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Sonos Sticks to What It Knows for New Playbase Speaker

Variety logo Variety 3/7/2017 Janko Roettgers
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Sonos officially introduced its new Playbase speaker Monday, which the company pitches as a way to bring internet connectivity and great sound to more TV sets. But the $699 Playbase also doesn’t pack a whole lot of new tech we haven’t seen in Sonos speakers before, which will likely disappoint fans of the brand.

The Playbase, which is scheduled to ship worldwide on April 4, is meant to be placed under the stand of a TV set, and is capable of carrying up to 75 pounds of weight. The whole speaker is just 2.3 inches thick, but comes with a total of ten drivers (six midrange, three tweeters and one woofer, to be precise).

Sonos is also putting a lot of emphasis on the 43,000 hand-drilled holes that make up the Playbase’s grille and are supposed to improve airflow and sound. The whole thing gets connected to a TV via optical cable, and consumers can choose to either connect the Playbase via Ethernet or Wifi to the internet.

Once connected, a Playbase can be used with the same 80-plus music services that are already available on other Sonos speakers, and speaking of which: The Playbase doesn’t just work in unison with other Sonos hardware for whole-home audio, but it can also wirelessly combined with a set of Play:1 speakers and a Sonos Sub for full 5.1 sound.

Sonos first introduced a speaker to work with TVs in 2013, at the time making the Playbar the first internet-connected sound bar capable of playing music from Spotify and elsewhere without Bluetooth, or the need to keep the TV on nonstop.

The Playbase in many ways offers the same solution, in a different form factor. However, this is 2017, and Sonos has been struggling in recent years to keep up with innovation. The company started to embrace voice control last year after the success of Amazon’s Echo caught it off-guard.

Sonos has since struck a partnership with Amazon, and Sonos customers will be able to use their Echo speaker to control their Sonos devices in the coming months. CEO Patrick Spence recently told Variety that the company will also eventually make speakers with integrated microphones for voice control. That’s not the case with Playbase, which will still require consumers to use a separate Echo or Echo Dot speaker for voice control

When news about the product leaked in recent weeks, some Sonos fans also took issue with the fact that Sonos didn’t add HDMI inputs and DTS surround-sound to the product. A Sonos spokesperson explained the latter by arguing that Sonos is built for a streaming world.

“DTS content is only found on physical media such as DVD, Blu-ray and Laserdisc – no video streaming services such as Netflix or Hulu support DTS,” she wrote via email. “We have decided to not support DTS on PLAYBASE as we do not believe it offers a better listening experience for the majority of our owners.”

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