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Sonos Beam vs Playbase (2020): Should You Get the Sonos Soundbar or Soundbase?

The Sonos Beam smart soundbar and the Sonos Playbase are two premium speakers designed to be paired with televisions. Aptly named, the Beam is a pill-shaped soundbar while the Playbase is a soundbase that can support TVs that weigh up to 75 lbs. Apart from their obvious difference–their size–how else are these wireless speakers different and which will better suit your home theater set-up? Our in-depth comparison of the Sonos Beam and the Sonos Playbase will help you decide.

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Sonos Beam Smart Soundbar

Tuned by award-winning sound engineers and equipped with Amazon Alexa, the Sonos Beam is the audio giant's most compact and affordable soundbar to date.

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Sonos Beam vs Playbase Comparison Chart

ModelSonos BeamSonos Playbase
Sonos Beam
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Wall MountableYes (mount is sold separately)No
Dimensions (W x H x D)25.6″ x 2.6″ x 4.0″28.35″ x 2.28″ x 14.96″
Weight6.2 lbs18.85 lbs
Speakers510
Microphones5No
Audio DecoderDolby Digital, PCM StereoDolby Digital, PCM Stereo
Built-in Voice AssistantAmazon Alexa, Google AssistantNo
Apple AirPlay 2YesYes
Remote ControlNoYes
AppYesYes
Wi-FiYesYes
BluetoothNoYes
Audio InputOptical (through an adapter for the HDMI ARC)Optical
HDMI Port1No
Audio Return ChannelYesNo
USB inputNoNo
Year of Release20182017
ColorsBlack, WhiteBlack, White

Design

While the Sonos Beam and the Playbase significantly differ in size, they both look sleek, simple, and elegant

The Sonos Beam (top) has a smaller footprint than the Playbase (bottom)

Both the Sonos Beam and Playbase sport sleek, minimalist design and come in black and white models. As it is a soundbar, the Beam is slimmer and shorter by about three inches than the Playbase. Its width is only 4 inches while the Playbase needs at least 14 inches of space on your TV stand. Both can still fit in between the legs of most televisions, but the Playbase is a soundbase that is designed to support TVs that weigh up to 75 lbs. Get the Playbase only if you’re not planning on mounting your wireless speaker.

They differ in their grille material as the Beam comes with a cloth grille that extends around its frame whereas the Playbase comes with a more premium-looking and durable metal grille with 43,000 holes. They both have touch-capacitive controls found at their top panels.

Setup and Control

Both the Sonos Beam and the Playbase have touch and app controls, but only the Beam comes with built-in smart voice assistants

Since the Beam (left) is more recent, it has more updated features than the Playbase (right)

Setting up the Sonos Beam and the Playbase couldn’t be more effortless as Sonos has one of the most user-friendly and intuitive interface among wireless speakers in the market. Simply download the Sonos app, plug your wireless soundbar or soundbase, connect to the TV through the provided cable, and follow the instructions on the app when prompted. It is worth noting though that the Playbase only has optical input while the Beam is compatible with HDMI ARC (Audio Return Channel).

While they don’t come with a physical remote control, both have responsive touch-capacitive controls at the top of their panels for basic controls. The rest of the controls is done on the Sonos app. They can also be controlled through AirPlay 2 for Apple aficionados. Where the Beam beats the Playbase is with its built-in voice assistants. The Beam smart soundbar is equipped with five far-field microphones so Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant can detect your voice even when the room is not quiet. If you want voice controls with the Sonos Playbase, you have to set it up with a separate smart home assistant of choice.

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Sonos Playbase Soundbase

Equipped with 10 speaker drivers, the Sonos Playbase soundbase can deliver immersive listening experience even in larger spaces. It's available in black and white models.

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Since they both have WiFi connectivity, you can easily stream music straight from your device. Setting up either the Beam or the Playbase with other Sonos wireless speakers for a fuller surround sound is also made easy by the Sonos app.

Features

Both the Sonos Beam and Playbase let you adjust the EQ settings and they automatically calibrate the audio to your room

Both the Beam (in photo) and the Playbase come with Sonos’ essential features

They are both equipped with Sonos’ essential features and technology such as adjustable EQ, Trueplay tuning, and Speech Enhancement Feature. When you’re done setting up your wireless speaker, take it up a notch by doing Sonos’ Trueplay tuning to ensure optimal audio output for your room. Using an iOS device, the Trueplay feature detects the sound bouncing off of your walls and furniture and adjusts the audio accordingly. This results in high-quality sound bespoke for your room and your favorite watching spot.

Another way you can fine-tune the audio to your preference is by adjusting the EQ on the Sonos app until you achieve your desired output. They also boast a Speech Enhancement feature in the app that gives better vocal clarity when the decoded sound is softer, such as dialogues between characters that are whispering to each other.

Sound Quality

Both the Sonos Beam and Playbase deliver a crisp, clear, immersive sound, but the Sonos Playbase delivers overall better audio

While both sound great, the Playbase (in photo) simply sounds better because of its 10 speaker drivers

While both wireless speakers deliver high-quality audio that Sonos has been known for, the Playbase has an edge over the Beam because of its size. Because the Sonos Beam is significantly more compact than the Playbase, it carries fewer sound drivers than the soundbase.

The Beam is equipped with three passive radiators for better bass, four full-range woofers, one tweeter, and five Class D amplifiers. Where the Beam shines is in vocal clarity, but when it comes to sound effects such as explosions that require deeper bass, you may find this smart soundbar wanting. With that said, it still offers incredible sound for its price.

Meanwhile, the bigger Sonos Playbase boasts a total of 10 speaker drivers–six mid-range drivers, three tweeters, and one woofer–and 10 Class D amplifiers. All these work together to deliver clear, crisp sound and wide soundstage. The Playbase offers a fuller, more-detailed sound than the Beam, but that is not saying that the Beam smart soundbar sounds bad. They still provide great audio quality, but just not as good as its pricier and bigger sibling.

Verdict

The Sonos Beam has better features and offers better value for your money, but the Sonos Playbase delivers better audio quality

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Sonos Beam Smart Soundbar

Tuned by award-winning sound engineers and equipped with Amazon Alexa, the Sonos Beam is the audio giant's most compact and affordable soundbar to date.

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Sonos Playbase Soundbase

Equipped with 10 speaker drivers, the Sonos Playbase soundbase can deliver immersive listening experience even in larger spaces. It's available in black and white models.

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While both the Sonos Beam and Playbase deliver stunning audio quality that Sonos is known for, the more recent Beam soundbar gets our vote. Its more updated features, smaller footprint, and more attractive price point are hard to beat. If you will only use the soundbar for a small to medium-sized room, the Sonos Beam is the speaker of choice. For a more immersive full surround sound, you can expand your Sonos family by adding subs or other Sonos speakers when the budget allows.

If you are solely after the audio quality though and the cost and smart features are no object, the Sonos Playbase will be a better fit for you. Should you decide you want the convenience of voice controls, you can easily pair it with a smart home assistant of your choice. The Playbase soundbase is especially better if you will use the Sonos speaker in a large room.

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Rhodaline Escala-Phelps
Rhodaline Escala-Phelps

Managing Editor and Team Leader at Compare Before Buying. Writer and researcher passionate about people, product comparisons, culture, and current events.