Take a look inside Sonos’ brand new, monolithic-yet-minimalist PLAYBASE

When Sonos announce a new speaker, the whole world takes notice. This is a company that has spent the last 15 years focused on quality over quantity, with years of R&D behind every new speaker that hits the shelves. In fact, as of today, this is their entire range of products:

On the bottom left you may notice one that you haven’t seen before – and this is the monolithic-yet-minimalist speaker that Sonos have announced today. Set for release next month, the Sonos Playbase is the sort of product so simple in its outward appearance, that it’s surprising it didn’t exist before. But as the project’s Industrial Design Manager Youjin Nam said of its lengthy construction: “Making a simple thing is never simple”.

The idea of the PLAYBASE is indeed simple: build a speaker for television that is designed to sit with the television. This is what their current PLAYBAR ended up being used for – though it was designed to be wall mounted; something plenty weren’t able to do (in fact only 30% of primary TVs are wall-mounted), opting instead to sit it in front of the TV on furniture. It’s a fine compromise, but not what makers intended aesthetically or aurally. The PLAYBASE, however, fills that gap in the market – and is set to launch at the same price point as the PLAYBAR.

In a special event in Boston last month, Director of Platform Strategies Michael Papish, said they were trying to make a speaker that you didn’t even notice was there, something that he said took them three years to figure out how to do.

“We had to figure out how to achieve the minimalist speaker that harmonises with the TV but disappears beneath it,” Papish said. “It’s a beautiful object, but once it’s there, you never notice it. This is the best expression of how we think about design.”

He said they wanted it to look “monolithic”, with the “seamless, 360 degree design that’s in our philosophy”.  And here’s where it gets complicated… “It had to be wide enough and thick enough to let a TV sit on top of it. But not too big that it can’t sit on the furniture in the first place. But also thin enough that it could fit comfortably between the legs of bigger TVs that come in that design.”

And it is. At 58mm (2.3in) it’s their thinnest speaker ever. The PLAYBAR, by comparison, is 85mm. And you can comfortably sit your TV on top of it, up to about 34kg, without damaging the unit. To achieve this, they engineered a speaker unlike anything that had come before it. While in Boston, I had the chance to look at all the pieces that made up the PLAYBASE, which you can look at yourself here:

Here’s some facts you need to know about the PLAYBASE:

  • Equal parts TV speaker and music speaker, including access to more than 80 music services.
  • Sets up easily with just two cords. One for power, one for the TV.
  • Works with your existing TV remote, just like the PLAYBAR.
  • Securely supports screens up to 34kg, which covers just about any TV that comes with a stand.
  • Features the same Dialogue Enhancement and Night Mode settings as our highly touted PLAYBAR.
  • Can be custom-tuned with Trueplay for the best sound possible, no matter where or how you set it up.
  • Sends your TV’s sound to Sonos speakers in other rooms.
  • Connects wirelessly to SUB and a pair of Sonos rears for a full 5.1 surround setup.

Furthering their point of the difficulties behind designing the PLAYBASE, engineers at Sonos had to literally invent new technologies and manufacturing methodologies to create the seamless design, which includes the complex insert molding process, new resins (glass-filled polycarbonate), and the thoroughly developed paint process for both White & Black SKUs.

Its grill, meanwhile, has 43,000 individually drilled holes in five different sizes that gradually get bigger as they turn the corners toward the subwoofer and the vent, to move as much air as possible, something that had also never been done before.

Here’s everything else you need to know about the specs of the unit:

Audio

Amplifier
Ten Class-D digital amplifiers

Ten Driver Speaker System
Six midrange, three tweeters, and one woofer, all custom designed for the speaker’s acoustic architecture

Power & Networking

Power Supply
AC 100-240V, 50-60

Ethernet Port
10/1000Mbps Ethernet port

System Requirements
TV with optical audio output. Broadband Internet. Sonos Controller App

Physical

Dimensions – H x W x D
2.28 x 28.35 x 14.17 in. (58 x 720 x 380 mm)

Weight
18.85 lbs. (8.6 kg)

Top-Panel Touch Controls
Volume, Play/Pause, Next Track, Previous Track

Pricing
$699 USD, 799 EUR, $999 AUD, $899 CAD, ¥5,580 RMB, £699 GBP, 7,499 SEK, 6,999 NOK, 5,999 DKK, 869 CHF

The Sonos PLAYBASE will be available globally from April 4th. For more details head to their official website. Sonos owners have an exclusive opportunity to pre-order on sonos.com starting today.

The author travelled to Boston with Sonos.