Sonos Playbase review: Superb home cinema sound from the smart speaker specialists

Steve Hogarty
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Sonos Playbase

The next generation of televisions is likely to be even slimmer than the postcard-thin screens we’ve got now. If you want a vision of the future, imagine a television as thin as clingfilm, inelegantly draped over your slackened face for an hours-long House of Cards binge.

The first casualty in the race to shed TV atoms is typically the speaker, leading to the popularity of accompanying soundbars and bases. Sonos brought its bar to market four years ago, and now, reasoning that the super-elongated design of such soundbars isn’t practical for anybody whose television isn’t mounted to a wall, it’s launched a new speaker in the “soundbase” form.

Built to have a TV sat on top of it, the Sonos Playbase can carry 35kg – the weight of an adult baboon – and is built using a “proprietary resin” of the company’s own design, which is intended to eradicate resonance. That is to say, you won’t hear distortion or reverberation, even at the highest volumes.

Given its unobtrusive profile – it’s as tall as a credit card is wide – the sound quality from this box is remarkable. Nine transducers are spread through the speaker to produce a wide, three-dimensional stereo sound you wouldn’t expect from a single unit, and bassy low ends are provided by an internal subwoofer that’s been laid flat inside the box, like a dinner plate.

Like all Sonos devices, the Playbase can team up and play nice with your other Sonos speakers, whether you’re streaming music from Spotify around the house, or expanding on an existing home theatre setup. A few neat touches, such as the unit’s compatibility with your existing television remote, and the ability to automatically fine-tune the speaker to match the acoustics of your room using an iPhone as a microphone, round off a stylish and sturdy device.

There’s no HDMI support here, instead connectivity is limited to a single optical cable between the television and the speaker, which can cause a few headaches when routing sound through older TVs. And while it ties together different music services admirably, the ageing Sonos app is in desperate need of a design refresh.

As simple to set up as it is delightfully squat, the Playbase is about as beefy as this kind of under-telly speaker gets.

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