Sonos PLAYBASE: For maximum effect
Once in a blue moon, a product will sneak up on us. Sonos reinvented home audio through smart engineering plus smart marketing when they released their wireless PLAY speaker series. Who knew we needed music in every room until Sonos showed us? Now Sonos returns with the PLAYBASE: cinematic surround-sound squashed into a single “soundbase”. Suddenly there was a 2.3 inch gap beneath our TV that needed filling – the Sonos fit right in. And it’s good looking too – once you notice it’s there.
Sonos invented the PLAYBASE for those who can’t be bothered with the complexities of multi-speaker set ups. This wireless speaker slab is popped underneath any TV and may be the smartest member of the Sonos family. It brings home cinema with 3D sound to our living room in an instant and does so in a pretty spectacular way.
When the Sonos PLAYBASE landed on our desk for a review last month we were intrigued by its claims of revolutionizing the TV experience. Surprisingly, apart from the power and optics cables – which can be squashed almost flat to run down the back of furniture – it is completely wireless.
The set up is the easiest we’ve come across from a piece of equipment as developed as this one. Chromecast is complex compared to the PLAYBASE. The Sonos app linked our Spotify account in a matter of seconds, interrupted shortly by a registration process. Since the app covers the whole range of Sonos products, so existing customers won’t be slowed down at all.
Then things got really interesting the moment we put the PLAYBASE’s sound to the test. The PLAYBASE’s broad, yet flat as a pancake, sound source, makes it difficult to envision a 3D surround-sound environment. But the ten-drivers in the speaker system – six mid-range, three tweeters and one woofer – are each powered by their own class D amplifier. A smart construction which compresses and accelerates the sound exiting the box, with digital processing combined, creates an impressive illusion of 5.1 sound.
The PLAYBASE adjusts to the room’s acoustic requirements by means of the Sonos app’s Trueplay. The app measures how the sound reverberates around a space and tunes the PLAYBASE speakers to optimally suit the environment. Just stick your phone in the air, record the sound and Trueplay does the rest. It’s scientific hocus pocus which until now was only to be found in some of the most high end loudspeaker systems. The PLAYBASE is also able to optimize its 3D sound to both music and cinema audio separately. That means that while a bassline won’t suddenly sneak up on you from behind, that horror film villain will. Maximum effect guaranteed.
One thing to note is that, because the PLAYBASE relies on sound reverberating around the room, spaces that are heavily softened by furnishings like curtains and carpets may dampen the results. And under no circumstances should the PLAYBASE be placed inside a cabinet, unless you want to turn the whole thing into a rattling boombox.
At €700, the PLAYBASE comes in the minimalist-tech uniform of either black or white, and although it’s little more than two inches high, it can support up to 35 kg of television on its head. You can add the Sonos Sub to the PLAYBASE, and compatibility with voice-commanded home assistant Alexa is in the making. For now, the Sonos disappears into your TV set up – ready to surround its audience in sound.