Sonos is finally making its long awaited surge in Dolby Atmos home theater audio. These efforts begin with the new $ 799 Arc, a premium soundbar that replaces the playbar in the Sonos range. The Oddball Playbase speaker, which fits under some TVs, is also discontinued today, as Sonos simplifies your options for Arc and Beam only.
It's not cheap at $ 800 and $ 100 more expensive than the Playbar, but Sonos claims the Arc sets a new standard for the soundbar category. It will be released on June 10th and will only work with the new Sonos S2 app when launched on iOS, Android, Windows and Mac early next month. Arc, Sub 3rd generation and Sonos Five are the first products to be built on the company's S2 platform, enabling higher fidelity audio (as shown here by Atmos), enhanced security and other new features that Sonos does not offer talk.
The Arc will be available in either black or white and has an elongated, matte plastic design with 76,000 holes drilled into the case. Most Atmos sound bars, including Vizio's, are blocky, and Sonos takes great pride in the curved 270-degree grill on the Arc. (Yes, this is where the name comes from in part.) The longer form factor is the direct result of consumer buying trends. 65-inch TVs are now the order of the day, and people are getting bigger when their living room allows it. If you are in a cramped apartment with a smaller screen, the Beam may be a more sensible choice.
The Sonos Arc Soundbar is shown with a Sub and two One SL rear surround speakers.
Inside this outer shell are 11 drivers that fire audio anywhere in your room to create an immersive, multi-directional sound. As with most sound bars, the center channel focuses on clarity of dialogue so you don't miss what is said in a movie or TV show. The left and right channels as well as the surround and high speakers increase the feeling of spaciousness and immersion that comes from the arc. As always, Sonos kept an eye on music playback when developing the product, and says that thanks to these eight woofers and three tweeters, it delivers neutral audio with an extremely wide sound stage.
The Arc can play PCM stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Digital Plus and Dolby Atmos audio. DTS and multi-channel PCM audio are not supported. It automatically optimizes what the drivers do in each scenario. For example, if what you're playing on TV doesn't contain Atmos audio, the upward-facing speakers focus instead on the low-end response.
In general, you need a TV with an eARC-HDMI connection and a 4K Blu-ray player bought in the last few years to get the most out of the Arc's lossless Atmos playback. But even if your device is a bit older, you should be able to compress Atmos via regular ARC through a variety of streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Vudu.
The Arc alone can serve as a 5.0.2 Atmos system. Seven channel audio feeds are always mixed up to five. But you can build from there with rear surrounds – that's why there are the One SL speakers – and the Sub. (Sonos updates the Sub today with improved computing power, more memory, and a new wireless radio. Otherwise, it looks the same as before and costs $ 699.) Even the bookshelves or lamp speakers from Sonos and Ikea can be integrated into the arc system, if you have a pair of them.
Aside from the rumbling bass, the main advantage of adding the sub to the mix is that the arc can outsource these low frequencies. When not all has to be done, the soundbar adjusts its sound profile to focus on high and medium frequencies to achieve a more complete and rich listening experience as the sub handles the low end.
Like the Beam, the Arc also has integrated microphones for hands-free voice control with Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. Apple's AirPlay 2, a standard feature for newer Sonos devices, is also supported.
So many holes.
The Arc connects to your TV's eARC or ARC HDMI port. If you prefer this connection method, an HDMI to optics adapter is also included. However, if you work optically, you will not get an Atmos because the required bandwidth cannot be processed. It would have been nice if Sonos had integrated HDMI pass-through, but no: it is only the one port.
Once you're all connected, you can optimize the output of the Arc using the Sonos app on an iPhone or iPad using the Trueplay feature, which optimizes the sound characteristics for your room. Trueplay has been improved and now takes the ceiling height for the Atmos material into account. Sorry, Android users, Trueplay is still not available for your phones. Based on my conversations with Sonos, I doubt that this will change soon. And unlike the move, which Trueplay can do itself without your help, the Arc still requires the old process of walking around your living room and moving your phone up and down so the Sonos app gets a feel for how the audio bouncing off walls.
Sonos has designed the Arc so that it can either stand on a TV stand or be mounted on the wall. When mounted, the soundbar is smart enough to reduce bass response by default so your walls don't rattle. (It uses a magnetic sensor to detect this.) The arc has other small details: Inside is an environmental sensor that lowers the brightness of its status LEDs when your room becomes dark for the movie night. And it is more energy efficient and uses 26 percent less electricity than the playbar when idling.
The Arc is probably the best soundbar Sonos has ever made, but despite the obsessive attention to audio routing and 3D positioning that the company's engineers have shown, it is still a soundbar. Sure, it'll blow the beam and maybe even the playbar in fidelity, but at that price of $ 800 – especially if you add the $ 700 – home theater enthusiasts will also be curious to find out how to get a real one 7.1 Setup compares placed Atmos speakers. And while it may outperform most mainstream sound bars, there are still (much) more expensive options like the Sennheiser Ambeo that are trying to set new expectations for the possibilities of one of these bars. To see how the Sonos Arc builds up, be prepared for the upcoming review of The Verge.