In summary, the Sonos Five and Sonos Playbar are designed for different audio venues. The Five as a dedicated music speaker and the Playbar for home theater.
By the way, Sonos discontinued the Playbar, and they currently only offer 3 soundbars: Ray, Beam and Arc.
I'd recommend you to check out the article at soundton.com/sonos-arc-vs-beam/ if you're planning to get a Sonos soundbar.
Let me tell you something right off the bat.
The sound quality performance you'll end up getting from a speaker will always depend on your room acoustics - particularly room dimensions and speaker positions.
The impact of the combination of these two is actually so strong that in most cases, it doesn't even make sense to utter a single word on sound quality without speaking of them.
This is also why it's not unusual to see completely different reviews of the same speaker.
In one case the speaker might be placed in a sweet spot inside the room and hence the user might be satisfied. In other cases the same speaker might be ill placed and hence user might even have returned it.
The point most people miss here is that it mostly isn't even about the engineering behind the speaker itself. It's about where you place the speaker inside which room.
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So, in order to solve this problem, I've partnered with an Acoustics and Audio Engineering PhD and created Soundton - a simple, 2D, browser accessible online speaker placement calculator.
With Soundton, now there's a way to figure the sound quality of most speakers before you buy them.
Read more about its working principles at soundton.com.
The end colormap provides you the locations with the best (green) and worst (red) acoustics.
ASAP Science also made a video on the loudest and quietest rooms in the world. A mind blowing example of the importance of acoustics (play time adjusted video below).
Other parameters such as the age/materials of the building, the furniture & carpets in place, etc can and will, of course, have an effect on room acoustics, too. But it's much less compared to other parameters mentioned above.
Also, while you're at it, blast my Hidden Electronic Gems list to test the speakers:
This paragraph alone should have provided you with the answer you've been looking for.
Having said that, both have been used cross-purposely to the approval of some and disapproval of others.
So you might still get stuck between them even after you figured out their best uses. If that's you, read on.
What aspects do the Sonos Five and Sonos Playbar share:
- High quality design by Sonos to exacting standards.
- Whole-home network connectivity via Wi-Fi or Ethernet.
- Setup and control via the Sonos S1 or advanced S2 Controller/App installed on an iOS, iPadOS or Android device. Learn more about the benefits of the Sonos S2 Controller/App here.
- Control only via Windows or Apple OS personal computer using the Sonos S1 or S2 controller/App.
- If you own an iOS or iPadOS device the speakers can be tuned to your room’s environment via TruePlay built into the Sonos Controller/App *
- Enjoyable listening experience for their intended purpose.
* Trueplay is spatially-aware tuning technology available in the Sonos app.
So, what sets the two speakers apart:
- The Sonos Playbar is designed for connection to a TV via optical cable. It’s primary purpose is to improve upon the audio delivered by a TV’s internal speakers with no noticeable audio lag.
- It’s form factor is a compact design that effectively replaces the Left/Center/Right stand-alone wired home theater speakers within a sleek integrated package.
- The design effectively delivers Dolby Digital 3.0 audio sent from a compatible source connected to your TV.
- The audio can also be sent directly to the Playbar from a source over optical by-passing the TV’s optical output while sending the video portion (from the same source) over HDMI cable to the TV.
- A Sonos sub and be integrated with the Playbar via a process called “bonding” to deliver Dolby Digital 3.1 audio.
- Adding Sonos surrounds (Sonos One or Sonos One SL x 2 or two Sonos Five’s ) via the same bonding process delivers Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Note: Removing the Sonos sub reduces the audio to Dolby Digital 5.0!
- The Playbar be used as a wireless music speaker via the Sonos App without the TV being turned on.
- It can be grouped with other Sonos speakers. I recommend this only for music. Grouping the Playbar with other Sonos speakers for TV audio will result in a 70ms audio delay to those speakers.
- Airplay 2 compatible when grouped to a Sonos speaker that is natively AirPlay 2 capable.
- The Sonos Five is designed to deliver music audio of any genre in Hi-Fidelity Stereo sound; even as a stand-alone speaker. The stereo effect may diminish beyond 2 meters.
- It can be used as dedicated speaker for a Turntable (with pre-amp) or CD player via connection to its 3.5mm input.
- Always wireless for music or any streaming service that is compatible with the Sonos controller/app.
- Natively Airplay 2 compatible.
- Two Sonos Five’s can be set as a stereo pair to deliver an immersive sound stage for stereo music listening.
- A Sonos sub can be added for increased bass response. Some will say that a sub is not needed.
- Two Sonos Fives’ can be used a surrounds for any Sonos home theater speaker (Arc, Beam, Playbar or Playbase). However, IMO the limited material sent as surround makes their use as such overkill.
- The Sonos Five either as a stand-alone or stereo pair can be connected to a TV via it’s 3.5mm input jack. Doing so is a personal decision as that is not the intended use.
The Sonos Playbar is best suited as a home theater speaker.
Besides the fact that it has been discontinued in favor of the Sonos Arc, it may add undesirable coloring to music for some.
The previous statement is not to say that the Sonos Arc is recommended for music.
The Sonos Five IMO should be your go-to Sonos product for music enjoyment.
The Sonos Five has replaced the Sonos Play 5 that was recently discontinued. The main difference being increased memory for features yet to be announced.
That said IMO there is no immediate need to upgrade as the Play 5 is compatible with the Sonos S2 Controller/App.
As in any situation regarding audio the final decision as to how a speaker will be used is subjective based upon need and what is heard.
The preceding is my opinion based upon Sonos specifications and (if you will allow) a little personal bias thrown in for good measure.
Lastly, here's a good video review of the Five: