Review: Sonos Playbar Page 3

Measurements

Frequency response
56 Hz to 20 kHz ±7.1 dB, ±6.2 dB to 10 kHz, both avg 0-30°

Bass output (CEA-2010A standard)
• Ultra-low bass (20-31.5 Hz) average: 78.6 dB
20 Hz              NA
25 Hz              76.7 dB
31.5 Hz           85.0 dB
• Low bass (40-63 Hz) average: 99.7 dB
40 Hz              92.0 dB
50 Hz              95.9 dB
63 Hz              105.5 dB

I measured the quasi-anechoic frequency response of the A7, I set it atop a 2-meter stand and placed the microphone at a distance of 2 meters. (Quasi-anechoic measurements eliminate reflections from surrounding objects to simulate measuring in an anechoic chamber.) I fed test signals into the left channel, but got the smoothest response when I placed the microphone dead center, horizontally aligned with the center tweeter. Because the drivers are angled up 45°, I tried moving the mic through 0° to 45° angles vertically; I got the smoothest response with the mic at about 15°. I then put the mic close against the front grille (which I couldn't easily remove) to get the bass response. To create the graph shown here, I spliced the bass response up to 220 Hz to an average of quasi-anechoic measurements taken at 0°, ±10°, ±20°, and ±30°. I used a Clio FW analyzer in MLS mode for the quasi-anechoic measurements and log chirp mode for ground plane, feeding test signals into the Playbar's Toslink optical digital input. The quasi-anechoic measurements were smoothed to 1/12th octave, and the whole schmear is normalized to 0 dB at 1 kHz.

Measuring a soundbar with a multidriver horizontal driver array is always tricky, because such arrays use phase manipulation to "beam" sound to specific places in a room and to create crosstalk cancellation effects that trick your ears into thinking you're hearing a surround-sound system. The Playbar's optimized for you-with two ears to gather sound and your brain to process it-rather than for a single measurement microphone. Thus, what you see here represents what the mic picks up, not necessarily what your brain will perceive. That said, it's important to note that the Harman Kardon Soundbar 30 uses a multidriver array and delivers the flattest frequency response I've yet measured from a soundbar.

With all that said and my butt covered, at least from a technical standpoint, the FR measurements of the Playbar suggest a recessed midrange between 300 Hz and 1.6 kHz, which I didn't really hear. There's also a mildly rolled-off treble response, which I did hear, and which I also measured in the Play:3.

What's more important-and not subject to the measurement difficulties noted above-is the Playbar's bass response. While it does have the gradual high-pass roll-off characteristic of sealed-box designs, that roll-off starts way up around 150 Hz, which helps explain the lack of body I heard with some male voices when the subwoofer was in the system.

However, my CEA-2010 bass output measurements show that the Playbar can indeed deliver decent bass output on its own. I did the measurements at 1 meter because the Playbar's output wasn't strong enough to do them at the usual 3 meters. Averages are calculated in pascals per CEA-2010A procedure. Because I couldn't get a measurement at 20 Hz, I subtracted -18 dB from the 25 Hz result to get the ultra-low bass average.

The Playbar doesn't have as much bass output in decibels as the subwoofers included with most 2.1 soundbars do, or as much as the Atlantic PowerBar 235 delivered, but at an average of 99.7 dB from 40 to 63 Hz, it has enough bottom end to give you some sense of bass when it's not used with a sub. However, it actually delivers measurable response (although not much) all the way down to 25 Hz, which neither the PowerBar 235 nor any soundbar sub I've measured can match.

When I attempted my MCMäxxx™ test, in which I normally crank up Mötley Crüe's "Kickstart My Heart" until it sounds distorted then back it off one notch and measure the output at 1 meter, the Playbar still sounded reasonably clean even at full volume, although I did hear what sounded like minor volume fluctuations caused by "pumping" effects from a limiter. At this setting, the Playbar put out 99 dBC at 1 meter. (I normally do this test only with AirPlay and Bluetooth speakers, but since the Playbar can serve a similar purpose, I thought it appropriate.) That's a strong number, about what I got with the Samsung DA-E750, the most powerful dock-type product I've tested to date.

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