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back to article Ancient telly, check. Sonos sound system, check. OMG WOAH

Oh boy! I just turned my crap 10-year-old Sony Bravia TV into a home theatre by replacing the limited speakers inside the Bravia’s enclosure with a Sonos Playbar. I'm blown away. The Playbar is a substantial piece of kit. Sonos Playbar Sonos Playbar It weighs 11.9lbs (5.4kg) and its dimensions are 3.35” high, 35.43” long and …

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Happy

A minor comment...

"As it is it just has, sadly, to go back to Sonos."

Different punctuation or a slight rearrangement of words would avoid the need for repeated parsing. For me, anyway.

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Anonymous Coward

Is it a joke??

or did the reviewer actually make an attempt to say a £600 soundbar is anywhere near worth the money.

£1700 quid for the full setup, do you require your head feeling???

A £500 system of half decent stereo gear would urinate all over the overpriced Sonos rubbish.

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Re: Is it a joke??

One word to explain it all: "Apple"

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Gold badge

Re: Is it a joke??

A £500 system of half decent stereo gear would urinate all over the overpriced Sonos rubbish.

Depends on your criteria.

On sound quality, I don't doubt it. My brother has sunk a quite silly amount of cash into Sonos' pockets. Although they sound good enough at parties. Especially with his crap taste in music... I've not had a chance to compare them to anything better. But I'm pretty sure that he'd struggle to tell the difference even in a blind audio test. Some people neither notice, nor care about this stuff, past a certain point.

On wiring the Sonos wins hands down. It's one box wired to the telly. Then the option of using some other speakers in the set-up if you want. Obviously they need power, but you don't have to run wires round the room to satellite speakers. And you can easily move stuff, when you move the furniture.

On flexibility Sonos wins hands down and massively. In fact it's a slaughter. If, like my brother, you've gone the Sonos route, then you can have a big family party. The kids have got something horrible playing on the speakers that he's moved out into the garden. Maybe the cricket's on telly, just using the soundbar. But brother is cooking something, so has slaved the speaker in the kitchen to the soundbar, so he can hear what's going on, and come in to see any wickets. Then there's another in the dining room - for whoever's sitting in there stuffing their faces. All can be playing the same, or different, things - and change at the flick of a switch on a laptop, a tablet, or anyone's phone who's downloaded the app.

Or they can all be taken into the sitting room, and set up for surround sound on the telly. Or any other combination.

Simplicity: Once you've set up your Sonos, you don't need to muck around with another remote. It takes its sound off the telly. And stays set up how you did it, until you change something with phone, tablet, PC. Or you turn on device, and fling sound at chosen speaker.

Me, I'd have something cheaper, with better audio quality for a reasonable price. When I've got the time, I'll do some research into this as I've no idea what to get. But then I don't have a garden, house or kids, or frequently have 20 people round at once. There's only one sitting/dining room in my flat, so unless I exile guests to the bedrooms, we're all stuck with the same music. But for ease of use I find the Sonos stuff quite impressive. Even my brother can work it. I'll take a bit more complication for lower price and nicer sound quality.

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Re: Is it a joke??

"One word to explain it all: "Apple""

Not really - you can get decent AV amps that are Airplay compliant for perfectly reasonable money given what you're getting - and it'll be 5.1 (or more depending on how much you want to sink into speakers).

OK, we aren't talking pocket money stuff here, but if you play your cards right, something like the Sony STRDN840 can be had for £200 if you sniff around.

Might cost about the same again (or a bit more) if you get some decent speakers for it (IE anything not bargain basement) but I'd wager an good entry level AV amp with a middling set of 5.1 speakers will make any soundbar sound pretty aneamic, for the same money.

That's certainly my plan - telly, AV amp (mebbe that Sony, although I might get a Yamaha THY-199 matched amp and speaker kit for around the same price as that Sony first as I'm not flush at the moment), Chromecast in the amps HDMI socket.

It's surprising what you can find if you take an hour to do the research, and while I'm not against soundbars as a concept (they do fill an audio hole fairly easily - and normally at a more reasonable cost..) but when you start looking at stuff that is the same price as a good mid range AV amp, then you need to be asking serious questions about whether the convenience is worth the extra money over a couple of hours of fiddling with speaker wire.

For some people, it will be. Not for me, ta. I'm not made of money*

Also, fuck proprietary protocols.

Steven R

*I'm made of pizza and beer.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Is it a joke??

It's all built into one single unit though. When you built up a hifi you could buy all from one manufacturer or buy the best of each type.

I got some nice floor standing speakers for £60, already had a Marantz amp. It sounds far better than any "mini" hifi or plasticy compact stuff. Good hifi doesn't cost much.

If you are obsessed with minimalism or live in a broom cupboard then sure, these small devices are okay.

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Re: Is it a joke??

How would it be better than the Sonos? Are you talking in terms of sound quality, or in terms of connectivity and other functionality?

Sound quality isn't the only criteria for evaluating equipment, you know.

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Meh

Re: Is it a joke??

@jzlondon. For me, sound quality IS the only criteria when evaluating AUDIO equipment.

Price also has a major influence, as, like Mr. Raith, I'm not made of money either. My current system, since my Quad 33 karked it, is a 30 year old NAD amp, driving a pair of 25 year old Linn speakers. Sounds bloody marvellous to my aging lugs, and the pair of them cost me less than a ton. Isn't fleabay great?

Of course, YMMV.

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Re: Is it a joke??

I get jzlondons point about the connectivity, but is there really that big a market for multiroom sound of quality better than the average AppleTV connected to a Line-in/spdif could provide?

I realise some people have large houses and have an upstairs 'play room' (gaming, films, music etc) but surely in that case, you'd be better off with, say, two apple TVs and two AV amps set up, rather than two sonos soundbars that will have compromised audio from the outset due to the design parameters?

I'm not trying to be arsey to jzlondon, but even my techy mates who are substantially better rewarded for their work than me (it's a running joke that I know more than most of them and am paid worse than all of them ;-) ) run seperate hifi systems tuned to that room, and have Apple TV or a Squeezebox rather than the Sonos stuff as it allows them to really mix and match the equipment to suit.

I suppose that the Sonos stuff must appeal to people who want better than average sound, better than average connectivity, but aren't fussy about detail stuff - takes all sorts, eh?

Steven R

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Anonymous Coward

It sounds fine, but it doesn't sound like £1700!!!!

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Joke

Since they are aiming at iDevice owners, value for money is not going to be a consideration, is it?

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Bronze badge

They're aiming it at people who want small speakers so lots of money has to be spent on things like automatic EQ to make it sound as though the speakers were bigger. A cheaper way to do this is to build the speakers bigger in the first place but then the wives and girlfriends out there wouldn't let people buy them anyway.

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WTF?

I know it's tricky if you've never had one....

...but wives and girlfriends are actually people too. Some of them even like loud music from big speakers!

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Re: I know it's tricky if you've never had one....

The key word there is some of them.

I've heard enough men talking about my wife won't like this and my wife won't like that to know that I'm not talking complete crap, there's no need to get touchy!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I know it's tricky if you've never had one....

@sabroni

My ex's actually missed my speakers when they were gone !!

Anon for the wife's sake !!!

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Flame

@Truth4u

I'm not disputing that some men are whipped, but there are plenty of women who are in similar situations. My issue was with the way you implied that women weren't people, which may not have been intentional but it's the way it sounded, "the wives and girlfriends out there wouldn't let people buy them".

And "some of them" isn't a word!!

(Touchy? AS IF!!!!!)

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MJI
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Re: I know it's tricky if you've never had one....

Large speakers

My wife's only real decor concern was the veneer, she also likes large speakers

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Devil

Re: I know it's tricky if you've never had one....

Yeah. My (ex)wife hated my big speakers. But my girlfriend loves them. She appreciates size. And rankin' bass.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I know it's tricky if you've never had one....

She appreciates size

That's a whole thread and innuendo summarised in one sentence. Well done :)

I'll go and hide now..

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For the money I don't think a comparison against the standard TV speakers is very fair.

How does it compare to AV receiver, floor standers up front and monitors behind? Not very well I suspect.

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It definitely doesn't compare to £1800 worth of separates - in fact I doubt it compares to £500 of separates.

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There has been a lot of promo for the PlayBar of late. Makes me wonder if they are shifting surplus stock for a new model that supports an HDMI input and this decade's surround sound formats.

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Anonymous Coward

No DTS

They must have hunted hard to find a reviewer who didn't have any modern kit at all. If he'd owned a Blu-ray player, he would likely have found he gets utter silence when playing movies as there is no DTS support in the playbar and it's impossible to get surround sound in many set-ups, even if they have an optical port on the TV.

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Anonymous Coward

Nah, Sonos is advertising much more than previously because they shifted funds around to be a more marketing oriented company to place its message in front of consumers rather than waiting for them to figure out what a "Sonos" is.

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I'm obviously being dumb and as I don't have any Sonos components - do you need any other components for the Playbar to work or can you just buy this on it's own?

I think for the £600 price tag, you can do a lot better in terms of what kit you get for your money...

Soundbars are generally inferior to proper speaker systems and, if you can put up with not having connected WiFi and various other 'toys' on top, then you may as well ignore Sonos. Sorry, just my opinion for over priced WiFi lego bricks!

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Playbar will work without any other Sonos components. The Bridge is just a link in to your network - one Sonos component must then the rest communicate wireless through the mesh network (meaning range is determined by distance between Sonos units, not to the central router). In reality it can be any Sonos unit connected to your network, the bridge is just a cheap method of doing so without having to sacrifice where you want to place a speaker or how you tidy a cable up.

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Thanks for the post - makes sense.

Sonos pricing structure still does not however, I will stick with floor standing speakers for now :-)

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So a TV with an HDMI input is considered ancient now?

Where does the time go?

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Where does the time go?

Time is money, and the TV manufacturers want more of ours. All change!

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Seems an expensive option

to replace, say, a pair of speakers with decent sized drivers and a cheap and cheerful amplifier. I hate it when I have to use the TV speakers - uniformly crap, I feel, if only from the limitations of the packaging - to watch something that isn't going through the DTT/PVR box.

Why this urge for tiny speakers and wireless connectivity?

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Thumb Up

Sonos stuff...

Is very nice indeed... For the size of it, I am most impressed. Planning to get some at some point. :D

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Re: Sonos stuff...

Take a look at Musaic as well - they're a UK based startup in the Sonos space - they're currently raising funds on Kickstarter for the first models:

http://www.musaic.com

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1112831839/musaic-wireless-hifi-music-system-your-music-your

Before anyone else points it out, yes it is my brother's company.

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Re: Sonos stuff...

@Longrod

I would suggest having a look at flat panel speakers with hidden bass driver,

I use wharfedale picture speakers, and yes although not perfect audiophile quality, better than a Sonos. and i got mine for £45 on some facebook group!

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Weird cabling

Either tap the HDMI audio channel directly (device -> sound bar -> TV) or take the digital out provided by most modern TV sets and play that.

For rather less money I feed the TV via TOS optical into a HiFi DAC, through a Marantz amp and out of a pair of floor standing speakers. The result is only stereo, but is head and shoulders above any TV speakers.

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Re: Weird cabling

Same here - optical cable into a £150 Denon amp and a £200 pair of Dali Zensor 1's, it's only stereo but sounds absolutely gorgeous as far as I'm concerned. I haven't heard one, obviously, but I really don't see how this little unit would compete.

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Re: Weird cabling

Wonder if it supports Audio Return Channel over HDMI. The 10 year old Sony won't but my 3 year old Toshiba does, as does my Pioneer audio system/bluray player which cost I think about £250. It means you only need one cable between the TV and the audio system - for bluray playback it pushes the video over the cable to the telly, and for watching TV the TV pushes the audio the other way down the same cable to the audio system. Even better, when you press standby on the TV it switches the audio system on or off with the TV too!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Weird cabling

FWIW: the Play 5 has an analogue line in. It can also auto-switch to this input when a signal arrives.

If you put it under or beside the telly, it makes a half-decent soundbar for a system without optical output.

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JDX
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Soundbar

For the same reasons as the reviewer, we went for a soundbar by Philips - a full home theatre isn't of interest but TV speakers are sucky. We got the same kind of improvement in experience for £200.

The speech clarity is the biggest boon, although it's not perfect. It totally failed to help in the latest Riddick film because his voice is so deep, but luckily not being able to tell what he was saying in no way detracted from the film.

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Snobby

Call me a snob, but whenever I see the word "Sonos" followed by it "blowing" someone away, I smack my head in despair. Doubly so when it's a super expensive device attempting to recreate a home cinema listening experience out of one single box under your telly.

I feel the same way about those single-box Bose systems you always see marketed the hell out of at airports - they've just put a largish speaker in a box, turned the loudness and base equalisers up to 11, and gone "wurrrgh, that goes LOUD, better put a big price on it".

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Re: Snobby

"Call me a snob..."

Fine: You're a snob. Who also can't spell "bass".

The reviewer made it crystal clear that he was comparing the Sonos to an older TV. Given that's what most people will have, it's a perfectly valid comparison to make. And, yes, pretty much anything would beat that.

As for why anyone would pay £500+ for something like this: you do know that the UK has some of the smallest homes on Earth, right? Many of us can barely find space on the wall for the TV, let alone for a subwoofer, amplifier, and veritable multitude of speakers. (And let's not forget the wiring involved too.)

Yes, there are compromises made with these small form-factor designs, but they're still plenty good enough for the 99% of customers who don't still think they're so special that they can hear the difference between FLAC and high-quality MP4 audio files. (Despite all the research proving that practically nobody can actually do so.)

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Re: Snobby

Bass, goddammit!

Ritually thrashing myself with reeds as we speak.

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JDX
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Re: Snobby

But if you don't want a massive system, you can buy a smaller one. For £300 - not £1500.

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Re: Snobby

I presume you meant to type MP3. And if you know what you are listening for (post and especially pre-echo) it's surprisingly easy to tell the difference between lossy and lossless encoding. If you don't then I agree, most people are fooling themselves.

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SE

As it's now second hand...

... please tell your Sonos rep I'd be happy to give him or her £300 for it.

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Just buy an AV amp and 5 speakers from a leading highstreet discount retailer of HiFi equipment (you'll be ever the richer thereafter) and do the job (semi) properly for FAR less money.

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Or even....

...from the same shop, a stereo amp, two small bookshelf speakers, take the sound output from the 2 phonos on the back of the telly and it'll STILL sound massively better than the TV. Add a cheap CD player and you've got a good hi-fi in the front room - add a Squeezebox classic second hand and you can stream all you like. (And the second hand squeezebox will be the most expensive item you buy).

Seventeen hundred quid? Seriously?

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Re: Or even....

This. Though I did also buy a small subwoofer to compensate for the lack of bass from the bookshelf speakers.

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MJI
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Hmmm

Well the TV is not ancient but it is an S series which are to be honest crap, I saw one lose a 4 way comparison against 3 other Sony TVs (W & X won - draw).

I have a 5.0 setup (floor standers as stereo pair) and a resonable receiver. This sound bar sounds like it is filling the gap between TV sound and HC sound. But it is at lower end HC prices.

Requiring a phone to set it up - hmmm not good.

Never understood small speakers, they usually sound grating

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Holmes

Nice advertising piece

I hope they paid you well.

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FAIL

Re: Nice advertising piece

Not well enough, obviously. He already said it had to go back ;)

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