May 17, 2016

Why You Shouldn’t Buy A Playbar For Music

We see it all the time.  A customer loves the look of the Playbar, they see that it has the most internal speakers of any Sonos speaker system product, and that it is the most expensive.  From this, they draw the conclusion that it also has the best pure sound quality.  For a music enthusiast, this is what they want.  Unfortunately, this is not true.  Don’t get us wrong, the Playbar is great for playing music (just like any speaker from Sonos) but it is not the best offering that Sonos has.  Here we will show you a better choice for pure music quality.

A Play:5 is Better For Music

Don’t get the wrong idea.  The Playbar has great sound quality.  It has 9 individual speakers, each with its own driver and amplifier, and you will notice how precise and even it makes the sound.  The issue is that it is a soundbar.  Generally, by a function of their narrow height, a soundbar just can’t deliver the optimal sound quality of a box that allows bigger speakers.  The reasons are scientific, and Sonos has developed incredible cutting edge technology to do amazing things with small speakers, but bigger speakers (except tweeters) will almost always win the battle of sound quality because they handle bass better.

Its Science

Think about it, a Playbar is only 3.35 inches tall.  A Play:5 is 8.03 inches high.  The 6 speakers (3 of which are mid range) inside of the Play:5 simply have more room to handle deeper sounds.

Why is a larger speaker better for deeper sound?  The scientific reasons are a bit complicated, but basically how deep or high a sound is depends on its wavelength.  The wavelength is the amount of space between the peak of each sound wave.  A bigger speaker allows a bigger wavelength by being able to push a larger volume of air a further distance.  Speaking of bigger speakers, they are also better for creating louder sounds.

Play:5 Gets Louder

Because the box is bigger, the internal speakers are also bigger in the Play:5.  Just like with a Playbar, each of the six speakers in the Play:5 have their own amplifier and their own driver.  And with their size and powering, they get loud.  They get very loud.  And because Sonos is so good at crafting speaker perfection, they do not distort at all when they get turned up.

If you want to entirely fill a room with crystal clear sound with impressive depth and crispness, there really is no comparison to the Play:5.

Do Buy A Playbar For Home Theater

Now when it comes to home theater, the tables turn a little bit.  The Playbar has some distinct advantages over the Play:5 in this area. These include:

  • Better shape to put on a shelf with cable boxes and Blue-ray players.
  • It comes with an optical cable to attach directly to your television.
  • More speakers mean it can create a better illusion of surround sound.
  • It’s tuning is more inclined towards home theater.

Easier To Set Up

It really is easier to set up for a home theater solution.  It comes with an optical cable that you can plug directly into your television.  You don’t need any other equipment or even any special programming to get it playing sound from your TV.  Ease of use is a big advantage of Sonos equipment in general and they did not disappoint in making it a true plug and play device for home theater.

Better Looking Next To A Television

Obviously the shape is a big advantage when you are looking at pairing the device with a TV.  A Playbar is flat and can fit easily in a rack or on a shelf or cabinet with other equipment that goes with your television such as your Blue-ray player or your cable box.  It can also hang on a wall directly under, over, or beside a TV and give the whole setup a really slick look.

The Sound Quality is Tuned For Home Theater

You could say the Playbar was made to be set up with a television.  It has a special feature that allows you to play human voices at a slightly higher frequency than they would otherwise be, and this makes every word crystal clear.  The sharpness is noticeable but the fact that the voices are a slightly higher frequency is imperceptible.

You also have all nine of those speakers working to provide a proxy for surround sound experience.  They can handle separate sounds and really make listeners feel like they have speakers all around them.  This makes it uniquely perfect for home theater.


The conclusion is that a Playbar does it’s job extremely well, and while it can play music and make people appreciate the sharpness and clarity, it is not really designed as strictly a music player.  There are better Sonos offerings for high end music, specifically the Play:5.

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