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Sonos Playbar vs Beam vs Playbase: Which Sonos Soundbar Is Best?

In Buyer's Guides, Soundbarby Jonah MatthesLeave a Comment

Sonos soundbars are some of the most popular audio upgrades to a growing home theater system. With the Sonos catalog including the Playbar, Beam, and Playbase, it can be tricky to know which one is best suited for your setup.

If your main concern is price or features, the surprisingly powerful yet compact Sonos Beam is a great choice. If you need the most power possible, the Sonos Playbar can deliver a punch. But if you want something discreet that can fill your room with sound while remaining nearly invisible under your television, the Sonos Playbase is for you.

As with most tech, there is no ‘one-size-fits-all.’ When looking for the ‘best’ of anything, what you really need to figure out is what is best for you. Do you prioritize design? Sound quality? State of the art features? Price? We’re going to break down all of those so you can decide which speakers are right for you!

Sonos Playbar vs Beam vs Playbase Comparison Table

In the following table, we’ll compare each “soundbar” side-by-side so you can get a birds-eye view of the different features and specs for each unit.

Prices and images pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on:

Sonos Playbar, Beam, and Playbase: Pros and Cons

All of these units have different upsides and downsides. They are all great but consider which one is best for your particular setup.

Sonos Playbar: Pros and Cons

Sonos Playbar in living room with subwoofer

The Sonos Playbar was the first of the 3 different “soundbars” made Sonos. It’s an absolutely beautiful 33″ long soundbar with a total of 9 speaker drivers. It will definitely fill a large room with high-quality sound!

Pros

  • Powerful sound
  • Heavy bass
  • Great for larger rooms

Cons

  • Bulky
  • Back-mounted feet
  • Fewest features

Sonos Beam: Pros and Cons

Sonos Beam

Pros

  • Low profile
  • Lowest price
  • More features

Cons

  • Lower max volume

Sonos Playbase: Pros and Cons

Sonos Playbase

Pros

  • Convenient design
  • Built-in subwoofer
  • Semi low profile

Cons

  • History of sound issues
  • No voice control

Playbar vs Beam vs Playbase

As mentioned, there are definitely a few key differences between these units. However, all of these “soundbars” are extremely high-quality! They are built well, meant to last, and all-around great pieces of equipment.

With that said, let’s dive a little deeper into the different aspects of the Sonos Playbar, Beam, and Playbase.

Design and Build Quality

The design of each of these products is the most obvious differentiating factor. The Beam and Playbase, which are the newest products, are not merely new versions of the Playbar. Instead, the Beam and Playbase are both entirely new products. They were created with entirely different presentations and functionality in mind.

Sonos Playbar

Sonos Playbar - Smaller

The Sonos Playbar (on Amazon) is going to have the most familiar design when you think of soundbars. The Sonos Playbar is a single long soundbar, designed to sit in front of your television or be mounted on the wall. The enclosure is about 35’’ inches long, which is similar to the width of most televisions, and weighs a little over 11 lbs. It is a substantial soundbar in both size and weight.

As mentioned, the two most common ways to set up the Sonos Playbar are to have it sitting in front of your television or to mount it on the wall. Because of the size and physical design of the Sonos Playbar, either of those configurations comes with a unique challenge. If you are planning to wall-mount your Sonos Playbar, then it’s important to keep the weight in mind. Hanging an 11-pound speaker on your wall is going to take a little bit of care and preparation to make sure you don’t run into any issues.

The best way to handle the weight is to make sure that you are drilling your screws into studs that can support it. This can, however, be very limiting to how you set up your home theater, as it may result in a speaker that is not centered. The other option is to use screw anchors to mount the soundbar. 11 pounds is substantial, but standard drywall anchors should handle it without issue. Screw anchors are easy to work with, and the project wouldn’t take very long, but it’s still more than some people will want to do to a wall in their house.

The issue with positioning the Sonos Playbar in front of your television is caused by the rubber feet. In a very odd design decision, Sonos has placed these feet on the back of the soundbar, resulting in the drivers firing straight up instead of out from the TV.

Sonos Beam

Sonos Beam - Smaller

The design of the Sonos Beam (on Amazon) is much more elegant and low profile when compared to the Sonos Playbar. It comes in at just 4 inches deep, 3 inches tall, and about 25.5 inches wide. As a result, the 6-pound Sonos Beam is going to take up significantly less space on your mantle.  

Aesthetically, it’s going to give you most modern look of any of the options available – which makes sense considering it’s also Sonos’ newest of the three speakers. The sleek and minimalist design is going to work great if you need your soundbar to sit in front of your tv, and the small form factor will most likely never interrupt your infrared signal.

If you absolutely must mount your soundbar, then you could do that with the Sonos Beam by purchasing a wall mount for about $60. There are no mounting holes on the Sonos Beam itself.

One of the more discreet changes to the Sonos Beam is the switch from Optical Audio to HDMI-ARC. HDMI-ARC and optical sound are both improvements over analog audio. In the case of the Sonos Speakers, the change does not affect the audio quality in any significant way. The update exists to allow the speaker to use HDMI-CEC commands. This gives your speaker the ability to turn your TV on and off via smartphone control or Alexa voice commands.

Sonos Playbase

Sonos Playbase - Smaller
Available in black and white color schemes.

The Sonos Playbase is the aesthetic outcast of the three choices. It is designed to be an actual base that will support your TV. The Sonos Playbase measures 3 inches tall, 30 wide and 15 inches deep. The base can support a television up to 75-pounds.

If wall mounting is entirely out of the question, and you dislike the idea of a pill-shaped speaker bar on your mantle, then the Sonos Playbase is an excellent option for you.  You could run into issues if your TV is has individual legs on either side, rather than a centered stand with a flared base underneath.

The design of the Sonos Playbase does give it more internal space for the components, which allows for different engineering. This changes the personality and color of the sound pretty drastically. It’s possible that you may strongly prefer the sound of one over the other.

Sound Quality

Sound Quality - Smaller

All Sonos sound bars have a high standard of quality. What works best for your theater will depend on how you are using it, and the setup will play a huge role in sound quality.

Each soundbar has its own unique design, and therefore its own unique traits. Regardless, all Sonos speaker setups are expandable with an ecosystem of additional products. Subwoofers and wireless surround sound speakers can be seamlessly integrated into your Sonos home theater set up. This will give you the ability to fill out the room with sound. Additional speakers can also be set up to project audio into several rooms at once.

Sonos Playbar

Don’t be fooled, the Sonos Playbar isn’t just large and heavy because it’s older. Inside the Sonos Playbar are nine perfectly balanced and configured speakers that can offer tremendous sound in reasonably large rooms. This includes three tweeters and six mid-range speakers. Regardless of the size of your home theater room, the Sonos Playbar is going to offer great sound.

The challenge with the Sonos Playbar is making sure you have the space available to set it up correctly. The best option for setting up the Sonos Playbar is to wall-mount the soundbar several inches below the television.

As mentioned before, the ‘feet’ of the Playbar are installed on the back. If placed on your mantle, this would leave the soundbar firing upward. The quality of your sound could be dramatically affected in this scenario. You will likely be hearing more of the sound reflected off the ceiling and less of what the speakers are producing directly.

Alternatively, if you mount your Sonos Playbar behind the TV, then you are essentially running into a very similar problem. It will likely sound better than pointing the soundbar straight up, but your television is still going to interfere and prevent you from experiencing the audio directly from the soundbar itself.

Sonos Beam

The Sonos Beam offers an incredibly large and full sound for its size. The bass, in particular, is likely to surprise you the first time you hear it.  It is equipped with only a single tweeter, four full range woofers, and three passive bass radiators. The passive radiators help give the small speaker strong bass definition but limit the maximum volume when compared to the Playbar.

The only case where the Sonos Beam falls short is in a home theater room that is larger than average, or if you really like to crank the volume. Despite the excellent quality and massive sound of the Sonos Beam, oversized rooms would benefit from the extra power packed into the Playbar.

Sonos Playbase

The Sonos Playbase is mostly similar to the Sonos Playbar in terms of the internal components.  The Sonos Playbase is made up of the same 3 tweeters and 6 mid-range drivers, with the addition of a proprietary ‘S’ Shaped subwoofer for the bass.

The Playbase has mixed reviews when it comes to customer satisfaction. Some customers have said the treble is overpowering and doesn’t match the quality of the bass or midrange. Other customers have complained that the bass is overpowering – and especially problematic if you include a subwoofer into your setup.

In my experience, the treble from the Playbase seemed to be an issue at first but has gone away. Sonos soundbars are regularly updated with new firmware and software from Sonos, and I believe a software tweak has solved the treble issue.  

With this update, the Sonos Playbase sounds great but doesn’t stack up to the power of the Sonos Playbar, and likely won’t impress you as much as Sonos Beam.

Price & Features

Price may be a big factor when considering which product to purchase.  The base price between the Sonos Playbar and the Sonos Playbase are about the same, but the Sonos Beam can be found for $300 less. Combined with the fact that the Beam is the newest, state of the art, and most feature-packed offering of the three Sonos Soundbars, the Sonos Beam becomes instantly attractive.

However, there are added costs that can come with the additional bundles and accessories, and depending on your needs, the cheapest option may become just as expensive.

Sonos Playbar

The Sonos Playbar on its own is typically $699. For a 5.1 surround sound package, which includes two satellite speakers and a subwoofer, your total cost would be around $1,678. If you opt for 3.1, which includes the Playbar and the Sonos Subwoofer, it would cost around $1,398.

Being the oldest of the three models, the Sonos Playbar doesn’t have the same features as the Beam or Playbase. Specifically it lacks voice control or the ability to connect via Airplay 2.

On the other hand, one smart feature of the Sonos Playbar is the inclusion of the IR repeater. A common issue with big soundbars can be that they block the infrared signal of your remote control from reaching your television. The Sonos Playbar, however, has a built-in infrared repeater. This repeater passes the signal on from the soundbar to the TV itself.

Sonos Beam

The Sonos Beam on its own is usually $399, making it $300 cheaper than the other two options. For a 5.1 surround sound package, you’re going to see about the same price difference – around $1,299 for the Sonos Beam, subwoofer, and 2 wireless surround speakers. The discount becomes $100 less if you opt for a 3.1 setup, totaling about $1098.

The price point becomes all the more attractive when you factor in the additional features. The Sonos Beam is the only product with voice control and Airplay 2.  The voice control feature is specifically tied to Amazon’s Alexa, so if you are using a Google hub then it won’t integrate with the rest of your smart home without another device.

Sonos Playbase

The Sonos Playbase on its own is usually $699. The 5.1 surround sound and 3.1 packages are going to cost the same as the Sonos Playbar. The Sonos Playbase does have an advantage here with its proprietary built-in subwoofer. The extra power of the built-in subwoofer may make it unnecessary, or even overkill, to add the Sonos subwoofer. In this case, it might be more likely that you’ll want to add a pair of satellite speakers instead. Going this route would come out to almost an even $1,000.

The Sonos Playbase does not have the Voice Control feature of the Sonos Beam, but does have Airplay 2.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, each product has its own strengths and weaknesses.

The Sonos Playbar is robust and sturdy and it’s going to fill your room up with incredibly satisfying sound no matter the size.

The Sonos Beam is $300 less, sounds incredible, and packs more features than the other options.

And finally, the Sonos Playbase will offer great sound, plenty of features, and an integrated subwoofer. It will also conveniently fit under the base of your TV.

On the other hand, the Sonos Playbar can be slightly challenging to wall mount, but it will fire upward if you set it up in front of your television.

The Sonos Beam might have trouble filling larger rooms with sound, or producing as much power through the bass as the Sonos Playbase.

The Sonos Playbase, however, has mixed reviews and is the only one of the three products that have an audio quality that you may find unpleasant.

My personal preference is the Sonos Beam 5.1 configuration. Sonos is very deliberate with the design of its product, and that really shows here. The beam is packed full of features, and small enough to fit somewhere into every setup.

With the full 5.1 setup you can fill out the room with wonderful surround sound, or use the other speakers to extend your audio into the kitchen or dining room.

It’s really hard to go wrong, especially factoring in the lower price and flexibility. You can add more speakers or a subwoofer if you ever need it!

Sonos makes some outstanding products and when used correctly, can build a great wireless home theater system. Check out our article on Sonos and how good their products are for home theater use.

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