Playbar + 2 x Play 3s = Not Blown


Userlevel 2
I added a Playbar a few months ago and I was instantly impressed for both tv audio and using it as a regular Sonos unit for music.

I decided to add a couple of Play 3's for the surround. I thought I'd be blown away, but in contrast the improvement is just okay, but in no way great.

I possibly don't have the best room for this set up, however I was keen to hear what others think

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14 replies

Userlevel 1
What are you feeding the setup with? are you actually passing it 5.1 audio or only stereo?

You probably won't notice much difference if you're only listening to stereo.

BTW most of us would probably have gone for 2x Play:1s for surround duties.
Userlevel 2
Good question re 5.1 / stereo. How do I tell?

Also I'm interested in thoughts on 1s rather than 3s for surround. I just assumed the 3s would be better, the risk when assuming I guess. I've got an exceptional retailer who will swap for me if needed.
What's your experience been with surround systems in the past? I feel like people expect tons of stuff to be going on in the surround channels, and that's just not the case for most movies on a properly configured system. I have a non-Sonos 5.1 system in my basement and it's calibrated and with rare exception, you're just going to be hearing mega explosions of whatever in as loud a volume as from the main speakers.
Userlevel 1
Good question re 5.1 / stereo. How do I tell?

I think you can look in the properties for the Playbar and it'll tell you there (I don't know, I haven't got one) but what are you listening to and how do you have it connected to the Playbar?
Good question re 5.1 / stereo. How do I tell?


Go to About My Sonos System... and scroll down to the PLAYBAR entry. Here, PLAYBAR will report the current stream that it is receiving. (Note that this is not a realtime report. If the program changes, you'll need to close and re-open the report to view the new data) PLAYBAR will attempt to extract some ambiance information for Stereo feeds. For 5.1 feeds, the activity in the surround speakers is up to the program producer. Some programs are very active in the rear, some are not.

I don't know where you fall in the spectrum, but I find that new-to-surround folk prefer a higher rear level than surround veterans. This is not a social comment, just an observation (and I've been there and done that).
Sonos playbar has OK sound and very easy to setup. But it is a compromise.

I was at a HIFi store at a demo night where they did a demo of 3 system

1st system was a cheap 5.1 system one step above home theater in a box, so they used "real"hifi equipment. (I think the price was about 50% of the cost of the sonos setup)

2nd was sonos playbar + sub + 2 play one (i think)

3rd was a 5.1 system that cost about the same as the sonos system.

The 3rd system was clearly superior to the 2 others.
but even the 1st system beat the Sonos system mainly because the 2 front speakers was so far away from each other. A playbar cant compensate for this.

Do the botom line is if you want a good home teater sound buy a regular system then expand to a sonos system for music in other parts of the house via a Sonos connect.
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As one who's had a dedicated 5.1 system (PSB Image series, NAD T175 Pre/Pro and NAD T973 7-channel amp) and currently using the Sonos Playbar/Sub/Play:1 setup feeding it 5.1 from an Xbox One, it really comes down to what you want to hear. Folks are correct the content programming really determines how active the surrounds will be. Most times they are just ambient data. If the film is heavy on dialog you'll rarely hear them chime in except for some musical score. If the film has very active panning - say The Hobbit where Smaug is walking around talking to Baggins you'll definitely hear your rear Sonos channels. Again, having a true 5.1 is a definite enjoyment but be prepared for the additional outlay of 5 speakers, sub, wiring and receiver setup. With the Sonos you get power leads, optical from your source and convenience. Be sure to check your source of the 5.1 material and that it's configured to output 5.1. Also some older films weren't done with 5.1. Would I go back to a dedicated 5.1 system? Probably not these days. I much prefer music - digital, NAS, vinyl. Most all my movie watching is via streaming service so I'm not as particular about the audio as I used to be and just enjoy the film content - it's entertainment and not critical listening as I do with say my Rega RP1 turntable. Good luck and enjoy.
You can indeed swap the Play:3s for Play:1s if you feel like the former are overkill.
Surround sound can indeed be surprisingly (for a newbie) discreet, but the main added is just that: it surrounds you. I am enjoying a Playbar+Sub+2xPlay:1 setup and since I've added the Play:1s as surround, my movie experience has just gotten that much better! Sure, the surrounds don't pump out loud sound every second, but they immerse me in the movie.
I think the Play:3s could be well justified if you are going to use them in stereo mode with the new feature allowing the surrounds to act as an additional stereo speaker pair when playing music. Otherwise, I guess it's a judgment call, but the Play:1s are already doing a pretty good job...

Anyways, maybe it is worth mentioning that Sonos has a 60-days free return policy, so even if your dealer doesn't want to return the product himself, you can always turn to Sonos.
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Today I just updated my playbar to that very setting, 2 Play:3. Same for me, kinda underwhelmed with the music playing thru the 3 devices. I had a dedicated 5.1 system before, (Onkyo avr, 2 Teufel front speaker, 2 Heco rear), which was really good. But I grew tired of the looks of those huuuge speakers and the avr next to the TV. Right now I am waiting for the HDMI splitter to arrived to check out the actual 5.1 sound which the setup hopefully can deliver. Still... I listen to alot of music and I am not that satisfied with the sound.

Any ideas what could be wrong? Would Play1s change the overall performance? I got a Play1 in my bathroom and its doing an awesome job. I somehow got the impression the bass is much better with the Play 1 then with the Play3.
Userlevel 5
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Today I just updated my playbar to that very setting, 2 Play:3. Same for me, kinda underwhelmed with the music playing thru the 3 devices.

I listen to alot of music and I am not that satisfied with the sound.




I have to agree. With the sub, playbar and surround play:1s it is very convenient and clean and seamless with the rest of the sonos system as a whole. BUT considering price I too am very underwhelmed by the music only aspect of sound quality. It is not capable of going very loud without distorting or becoming less clear. Sure it is great for tv but considering the bulk of my sonos cost is in my great room with the tv it would be nice if the music was better quality (playing flac files/ALAC btw)
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So, should I go back to the AVR system? It was nearly the same price, but the performance was better. I am not sure if I should trade sound for looks. Really difficult decision, since I always loved my Sonos connect and Play:1 performance, but I am kinda letdown with the overall sound in my livingroom 😞
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It's a personal decision- quality vs. Looks/convenience. No one can answer that for you
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I might make the final decision tomorrow when the HDMI switch is here for testing. Still super torn, I really like the looks of the Play3s in my shelf and the playbar above my TV. But...aaaaghhhh music sounds super average 😞
I owned a full blown 5.1 configuration starring a Pioneer LX receiver, high definition tower speakers and matching front speaker, surround speakers and a rel sub. Sounded great off course. But: setting up a system like this, wiring 5+1 speakers around my living room and hiding away components was a hassle to begin with. Secondly: making it easy for all family members to operate such a setup where one has to choose the right inputs etcetera and knowing exactly what a receiver is doing and why is a challenge. After moving to a new house I sold my setup and bought Sonos Playbar-sub-play3 surrounds to replace it: less impressive sound, but far more easy setup and more discrete. I must agree with earlier comments (and this is a problem with all movies): the emerging sound from front to back all has to Do with how well a movie sound is engineered in the studio: if a technician is not aware of a plane flying in from behind and does not think about having the sound follow this sort of action it just will not be there.

I would like it if Sonos had a more sophisticated setting for 5.1 movies with 5.1 Dolby Digital and/or Dts and matching settings or presets though. And being able to have different presets to work with and being able to save presets. Because digging in preferences it quite a hassle after finding them first in the Sonos app: I have to navigate to Sonos-app > taskbar > more > settings > (long list) room settings > advanced audio > setting tv/surround/sub and then not being able to have presets. Maybe a suggestion for the team at Sonos to look into this.