Sonos like to keep things simple, at least for us anyway.
Since its very first product the company has sold itself as providing premium, wireless audio with the absolute minimum amount of fuss. To guarantee products that fit the bill Sonos’ products take years to design and produce.
For its fans, these gaps are worth the wait. Their speakers are expensive but for that premium you get a product that sounds superb and thanks to an app-led ecosystem, can be updated with new features and new music services in minutes.
The Playbase continues this tradition in almost every regard, something that will come as a relief to others, and be frustrating for some.
The Playbase is less a brand-new product and more of a realisation about how people use sound systems in relation to their TV.
Playbase acknowledges what many audio companies have realised which is that the easiest way to add a soundbar to your TV is to literally put your TV on top of it.
Lets start with the design. Playbase is arguably Sonos’ best-looking product to date. The black looks and feels like the spare part for a grand piano, high praise considering the body is made almost entirely from high-quality plastic and not polished wood.
On the top there’s three subtle touch-sensitive buttons that allow you to play, pause, skip tracks and change volume.
The Playbase has a reassuring 8.6kg heft to it as well, thanks not only to the design but also the 10 powerful drivers that are crammed into its relatively thin frame.
Those 10 drivers include a six midrange, three tweeters and a custom built woofer that snakes throughout the back of the unit.
Which brings us rather neatly onto the sound.
As you’d expect from a Sonos product, the Playbase sounds really good. What we weren’t expecting was just how good.
Despite its potential for being incredibly bass-heavy, the Playbase delivers a sound that’s incredibly wide and precise. While it’s not entirely surround sound the Playbase has an uncanny ability to truly split the left and right to each side of the room. The sound profile itself is punchy, accurate and crystal clear when it needs to be. This isn’t a particularly warm-sounding system, instead opting for clarity and breadth of range.
We tested it with a gruelling range of musical styles and inputs from delicate choral music to punishing soundscapes courtesy of Mass Effect: Andromeda on our PlayStation 4 Pro.
The bass goes well beyond that deep punch you usually get from multi-range speakers and instead can become a thunderous rumble when needed. It’s no substitute for the Sub but it’s pretty close.
In terms of connectivity this is where Sonos divides opinion. Just like its other products the Playbase features an optical port, ethernet port and power cable.
That’s it. There’s no HDMI support nor is there support for DTS, something that home cinema fanatics will find as annoying as they found it when Sonos confirmed that the Playbar wouldn’t have it either.
Sonos argues that the vast majority of formats people will be watching (Netflix, Apple TV, Chromecast etc) don’t support this anyway and in fairness, it’s a good point. The Playbar and Playbase have never pretended to be the home cinema fanatic’s speaker of choice and they’re not planning to do it now.
One rather confusing omission is the lack of a microphone. Considering Sonos confirmed it was working on Alexa support and voice control it seems almost baffling to then launch a speaker that costs £699 and doesn’t come with, at the very least, something to show that it’s capable of having the feature added in the future.
Last but not least is the app. Sonos’ app remains as solid as ever and thanks to new features like Trueplay you can tweak each speaker to have a sound profile that fits your own tastes.
Who should buy the Sonos Playbase?
The Playbase, just like every other Sonos product is about adding to a family that you already own. If you already have Sonos in your house and are looking for a way of seriously beefing up your TV then the Playbase is an expensive, but remarkable speaker that looks as stunning as it sounds.
Who shouldn’t buy the Sonos Playbase?
The Playbase is just not the first Sonos product you buy. For starters it’s £699. If you’re looking for a home cinema system and you don’t own any Sonos speakers whatsoever we just can’t recommend that you jump in at the deep end with this. The Playbase will be, for many, an extravagant icing on the cake of Sonos products they’ve spent many many years slowly gaining.
The Sonos Playbase is available now for £699.
The Best Gadgets To Buy In 2017
Xbox One S
If you own a 4K TV and also own an original Xbox One then the Xbox One S is the console for you. It is quite simply Microsoft’s best Xbox ever, it’s also the cheapest 4K Blu-ray player you’ll be able to buy this side of Christmas. Your games collection will look stunning and if you trade in your old console the relatively small cost shouldn’t sting while you wait for Microsoft’s uber-console Project Scorpio to arrive next year.
Apple iPhone 7
This is Apple’s best iPhone ever, and if we’re honest it’s one of their most innovative devices yet. Its exceptional camera, combined with with a slim, water-resistant body mean that while it's not a leap in design it is a leap in just about everything else. No it doesn't have a headphone jack, but wireless audio is finally ready.
Sky Q as a complete package is the future, not just one single feature.It’s knowing that everything you’ve ever recorded is available in every room. It’s knowing that you can download any recorded show onto your iPad. It’s also knowing that every Sky Q box also doubles as a WiFi hotspot.This is where Sky Q makes sense. This is an all-in-one system, it does literally everything. There’s no switching, no painful tinkering, it all neatly fits together and if there’s one thing us humans like it’s everything working just as it should.
This is Google’s iPhone. It’s that simple. As such there are achievements and compromises. If you’re after an incredibly well-built, powerful Android flagship, Google have given you a truly five-star smartphone. If you’re a photographer, the Pixel’s camera and cloud storage option make this a no brainer. This is Google's first 'made by us' smartphone and it's absolutely brilliant.
Hive Active Heating 2 Review
If your boiler is compatible and you’re willing to spend the initial £249 (including installation) then Hive is one of the most complete smart home systems we’ve ever seen. While Nest offers third-party accessories like Philips Hue, Hive almost fights back by keeping things simple: If it’s got the Hive logo on it you know it works. Components are reasonably priced and the entire system has been utterly rock solid, we haven’t had a single issue since installation.
Amazon Echo works best when you have other gadgets that it can utilise such as Hive, Nest or Philips Hue. On its own its an incredibly smart speaker, paired with these other gadgets though and it becomes the fully fledged conduit to your home. It’s also really good at doing homework. Alexa really is the first gadget we actually felt comfortable talking to.
Roli Lightpad Block
Don't be alarmed by its alien appearance. This is actually one of the most innovative music-making gadgets we've used all year. A large transparent gel-like surface is both touch and pressure sensitive allowing you to create music in a way that's both utterly unique and incredibly intuitive. The accompanying app is properly easy to use and once mastered the Lightpad can become the only tool you need to create an entire song.
Apple Watch Series 2
The Series 2 is the complete package. It’s the smartwatch that we feel Apple always wanted to make. It’s a fitness tracker, health monitor and wellness device that’ll help you stay fit and, just as importantly, calm in mind.
BeoPlay A2 Active By B&O Play
At £299 this is not a cheap option, however for that money you’ll get a product that’s just as happy being your main living room speaker as it is keeping you company on a road trip. The sound quality is truly room-filling and at the high standard you would expect for a Bang & Olufson product. The A2 Active is quite simply one of the best Bluetooth speakers you can buy.
Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge
The Samsung Galaxy S7 edge is powerful but won’t run out of battery, beautiful yet able to work underwater and capable of transporting you to alien worlds through the medium of virtual reality. If there’s a product that encapsulates all the of the best technologies on offer today it’s this one. Oh and it won't catch fire, so that's nice.
At the moment, if you own a PS4 and are desperately excited to get into virtual reality, PlayStation VR is the only place to start. It’s comfortable, gloriously easy to use and when the hardware and software work in harmony it’s an utterly breathtaking experience. Visceral, emotional and yet entirely accessible, it’s a technological marvel.
Bowers & Wilkins P9 Signature
Anyone who wants an industry-leading sound but without the usually eye-watering price tag. Yes, these are £699, but when you think that the average audiophile will spend upwards of £1000 on a pair of HiFi-quality headphones these make every bit of sense. They’re B&W’s best headphones ever and they’re quite frankly one of the best pairs of headphones we’ve ever used.
PlayStation 4 Pro
If you’re looking for an affordable (it costs as much as the original PS4) entry into the world of 4K gaming then the PS4 Pro is a no brainer. Pair it with a 4K HDR TV and games look absolutely astonishing. At present most games are simply being given a new coat of paint but going forward there will be an army of titles designed with this console in mind.
The OnePlus 3T is simply a continuation of the ethos that makes OnePlus phones so good. It’s exceptionally well-built, powerful and offers you everything you could want in an affordable and meaningful package. No smartphone will give you more value for money.
Beats by Dre Powerbeats3 Wireless
Beats by Dre
While Apple's AirPods might have got most of the limelight in the post-iPhone 7 world it's actually Apple-owned Beats who have given us the ultimate solution to the lack of a headphone jack.The Powerbeats3 are ultra-portable, durable, wireless headphones that are a doddle to set up and last for days then we’ve found the pair for you. They sound great, they’re comfy, they’re perfect for sports and they last for days. These are very, very good.
TVs are massive these days. They're also really really expensive. The KS9000 then has a very special place in our hearts because at a very sane 49-inches it's the most living room-friendly TV we've seen in recent years. Oh and because it's part of Samsung's flagship range you're still getting probably one of the best 4K TVs on the market.
Sonos Play:5 (2nd Gen)
While it was released in December of 2015, Sonos' newest speaker has played an undisputedly important role in how we consume music in 2016. This was the year of wireless and Sonos continued to show us that when it comes to ditching those wires, they were one of the best.
Withings Activite Pop
This is the anti-fitness tracker of fitness trackers. Boasting a beautifully minimalist design the Pop is all about getting the job done without shouting about it. A simple measurement dial at the bottom shows you varying metrics for how active you're being while Withings' app reveals just how much data is actually being collected. While Fitbit has led the way in Fitness trackers, Withings has been offering even the most resistant consumer a change to start taking better care of themselves./