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Sonos Playbar Speaker Review: A Mighty Middle Ground

July 25, 2016
Product Comparisons, Shopping
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Sound bars are a happy medium between compact speakers and full home-theater systems. They’re usually designed to be slender but capable of producing big, rich sound.

If you’re looking for a speaker that fits this description, take a look at our analysis of the Sonos Playbar. If you want one device that’s equally equipped to handle your music and TV shows, it might be the right choice for you.

Design

The Playbar is a sleek sound bar from the popular home-audio brand Sonos.

The black rectangular device has a streamlined design to complement your TV without taking up too much space. The Playbar measures 3.4 inches high, 35.4 inches wide and 5.5 inches deep, and weighs 11.9 pounds.

The Playbar regularly sells for $699 on the Sonos website, but you might find it for less at other retailers, like Amazon.

Features

The Sonos Playbar plugs into your TV’s optical output to play audio straight from your TV or from any device that’s connected to it, such as a gaming console, DVD or Blu-ray player. But its capabilities don’t stop there. Here’s a look at a few more features:

  • Wireless connections: The Playbar can connect to the free Sonos app and to other Sonos speakers wirelessly through your home’s Wi-Fi network.
  • Free app: Download the free Sonos app on your smartphone, tablet or computer to control the sound bar and access music. You can adjust the speaker’s volume and play music from a device, radio station or streaming service.
  • Smart technology: Software updates let the Playbar improve over time. Sonos will alert you when new features and services are available.
  • Night sound: This setting tones down the loud, booming sounds in your audio so you won’t disturb others when you use your speaker late at night.
  • Speech enhancement: This feature helps make the dialogue in your TV shows and movies clearer and easier to hear.

» MORE: Amazon Echo vs. Sonos Play:1

Music and audio

Sonos promises the Playbar lets you stream “all the music on earth.” It’s preloaded with thousands of internet radio stations. You can also wirelessly play tunes from your device’s library or from popular services such as Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora and Amazon Music.

The Playbar contains nine amplified speaker drivers that pump out audio from your music, movies, TV shows and more. If a surround-sound effect is important to you, you can pair the Playbar with a Sonos Sub subwoofer and two Sonos Play:1 or Play:3 speakers to create a home theater system.

The reviews

Sonos calls the Playbar the “soundbar for music lovers,” but does it measure up?

We analyzed reviews of some of the most popular sound bars on the market, including the Playbar, to see how this model performed. We looked at expert opinions from review sites such as The Sweethome and CNET and analyzed user reviews to see what buyers had to say about the various attributes of each speaker.

Based on the reviews, the Playbar is an impressive piece of equipment. Users noted that the speaker delivers crisp, clear sound with good low-to-high range. Many appreciated the slim design and limited number of wires, as well as the easy setup. Reviewers also liked the Playbar’s versatility, given its ability to pair with additional speakers and play audio from practically any device.

Users’ main gripe with the speaker was the cost — at just under $700, it’s no small chunk of change. Although most found the sound quality to be excellent, some said the Playbar lacks bass and suggested that those looking for a more immersive experience should upgrade to a Sonos home theater system. Of course, an upgrade will hike up the price.

The verdict

Is the Sonos Playbar right for your home?

Thanks to its rich, full sound and virtually unlimited music access, the Sonos Playbar is a solid choice for music aficionados and cinephiles alike. If you want more than a traditional speaker but don’t necessarily need a sophisticated entertainment system, it may be worth the investment.

If you’d prefer a thumping home theater system — or if you already own Sonos Play:1s or Play:3s — the Playbar gives you the option to expand. But a Sonos system can reach upward of $1,000 altogether, so if price is a concern for you, consider a less expensive alternative, like the Bose CineMate 15. Find it on our list of the best Bose speakers.

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Lauren Schwahn is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: lschwahn@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @lauren_schwahn.