The New Sonos Arc Is A Dolby Atmos Soundbar To Transform Your TV Audio
Let’s face it, we’ve all been watching a hell of a lot of telly lately. No matter how pricey the TV you binged The Last Dance on, its sound will have been decidedly subpar without a soundbar to hand. Why? The ultrathin TVs of today simply can’t muster earth-shaking bass and tremulous trebles a dedicated speaker can.
So if you want to experience these shows as their creators intended, physics dictate you’re going to need a soundbar and the all-new Sonos Arc is more than up to the job. At least, Sonos’ longstanding sonic chops and the inside lowdown we got on this speaker indicate so. Here’s why this Dolby Atmos speaker is making eyes for the spot under your telly and may well be deserving of it.
Boom! Shake the room
As the Apple of wireless speaker makers - its products sound great and simply work - Sonos has been dabbling in the TV audio game for a while now. First with the Playbar, then with the Playbase and most recently with exceptionally good Sonos Beam, which proved a revelation when it came along in 2018. A top notch affordable soundbar with Amazon Alexa voice controls for when you can’t be bothered to reach for the remote, what’s not to like?
Well, if you’re a proper hi-fi nerd then you probably wished for a more premium edition of the Beam with support for something called Dolby Atmos. In essence, that’s what the Sonos Arc is: the best soundbar Sonos can possibly make. One with 11 amplifiers, eight woofers and three tweeters working across five audio channels for blockbuster sound. If you’re not really au fait with wireless speaker architecture, then trust us when we say that is quite a lot of oomph to be getting on with.
So what about that “Dolby Atmos” business? Well, it’s essentially the feature that ensures the Arc should have genuinely room-filling sound. This being an era where products are unveiled via a Zoom video call, it’s probably worth noting that we haven’t heard the Arc in action yet. Still, we’re more than familiar with Dolby Atmos and its genuinely room-filling qualities when it comes to sound.
You see, as well as firing sound straight at you as most speakers do, Dolby Atmos speakers simultaneously blast sound upwards. This then reflects off the ceiling of your home and back towards your ears so they are effectively surrounded by sound. You may have heard this effect if you’ve been to a posh cinema recently. If not, trust us when we say it is genuinely awesome and the one feature that separates mid-range soundbars from ones that command a top tier price tag. Hence the Sonos Arc arrives at the princely sum of $990.
For the cinephiles
If you’re an A Grade cinephile then the Sonos Arc was made with you in mind. Even though the Atmos effect is employed across whatever you happen to be watching, it’ll work best on content that has been mixed for the format.
On Netflix, that means you’ll need a Premium subscription and to be watching something like The Irishman, Okja or The Two Popes. On Disney Plus, you can watch the Star Wars movies in Dolby Atmos but not The Mandalorian. Both Sky and BT Sports subscribers can get in on the act while watching the football with a top tier Ultra HD subscription, and the vast majority of 4K UHD Blu-rays come with an Atmos mix.
In other words, you have to already be pretty invested in audio visual fidelity to enjoy the Sonos Arc to its fullest. Otherwise, the Sonos Beam ($495) or an even more affordable alternative like the JBL Bar Studio ($122) will do the job.
For those who know what they’re getting into, the Arc seems like a worthy successor to Sonos’ last premium soundbar: the Playbar. It’ll deliver superior sound in a more compact form with its sleek 270-degree curved grille bringing some serious neo noir vibes to your living room. It’ll simply connect to your TV via HDMI eARC with setup being run through the newly redesigned Sonos app. And you can even bark instructions at the thing with the help of Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, should you want to turn up the volume or tune into Stranger Things without lifting a finger.
Two more things
If you’re already sold on the Sonos Arc, then you’ll be able to get a hold of one on June 10 and we should be giving one a go for a more considered verdict before then. Nevertheless, the Arc won’t be the only new Sonos speaker launching then.
Sonos is also revamping its iconic breeze block-like Sub into third-generation form. In reality, its audio credentials remain unchanged but increased memory, processing power, and a new wireless radio futureproof this speaker so that you needn’t think about an Arc and Sub combo for years to come. Or you can just add this subwoofer to your existing Beam or Playbar arrangement without worrying whether it’ll be eligible for future software updates. Just relax and feel your stomach churn with undulating bass should you really want to push your home cinema to its absolute limits.
Finally, the oft-forgotten big sibling of Sonos’ music speaker family is also getting a touch-up. Renamed to the Sonos Five from the Sonos Play:5, this chunky one-box again promises the same fidelity as before in altogether more alluring form factor and the same updated internals as the Sonos Sub. If you want a wireless speaker that can carry a dinner party, the Sonos Play:5 was one of the best and this refresh should reaffirm that.