Review: Sonos Arc sound bar

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Erin Lawrence

sonos, arc, sound bar, review how

With all the time we’re spending at home, there’s been an increase in interest in creating a dedicated home theatre. To do that, you need a smart 4K TV with streaming built in and, in my opinion, a sound bar. Sound bars, like the Sonos Arc, are great because they bring depth, resonance and detail to the audio – so it matches the ultra HD video quality.

Sonos Arc review

Sound bars are also great because they’re compact and can provide a lot of power and room-filling sound, in a much smaller and less complicated package. I received a Sonos Arc sound bar to test and review in my home for a week; I’ll tell you what I found.

What is Sonos Arc?

Sonos Arc is simply, a sound bar, but it’s not your average sound bar. With its flag squarely planted in the premium audio category, this sound bar is also much larger than average, measuring a lanky 45-inches. (And weighing a hefty 14 pounds.) Arc represents what Sonos says is its ‘most immersive home theatre experience’. With smart, adaptable, cinema-quality sound, support for Dolby Atmos and multiple voice assistants, Sonos wants Arc sets a new standard for premium home theatre sound. It also comes in at the higher end of the price category, with a list price of $999CAD. It’s designed to mimic an entire surround sound system in one device; using it’s engineering to push sound all around you.

Sonos sound bar is controlled via the Sonos app on your smartphone, or by asking Google Assistant, or Alexa. You can also listen to music, podcasts and other audio on this since the Arc can act as a home speaker too.

Setting up Sonos Arc

In terms of placement, you can either put your Arc in front of a standing TV or mount to the wall with a separate custom designed wall mount (price is about $85, which I think, for this price should be included). A simple connection through the single HDMI eARC or ARC keeps set-up simple.

I’ve had my struggles setting up Sonos devices before, so nearly a year on from my last attempt I was curious to see if I would be able to connect. Fortunately, I didn’t hit any major snags.

sonos arc, sound bar, review, howControlling Sonos Arc

To control Sonos Arc you’ll need the new Sonos S2 app.

With it you can operate the sound bar, but you can also use an existing TV remote, and with your voice using Amazon Alexa or the Google Assistant. It also works with Apple AirPlay 2.
Sonos Arc Sound specs

Someone interested in a sound bar at this level will want to know the details: Inside the case you’ll be getting eleven Class-D digital amplifiers which Sonos calls, ‘perfectly tuned’. Eight elliptical woofers will handle the mid-range and vocal frequencies and bolster richer bass. Three “precisely angled silk-dome” tweeters manage the high end frequencies and give support for clear dialogue. Two upward firing drivers provide support for Dolby Atmos audio which we’ll get to. That’s how you hear it, how it hears you happens via a far-field microphone array that listens so your voice assistant can be activated.

Trueplay Tuning makes the most of your sound bar

Finally Sonos Trueplay software is able to tune the speaker to the unique acoustics of the room its in. Trueplay uses your iPhone and for now this is only available using an Apple iOS device, to listen to the room ’s acoustics and it can fine tune the soundbar’s output to make it perfect.

Did I notice a difference? I did actually, a little. I found that the overall sound seemed to fill the room a bit better, and was a bit more defined for the space. It’s not a huge difference to my ears but I do think it’s worth doing.

Sonos Arc with Dolby Atmos overhead audio

One of the major features is that Arc supports Dolby Atmos audio. Dolby Atmos in a nutshell creates 3D-sounding audio, by sending sounds to specific places in the room rather than to specific speakers. Atmos also offers overhead-sounding audio too.

How do I know I’m getting Atmos sound?

Getting Atmos sound is dependent on the source material, as well as the TV passing an Atmos signal through the HDMI port. If Arc is receiving an Atmos signal, we will display that within the Sonos App on both the “Now Playing” screen, as well as within the settings portion of our app.

But enough with the marketing terms; how does it sound, right?

sonos arc, sound bar, review, howSound quality of Sonos Arc

Let’s get this out of the way: it sounds amazing, as it should. This is a big, powerful soundbar with all the bells and whistles; it fills the room, it gets mega loud and it easily spans the audio gamut; high end sounds are crisp and tinkly, mid-range and vocals are clear and cut therough, while the bass is surprisingly strong and vibrant. It’s a great sound bar for TV and movie viewing but it’s just as stunning when it comes to playing music, with a wide-sounding soundstage and impressive bass.

Did I feel like Sonos Arc was mimicking a true surround sound system? Not exactly; it’s pretty hard to get the sound to wrap fully around you when it originates from just one location, but the Arc does a good job. The bar does push sound out, and playing some sound tests it was easy to notice that the sounds reached to each side a bit better, and seemed to come from a bigger space in front of me. But do you get the same overhead and behind you effects? No, not in my opinion.

Customizable settings

You can fine tune your Sonos Arc to your tastes and sound preferences. Adjustable EQ settings are available in the app, including bass, treble, and loudness. There’s also a setting for Speech Enhancement which can help dialogue cut through.

Another familiar and handy setting in sound bars is called Night Sound. This reduces the intensity of loud sound effects, meaning you can tone down explosions and crashes and not wake the house.

I enabled this setting and found it essentially quiets the overall audio level and saps some of its intensity with just one button, so I think it could be handy.

How is Arc different from Playbar, Playbase, and Beam?

Arc supports Dolby Atmos, which other products do not, and increases chances of receiving a Dolby Digital 5.1 signal.

sonos arc, sound bar, review, howOverall review: Sonos Arc sound bar

Overall, this is a sweet sound bar. I like the clean, simple and rounded design, and in white it blends into my space perfectly.

The sound quality delivers on premium audio, and with all the audio toys including Dolby Atmos, this is a sound bar for folks who want to spread their wings and get all the finer details. With that said, while this sound bar does a good job of creating a wide sound stage, it doesn’t replace surround sound in the same way; you won’t get the same rear channel and overhead effects as you would with dedicated speakers.

Downsides? Possibly it size and weight. This is a really big sound bar, and it’s designed to span larger TVs, but that said, you will need a big piece of furniture to set it on or to invest in the mounting kit, which would be my first choice. Presumably though if you’re considering this kind of sound bar, you already have a dedicated space. It’s probably also an annoyance for Android users that taking advantage of TruePlay tuning is only available on iPhones.

I can definitely recommend Sonos Arc if you’re hunting for a premium sound bar.

It sells for $999CAD and you can get it from Best Buy.

 

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