New flat screen TVs are vanishingly thin marvels of design and technology. Of course, something’s gotta give and, more often than not, that something is sound quality. That’s because speakers work by moving air, and thanks to the laws of physics, it’s nearly impossible to get decent sound from a super-thin set that lacks the room to push these good vibrations. This is why even high-end TVs tend to produce tinny sound that makes it hard to hear dialogue and subtle sound effects.
The easiest way around this problem: Get a sound bar speaker, which packs an entire home theater’s worth of boom into a single elongated box that sits at the base of your set. But while there are plenty of models on the market, most fall short in a few key ways: They are ugly as sin, worthless for playing music when your TV is turned off, and, unless your media console is mega-big, it can be challenging to find a nice place to put them and still have room for your TV.
BUY: Sonos Playbase, $699; amazon.com
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The Sonos Playbase fixes all of these problems. Unlike other soundbars, it’s designed to sit under your TV, effectively serving as a space-saving base. We’re also loving its discreet design, which feels like it was carved from a single slab of stone and is capable of effectively blending into most living rooms without drawing too much attention to itself.
But the Playbase’s real killer app—and why it bests other soundbars on the market—is its ability to do double duty as a home stereo system centerpiece. In addition to making your flat screen sound better (and this thing really does sound good), it also taps into the Sonos wireless music ecosystem. This gives it easy access to nearly every streaming music service imaginable (hello, Spotify and Pandora!), while also serving as part of a party-tastic multi-room streaming set-up. In just seconds, you can pair the Playbase with other Sonos speakers to play the same—or a different—song in every room in your house, all via an easy-to-use app.
Wins for: Compactness and functionality
- Can pair with other Sonos products for multi-room sound
- Access to virtually every streaming music service
- An accompanying app lets you pick your playlist from afar
- A novel design that sits below your TV, saving space
See the rest of InStyle's 2017 Best of Tech picks here.