohead track and an unproduced track and the ranges were clear on all three, with excellent sound and good bass.
We also watched the Jungle Book to test the home theatre capabilities rather than just the speaker functionality and the dialogue was very natural and crisp. A clear distinction between the crickets and the child in one particular scene could also be heard, despite them having a very similar frequency.
We will of course test the PlayBase in a less controlled environment when we have it in for review, but based on our first experience with it, we were impressed with it in both music speaker terms and as a home theatre speaker.
The Sonos PlayBase is a beautifully designed speaker that offers an option for those that don't have the luxury of a wall-mounted TV, or for those that would rather have their TV on furniture.
It delivers excellent sound quality from our initial experience with it and it looks fabulous thanks to its super-slim body and seamless finish.
It isn't the cheapest sound base on the market and the decision to use optical instead of HDMI is certainly questionable, but the PlayBase has the advantage of being part of the Sonos system, allowing those who already have speakers to gain the full package.
The PlayBase is a have your cake and eat it kind of speaker, being both a music speaker and a TV speaker and in terms of design, it blows the Playbar away. In fact, we might consider taking our TV back off the wall. We will bring you our full review in the next couple of months.