Question

Adding 7.1, 9.1, etc. to Playbase/Playbar

  • 6 September 2017
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Am I correct in assuming that adding 7.1, 9.1, etc. to Playbase/Playbar is not possible with a software update? You need new hardware from Dolby?

Thanks in advance!

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I think the issue is first that higher codecs won't fit through the optic cable, they'd have to be carried by some other connection (like HDMI).

It's also likely, as has been discussed in another thread, that there would be additional licensing issues for Sonos, since they make it fairly easy to group your TV output with other speakers
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Wikipedia has a good explanation:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TOSLINK
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Am I correct in assuming that adding 7.1, 9.1, etc. to Playbase/Playbar is not possible with a software update? You need new hardware from Dolby?

Thanks in advance!


You are correct, you'll need a proper home cinema system for that.
For the most part, Playbar offers 90's home cinema.

And at a cost that is higher than several amp / speaker packages available.
All these arguments may or may not be valid. My objection was purely to the completely subjective judgement as to what constitutes a 'proper' system. Having DTS and 7.1 makes a system... a system with DTS and 7.1. It doesn't qualify it for an official stamp saying 'proper'.

Saying Sonos isn't a 'proper' home cinema system is just a meaninglessly disparaging comment. You are perfectly entitled of course to continue to highlight its limitations at every opportunity if you wish.


Its not really meaningless. I am a big supporter of Sonos and have been since the first time I heard a Play:1. I spent the cash and bought the full 5.1 for my home. I'm about to demote it, though. Read on:


Not as good as DTS! Why? What can you hear? One will sound different to the other but better? I don't think so.


What can I hear? How about the surround channels I paid for? I recently started watching Blu-ray movies again after going on a summer-long streaming binge. I was looking forward to that uncompressed picture on my UHD display. I was really dismayed to hear my surround channels drop down to a whisper,. I checked my Sonos app to find that my action movie was playing in stereo through my Sonos system, because the thing can't play DTS. Of course the answer to this "cutting edge system with great 5.1 sound" that can't play DTS is to go shell out $250 for a down-converting BR player, instead of Sonos waking up and offering a Playbar with an HDMI input, or at least offering DTS decoding in software if we use HDMI to ethernet in.

And about that streaming... The long standing reason Sonos has offered for not supporting higher bitrate codecs above DD5.1 is that "most users" stream instead of use physical media, and since streaming services use DD5.1, there's no reason for DTS. But now shows across various services are coming through in DD+, I understand, which explains why now I am seeing stereo on Netflix movies and shows instead of 5.1 playback. So what happens when this change is across the board, and even broadcast tv starts using higher codecs? What excuse will we hear then?

Right now I'm in the middle of building out two rooms at my house. One will be a dedicated viewing room, one will be a more general purpose entertainment room. I can't see going to the trouble of setting up a viewing room for an excellent display, with a theater couch and soundproofed walls, and then putting my Sonos system in there. Not if my viewing is increasingly getting reduced to stereo sound. More likely my Sonos will be relegated to the general purpose area, because just as Sonos thinks "most users" won't have a problem with the lack of DTS, I'm sure most of the people that come to my house to shoot pool or play foosball won't care about it since my Sonos system will just be background noise. Kind of like a metaphor of how Sonos appears to the increasingly sophisticated HT market.

So what do I get to replace it? I was looking at HEOS, but thats even more money for what will probably end up being the same problem as bandwidth needs increase. I refuse to use anything from BOSE. Not much else out there, because most everything uses a sound bar of one kind or another, and I prefer to control the separation of my channels. (Sonos is very odd in that respect, as sometimes I get amazing effects off to the side, and other times the sound path seems very narrow. I'm sure its the mastering that has a lot to do with that, but I've never seen a wired system that was so sensitive to mastering.)

It looks like I might be going back to good old fashioned twisted copper wire. There was a great article I read a few months back about using a pair of Atmos-enabled speakers and getting some pretty amazing sound that rivaled a basic 7.1 system.
Or maybe I'll pull out my excellent two channel stereo components, have them repaired, and use that. It wouldn't be much different to what I have now, since I'm listening to stereo over my awesome 5.1 Sonos system right now anyway...
I think we established on another thread that you had made the perfectly reasonable choice that Sonos wasn't for you as your main home cinema setup. I wish you great pleasure with your replacement.

Personally, I am happy with Sonos, having long since gone through the slightly irritating hoops that were needed. I consider it to be a proper home cinema system, although certainly far from the best possible.

Each to their own.

I really agree with John here. It's becoming a bit boring to click on a thread and know what a post by a certain user will say without even having to read it. It is a Sonos forum after all, and not a generic AV one, so constantly bashing it (as opposed to having a discussion) seems in bad taste.


Relax, Francis. No one is bashing the equipment. Should I go through everything I like about it prior to asking a question, just to accommodate your feelings? Should I bring up how well-built it is, how good it looks, how much I enjoy it - when it works?

This is a support forum, not a fan club. You're going to see dissatisfied people. And as long as Sonos is a viable company - one which I want to see succeed because I like their products - I would hope they'd want to see in detail what people expect, so they can improve, innovate, release cool stuff we want to buy more of. Its also a great place to find user workarounds because lets face it, a lot of us are seeing the same limitations. If it weren't for these discussions, I would never have found out about the switching products that Monoprice sells, nor would I know about the transcoding Blu-ray players I'll now have to buy just so my Sonos can play the 5.1 sound I paid for.

One point I'd like to reiterate is that if you're really into your various codecs and lossless home cinema audio, I cannot understand why Sonos is even an option for you. I mean it doesn't even stream 24bit lossless for music, so why anyone expects it do more than DD5.1 is beyond me. They've made it very clear their audience is the streamers, and not the hi-res disc watchers.

First, no they didn't make that clear, as others have pointed out. The Sonos info for 5.1HT made it seem like it would work well with both streaming and physical media, but it glossed right over the DTS limitation. And as others here have pointed out, the furor over that meant Sonos changed the ad copy instead of working on better technology.

Second, I didn't even know about all these codecs when I bought my system.

I'm pretty sure I'm one of the small number of people here who would have been considered an audiophile 30-35 years ago. I spent a few years in the business, and many more years optimizing my own systems before finally getting out of it all in the mid-late 90s. The last I knew of surround it had gone from SRS to ProLogic to AC-3, or what we now call "Dolby Digital 5.1". I simply stopped caring. I used an exceptional quality 2 channel system for home cinema, and not a single person who heard it thought it was deficient compared to a multi-channel system. Then I finally bought an AVR and did a 3.1 setup and there I stayed for years.

When I became interested in audio again a couple of years ago, it was actually a direct result of hearing a Play:1. I became fascinated with the wireless mesh network, and how great a single speaker could sound, driven by a digital source. When I found Sonos had a 5.1 setup, I looked at the rats nest of stuff I had accumulated around my ancient audio video furniture from the CRT days and decided it was time to clean everything up. I wanted my floor back. All I knew about codecs then was you had Dolby Digital vs DTS. My garbage AVR at the time had about twenty different decoders built in, all stuff I'd never heard of but they all seemed to be permutations of DD or DTS. I never used them, had no idea what they were, and certainly never had problems listening to my stuff while ignoring them.

So I bought the Sonos HT. Once I got into it I learned about all the other multichannel codecs out there, and I was briefly interested in extending the system. I wished for more channels, but I really didn't care. I was fine with it. Everything seemed good until I started losing audio capability this summer. I now have the choice of adding the new 9500 disc player - and truthfully, I needed a new player anyway - or looking at other options.

Finally, I don't use Sonos for a serious listening system. Though current music sounds pretty good on it, it does a terrible job with the classics. Sonos is better for a room to room experience, whereas my dusty old 2 channel system, once repaired, sounds far better with any source. I just have to figure out how to get my music into my 27 year old preamp.
Proton - Thanks for adding your voice to the thread.

FYI, most of the HT fans I know regard 5.1.2 (Atmos) as better than 7.1 with the same number of speakers. The height channels do make a huge difference and incorporating both surround and rear speakers in a home set-up isn't very practical.


See, I didn't even know Atmos was 5.1.2 - I have no idea. I just know that my system is increasingly running in stereo when I paid for 5.1 HT.



I recently switched from PLAYBAR to a Denon AVRX3300W separates system. At £450, it works amazinly well and I find speaker wiring easier to hide than chunky Sonos speaker power cables. Combined with Q Acoustic 7000i Plus speakers, it delivers all the codecs, all of the time with loads of HDMI inputs and two outputs which can each display a different source.


I saw your thread about that. A friend on another forum rabidly endorsed the 4 digit Denon AVRs, and recommended that I get into one if I drop Sonos. You got a tremendous deal on yours, BTW. Did you get around to spreading those front channels apart? I thought it was kind of a waste of channel separation that you had them all clumped under the display. Then again, I have a Playbar so I shouldn't criticize... 😃
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So the short answer is: I'm correct?? LOL
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You appear to have strayed completely off topic and are now making assuming about who I am and decisions I have made without any background knowledge or indeed accuracy. Trust me, you haven't a clue about the extensive research I have made here.

Tom526 - you are indeed correct and, on that note, I think this thread has run its course.
Wow -- A lot of words in here and probably more tech and banter than the average Joe is looking for. I think I can boil it down for someone considering Sonos.

They sound great!
They are easy to "install".

Unfortunately if you want them for home theater, you better like 1990's movies. Fewer and fewer blu rays have DD5.1 as an option so you're paying a lot of money for stereo sound*. 5.1 is fine with me, but I can't even get that anymore. Until Sonos addresses this, they are quickly making themselves obsolete in the home theater market. They need to wake up before they are the next Blackberry (1990's reference) and have to try to reinvent themselves as software.

*Yes you can find audio signal converters but then you're paying even more money to downgrade and remain stuck in the 1990's. Who spends more money to downgrade a service???
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Then yes, it's possible. I don't think there is enough info out there to speculate much beyond that to probable or improbable. I think Sonos has access to market research, production cost and license data, that we don't have. It seems the general consensus is that the community wants a small device that can put out about 20 channels of sound in any configuration you can dream of for the cost of an ice cream.
Sonos IS a 'proper' home cinema system. All systems have their pros and cons, and no particular limitation disqualifies a system from being 'proper'.
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If the time comes when there's only HDMI TV's I'm sure there will be a device you can plug into the TV's HDMI-ARC socket and extract/ convert to 5.1. Personally 7.1 support is not an issue for me (although it would be nice..).
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Sonos IS a 'proper' home cinema system. All systems have their pros and cons, and no particular limitation disqualifies a system from being 'proper'.

It really isn't. Ignoring the additional spekers, I don't know of any cinemas that still use Dolby Digital - this has been the case for many years. Sonos ever reworded the PLAYBAR description on the website after launch as it made such claims, which weren't accurate.

It initially said "full-theater sound" which simply wasn't true as theatres use DTS etc. They also claimed "plays everything that is connected to your TV" which soon became clear wasn't the case.

They've since put some "home cinema" claims back on the page, but it's carefully linked to an FAQ full of disclaimers regarding DTS etc.

http://www.sonos.com/en-gb/home-theater-faqs.html
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I don't know of any cinemas showing a 55" screen in a 15 * 10 room with a nice comfy sofa to sit on.

Cinemas don't use dolby because of the large space and significantly more sound channels so the comparison is rather pointless. Sonos 5.1 sounds great.
Not as good as DTS! Why? What can you hear? One will sound different to the other but better? I don't think so.
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I don't know of any cinemas showing a 55" screen in a 15 * 10 room with a nice comfy sofa to sit on.

Cinemas don't use dolby because of the large space and significantly more sound channels so the comparison is rather pointless. Sonos 5.1 sounds great.
Not as good as DTS! Why? What can you hear? One will sound different to the other but better? I don't think so.


DTS has approximately double the bitrate of Dolby Digital, hence sounds significantly better.

Home cinema in this context refers to home cinema audio - i.e. cinema audio in your own home. In the '90s this consisted of Dolby Pro-logic systems then around the turn of the millenium this became Dolby Digital and DTS. IN the '10s things moved on to uncompressed audio formats like Dolby True-HD and DTS-HD MA and now we're moving on the "3d" audio formats like Atmos and DTS:X.

For the most part, Playbar offers 90's home cinema.
All these arguments may or may not be valid. My objection was purely to the completely subjective judgement as to what constitutes a 'proper' system. Having DTS and 7.1 makes a system... a system with DTS and 7.1. It doesn't qualify it for an official stamp saying 'proper'.

Saying Sonos isn't a 'proper' home cinema system is just a meaninglessly disparaging comment. You are perfectly entitled of course to continue to highlight its limitations at every opportunity if you wish.
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All these arguments may or may not be valid. My objection was purely to the completely subjective judgement as to what constitutes a 'proper' system. Having DTS and 7.1 makes a system... a system with DTS and 7.1. It doesn't qualify it for an official stamp saying 'proper'.

Saying Sonos isn't a 'proper' home cinema system is just a meaninglessly disparaging comment. You are perfectly entitled of course to continue to highlight its limitations at every opportunity if you wish.


If it was a proper home cinema system at the time of launch, I'm quite sure that Sonos wouldn't have a) hastily updated the promotional website and b) wouldn't have offered all early adopters a full refund.

It's a nice soundbar and I shall enjoy using mine again in my home gym, when (ironically) I get around to wiring it up.

I own both systems, I know the difference.
Sonos can provide a limited home cinema experience but with poor audio format support. A Playbar/base for enhancing audio whilst providing streaming music services as part of a Sonos system is it's forte.
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Proton - Thanks for adding your voice to the thread.

FYI, most of the HT fans I know regard 5.1.2 (Atmos) as better than 7.1 with the same number of speakers. The height channels do make a huge difference and incorporating both surround and rear speakers in a home set-up isn't very practical.

I recently switched from PLAYBAR to a Denon AVRX3300W separates system. At £450, it works amazinly well and I find speaker wiring easier to hide than chunky Sonos speaker power cables. Combined with Q Acoustic 7000i Plus speakers, it delivers all the codecs, all of the time with loads of HDMI inputs and two outputs which can each display a different source.
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Saying Sonos isn't a 'proper' home cinema system is just a meaninglessly disparaging comment. You are perfectly entitled of course to continue to highlight its limitations at every opportunity if you wish.

I really agree with John here. It's becoming a bit boring to click on a thread and know what a post by a certain user will say without even having to read it. It is a Sonos forum after all, and not a generic AV one, so constantly bashing it (as opposed to having a discussion) seems in bad taste.

One point I'd like to reiterate is that if you're really into your various codecs and lossless home cinema audio, I cannot understand why Sonos is even an option for you. I mean it doesn't even stream 24bit lossless for music, so why anyone expects it do more than DD5.1 is beyond me. They've made it very clear their audience is the streamers, and not the hi-res disc watchers.
I think we established on another thread that you had made the perfectly reasonable choice that Sonos wasn't for you as your main home cinema setup. I wish you great pleasure with your replacement.

Personally, I am happy with Sonos, having long since gone through the slightly irritating hoops that were needed. I consider it to be a proper home cinema system, although certainly far from the best possible.

Each to their own.


I don't recall the thread you speak of. I'm glad you're happy with your system. I am too. Its just getting left behind, unfortunately.
If there is one category of consumer that Sonos has never targeted it is those who self-identify as 'audiophiles'.
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Saying Sonos isn't a 'proper' home cinema system is just a meaninglessly disparaging comment. You are perfectly entitled of course to continue to highlight its limitations at every opportunity if you wish.

I really agree with John here. It's becoming a bit boring to click on a thread and know what a post by a certain user will say without even having to read it. It is a Sonos forum after all, and not a generic AV one, so constantly bashing it (as opposed to having a discussion) seems in bad taste.

One point I'd like to reiterate is that if you're really into your various codecs and lossless home cinema audio, I cannot understand why Sonos is even an option for you. I mean it doesn't even stream 24bit lossless for music, so why anyone expects it do more than DD5.1 is beyond me. They've made it very clear their audience is the streamers, and not the hi-res disc watchers.


People are coming here for buying advice, such as "should I buy a PLAYBAR?" or "will PLAYBAR meet my needs?".

If everybody just said "woo, yeah, PLAYBAR is great/flawless/perfect" they wouldn't really be receiving the balanced advice they came for.

I've been a big fan of Sonos for over 12 years of ownership, but that doesn't mean I can't offer constructive criticism where appropriate. I was an early adopter of Sonos in the UK, buying imported kit from overseas before it was even launched here. Back in 2004 it was groundbreaking and truly ahead of its time. But that didn't mean I couldn't highlight product weaknesses and suggest ways it could be improved.

Like the little white LED light on the front of the original players, they're on the top of the newer speaker products. There is an option in the settings to turn these lights off, do you know why? Because I said it lit my bedroom up at night and was a flaw on an otherwise perfect product. I fed back, Sonos fixed it.

Sonos couldn't play Apple Lossless audio, so when I ripped all my CDs in ALAC, Sonos kit couldn't play them. They can now, because I told them it was broken.

The biggest fans of footballs teams don't sit back and applaud when their team is losing. They criticise and suggest ways of improving. Armchair critics are something critical to success in many ways. It's why they get invited to product trials and launch events where you end up in discussion with senior management and product designers who ask "you're a big fan, what would you do?".

A friend of mine, whom I introduced to Sonos, was responsible for allowing the mute button on Sonos to become play/pause. Why? Because he told them it could be better and they listened.

In the case of this thread, the OP asks if PLAYBAR/PLAYBASE is capable of modern cinema audio. It isn't and never can be, but should we sit back and tell him it is? "Go ahead, buy the speaker, I'm sure it will be capable of 7.1 at some point in the future".

No, we need to be honest. People are spending around £2000 on 5.1 set-ups which don't deliver as much as systems costing 25% less. I know, I've got both.

They don't need to be audiophiles, they just need to be people who want their kids to be able to put the latest Disney or Star Wars blu-ray on and not be faced with silent audio. People who don't want their wives to phone them at the office and say "sorry to interrupt but we're trying to watch something and there's no sound again."

This has been my life for many years and, to be frank, I'm glad to see the back of it. PLAYBAR never really met my needs but I've lived through years of ownership due to having a young family and a right budget.

It's approaching five years since PLAYBAR went on sale, the buyers felt it met they're needs at the time - why else buy it? But five years is a long time in tech, especially without a model refresh. Within five years, many are replacing their TVs, blu-ray players and may even be ready to lift that living room carpet to replace it. A perfect time to drop in a few speaker wires and do away with their problematic "wireless" system and its chunky power cables.

Call it bashing, disparaging, boring or whatever. I just call it being honest and it's what I would expect myself if I came here looking for advice on what to buy or whether a product was capable of specific functions.