Sonos Arc Review
Pros: Phenomenal music playback, seamless integration with Sonos ecosystem
Cons: Huge, expensive, no Bluetooth
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|Pros||Phenomenal music playback, seamless integration with Sonos ecosystem||Great sound quality, crystal clear dialogue, useful sound customization features||Great sound for the price, bluetooth, external subwoofer||Compact design great for smaller rooms, seamlessly integrates with other Sonos products, excellent musical sound quality||Easy setup, great price tag, subwoofer included|
|Cons||Huge, expensive, no Bluetooth||Glass top shows a lot of smudges and dust, expensive, doesn't support Dolby Atmos or DTS Virtual X codecs||No wifi connection, no EQ controls||Not the loudest, Sonos app required for set up, no plug and play||Not the best overall sound quality|
|Bottom Line||This model sounds incredible while listening to music and provides a pretty immersive home theater experience||This is high-end bar with high-end sound and features, making it an ideal choice for a home theater system and doubling as a smart speaker||This is the best sounding entry-level soundbar, and the loudest model we tested||This a great sounding little bar that excels with musical content, and packs plenty of punch as part of a home theater system||This soundbar is loaded with great features and has an enormous sound, making it an exceptionally good value|
|Rating Categories||Sonos Arc||Bose Smart Soundbar...||Sony HT-S350||Sonos Beam||Vizio V-Series 2.1...|
|Sound Quality (45%)|
|Ease of Use (35%)|
|Specs||Sonos Arc||Bose Smart Soundbar...||Sony HT-S350||Sonos Beam||Vizio V-Series 2.1...|
|Dimensions||3.4" x 45" x 4.5"||2.25" x 38.5" x 4.25"||Bar: 2.6" x 35.5" x 3.5"
Sub: 15.4" x 7.5" x 15.13"
|2.72" x 25.625" x 3.94"||Bar: 2.28" x 36.00" x 3.20"
Sub: 9.9" x 8.25" x 8.25"
|External Subwoofer||No (optional)||No (optional)||Yes||No (optional)||Yes|
|Inputs (wired)||Digital audio in (optical), Ethernet, HDMI (ARC)||Digital audio in (optical), HDMI (ARC), Ethernet, 3.5mm AUX IR, 3.5mm AUX Data, 3.5mm AUX Bass, 3.5mm AUX ADAPTIQ tuning||Digitcal audio in (optical), HDMI (ARC)||Digital audio in (optical), Ethernet, HDMI (ARC)||Digital audio in (optical), HDMI (ARC), 3.5mm AUX VA, 3.5mm AUX, USB|
|Supported Audio File Formats||Dolmy Atmos||Dolby Digital, DTS||Dolby Digital, Dolby Dual mono, LPCM 2ch||Stereo PCM, Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby Atmos (Dolby Digital Plus), Dolby Atmos*, Dolby TrueHD*, Dolby Atmos (True HD)*, Multichannel PCM*, Dolby Multichannel PCM*||DTS|
|Voice Assistants||Alexa, Google Assistant||Alexa, Google Assistant||n/a||Alexa, Google Assistant||None, but has a dedicated 3.5mm AUX port to connect a VA device|
|Syncs with:||Sonos||Bose Simplesync enabled speakers||None||Sonos||None|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Sonos Arc is a great soundbar for those looking for top-notch home theater sound from a simple, single-speaker solution. WiFi connectivity enables the use of Google Assistant, Alexa, and Apple Airplay 2 as well as access to many streaming services. The Android users among us wish that there was a Bluetooth connection.
This soundbar delivers industry-leading sound quality. While it's not our absolute favorite for home theater applications, we feel it's the best model for enjoying music and worth some serious consideration if you plan on using the Arc for all sonic needs.
This large soundbar creates a decently immersive soundstage despite not having a satellite subwoofer. The success of the Arc's surround sound mimicry is largely due to its use of Dolby Atmos — a sound format that makes for greater separation of sounds, allowing them to be more discreetly "spread out" within an artificial soundscape. The Arc makes it seem like all these different sounds are coming from different areas by bouncing them off the walls and other surfaces in your living room. Tuning the soundbar to your specific room using Sonos's Trueplay tuning, which involves walking around the room with an iOS device (sorry, Android users) while the soundbar emits submarine noises, vastly improves the soundbar's ability to do this.
In ideal conditions, the Arc is capable of tricking us into thinking the sound is coming from more places than just the soundbar itself. These "ideal conditions" include a standard, flat ceiling, and a couch pushed right against the back wall, making it easy for the soundbar to bounce sound this way and that. When we put the Arc in a room with higher vaulted ceilings and listened from a couch placed in the center of the room this surround sound experience was greatly diminished. However, even in these more difficult situations, the Arc still felt noticeably more immersive than many of its competitors. It is important to note that you'll only experience the full effect of this surround sound when listening to Dolby Atmos-enabled media. Luckily more and more streaming services (including NetFlix, iTunes, and Amazon Prime Video) are offering more and more Atmos-enabled titles.
Outside of surround sound mimicry, the bare bones of the Arc's sound are also exceptional. Perhaps most notable is the bass power. Likely thanks to its large size, this soundbar can really rumble. This is one of the few models we've ever tested that we don't think would be vastly improved with the addition of an external subwoofer (though Sonos does make one if you're so inclined). The Arc manages to keep that bass power controlled, however, with the low notes of music staying powerful yet crisp and well-defined. The mid and treble ranges enjoy similar clarity.
Ease of Use
The Arc is generally quite easy to use, but some idiosyncrasies of the Sonos ecosystem may annoy some people.
Setting up the Arc is quite easy, if slightly time-consuming-- just connect to your TV via the HDMI or optical inputs (HDMI is better if you have the option) and finish setup through the Sonos app. This is the time-consuming part. If you don't already have a Sonos account you'll have to make one. Then you'll have to link the Arc to your WiFi, sign in to any music streaming services you'd like to use with the soundbar, choose whether you prefer Alexa or Google Assistant, and finally tune the soundbar to your room. To do this the Arc emits a sonar-type sound while the app prompts you to walk around the room, moving your phone up and down. During the process, the Arc uses the microphone on your phone to create an auditory map of the room and optimizes its acoustics accordingly. All told this took us about 15 minutes.
This is where the Sonos idiosyncrasies start. In order to tune the soundbar (a process that Sonos has dubbed "Trueplay"), you'll need an iOS device. If you're an Android user it's pretty simple to borrow a friend's iOS device just to accomplish the tuning, but it's an extra step that is certainly annoying (you can still use the soundbar without tuning to the room, but doing so improves the audio experience). Additionally, the Arc is one of the few models we've tested that doesn't offer Bluetooth connectivity. Here again, iOS users are favored, as the AirPlay compatibility effectively replaces Bluetooth if you use Apple devices.
We should also note that the Arc is quite heavy (nearly 14 pounds) and large (45" long). We felt a bit nervous navigating such a large and unwieldy thing next to a fancy TV, so just be careful when placing it on your TV stand.
The Arc offers a useful set of sound modes and adjustments. First, within the app you can change bass and treble levels using a set of sliders, as well as can set a maximum volume limit. There is also a speech enhancement mode that brings dialogue to the forefront, and a night mode that dampens loud noises so you don't disturb your neighbors.
By our measurements, this soundbar is by no means the loudest, and there are several less expensive models that can fill larger rooms. The Arc tops out at "only" 87 decibels, where the loudest models in the tests blasted out a solid 102 decibels. However, don't let this be what steers you away from the Arc, as 87 decibels is still excessively loud for watching television and film. Also, integration with the Sonos ecosystem is a big selling point for this soundbar, and Sonos enthusiasts will likely already have other speakers to help power their parties and fill their homes with sound.
The Sonos Arc sports classic aesthetics with clean lines, a high-quality all-metal finish, and a monochrome exterior (available in black and white). The only downside to its looks is its size. Measuring a full 45" in length, this bar is wider than any TV that measures less than 55" on the diagonal. Case in point, it looked absurdly large when we put it in front of a 40" TV.
The Sonos Arc is one of the most expensive soundbars on the market. While you can get better value-per-dollar from many of the less expensive models, the Arc is a clear step above pretty much all of them. As long as you're ok paying a bit of a premium for the premium performance, the Arc is worth the money.
The Sonos Arc is one of the best and most capable soundbars we've tested. While it is eclipsed by the Bose Smart Soundbar 700's immersive soundstage, no one who already has an arsenal of interconnected Sonos speakers is going to be awash in a sonic landscape while watching Avatarand wish they'd gone with a different soundbar, and for folks looking to get a Sonos system, the Arc is a great starting point.
— Michelle Powell, Matt Bento, and Max Mutter
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