September 16, 2018

The difference between a Playbase and a Soundbar

Sonos’ brand of speakers do an exceptional job of setting themselves apart from the competition, and the Playbase is no different. While it technically falls under the criteria of soundbar, it also folds in the unique features inherent in all Sonos products along with some cool features all its own. This sets it apart not just from the bars created by other manufacturers but from Sonos’ other flagship soundbar product, the Sonos Beam. If you’re looking to improve the sound quality and convenience of your TV, here’s what you need to know about the Playbase.

It’s a Soundbase, Not a Soundbar

These two types of products often get lumped in together, but there are some important distinctions between them. Both soundbars and soundbases are long, rectangular speakers designed to replace the often tinny and weak speakers that come packaged with a television. The difference largely comes down to an issue of pragmatism. Soundbars are designed to either sit in front of a television or be mounted on the wall above of and behind them. Soundbases, in comparison, are designed to hold the weight of a TV.


A Playbase gets mounted under the television.

That makes sound bases generally a more practical and unobtrusive choice, but there are significantly less soundbases on the market than there are soundbars, and there’s a reason for that. Bases can only hold a certain amount of weight. For instance, the Sonos Playbase can withstand about 77 pounds of weight, making it appropriate for most modern flat screen TVs but a poor choice for old tubes or plasmas. Additionally, a majority of modern TVs make use of extended claw feet rather than a traditional platform. That makes them poor choices for sitting atop a soundbase. That doesn’t mean that the soundbase needs to be used as a stand. The clearance of the Sonos Playbase is roughly 2.3″, and it’s a modest 28.4″ in width, meaning that it can slide under most TVs comfortably. You’ll just want to make sure you have the space underneath your television if you want to use it like a more conventional soundbar. While soundbases may have more limited usage due to these circumstances, many see them as a compact and ideal choice when the stars do align. And because of the low profile of the device, it practically disappears underneath your TV.

Packed With the Standard Sonos Features

All soundbars aren’t created equally, and the unique Sonos features that are available through the Playbase makes it stand apart even in terms of what it can fundamentally accomplish. Sonos has worked hard to create a unified ecosystem, meaning that it can connect to any other Sonos speakers in your home, to the Sonos Beam, or to traditional speakers linked up to a Sonos amp. This provides you with a lot of cool options that you’d otherwise not be able to achieve with a traditional soundbar. A Playbase can be established as the hub for an entire home theater setup. You can even make use of a Sonos Sub and two Play:1 rears to establish wireless 5.1 surround sound. What’s especially appealing about the Playbase’s options, and what makes it such a juicy alternative to a more conventional soundbar, is how modular it is. You can easily adjust or scale up your layout as you deem fit, whether that means transforming your modest sound system to create an expansive home theater system or moving the speakers from your existing home theater setup to provide more versatility and power for other rooms in your house. Whatever you decide to do, dismantling and reassembling your speakers is a breeze.

This versatility also means that the Playbase doesn’t have to operate as just a soundbar. In fact, it doesn’t have to operate as a soundbar at all. It’s equally well tuned for playing music as it is for enhancing TV speakers, and it can swap between the two on the fly. If you were so inclined, you could even run it as one of your primary sound system speakers without any video being involved at all.

More Features to Set It Apart

The implementation of smart features into soundbars and soundbases are taking hold slowly. While many software manufacturers are taking measures to implement bluetooth technology into their soundbar systems, this is something of a half measure. Bluetooth has a more limited bandwidth and a shorter distance from which media can be streamed. It also allows more limited streams. If you’re trying to stream music on your phone through your soundbar and you get a call, for instance, you can expect the sound quality to cut out immediately. Thee use of WiFi for the Playbase means that you won’t have to worry about sharing virtual real estate with your phone, and you can clearer and more consistent sound quality through your speaker. This WiFi connection is also what helps the Playbase sync up seamlessly with other Sonos speakers in your home.

Soundbars are designed to amplify the sound you get through your TV’s traditional speaker system, but the ambitions of the Playbase extend much further. This is a speaker that’s designed to be the hub for your entertainment center setup. The most exciting of the features offered in this regard is the ability for the Playbase to coordinate with your preferred virtual assistant. The Playbase can connect with your Amaon Echo or Dot, and it’s also AirPlay 2 compatible. While it doesn’t have the native Alexa compatibility that you’ll find in the Sonos Beam, it does coordinate very well with your existing smart home operations, and it works innately with a huge variety of different music streaming apps.

In short, a soundbar is a speaker that’s designed to improve the performance of your TV. The Sonos Playbase offers the same features along with the ability to serve as a standalone speaker, a hub for your smart home interactions, and a crucial component in your larger Sonos ecosystem. If you’re looking for a basic soundbar, it’s probably going to be a bit too much for you. If you’re looking for a speaker that can wear a number of different hats or you have thoughts of upgrading your system in the future, the Playbase should fit you well.

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