Sonos Playbar and Sub review

The Sonos combination will blow your TV's sound out of the water, but it still isn’t quite the finished article Tested at £1200

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

The Sonos combination will blow your TV's sound out of the water, but it still isn’t quite the finished article


  • +

    Wide, detailed, dynamic sound

  • +

    Solid, well-defined bass

  • +

    Minimalist design

  • +

    Fantastic streaming abilities


  • -

    Doesn’t sound as direct or as well integrated as some rivals

  • -

    Only one digital input

  • -

    No DTS decoding

Why you can trust What Hi-Fi? Our expert team reviews products in dedicated test rooms, to help you make the best choice for your budget. Find out more about how we test.

When we first reviewed the Sonos Playbar we were impressed. It delivers a massive improvement on any flatscreen TV’s sound, for a start. And, of course, it’s also a streaming device: you can use it on its own or as part of a multi-room Sonos system.

We weren’t entirely happy with its bass performance, though. It didn’t manage to hit the very deepest notes. So, the company gives you the option of paying £600 for a Playbar on its own or doubling the price to add the matching Sub subwoofer. But just how much of a difference does this make?

Sonos Playbar and Sub

Sonos Playbar and Sub

Sonos Playbar and Sub: movie sound

On its own the Playbar creates a wide soundstage with plenty of weight, detail and a good sense of openness. It’s atmospheric rather than full of punch, though. Effects don’t come straight at you because the Playbar sends them more upwards – especially if you’ve laid it flat.

It’s less direct-sounding than some of its peers, such as the Bowers & Wilkins Panorama 2. We recommend listening to the bar in its upright position if you can, as this promotes a slightly bolder and fuller sound.

MORE: Best soundbars to buy in 2013

But there’s no doubt that the Sub brings an extra dimension. Play a Blu-ray of Cowboys & Aliens and there’s impressive scale and power given to the modern-cum-Wild West score. The Sub lets the system go much deeper, even if the two components don’t gel as seamlessly as we’d like.

Sonos Playbar and Sub: connectivity

Sonos Playbar and Sub

Sonos Playbar and Sub

It’s a shame that the system’s wired connections are limited to a solitary optical input. And while the Playbar can decode standard Dolby Digital soundtracks (and can strip the core Dolby Digital audio from TrueHD-encoded Blu-rays) it can’t decode any flavour of DTS soundtrack: you’ll have to set up your disc player to output Linear PCM instead of bitstream.

Sonos Playbar and Sub: music

Take advantage of the Sonos’ streaming prowess and you’ll discover this combination handles music equally well. The system digs up detail in the midrange and treble, while the Sub brings weight and depth to lows.

Sonos Playbar and Sub

Sonos Playbar and Sub

Stream Wretch 32’s Don’t Go via Spotify and there’s great openness to the vocals, while the track’s bassline pounds away, with each hit sounding solid and precise. The Sub reach lows that one-box rivals such as the B&W Panorama 2 and Libratone Lounge can’t match.

Sonos Playbar and Sub: set-up

Set-up is dead simple using the Android or iOS app, which takes you through adding the Playbar and Sub onto your network. It also has tone controls as well as adjustments for trimming the sub levels to help integration.

Sonos Playbar and Sub

Sonos Playbar and Sub

If this is your first Sonos system you’ll need to connect the Playbar directly to your router, but this can be done using Powerline devices or Sonos’ own £39 Bridge if there’s a distance between them. Tucked away with the optical connection is a pair of Ethernet sockets for connecting other components, such as a smart TV, to the internet via the Sonos network.

The Playbar’s infrared sensor lets you to teach it to respond to the volume controls of your TV’s standard remote, and there’s even a repeater built-in so all your remote’s other instructions get to your TV, even if the Playbar is in front of it.

You can also mount the Playbar on the wall with the optional £35 mount (which really should be included as standard).

Sonos Playbar and Sub

Sonos Playbar and Sub

Sonos Playbar and Sub: verdict

If you sign up for the Playbar and Sub, you’ll need to take into account a couple of minor caveats – but as a streaming system and alternative to terrible TV sound, this Sonos system is well worth a shout.

See all our soundbar reviews

Follow on Twitter

Join on Facebook

Find us on Google+

What Hi-Fi?

What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London, Reading and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.

Read more about how we test