Review: Sonos Arc Soundbar with Dolby Atmos
Accessible, 3D audio with a sleek design.
By Ben Jacklin
Sonos has created their first Dolby Atmos soundbar, which was released in June 2020. The soundbar allows you to play audio from a number of devices and enjoy a cinematic audio experience when watching movies at home, or listening to immersive audio without having to go to the hassle of setting up speakers all over the room, including a receiver and amplifier. The Arc soundbar can streamline the process, but does it sound as good as a full immersive setup?
Is this just a rough approximation of 3D audio or does it really create an immersive audio experience? For the money, the Arc soundbar creates an impressive, room-filling sound that is an impressive first offering from the Sonos brand.
How Does it Work?
The Arc soundbar creates a virtual 3D audio field. The soundbar technology works in a similar way to other “3D” soundbars.
The Arc creates the sound field by using 11 digital amplifiers, powering 11 drivers situated around the soundbar. There are two on top, one in each end and four along the front of this bar. These fire in different directions around the room, creating the illusion of audio coming from other directions. There are also three front-facing tweeters handling the high frequencies.
“Trueplay” tuning technology uses an app on your Apple device, which detects and optimizes the sound characteristics and acoustics of the room. The sound is calibrated for the space, no matter what dimensions of the room.
The Sonos casing is plastic, but it looks classy, and it makes it very easy to dust and keep clean. It has a mesh grille and top-panel touch controls, and it is worth considering the fact that it doesn’t have a remote control.
The design sits underneath a television that is around 50 inches in size, and will look natural in situ underneath the screen. If you have a TV significantly larger or significantly smaller, you might find the wall mount a better option. This can be purchased separately. Of course, if you aren’t using it with a television, you don’t have to worry about screen size.
Tech Compatibility and Connectivity
The Arc presumably gets its name from the fact that it supports eARC technology (Enhanced Audio Return Channel). You need to ensure that you are using a compatible television if you want to make use of 3D audio for a “home cinema” room. Your TV needs to support eARC, and have pass-through functionality.
The soundbar also requires that you use a streaming app that can make use of this technology. Luckily, apps that can stream content with Dolby Atmos are becoming more common. Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV and Disney+ all allow you to stream in the format.
Sonos Radio HD works intuitively with the soundbar, but you can also use other streaming such as Spotify and Apple Music. If you want to get the most out of your immersive audio system, you might have to use a Blu Ray player to play immersive audio albums in FLAC format.
LG’s offers players that can be used to play FLAC files. LG UBKM9, UBK90, UBK80 can all be used.
Other compatible players that can read and play FLAC files include Panasonic BDP-BD77 and BDT500, Roku Ultra, and the Sony BDP-S1200, DP-S3200, BDP-S4200, BDP-S5200 players.
Is the Arc Soundbar Your Immersive Audio Solution?
Among lovers of 3D audio, there will always be purists who want to go the whole hog and get a full setup with 6 or more speakers. For most people, the Arc soundbar makes a convenient alternative, with a fantastic simulation of a 3D audio field.
If you are a true bass head, or you want to take advantage of the cinematic rumble you might experience in an IMAX screening, you should look to bolt on the Subwoofer. This is inventively named the Sonos Sub.
For those who love a crisp, high-fidelity sound, the Arc soundbar provides exactly that, and it is a huge upgrade from a standard stereo soundbar. It also represents excellent value for money.
About the Author
Ben is a writer and musician from the UK with a background in music technology. He writes about engineering and production, musicianship and music equipment for a number of publications including his own site, subreel.com