Sonos' second television-friendly speaker is a good choice when a soundbar won't work — but it's still pretty darn expensive.
It's easy to look at the Sonos PlayBase and try to squeeze more out of it than is needed. In fact, you can sum it up thusly: It's a Sonos speaker that fits underneath (and connects to) your TV.
Don't worry about where it fits into the Sonos ecosystem. (Hint: It's right alongside the PlayBar, but underneath the TV — not in front of it.)
Don't worry about why Sonos decided to use an optical audio port — that's the one with the cool red light — instead of HDMI. (I'd prefer the latter for smarter switching, but the fact is it's got optical, and there's not a damn thing I can do about it.)
That said ... there are a few things you're going to have to think about here, however. Let's spend a few more words diving into the new Sonos PlayBase.
About this review
I've been using a Sonos PlayBase on loan for the company for about a week and a half. I've had it connected to a 5-year-old 46-inch Samsung plasma TV in my bedroom, and a smaller, newer Samsung in my office. I've used the PlayBase with the television remotes, as well as with a Logitech Harmony system.
PlayBase pricing — What do you get for $699?
If you're already in the Sonos ecosystem, you knew this wouldn't be cheap. In fact, the PlayBase is the same price as the SoundBar — $699 retail. That's a lot of scratch, especially considering you can get a decent soundbar for far less than that. Or if you need something of the same style under the TV, the Bose Solo 15 II is a little more than half the price.
PlayBase brings all the audio quality and features you've come to expect — just in a different form.
What you're really paying for, of course, is the Sonos name. OK, you're also getting a pretty darn good speaker. If you're an iOS user you can take advantage of Sonos' "TruePlay" tuning. (And it's worth taking a couple minutes to set this up.) But even without it you'll probably get much improved sound over the speakers that are built in to your TV. It drastically improved my aging Samsung TV in the bedroom, adding some simulated surround sound and a good bit of bass.
And it should go without saying, but you also get what in my experience has been the best and easiest wireless music system available. PlayBase connects to any other Sonos speakers you have in your home (I've managed to sneak a Play 5, Play 3 and Play 1 into the joint before my wife started asking questions) and groups with any and all of them just as you'd expect.
Plus there's the TV aspect. It connects as an external speaker via that optical audio input. You'll need to dive into your TV's settings to get that all set up. And depending on how old your TV is, you might find some gremlins here. My aging bedroom Samsung throws an error on the screen when I adjust the volume, and there's nothing I can do about that. But I've also used it on a newer model that behaves just fine, with no annoying messages. So YMMV. (And, in fact, this is something Sonos acknowledges.)
Added (obvious) bonus: The PlayBase raises the height of your TV a few inches, which often is a good thing.
Additional (obvious) gremlin: If your TV has feet on either end instead of a pedestal base, then you're going need a workaround, like the Sanus Swivel TV Base. (In which case maybe just buy a PlayBar instead.)
The bottom line
The Sonos PlayBase is a Sonos speaker that connects to and fits under your mid-sized TV.
It sounds pretty great. It does all the wireless music stuff you've come to know and love from Sonos.
It's also pretty darn expensive at $700.
I look at this more of the sort of thing I'd have under a secondary TV, and not necessarily my main living room screen. (There's no reason you couldn't, though.) And for that reason I have a really hard time spending as much on a base-style speaker as I would on a new 4K TV.
But we Sonos faithful aren't always known for having the tightest wallets.
In this case, though, I look at the PlayBase more as an option, and less as a must-have. It's a really good product. But the price is going to be prohibitive for many folks — including me.