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Sonos Playbar

The wireless audio maker jumps from home audio to home theatre with a single HiFi TV speaker

by Graham Hiemstra in Tech on 13 February 2013

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With a sleek, seamless move wireless audio system maker Sonos takes another firm step towards total home audio domination with yesterday's introduction of the Playbar, a wireless HiFi speaker for your TV. Streamlined to sit well within the Sonos family, the company's first speaker geared specifically to sync with your television—along with all other Sonos products—brings the brand into the home theater market without compromising usability or performance. Considering a range of Sonos's Play:3 and Play:5 systems keep our fingers typing on beat daily at CH HQ we decided to hold off on the announcement until seeing the Playbar in action first hand, which we were lucky enough to do today.

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With high expectations we were treated to an impressive demo, showcasing the Playbar's full range delivered through an arsenal of speakers, tweeters and woofers. Specifically nine individually amplified speakers, six mid-woofers for deep low-frequency sounds and three tweeters for well defined high-frequency details. All of which respond to roughly 24 million calculations per second performed by layer software intelligence acting to dissect output and deliver it in a linear ray with appropriate spacial references. Meaning if you're listening to, say, Major Lazer's "Get Free" you'll hear Amber Coffman's piercing voice coming straight at you, while the bouncing beat will flow around you in a semi-surrounding manner. In short, the Playbar delivers as close to surround sound without physically positioning speakers behind you as possible. You can however, add two Play:3's and the Sonos Sub to create a proper, wireless 5.1 surround sound that'll rival any theater in quality, power and effect.

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Acting as a standalone alternative to home theater systems, the Playbar attaches to your TV with a single optical cable, allowing for a seamless connection controlled by the TV's native remote or a range of Sonos smartphone apps. Understanding that each home isn't set up the same way, Sonos designed the Playbar to be mountable in multiple positions, as well as laid flat on a TV stand or shelf. While this may seem ill-advised an internal accelerometer regulates sound output in all positions to achieve an identical sound experience regardless of the Playbar's physical position.

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Another detail we found encouraging was the IR sensor on the front of the Playbar. This acts to relay IR transmissions from TV remote literally through the Playbar—assuming it's in the way of the TV's receptor—and out a lengthy blaster strip along the back to keep you changing channels without disruption. This minor, but extremely complicated detail really strikes a cord with us, after all, if they're willing to dedicate time and resources to solving this you can rest assured the actual sound quality is nothing short of impressive.

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Pairable with all Sonos speakers—even the rare one-off Soundalier if you're lucky enough to be Lindsey Adelman—the Playbar will be available directly from Sonos come 5 March, 2013 for $699 through a range of physical and online retailers.

Detail images by Josh Rubin, all else courtesy of Sonos

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