If there’s one piece of technology in your home that’s still too frustrating to master, it’s a sound system for the television. People who don’t want to hire an expert to set up high-end speakers around the living room or go through the hassle of doing it themselves often settle for using the TV’s speakers.
The Sonos Playbar aims to bring high-quality sound to a TV without a complicated setup. I’ve been testing this $ 699 one-piece speaker system in my living room for the past week while watching a variety of shows and a few movies, and I’ll be sorry to send it back.
The $ 699 Sonos Playbar can work as a one-device sound system or can be used with additional Sonos speakers. The 12-pound device can be wall-mounted above or below the TV.
Alone, the Playbar produced a rich, smooth, powerful sound — even without its volume cranked up. But its winning attribute is the ability to loop TV audio into other Sonos speakers and choose what speakers play the audio. That’s because all of the company’s devices wirelessly communicate with one another, creating a multi-speaker sound experience without all the wiring.
The whole system can be controlled using a remote-control app that runs on Apple and Android devices, including phones and tablets. In short, the Sonos system is delightfully easy. Competing products exist, but many cost twice as much or require an add-on subwoofer for enhanced sound. And they don’t work with an entire system, like Sonos.
The Playbar marks Sonos’s first real foray into the TV arena. Since its debut about seven years ago, the company has focused on seamlessly piping digital music throughout many rooms. Like its predecessors, the Playbar is a cinch to set up and can play music from a computer or from Internet radio stations.
A system like this doesn’t come cheap. The Playbar costs more than some TVs and the newest models of its related speakers, the Play:3 and Play:5, cost $ 299 and $ 399, respectively. A pair of Play:3 speakers are the only Sonos components that will work with the Playbar to provide true surround sound.
And in some homes, like mine, the Playbar won’t be a perfect fit in the living room. My TV is in an armoire and the 3-foot-wide device couldn’t sit in the shelving below the TV. I ended up resting it on two half-opened drawers at the bottom.
Still, two of the Playbar’s features will be a cause for high fives. They are Night Sound and Speech Enhancement, and both are turned on using the free Sonos app. Night Sound lets parents with sleeping babies watch movies without fear of an action scene suddenly making it sound like the living room exploded. A simple message explains its function when you turn this on: “At lower volumes, quiet sounds will be enhanced and loud sounds will be suppressed.”
Using the Sonos app for iOS or Android devices, people can choose to hear the same audio in different rooms of the house.
Speech Enhancement was a particular favorite in my house, where we feel like we’re losing our hearing because we can’t understand the dialogue in some TV shows. For example, throughout this third season of PBS’s “Downton Abbey,” my husband and I were constantly cranking up the volume or rewinding the recorded show to catch the dowager countess’s zingers. And we use a basic surround-sound system in our living room. Watching the same show with Speech Enhancement made Dame Maggie Smith’s character’s words louder than the background music and other sound in a scene, so we didn’t have to strain to hear.
The Playbar is handsomely designed and it blended in well with my TV, even on the two opened drawers. It can be stood on its thin, 3-inch edge or laid on its wider, 5.5-inch edge without affecting the sound. It can be wall mounted above or below the TV. Keep in mind, though, that the Playbar weighs nearly 12 pounds.
I set up the Playbar by plugging in just two cords: An optical audio cable, supplied by Sonos, and its power cord. A Sonos representative said most TVs made within roughly the past seven years will work with this.
The Playbar also needs to connect to a router and though my router isn’t far from my TV, I couldn’t connect my Playbar to it using the included Ethernet cable. Instead, I used a Sonos Bridge, which costs $ 49, to wirelessly connect the Playbar to my router. I also set up a Sonos Play:3 speaker in my living room so I could see how it worked with the Playbar.
Using the Sonos app on my Android phone, I followed the steps to set up the Bridge and Playbar by pressing buttons on each device. Each took less than a minute. The app walked me through programming my remote to work with the Playbar. I use TiVo, and by following a few steps to test the remote, like pressing Mute three times, I quickly got my TiVo remote set up to control the Playbar volume as well as TV functions and TiVo commands.
But the Play:3 speaker didn’t obey my TiVo remote. To control its volume, I had to adjust it using a button on the small speaker, or use the Sonos app, which I tested on an iPad and Android phone. A Sonos representative said this is deliberate so if someone has a Play:3 set up in the kitchen and a person watching TV suddenly cranks up the volume, the kitchen speaker isn’t blaring sound.
With the Playbar, Sonos adds to its long tradition of smart, elegant devices that really work without driving you mad during setup. If you can shell out the cash for this TV enhancement, it won’t disappoint.
Email Katie at email@example.com.Related Posts:
Validity Sensors, the San Jose-based maker of fingerprint scanning sensors and authentication technology, announced today that it has closed $ 10 million of a $ 20 million series E financing round. (It will close the second half in the next month.) The investment was led by TeleSoft Partners, with participation from Validity’s previous investors, including Crossslink Capital, Panorama Capital, Qualcomm Ventures and Venture Tech Associates. The round brings Validity’s total funding to $ 78.6 million.
While there are tons of security apps and password lockers that help keep mobile devices, computers and sensitive digital info secure, the prevailing form of authentication still comes in the form of good ole passwords and PINs. Of course, most people use the same password for multiple different accounts, or have a tendency to forget the complex ones login pages ask them to create.
As we’ve all learned, these forms of authentication are difficult to remember, ineffective and fairly easy to hack. With the exploding growth of mobile payment transactions and cloud-based services, new (or better) forms of security are needed to protect our data both in the cloud and on the go, especially considering the expected growth of mobile payments — and how frequently we’ll be using our phones to pay bills, receive coupons and coupons and location based offers etc in the next few years. That’s where Validity Sensors wants to enter the picture.
Validity and companies like it believe that, even with advances in multi-factor authentication technology (facial, voice, etc.), fingerprints are still the best and simplest way to verify identity. The company has developed fingerprint sensor tech that enables authentication, device login, access to digital and mobile wallets, password management, app launching and so on — for smartphones, tablets and notebooks.
In the future, this tech will move to allowing content control for home media usage and home automation and monitoring, and really access control to a wide range of things (namely robot butlers). Collectively, all these apps need a simple way to securely authenticate the user’s identity — that isn’t going away any time soon.
The company’s mobile fingerprint solution provides handset designers with a solution that can identify users, protect mobile payments and launch (and log user into) email, social networks, shopping and banking — just by swiping their finger. Partners can then integrate Validity’s technology in under-glass solutions or add it to home and power buttons on mobile devices and notebooks. Currently, Validity’s solutions support Android and Windows operating systems.
Since launching its products in 2008, Validity has shipped more than 30 million sensors to OEMs, focusing initially on PCs. More recently, it has turned its attention to the smartphone and tablet markets, and its new $ 20 million round will be used to support that push.
Another few potential up-sides for Validity? In May, the company nabbed the former head of PayPal’s mobile ecosystem, Sebastian Taveau, making him CTO.
Secondly, in July, Apple bought its largest competitor, AuthenTec, for $ 356 million. Among other things, AuthenTec is known for making fingerprint sensor chips that are embedded in computing devices to enhance security and identification — sounds familiar, right? Apple’s acquisition came about a month after the company had signed a deal with Samsung to become its security and device management partner for its Android devices.
By pushing more aggressively into the mobile space and bringing on capital from strategic, mobile and software investors, Validity hoping for comparable outcome.Related Posts:
The Big Bad Wolf laughs at your plastic walls!
I know I said LEGO in the headline, but they’re actually DUPLO (LEGO’s harder to swallow chubby lil sister). I only name-dropped LEGO because I knew it would draw you into this riveting article. Pretty titillating so far, amirite? “Needs work.” Fine, FINE — I’M CRANKING THIS POST UP TO LEVEL 11 IN 3…2…*CATASTROPHIC ENGINE FAILURE!* Too bad, maybe next time. This is a kid’s room with the walls covered entirely in DUPLO base plates for the children to build off of. But, based on the height of the majority of the constructions, I’m guessing somebody’s dad is actually the one having all the fun. And can you blame him? You cannot. You can make fun of his building skills though. WTF are those even supposed to be, bro?! You will never be an architect! Back me up here, Frank Lloyd Wright! Frank? Go ahead, whenever you’re ready. “He’s been dead over fifty years.” GUGGENHEIM’D!
LEGO Duplo Walls: I Want My Whole Place Like This [technabob]
Thanks to Terri, who has Erector Set walls. That…sounds like poking an eye out just waiting to happen.Related Posts: