Playbase - Is lack of DTS an issue? Should I wait for a Playbar refresh?

  • 7 January 2019
  • 12 replies
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Hello,

I recently purchased the Sonos Beam on sale over Christmas, but I am considering returning it and purchasing a Playbase instead.

I want a Sonos solution in my living room that can act both as my TV audio system and also be my primary music system in my living room.

I am leaning towards going for the Playbase rather than the Beam as I feel it will give louder sound and more bass which will make it more suitable as a long term music solution. I have also found it for sale at £500 which is much more attractive than the usual £700.

My main concern about the Playbase are:

1 - Lack of DTS
Is this an issue and what exactly does it mean? I have seen numerous review raising the lack of DTS and Atmos as being a big omission in a system this expensive.

What is the general consensus on this?
What does not having DTS actually mean?
And what is the drawback, what features does a Playbar or Playbase user miss out on as a result?

2 - Possible upcoming Playbar refresh
With the Beam now having been released, I suspect it is only a matter of time before Sonos launch a full sized playbar that offers HDMI / Voice control and possible DTS / Atmos.

As a result I am concerned that it is a bad time to invest in the Playbase as it may be likely to be superceded in the near future and become somewhat dated.

Is there an expectation of a new Sonos soundbar in 2019? And what is the companies stance on DTS and Atmos, is it expected in the future?

Many thanks for any feedback.

12 replies

june 2019. I just bought Denon professional DN-500BD MKII (at B&H Photo in NYC) and, out of the box, plays dvd dts 5.1 over my bravia/sonos sound bar with surround speakers listening now. easy! (couldnt really tell from the online research i did, so i just went for it and it works. about $400
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You already mentioned it. Bluray discs and players are often in DTS only. If you stream video exclusively and/or have a player that can convert DTS to DD 5.1, it's not an issue.

And to be perfectly honest, I'm not feeling like a 3.1 system is much better than 2.1 when the L+R channels are so physically close together, as they are in a soundbar. Even less so if the soundbar has a dialog enhancement feature. Heck, the Sonos Amp is a 2.1 system (with Sub and no surrounds) with a simulated center channel.


Most bars are wide enough to image the left + right channel very well, with good separation. Even the Beam which is actually quite narrow.

What I dont trust is a single bar projecting vertical sound (Atmos / DTS:X) or side/surround sound. I'd rather have discrete speakers for those channels.
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A Dolby Digital 5.1 surround experience with Sonos, is better than a DTS experience played through a bar and a sub. And that particular system cannot be extended to incorporate rear/surround speakers, so whats the advantage of it being DTS compatible?


You already mentioned it. Bluray discs and players are often in DTS only. If you stream video exclusively and/or have a player that can convert DTS to DD 5.1, it's not an issue.

And to be perfectly honest, I'm not feeling like a 3.1 system is much better than 2.1 when the L+R channels are so physically close together, as they are in a soundbar. Even less so if the soundbar has a dialog enhancement feature. Heck, the Sonos Amp is a 2.1 system (with Sub and no surrounds) with a simulated center channel.
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I'm sorry to rain on your parade but a soundbar is a soundbar. DTS is a multi-channel technology. Definitive is a good company, but a soundbar can only do so much in terms of simulating sound that surrounds the listener. (Sonos' single bar only needs to represent the front 3 channel).

Unless you are playing some sort of source that is ONLY available in DTS, that would not otherwise be compatible with a Sonos system, then that's really missing the point.

A Dolby Digital 5.1 surround experience with Sonos, is better than a DTS experience played through a bar and a sub. And that particular system cannot be extended to incorporate rear/surround speakers, so whats the advantage of it being DTS compatible?
I love my Sonos speakers but I recently got tired of waiting for a playbar refresh. I purchased the Difinitive Technology W playbar and sub. Its amazing and has HDMI, DTS and Wi-Fi support.

I may consider the Playbar refresh but Sonos is falling behind in this area.
Actually, the thing you might want to consider (and I don't know, I'm suggesting the question, without knowing the answer) is if there is a chip in the Sonos devices that decodes the signal, or if it's totally software. If it's software, then it's more possible that if Sonos was willing to pay the necessary licensing fee for all previously sold devices, they could get DTS. If it's all on a chip, though, the older devices won't have the ability to be updated.
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Even Sonos newest release "Sonos Amp" only does Dolby Digital …. so no idea as to how long that wait would be. There is nothing hinting that a Playbar gen2 would have DTS.
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There are many variants of DTS, just as there are of Dolby.

Optical can carry most DTS. So theoretically, if any of the 3 Sonos TV products can be upgraded to decide DTS, they can receive the DTS over optical
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Thanks for the replies.

One final question on DTS, is my understanding correct that optical connections don’t have enough bandwidth to support DTS surround but HDMI does?

And if so, does that mean that theoretically if Sonos chose to add DTS support in the future the Beam would be able to support the feature but the Playbar and Playbase would not?

Thanks
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Atmos, in my very personal opinion, is a complete gimmick. Dolby is making a killing licensing it out.

Whereas traditional surround sound audio carries sound in specific, discrete channels -- e.g. gunfire in left-surround speaker, Atmos conveys it as a position -- "gunfire to the left of the audience". Then then the Atmos-compatible playback system can reproduce it in any way is appropriate, regardless of whether that system has 2,3,4,5,10,15,20 speakers.

Which makes sense on paper. Except they license Atmos for smartphones, laptops, and headphones, which in effect means nothing coming out of 2 teeny tiny speakers. Especially when one of the potential of Atmos is to convey sound with vertical component.

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If you have source media (=DVD) that has DTS only, it cannot be played played directly by Sonos. It will need to be treated by some intermediate device -- such as the DVD player, or the Television.

On that intermediate device:

* the DTS 5.1 can be converted to DD 5.1 ("Transcoding"...some DVD players perform this)
* the DTS 5.1 can be downmixed to stereo (2 channels)... then Sonos can remix and reproject to 5.1
* the device finds another compatible audio stream (2 channels)... then Sonos can remix and reproject to 5.1

Best case scenario you get transcoding which preserves the discrete audio channels. Worst case scenario you get the "fake" surround sound (called Dolby Pro Logic)

***

In actual practice? I watch mostly Netflix and Amazon Prime streaming, and most of these titles are a variant of Dolby Digital, so I can get the "real" surround sound experience through Sonos. I have some older movie files that are either stereo, or DTS surround sound, and because my playing device (a computer server) cannot perform transcoding, I get the fake surround sound, which is disappointing.... but thats only with these old files that I have.

All really depends on what sources you are using.
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Thanks for the reply melvimbe.

I think I probably asked too many questions in my original post and probably should have just focussed on the Playbase and not speculated on future products.

To make it a little more focussed, what exactly does the lack of the DTS support mean to me as a potential Playbase user?

If a DVD is in DTS will the Playbase still play it? Or will it not be able to play the DVD audio at all?

If it can play the audio will it still do so in 5.1?

Are there any other drawbacks I should be aware of?

Thanks
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You're going to get lots of different opinions on how important DTS is. Several threads go into depth on this. Sonos has never suggested that they would introduce DTS in a future product, and since they did not do it with the playbase or beam, and I'd be surprised if they did for a hypothetical playbar 2.0. There is only speculation about a new playbar, but I would guess that if it does comes out soon, it will have voice integration and airplay compatibility, and not much else different. Probably not worth waiting for unless these features are of high importance to you.

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