The Sonos Arc is a new 5.0.2 Dolby Atmos soundbar that can use the new Sub Gen 3 to make it 5.1.
GadgetGuy has been using a pre-release model and beta software to get a feel for the Sonos Arc capabilities. But we can’t finish the review yet until we test it under final release S2 software, and we have a Sub (Gen 3) coming. So, take this as a first look, and we will update it in a week or so.
This is the first Sonos product to support Dolby Atmos and points to a new direction for this iconic brand.
Sonos Arc (first look)
Sonos tends to make a product and stick with it. Perhaps we should have given it called it Gen 1 postnominal. Sonos try to build a high level of longevity into their products, focusing on software updates to add more features.
And that is what happened with the new S2 software. Most of its older products will update to S2, leaving a few legacy products that simply don’t have the processing power on S1.
The Sonos ARC has
- Dolby Atmos 5.0 or 5.1 with optional Sub
- 11 speakers and D-Class amps total (no Wattage RMS provided)
- Four far-field mics for voice assistants (Google Assistant and Alexa)
- AirPlay 2 support
- 1 x HDMI eARC/ARC/CEC port (Optical adapter included)
- Ethernet 10/100Mbps port and Wi-Fi 3 G 2.4Ghz
- 250V power and 4.3W idle
- Speech enhancement mode
- Night sound mode to reduce the intensity of certain sounds
- 1141.7 x 115.7 x 88mm x 6.25kg – it is also wall mountable with optional cost brackets
- No remote but IR mode to use the IR capable TV remote
- Black with matte finish or white with a matte finish
- Missing – Bluetooth smartphone streaming – Sonos use Wi-Fi for that
- Australian website here
- Price: $1399 – pre-order from Sonos and available from 10 June
- Country of manufacture: China
- Sonos is an American Audio company based in Santa Barbara, California. It was founded in 2002 and develops and manufactures smart speakers
- Warranty: 2-years ACL compliant
So, let’s start by defining 5.0 (or 5.1 with the Sonos Sub)
Dolby Atmos is usually 5.1 format (although you may see it in 7.1.4 that adds two rear forward and upwards firing speakers as well).
- Left front (two full-range elliptical woofers, and a silk-dome tweeter = 3)
- Centre front (two woofers and a tweeter for speech enhancement = 3)
- Right front (ditto to left front = 3)
- Left rear surround (woofer to bounce sound off the ceiling to land behind the viewer 1x woofer)
- Right rear surround (ditto to left front upwards = 1)
- Optionally the .1 Sub (Gen 2 or the new Gen 3)
- And the body acts as a passive bass radiator
Offset speakers allow for what we like to call psychoacoustic trickery – hacking your ears to make you think sounds are coming from places all around you. In part that effectiveness requires a certain degree of bouncing off the the ceiling.
Now if you are in the iOS camp (sorry I am Android so not tested) you can use TruePlay software on an iPhone to tune the device to the room acoustics. I am familiar with room calibration, and our media test area does have sound reflective surfaces, so I was pretty happy with the setup.
So, does Dolby Atmos work?
We have written a full Dummies Guide to Dolby Atmos here. We strongly suggest you read it as Dolby Atmos is a much misused and abused term.
To get it you must have
- Dolby Atmos content to start with – Blu-ray or streaming from Netflix et all.
- A TV that decodes Atmos or passes it to the soundbar
- HDMI 2.0 or 2.1 ports and cables
- eARC return channel
First, let me declare that my daily soundbar is the 2019 Samsung 17 speaker, 512W, HW-Q90R, 7.1.4 and as far as I am concerned it is pretty close to perfect for someone with about $2,000 to spend. It supports both all Dolby and DTS formats as well simulated (Virtual Surround Sound) and upscaled UHQ 32-bit sound to when processing PCM stereo or other formats.
That is not to disparage the Sonos Arc 2020 at all but to say that it also has some tough competition that, on paper has higher specs and more features.
The Sonos Arc 2020 supports via eARC uncompressed PCM stereo (2.0) and all Dolby formats
- Atmos 5.0 (128 audio objects mixed into a 5.0 channel system)
- TrueHD (8 channel audio and the default if an Atmos signal is not present)
- Digital Plus (7.1 used by Windows, macOS and tvOS – no metadata, just audio channels)
- Digital 5.1 (also called Dolby AC-3).
Sonos is almost puritanical about providing sound as the author intended it – not synthesised sound. So, it does not support ‘simulated’ surround sound like DTS:X, DTS Virtual: X, DTS HD and PCM multichannel audio. When it does not get Dolby content, it reverts to PCM 2.0, and the up-firing speakers produce more low-end frequencies.
- Maximum volume is 90dB
- Bass starts to kick in at 30Hz (good) building solidly to 100Hz. It then fairly flat, gradually peaking at 1kHz (high mid) and then gradually decreases 16kHz (note we will supply a frequency response chart when the S2 software is taken from Beta to release, and we get more familiar with the EQ)
- Treble is not harsh, but it is not as controlled (could be an EQ issue)
- The sound signature, in general, is flat – neither adds or subtracts from the original sound. But with the EQ you can get it almost to warm and sweet (bass/mids boosted, treble recessed and great for movies).
Note that it does not have other HDMI inputs so you must connect all content devices to the TV.