Free your TV
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.