Sonos Looks to Simplify TV Soundbars With New $700 Playbar Speaker
Devotees of the popular Sonos sound system now have another way to wake their neighbors.
The Santa Barbara-based maker of “Wi-Fi Hi-Fi” speakers has just added a new product to the mix: The Playbar, a nine-driver soundbar speaker that connects to your TV and also your home Wi-Fi network to stream sound both from the TV and from Sonos’s Web and mobile music platform.
Sonos CEO John MacFarlane says the Playbar was spurred by what he sees as unavoidable disruption in the TV market. “As TVs get flatter and flatter and become more part of the room, sound becomes more problematic. And we wanted to do it simply: If you have TV in a room where you have music, too, you need to be able to switch effortlessly.”
The Playbar will work with any TV with an optical output. It has four ports in the back: Two Ethernet ports, the optical port and a power port. It can be placed below or in front of the TV, or mounted above it. Sonos is touting a “night sound” feature — which compresses low, rumbling sounds so you don’t wake the whole house — and a speech-enhancement mode that boosts dialogue.
Volume on the Playbar can also be controlled with any IR TV remote, in addition to Sonos’s mobile apps.
And the Playbar is fully compatible with the rest of the multichannel speakers in Sonos’s lineup, which includes the Play 5, the more affordable Play 3 and the top-of-the-line Sub speaker. If you’re not familiar with how Sonos works: The speakers connect to your home Wi-Fi network via a bridge device, pulling in music from iTunes, Spotify and Pandora, to name just a few available sources, and are controlled from either the Web or mobile apps for iPhone and Android.
Sonos speakers can play different songs at different volumes in up to 32 separate rooms, making Sonos a simplified — and relatively inexpensive — sonic solution compared with some high-end speaker installations.
The new device costs $699, and hits stores on March 5.
For comparison’s sake, that’s less than half the price of Bose’s CineMate 1SR soundbar, the same price as Sonos’s own Sub speaker, and about $300 more than Sonos’s successful Play 5 speaker.
“The Playbar will probably more cannibalize Sonos Connect sales,” MacFarlane said in an interview with AllThingsD, referring to Sonos’ previous solution for TV audio. “But it will probably hit the Play 5, too. That’s fine, though. We have to give the consumer what they want.”
MacFarlane said he thinks the TV market is particularly ripe for disruption. “I actually think the TV market as we define it will see a lot of changes, especially if Apple releases its version of the TV,” he said.