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Linux-powered soundbar also streams Internet music

Mar 14, 2013  |  Rick Lehrbaum
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Sonos, a well-known maker of Linux-powered, WiFi-mesh networked, streaming audio systems, has added an HDTV soundbar to its line. The “Playbar” aims to bring “immersive HiFi sound” to home entertainment centers — not just from TV content, but streamed from Internet and local sources as well.

Sonos offers a broad family of high-quality devices capable of streaming audio from Internet and local sources to multiple rooms simultaneously. All Sonos devices contain embedded processors running Linux, which communicate with one another over a proprietary wireless mesh network.

The Sonos whole-house architecture concept is illustrated below.



Sonos wireless mesh architecture

Although a maxed-out Sonos installation might easily involve half-a-dozen or more devices, as suggested above, the most basic is a single Sonos player, of which the Playbar (shown below) is the latest example.



Sonos Playbar

The Playbar may look similar to a conventional TV soundbar, but it’s actually a self-contained “smart” sound system for listening to both TV and a variety of network- and Internet-based music sources. It integrates seamlessly with Sonos’s other streaming music player devices, enabling a single source to be played in multiple rooms, or each room to play its own selection.



Playbar with front screen removed to expose its speakers
(click image to enlarge)

As shown above, the Playbar contains nine individually amplified speakers: six mid-woofers and three tweeters. Although we haven’t reviewed one (yet), Sonos says the device’s “advanced speaker array technology combines hardware and software to create a surprisingly wide soundstage beyond the physical soundbar, while maintaining crisp, centered vocals.”

You can optionally pair the Playbar with a Sonos Sub (shown to the right) to pump up the system’s low-frequencies; and with the addition of a couple of Sonos Play:3 wireless players, the combination can deliver up to a 5.1 surround-sound immersive listening experience.



Playbar controls, connections, and sensors
(click each image to enlarge)

The Playbar connects to the TV with a single optical cable, and supports most common TV audio output formats, including Dolby Digital, according to the company. Volume and mute can be controlled using an ordinary TV IR-remote, or via WiFi with one of the free Sonos controller apps for Android, iOS, OS X, or Windows (shown below).



Sonos controller apps for Android, iOS, OS X, and Windows

The Playbar has built-in sensors, which, along with some software magic, automatically adjust equalization and channel orientation to compensate for the devices physical orientation. Accordingly, it can lie flat on a TV stand or be rotated for low profile wall-mounting above or below the TV without compromising sound quality, says Sonos.
 

Further information

Check out DeviceGuru.com’s Sonos review for additional perspective on the Sonos devices.

For further details on the Playbar, visit Sonos’s website.
 

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