Ever since Sonos entered the streaming audio biz, couch potatoes with money to burn have wondered when they’d get some wireless TLC of their own. The Sonos Playbar ($699) is their long-awaited answer — boasting nine total drivers (six mid woofers and three tweeters), each powered by their own Class D amplifier — and it follows in the footsteps of Yamaha in using virtual surround to mimic the immersive effect of a 5.1 system. Thanks to an integrated accelerometer, the speaker can also detect its orientation and mounting position to optimize output. Like all Sonos products, it’s designed to stream capabilities from a laundry list of devices and music sources, can be controlled by iOS/Android apps and can even pair with other Sonos speakers to create a full-fledged wireless 5.1 system.
On the negative side, those not already invested in the ecosystem will have to directly connect via ethernet to get the Playbar online, or pick up a $50 Sonos Bridge for wireless access. Connecting the bar to other gear is similarly limited to a single optical input — meaning most with multiple components must rely on their TV to act as a switcher. The annoyance of no remote or front panel display for viewing volume levels/settings could also upset persnickety shoppers.
Subsequently, the Playbar seems like a great option for current Sonos owners or others who value looks and ease of use over anything else. Budget-minded shoppers, however, will find plenty of other suitable options that provide equivalent audio performance and better connectivity for less.
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