By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
SANTA BARBARA, CALIF. — Sonos, the supplier of wireless multi-room-audio systems, entered the soundbar market with the $699-suggested Playbar, which connects to a TV and to Sonos’ wireless multi-room-audio network to stream music from PCs, Apple’s mobile devices, and Internet radio stations and music services.
The $699-suggested Playbar can be paired with two Sonos Play:3 wireless Sonos-network speakers, priced at a suggested $299 each, to create a 5.1-channel wireless home theater speaker system. The three-foot-wide Playbar can also be paired with the company’s $699 Sonus Sub wireless subwoofer.
The Playbar connects to TVs via optical digital input and features Dolby Digital 5.1 decoding.
The company cited multiple reasons for entering the fast-growing category, including dealer demand. Product manager Scott Fink also pointed out that “consumers do a lot of music listening in their TV rooms,” and he said the combination of a soundbar with wireless multi-roomaudio capability reduces equipment clutter. Consumers no longer have to find a separate spot for Sonos’ $299 and $399 active tabletop speakers, $499 ConnectAmp that connects to passive speakers, or $349 Connect, a wireless streamer which connects to any sound system to stream music through Sonos’ wireless-audio network.
Integrating Sonos into a soundbar also simplifies operation compared to plugging the Connect wireless streamer into other-brand soundbars because users don’t have to change soundbar inputs to listen to streamed music, nor do they have to use separate remotes to control the soundbar and the Connect, Fink said.
Also to simplify operation, the bar relegates all videosource switching to the TV so that users don’t have to whip out a soundbar remote to switch video inputs while using a TV or cable-box remote to control the TV or cable box, he said.
The Sonos soundbar features one audio input, which connects to a TV’s optical output to play back any TV-connected video source. The soundbar’s optical input takes in Dolby Digital 5.1 if the TV’s output passes it through. If not, the optical input accepts two-channel PCM from the TV.
Whatever form the incoming audio takes, the soundbar uses 24 MIPS signal processing, in conjunction with the side-firing tweeters, to widen the sound stage and deliver surround effects to the left and right of a listener, Fink said. The effects are more compelling when the bar receives a 5.1 signal, he noted.
Surround effects can be placed behind listeners when Sonos’ wireless speakers are used as left-right surround speakers and placed to the sides and behind the listening position, Fink said.
The soundbar will be available March 5 at Sonos.com, Amazon.com, Best Buy.com, Magnolia Home Theater, P.C. Richard & Son, hhgregg, Abt, and custom-install and A/V specialty stores. The device won’t be available through Target, which sells select Sonos products.
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