Updated: Aug 19, 2021
The new Sonos Arc is the first product from Sonos that supports Dolby Atmos surround sound, and while there are some issues that arise from design choices that we’ll talk about later, this soundbar is pretty exceptional for its price point.
The speaker is long. There’s no getting around it. If you’re concerned with aesthetics, it would be best paired with a 55-inch TV, since anything smaller would result in the soundbar actually being wider than the TV is.
It’s 114cm long, 12cm deep and 8.7cm tall. The height might pose a bit of an issue if your TV and soundbar are both sitting on a TV console, but the soundbar includes an IR receiver that can receive signals from your original TV remote. Aside from that though, it probably would also look better being wall-mounted. There are also touch controls on the top for play/pause and volume, and they’re extremely responsive. You also get status lights above the Sonos logo, which is kept off by default and lights up when the microphone is listening.
There are 11 drivers in the speaker, with eight woofers and three silk-dome tweeters, both up-firing and front-firing. There are also grill-covered speakers on either end. This all results in a beautifully large soundstage and excellent projection of sound around the room. Sound travels quite a distance with the Sonos Arc, and you can still hear the audio quite clearly even from five to six meters away with the sound at 50% volume.
At the rear, you get the power input, an Ethernet cable port as well as a single HDMI port. Here lies the issue. The Sonos Arc supports Dolby Atmos and uses HDMI ARC and eARC to transmit audio from the TV, but not all TVs have an ARC port.
If you’re using a newer TV, it won’t be an issue. Otherwise, you’ll need to use the included HDMI to optical adapter and plug it into your TV that way. Thankfully, my TV has an ARC port, so no issues there, but people without the ARC port will definitely be frustrated here.
This problem could have been easily solved by Sonos adding another HDMI port to receive audio from other sources. As it stands now, for people who don’t have newer TVs that support ARC, they’re pretty much out of luck.
The good news though, is that the Sonos Arc sounds really great even without Dolby Atmos. And of course, there are always other ways of connection like the Wi-Fi-based approach that they’re known for. There’s Spotify Connect as well, so once you get that set up in the Sonos app, you’ll be able to use the built-in microphone to control the voice assistant on your phone to get music playing easily without using your phone.
I tested the Arc with Spotify over Wi-Fi, Netflix shows and even with my PS4. Music was clear, with a pretty balanced sound and a good amount of sparkle and energy in the higher registers. There was also basically no lag when skipping tracks via my phone since the soundbar was using a a wired Ethernet connection. Movies were excellent, especially if Dolby Atmos was enabled. Voices were clear and crisp and the whole soundstage was airy and open, with accurate placements of gunshots, explosions and such.
This also means great performance when gaming, and I found no audio lag at all when testing with games like MLB The Show 19 and Uncharted 4. The crack of the baseball against the bat and the pops of gunfire were impactful and came through accurately.
Personally, I felt that the bass was sufficient with just the soundbar, but for consumers who might want a bit more rumble and heft in the low-end, it might be a good idea to pair the Sonos Arc with the Sonos Sub (S$1,149).
As with other Sonos speakers, there’s the ability to configure the speaker’s sound to the room you place it in. The downside is, you require an iOS device to do the Trueplay tuning. Regardless of whether you tune it, it’s recommended you use the Sonos Arc in a relatively standard shaped room so that the sound has space to travel and bounce off for the best audio experience.
For people who don’t quite fancy the sound of the box, there’s also the ability to tweak it via the EQ in the Sonos app, but it’s incredibly simplistic, with just two sliders for bass and treble, so don’t expect in-depth tuning.
All in all, the Sonos Arc is a fantastic soundbar for people looking to get Dolby Atmos functionality in an all-in-one package. It sounds great, it looks sleek and in all honesty, it might be one of the best Dolby Atmos-enabled soundbars out there at this price point. The only downside? That solo HDMI port that’s probably going to be a lot of trouble for people who purchase this without knowing if their television supports ARC.
More information and purchase options for the Sonos Arc (S$1,499) is available on the Sonos website.