Technology is moving at a breakneck pace, and no sooner is a product launched than its successor is already on the horizon. So much so, with sellers shelving aging hardware left, right, and center, it can be tricky to comment on the longevity of a device. At least, that’s what I thought until I got my hands on the Sonos Arc.
For the tech novices in the audience, the Sonos Arc is a beefy soundbar that was launched a couple of years ago. However, unlike most tech products, the Arc has seemingly weathered the test of time and is still a superb contender in the audio space. This begs the question – should you buy the soundbar in 2023? Well, that’s what I’m here to find out.
I’ve been using the Sonos Arc for the better part of two weeks. During my time with the soundbar, I’ve come to greatly appreciate its sound quality. At the same time, I’ve stumbled into some niggles that make using the device a bit of a chore. I’ve detailed my experience in the form of some most sought-after FAQs below, so without any further ado, let’s take a closer look at the Sonos Arc.
Is the Sonos Arc’s Design Any Good?
The Sonos Arc looks luxurious, to say the least. The soundbar has been constructed in its entirety using metal, and as such, has a good heft to it. In fact, the unit tips the scales at around six kilos, so you’re bound to get an arm workout setting it up. More to the point, the soundbar is available in two hues, namely black and white.
Despite its industrial finish, the soundbar should gel well with most home decor. I had my review unit set up on a white tile of sorts, and the contrasting tones made the unit easy on the eyes. You can wall-mount the soundbar, too, if that’s more your style. As such, if you don’t want the soundbar to hug the walls – be it for aesthetics or because you need space to route the cables, you have the option to do so.
You should also take note of the speaker’s mesh grille. The device comes with a handful of drivers – 11, to be precise – that have been positioned across the length of the soundbar. The perforations ensure that sound passes through seamlessly.
As for the I/O, the Sonos Arc comes with just two inputs, including an HDMI port and an optical connector. For the most part, the Sonos Arc is best paired with a TV that comes with an HDMI ARC or eARC connector. That said, buyers with older sets can use the optical connector at the risk of audio compression.
This brings us to the first roadblock some buyers will face when setting up the Arc. You see, unlike most competing products, Sonos’ use of a single HDMI connector can be a deal breaker for many. Most soundbars come with multiple HDMI ports, so even if your TV doesn’t come with an ARC or eARC connector, you can use a streaming box like Apple TV to get the most out of an Atmos-enabled soundbar. To do so, you can route the soundbar to the Apple TV’s HDMI connector and have another HDMI cable running into your TV from the soundbar.
Needless to say, you’ll need a new-age TV to get the most out of the Sonos Arc. On the upside, the soundbar can be set up in a jiffy, and I quite like the unit’s minimalistic and cable-free approach to a 5.0.2 channel system. I should add that the soundbar comes with capacitive touch buttons at the top, which can be used to increase or decrease the volume or pause the media playback.
As for the rest of the design, the soundbar is quite tall and runs the length of a 55-inch TV. I paired the Arc with my 65-inch TV, and the device nestled between the TV’s feet with very little room to spare.
Now, you might be wondering if the soundbar blocks the signal to the TV. Well, you’d be glad to know that the device comes with an IR repeater that allows your commands to be registered by the TV even if the soundbar is positioned in front of the set. Additionally, the soundbar leverages HDMI-CEC tech, so you can use your TV’s remote to control the Sonos Arc.
Will the Sonos Arc Support Dolby Atmos Playback if My TV Supports ARC?
I briefly touched upon this in the previous subhead. But to paint a clearer picture, your TV will be able to relay an Atmos signal to the soundbar if you interface the Arc via an HDMI ARC connector on your TV. Now, do note that Dolby Atmos is further subdivided into various formats, including Dolby Digital and Dolby TrueHD.
In order to make the most of Dolby TrueHD, you will need a TV with an eARC port. That said, you should note that the quality of audio also depends on the source. On that note, most, if not all, streaming services relay lossy audio in the form of Dolby Digital. On the flip side, Blu-ray discs can transmit uncompressed Dolby TrueHD audio signals.
Is the Sonos Arc Easy to Set Up?
Contrary to popular belief, soundbars such as the Sonos Arc can be set up in a matter of minutes. Once you’ve connected the device to your TV, all you need to do is install the Sonos app on your smartphone. You’ll then be asked to connect the Sonos Arc to your Wi-Fi. Now, do note that the soundbar uses a 2.4GHz connection to link with a router. The 5GHz band is used to connect the soundbar to other accessories, like a dedicated subwoofer.
Coming back to the matter at hand, upon keying in your Wi-Fi details, you will be asked to set up the Alexa smart assistant. And, that’s pretty much all there is to the Sonos Arc’s setup process.
Do note that the soundbar doesn’t support Bluetooth, although is compliant with Apple AirPlay 2. So, while you can seamlessly stream music if you have an iPhone, buyers rocking an Android will have to register a service like Spotify or Apple Music within the Sonos app. Once done, you will be able to direct the music on your phone to the soundbar.
How Does the Sonos Arc Sound?
The Sonos Arc sounds fantastic, and it’s not just ideal for watching movies or TV shows, but can also be used to listen to music. But, before I dissect the soundbar’s acoustics further, allow me to run some numbers by you.
Firstly, you should know that the Arc is backed by eight elliptical woofers that tackle the low-end and the mid-range frequencies. Additionally, the device also gets three silk-dome tweeters as well as a far-field microphone array for voice control.
The Sonos app can be used to tweak the soundbar’s EQ as well. You can even adjust the height channel from within the app, however, for the purpose of my testing, I left the setting untouched. Lastly, if you choose to buy a dedicated sub to go along with the soundbar, you will be able to interface it with the Arc from within the app as well. I should add that my testing was limited to using the soundbar in tandem with streaming services like Apple TV, Amazon Prime, and Netflix, which can only relay Dolby Digital audio.
Regardless, the Sonos Arc encapsulated me in a wide sound stage and presented me with a world of information. In one particular instance, I was watching a rerun of the third season of Jack Ryan. In the second episode, Wendell Pierce decides to visit a bakery, and the Sonos Arc really helps uplift the dramatic flair in the scene. Be it Pierce’s thumping footsteps, the commotion outside the market, to the sound of a dirtbike revving its engine, I could hear everything distinctively. What’s more, the sound didn’t just feel defined, but it was directional, thereby immersing me in the scene further.
Similarly, in 6 Underground, I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen during the car chase scene, which – spoiler alert – leads to the untimely death of a member of Ryan’s team. Here, in spite of the chaotic setting, the Sonos Arc reciprocated the dialogues clearly. What’s more, the soundbar didn’t subdue the bass output, and the gunshots in the scene had a satisfying slam to them as well. Fast-forward a couple of minutes, and the movie puts viewers in the shoes of Corey Hawkins.
The opening sequence is seemingly shot in a military base, and thanks to the Arc’s brilliant sound output, I got a semblance of a chopper flying above my head, and humvees rushing from the left to the right. Moreover, as the scene progressed, we saw Corey Hawkins’ character engage in a gunfight with rogue gunmen. Here, I was taken aback by the deep, room-filling rumble created by the Sonos Arc. So much so, although a dedicated sub would improve the unit’s sound output, I feel confident in recommending the Arc as a standalone soundbar to those who like a meaty low-end.
Turn the page to music, and you’ll get a similar result. The Arc offers superb imaging, which is evident if you listen to Fluorescent Adolescent by Arctic Monkeys. Here, the strums from the guitar – albeit a bit laid back – offer remarkable details. The same goes for the cymbal, which can be heard distinctively amidst the vocals and other instruments. Likewise, Shankar Mahadevan’s Dil Chahta Hai, which is a cacophony of instruments, sounds remarkably immersive and detailed on the Sonos Arc.
The track has been encoded in Dolby Atmos, so you’ll get superb spatial awareness when listening to it on the soundbar. In particular, the peppy and tight beats don’t come in the way of the singer’s melodic voice. Instead, I could sit down and appreciate every instrument and sound individually.
Should You Buy the Sonos Arc?
It’s hard to fathom the Sonos Arc was launched almost three years ago. Be it watching movies or listening to music, the Arc can do it all, without missing a beat (pun intended). Of course, the soundbar costs a pretty penny, and at $899, the device is not without its faults. For starters, I wish the soundbar interfaced with smartphones over Bluetooth too. Furthermore, the device could’ve benefited from one more HDMI connector too.
Regardless, the Arc’s exceptional audio output puts it in a league of its own. So, if you’re in the market for an all-encompassing, multi-channel, Atmos-enabled soundbar, the Sonos Arc should be at the top of your wishlist.
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Last updated on 22 August, 2023
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