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Disappointed with Playbar music playback

  • 3 November 2015
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Hi all. I have a Playbar in my front room for about 6 months now. We all love it for the real difference it makes to watching tv/movies/blu ray (using an optical switch) especially the impact on deep bass sounds. We haven't had any kind of surround sound system before and purely relied on whatever tv we had for sound, so it really is a great improvement. We also have 2xPlay1's, one in the kitchen and one in the bedroom.

We subscribe to Deezer elite which sounds great on the Play 1's with FLAC playback. However, when it comes to music playback on the Playbar I have to say I'm a bit disappointed. Because of the size of the base our tv is on, I've had to raise the Playbar by about an inch so it can clear the tv stand (LOTR dvd cases are perfect for this! ), but I'm not sure if this is part of my problem. I can't move the tv any further back (to the wall) and have no additional space in front of the tv, so have no other option at the moment. TV music programs (like Later with Jools Holland) sound great, but Deezer playback never sounds as good.

I'm hesitant at getting a Sub as I feel we are getting enough bass for movies, but don't know if it would help with my current problem. So I'm thinking of getting 2xPlay1's as rears and use these in Full mode to improve our music listening, as we listen to a lot of music in this room.

Any advice on any of the above?
Go raibh maith agat
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Best answer by kmjy 4 November 2015, 06:31

Hi Colm,

If you are considering a SUB, I would HIGHTY recommend it.
It would make considerably more of a difference than just two PLAY:1's as surrounds.
By adding a SUB to your PLAYBAR it allows the PLAYBAR to focus specifically on the high to mid range sounds and use all of it's power for those, rather than distributing it's power to everything. The SUB takes a huge load off the PLAYBAR and therefor allows it to play louder and wider. So more of a surround sound effect from the same PLAYBAR just by adding a SUB.

In terms of bass, the PLAYBAR has wonderful bass on it's own but a SUB adds a kind of atmosphere to the mix, and not so much more hectic bass (of course you can turn it up and shake the house though). You'll find the SUB is really good at adding atmosphere to the whole room for movies and TV. So it really fills out the area and immerses you quite a bit more in the movie.

The PLAY:1 surrounds are good to have but not a necessity, they will just make the surround effects more directional and true to life. Personally, this is what I added to my PLAYBAR first and I do somewhat regret that choice since I've added a SUB to the mix, as I could hear a much bigger difference right away with the SUB.

I personally think SUB would give you a better experience and I have used mine with music and because it allows the PLAYBAR to play louder and wider, and sharper it actually sounds about 2x better with music. Do keep in mind though that most of PLAYBAR's optimisation is for movies and tv.
For music the two PLAY:1's kind of just make the song surround you more.

Best regards!
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Hi Colm,

If you are considering a SUB, I would HIGHTY recommend it.
It would make considerably more of a difference than just two PLAY:1's as surrounds.
By adding a SUB to your PLAYBAR it allows the PLAYBAR to focus specifically on the high to mid range sounds and use all of it's power for those, rather than distributing it's power to everything. The SUB takes a huge load off the PLAYBAR and therefor allows it to play louder and wider. So more of a surround sound effect from the same PLAYBAR just by adding a SUB.

In terms of bass, the PLAYBAR has wonderful bass on it's own but a SUB adds a kind of atmosphere to the mix, and not so much more hectic bass (of course you can turn it up and shake the house though). You'll find the SUB is really good at adding atmosphere to the whole room for movies and TV. So it really fills out the area and immerses you quite a bit more in the movie.

The PLAY:1 surrounds are good to have but not a necessity, they will just make the surround effects more directional and true to life. Personally, this is what I added to my PLAYBAR first and I do somewhat regret that choice since I've added a SUB to the mix, as I could hear a much bigger difference right away with the SUB.

I personally think SUB would give you a better experience and I have used mine with music and because it allows the PLAYBAR to play louder and wider, and sharper it actually sounds about 2x better with music. Do keep in mind though that most of PLAYBAR's optimisation is for movies and tv.
For music the two PLAY:1's kind of just make the song surround you more.

Best regards!
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Great answer kmjy!
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Thanks for the reply. Does the sub really make that much of a difference to music playback ? I'm still not clear though on why music from a tv show sounds so good on just the playbar , but music played from deezer sounds much weaker in comparison?
Am I the only one who thinks a staff compliment after an answer like the above one leaves a nasty taste in my mouth?
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Am I the only one who thinks a staff compliment after an answer like the above one leaves a nasty taste in my mouth?

My apologies if that seemed distasteful. I can see where it might look like we're encouraging people to tell other's to buy more product, that's not what we're looking to do here. We'd like to encourage the whole community to share their opinions more, positive or negative.

Colm was looking for opinions and suggestions about if the SUB would add more to his music playback. We really like to let the product speaks for itself and love it when the community offers their personal opinions in this sort of situation. kmjy's response is just that, an opinion. But it's well said, and I'm partial to the use of bold text for some reason.

We'd love to hear back from Colm to see if they've tried out a SUB and how it's going. And if you have any questions we're happy to help to. Just let me or anyone else on the team know.
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Thanks for the reply. Does the sub really make that much of a difference to music playback ? I'm still not clear though on why music from a tv show sounds so good on just the playbar , but music played from deezer sounds much weaker in comparison?

My apologies for missing this when you posted it Colm. The SUB will make a pretty big different with music playback. It depends of course on the source you're listening to, but with Deezer it should be prevalent. Music from a TV show plays through the PLAYBAR differently than from a service. It again depends on the source, but the audio is going to be decoded differently before played. If the TV is sending a Dolby Digital 5.1 signal to the PLAYBAR you're have more dedicated channels for the playback which will be different from standard encoding for music, which is generally stereo.

The SUB in either case is going to take over when the audio reaches the crossover frequencies, but with a 5.1 signal you'll have a dedicated bass too.

Without the SUB, the speakers have to use more power to generate the bass so you'll notice that it has a bit lower potential volume and depth.

My recommendation for this is generally to check it out in a store if you have a local dealer who can proved a demo. You can find our dealers listed here: http://www.sonos.com/storelocator

Additionally, we have a liberal money back guaranty for units purchased directly through us, so you can always pick up a SUB and test it out in your home to see what you think. If you don't like it, send it back. Read more about our money back policy here: http://www.sonos.com/support/policies#return_right

Let us know i you have any further questions.
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Thanks Ryan for your response. I've just ordered the Sub and it arrives next week, so I'll let you know how much of a difference I think it makes.
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Hi, I'm new to the forum. I picked up my playbar yesterday after a lot of thought and a lot of reading this forum. Music was a big part of what I wanted the playbar for. Having bonded the play 1s I've got to say I love the option of playing them in full with music. It adds a lot for me in terms of stereo separation, like I'm sitting in a triangle sweet spot. Yes, objectively I know there could be more defined bass, and I'm in the honeymoon period, but I love this set up. Big choice made between this and the new play 5 but for a living room this was the correct choice for me.
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I can recommend a sub to go with the Playbar. It is remarkable the sonic difference to both TV and music. Watch Interstellar and the bass will try to relocate your house to the middle of the street. Listen to music and the sub provides a much fuller sound experience. The Deezer FLAC files sound very good through the combination.
Try not to have the bass set too loud.
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Sub is next for me, getting there one piece at a time. Might have to sneak it in.
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So the SUB has been in place for about a month now. The first movie watched was ROTJ before going to the Force Awakens and it made a huge impression on everyone. Christmas so far has given it a good run through with Jurassic World a big favourite! It definitely does expand on the sound and improves on the overall experience. Still trying to tweak it to not become too overwhelming which depends on the source being fed to it.

There's also an improvement on music playback which is definitely noticeable but not as big a change as I'd expected given everything I read on the forums. Again maybe this is due to not finding the optimum settings for music playback just yet and the variety of music types played (indie/jazz/Rock). I'm also having to turn it down a lot for music. Is there a way you can have 2 SUB settings as part of a 3.1 setup, one for tv/movies and the other for music?

All in all we are enjoying the SUB and it has quickly become an essential part of our setup.
Hi Colm, I know I am 5 months late to this thread but I am also a little frustrated with playing music through the Playbar.

I have had the Playbar for a while, but recently decided to get rid of my separates, buy a sub and tidy up the living room a bit by having less tech around. So now I use the Playbar and Sub for music and TV. While the TV sounds great (including music through the TV) music on its own is quite disappointing. There is no sparkle to the treble and some heavier types of music can get really muddy and difficult to hear each instrument. I have tried playing with the EQ and tried pushing up the treble but it only really pushes up the top mid making everything sound very harsh.

In the kitchen I have a pair of Play 3s so I tried moving them into the living room and pairing with the sub, and the difference is worlds apart, so much clearer, with space around all the instruments, the top end was much sharper and went all the way up. All of my music is 16/44 flac so there shouldn't be any problem there.

So I guess my question is to the Sonos staff, how come there is such a difference in sound quality for music between the Play 3 and the Playbar? Especially when the price points would indicate that the Playbar should be of a better quality. Or am I missing something in my set up?

I really kinda wish I hadn't sold my previous system, which is a real shame.
I am not a big fan of exotic sound for TV, and have no experience of play bar. I use Sonos for music, and in configurations suited to each room, it delivers to all my expectations, some of which were shaped in my audiophile days. And from those days, I have been quite satisfied with TV sound enhancement delivered by a 2 channel stereo amp and a speaker pair, fed signals from the TV source, with no hankering for 5.1 or whatever higher numbers are now in vogue.

With this background, my question to those that have used both:
What is a better overall compromise for a combined need with equal weightage to TV and music:
1. A Sonos play 5 pair (for its line in) + Sub
2. A playbar+surround play 1 units + Sub

Assume here that the small delay in the lip-sync using the line in is within acceptable limits - I find that to be the case, and for now let that be the assumption for an answer to the above.
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Gile S - have you performed trueplay on our playbar?
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Gile S - have you performed trueplay on our playbar?

Trueplay is not available for the Playbar nor for any speakers attached as surrounds.
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I am not a big fan of exotic sound for TV, and have no experience of play bar. I use Sonos for music, and in configurations suited to each room, it delivers to all my expectations, some of which were shaped in my audiophile days. And from those days, I have been quite satisfied with TV sound enhancement delivered by a 2 channel stereo amp and a speaker pair, fed signals from the TV source, with no hankering for 5.1 or whatever higher numbers are now in vogue.

With this background, my question to those that have used both:
What is a better overall compromise for a combined need with equal weightage to TV and music:
1. A Sonos play 5 pair (for its line in) + Sub
2. A playbar+surround play 1 units + Sub

Assume here that the small delay in the lip-sync using the line in is within acceptable limits - I find that to be the case, and for now let that be the assumption for an answer to the above.


I have a Playbar, Sub and 2 x Play 1 - I have the setting activated to give the full stereo for music playback.

There is no doubt that if the Playbar combo is fed a Dolby 5.1 signal the improvement in sound for movies and TV shows is impressive and make a noticeable difference. I have had to buy a switch to feed the Playbar separately from the TV because mine does NOT pass 5.1 - so that is a pain.

In terms of music playback I also have a pair of Play 3s. I think the Play 1s with Sub deliver a fantastic music experience and I often find myself on a Saturday morning listening to a favourite album at high(ish) volume whilst attempting the cryptic crossword.
But if you had to choose between either 1 or 2 in my example, what would you pick for a combined application with equal importance to both music and TV?
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You are compromising a little with both solutions. Playbar better for TV and Play 5 better for music. However the playbar with sub and rears for music is a lot less of a compromise than a Play 5 for TV. Playbar is brilliant with sub for movies, I don't think the play 5 competes as an all rounder. I would go full 5.1 set up.
You are compromising a little with both solutions.
Of course. The question was what is less of a compromise for the circumstance, and perhaps someone that is more of a music fan may have a different answer, if they find this thread and care to post here.
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Hi Kumar, I am a big music fan. I have play 5s in my other rooms. If you want music and TV I still think playbar is less of a compromise
I hear you; I asked the question because some people earlier in this thread did not sound very excited about what the play bar did for their music.

Here's the thing - a 5 pair with a Sub, compared to a play bar with Sub + a 1 pair for surround, when both used for TV, what would be the loss compared to the play bar set up? Just the surround effects, I would guess. How important are these will depend on the nature of movies one likes, I suppose. For something like Casablanca, both would suit just as well? Or for any other movie that doesn't need to have an enveloping sound field?

On the other hand, would a 5 pair + Sub not do a lot more for stereo music compared to a playbar based set up?

Not having heard play bar, I admit I am just speculating here, but this music issue with play bar isn't a thing heard only on this thread.
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Hi, I'm jumping in this thread with a question - but I think it's relevant to the topic.

I have a CONNECT that I was using with an Hifi amp; I used to hook my TV output to it and it was working fine.
Now I dropped the Hifi amp and have a pair of Play:1s that sound perfect for the size of the room.
But if I stream the TV output through the CONNECT to the Play:1s, I have a lot of dropouts; I tried setting the CONNECT input to compressed but then I have a big lag that makes it unusable.
I don't know if I have a problem with interference, but when using Sonos with other content it is working fine.
I was thinking of switching to a Playbar, but I don't know if I will have the same dropouts when streaming to my other Sonos gear.
And if I play TV only through the Playbar, it maybe cheaper to buy a standard soundbar, don't need to add the extra money for the Sonos Playbar.

Any thoughts?
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But if I stream the TV output through the CONNECT to the Play:1s, I have a lot of dropouts; I tried setting the CONNECT input to compressed but then I have a big lag that makes it unusable.
I don't know if I have a problem with interference, but when using Sonos with other content it is working fine.


Hey Crilo,

That lag is because the delay between two different zones is about 70ms to make sure that all the zones playing from that line-in can stay in sync, however this causes problems with lip-sync as you have noticed. In comparison the PLAYBAR to rear/SUB delay is about 30ms so it's much better.

As for the dropouts, do you use WiFi mode or BOOST mode? and how many SONOS devices have you got? It may have something to do with interference as you say.
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The compressed setting adds additional delay on top of the 70ms of uncompressed, so it's even more noticeable. I believe the compressed delay is 2000ms (2 seconds).

As Josh suggested, likely there's some interference or network latency causing the cutouts when you're on uncompressed. I'd be happy to take a look at a diagnostic to see. If you set it back to uncompressed and get some more cutouts, mind following the steps here to submit a diagnostic from your Sonos system and reply back with your confirmation number?

Thanks
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Thanks Stuart - had completely forgotten that there isn't any trueplay on the playbar.

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