Thought I would post some observations I had between the Arc and Playbase in case it would be of help to anyone. Obviously these are my own opinions, others may differ
I bought the Playbase a few years ago, about 6 months before it was discontinued. That didn’t feel too great, but it’s still a nice piece of kit and looks great so I stuck with it.
I’ve always had a gen2 sub and 2xPlay1s connected to the PB. At various times I have thought it was lacking somewhat in terms of presenting a “full” soundstage from the front of the room. The sub and surrounds do mask that a bit; if I turned off the sub/surrounds in the app (not unpaired) the PB sounded underwhelming. It had been Truplayed at this stage. So I eventually decided it was time for the Arc, and isn’t it a nice piece of kit!
I’ve been trying all sorts of side by side comparisons but the first, with the Arc and PB unpaired from any subs/surrounds, the results were surprising. The Playbase, although a narrower soundstage did have a more impressive frequency response and hence warmer tones (to my ears). I guess this comes from the fact it has it’s own little sub (?), which I was amazed at how much air it was managing to move. As I said I’ve always had it paired to the gen2 sub so I never experienced it as a standalone. Nice! Very nice!
However, I DO have a sub and surrounds so a standalone test is useful, but not an accurate test of how I want to use it/them. As I only have one sub and it’s not easy to swap the pairing between the Arc/PB for immediate comparison I decided to compare between the following. NOTE: there was no Trueplay tuning at this stage as I have yet to kidnap someone with an iPhone
1 - Arc with Sub and Surrounds connected, but with Sub and Surrounds turned off. This would put the Arc into the “I can put my energies into the things I NEED to do" rather than doing everything, so more representative of how I will use it.
2 - PB unpaired from Sub/Surrounds without a restart, so hopefully maintaining its settings from when it was paired with sub/surrounds.
3 - PB unpaired from Sub/Surrounds and restarted to revert it to full standalone mode, which I was impressed with earlier.
Firstly I’ll say there definitely is a difference between 2 & 3. I’m not sure why it needs the restart to revert fully but there you are.
For the comparison between 1&2 the Arc presented a much larger soundstage with much cleaner tones. I wouldn't say overly warm but then it doesn't have the sub and surrounds to help it out and not Trueplay tuned. The PB sounded like it was working hard but stuck in a cardboard box. It just sounded narrow and compressed compared to the Arc.
For the comparison between 1&3 again the Arc had a much better soundstage. It really does sound like the the entire width and height of the room. The PB sounded much better following the restart, but still noticeably narrower. I would say in this comparison the PB sounded warmer (to be expected) and for some songs preferable (not surprising).
In conclusion I think as a standalone TV speaker I would choose the Playbase (they can be picked up at a nice price now), but if you have a sub, or think you may one day get a sub, then the Arc would be the way to go. I was expecting the Arc to be significantly more remarkable compared to the Playbase and that wasn’t the case, but for my uses it is a noticeable improvement. I’ll be keeping the Arc Though now I need a 10.1 compatible TV...
And with all that I’m wondering….I need to kidnap that iPhone owner and repeat these tests with Trueplay enabled. I think I’ll still prefer the Arc as I don’t see the PB ever beating it in terms of the soundstage and if anything it’ll probably help how the Arc sounds more than the PB.
Anyway, hope that helps someone. Any questions let me know.
Thanks for your post, and for sharing your findings.