The Sonos Playbar: This sleek sound bar streams all your music for $700

After years of rumors, the Sonos Playbar ($700, available March 5) was officially announced: it combines Sonos' best-in-class streaming-audio capabilities with a stylish sound bar that can work also as a TV speaker.

A Sonos sound bar has been long demanded by many digital audio enthusiasts who appreciated the company's proprietary streaming-audio system and sleek hardware, but wanted an all-in-one player for the living room.

If you're unfamiliar with Sonos, the company's line of pricey products can stream music from nearly every service available (such as Spotify, Pandora, Rhapsody, and Amazon Cloud Player) and your own digital music collection, using slick apps available for iOS and Android.

The Playbar, connects on its own through an Ethernet connection, but it can be used wirelessly as well if you already have a wired Sonos on your network

The Playbar has some neat features as a sound bar, too. The Playbar can be positioned two ways: flat, for TV cabinet placement, so it doesn't block your TV's IR sensor; or standing up, so it works better wall-mounted. The internal sensor can detect its position and the Playbar adjusts its sonics according to the mount. The Playbar has nine total drivers and uses reflection-based virtual surround to create the illusion of a true surround-sound system, similar to Yamaha's YSP line of sound bars. I've haven't heard anything that approaches Yamaha's faux-surround, so this will be interesting to test.

Connectivity is absolutely minimalist, with the back panel sporting just a duo of Ethernet jacks (one can be used as a wireless bridge) and a single optical audio input. That may seem overly limiting, but you should be able to connect most of your home theater devices if you use your TV as a switcher.

The Playbar also interacts with other Sonos products in some clever ways. It will connect wirelessly to the Sonos Sub ($700), if you're looking to add more low end, plus it can also wirelessly connect to Sonos Play:3 speakers ($300 each) positioned as rear channels. That opens up the potential to create true surround sound from a sound bar system, similar to the Vizio S4251W.

On the bad side, the Playbar falls prey to some typical sound bar annoyances. It doesn't come with a remote; instead you're expected to program the Playbar to respond to commands from your TV's remote. It's a great idea in theory (who needs another remote?), but with some TV sets that setup can lead to annoying onscreen messages when you adjust the volume. Also, no front panel display, so you won't get a visual indicator of exactly how loud the volume is. In our initial discussions with Sonos about the product, they acknowledged both these issues, but said the company doesn't expect them to be major issues for most buyers.


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