Sonos Arc Test: Home cinema in one block

With the new premium soundbar Sonos Arc, the manufacturer wants to bring “real cinema sound” into your own four walls. Eleven built-in loudspeakers promise thrilling surround sound without any rear speakers. The soundbar had to prove itself in our test.

 

Sonos Arc Review: Design and connections

Soundbars are long rods with speakers in them. In this respect, it is difficult for manufacturers to score points with the design of their soundbars. The uniform look and inconspicuousness speak for the Sonos Arc. Except for text and icons, the soundbar is completely black, optionally completely white. Except for the back, tiny holes have been drilled in the metal housing everywhere, through which the sound can be heard. Maybe my design perspective is too functional.

With a lush length of over a meter, the Sonos Arc extends almost completely from one side of a 55-inch TV to the other. It can be placed under the TV or mounted on the wall. Nice detail: an ambient light sensor automatically switches on the light of the status LED and if you watch TV in a darkened room, they are deactivated and do not distract you.

At the front sits the little “Sonos” logo in silver color, at the top there are touch buttons for control, and at the top left a button with a light for the microphone for voice control. At the rear are the LAN connection, the HDMI port with eARC, the connection for the power cable and a pairing button for the setup.

This economical connection is typical for Sonos products. Competing sound bars like the Samsung HW-Q90R offer more, such as an additional HDMI port and an optical input. With other competitors you will often find a USB and a jack connection. After all, the Sonos Arc comes with an optical audio adapter that can be connected to the HDMI port on the soundbar.

The Sonos Arc is inconspicuous under the TV or on the wall. As is typical for Sonos, savings are made on the connections – some users would certainly have wished for a second HDMI port or a jack connection.

 

Sonos Arc Software: For sound adjustment, streaming and other Sonos speakers

The soundbar can be configured using the Sonos app and used to play streaming content such as music. You need a Sonos account for this. For mere TV sound reproduction, it is sufficient to connect the soundbar to the television via HDMI-ARC. You select it via the TV settings as a sound playback device and the Sonos Arc is automatically activated when the TV starts. You can connect other devices such as game consoles or Blu-ray players to the television.

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Setting up the soundbar is extremely straightforward and convenient. You can adjust the sound in the Sonos app. There is an equalizer, a volume limiter, lip synchronization, a night mode and other setting options. The Sonos Arc can also be paired with other compatible Sonos speakers using the app. These can then be used as rear speakers for surround effects or, in the case of the Sonos Sub, as a subwoofer.

If you want, you can use the built-in voice control via Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant to play music, turn on the TV, regulate the volume or ask questions. Voice control for films and series only works via a video streaming device such as Amazon Fire TV or via the Smart TV. Apart from that, streaming apps like YouTube Music and many more can be integrated into the Sonos app. If you play music in the app, the soundbar plays it.

The use of the Sonos app including the account is necessary for important functions of the soundbar. That might bother some. If you get involved, you get a very intuitive software with many options.

The Sonos app is available here:

  1. Sonos app for Android phones
  2. Sonos app for iOS (iPhone)

 

Sonos Arc Sound: Not promised too much

At the start I watched an episode of the “Carnival Row” series with Sonos Arc. My first thought: cinema! The high sound quality, the wide stage and the dynamic playback with strong but not dominant bass actually reminded me of my last visit to the cinema. The good first impression was confirmed by further tests with films like “Jurassic World” and games like “The Last of Us 2”. The Sonos Arc was also able to carry me away when it came to music playback, whether it was differentiated classical pieces or wild punk rock.

Things get more complicated when it comes to assessing the Sonos Arc’s surround capabilities. At first I wasn’t able to test Dolby Atmos because my TV doesn’t have an eARC port, just a normal ARC connection. Only eARC offers the necessary bandwidth for 3D sound formats such as Dolby Atmos. Most potential buyers will. If the two height channels are not used, the corresponding drivers are used to amplify the bass. Incidentally, the Sonos Arc does not support DTS for licensing reasons.

If you set up the Sonos Arc with an iPhone, the sound of the soundbar can be adapted to your own four walls using the iPhone microphones. Unfortunately, this option is not available for Android users, as the corresponding technology of Android devices is too different from each other, as the manufacturer explained to us. So I couldn’t test this feature. In addition to the height speakers for Dolby Atmos users, two speakers on the sides of the soundbar and two tweeters that radiate backwards are used to generate the surround sound. The sound waves bounce off the walls and eventually reach the audience’s hearing from the sides and even from behind.

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With a reasonably suitable installation in the middle of the room, the result is a surround sound that neither sounds like virtual, simulated surround nor that of a real surround system with physical rear speakers. A diffuse all-round sound can be heard. It pulls me more into the action and contributes to the cinema feeling, but does not achieve the precision of a real surround system. My guess is that the sound will be fine for most users. If you want, you can buy two Sonos Five speakers for a better surround effect, for example. The same applies to the bass: It is already powerful and reaches deep, the Sonos Arc subwoofer should improve it a bit.

I was pleasantly surprised that a single loudspeaker bar can set up such an all-round sound stage. Enthusiasts who are now laughing at it and referring to the superior sound provided by their dedicated height and rear speakers, I can also agree. However, as the trend towards sound bars and away from surround systems shows, this is apparently not that important to most users. The enthusiasts may regret that, but I regret it a little myself. One thing is certain: Premium soundbars like the Sonos Arc deliver a cinema-like sound that for most people no longer justifies the surcharge and additional expense for real surround systems.

The Sonos Arc actually produces a cinema-like sound – clear, dynamic and spatial. The surround sound is convincing for a soundbar, but systems with several physical speakers offer greater precision. The problem can be solved with additional Sonos speakers that can be used as rear speakers. Only a full-blown Dolby Atmos system with proper height speakers cannot match Sonos.

 

Sonos Arc Final Conclusion: A great sound bar

The Sonos Arc lives up to its premium claim. From the good workmanship and the inconspicuous design to the excellent sound, the soundbar knows how to impress. The buyer has to come to terms with the fact that the manufacturer has saved on connections. Not using DTS will also bother some. The home theater sound in particular is so impressive that the soundbar is worth its price of 900 euros.

 

 

Sonos Arc Pros:

  • + Great sound
  • + Uncomplicated, convenient setup
  • + Processing & design
  • + Integration of Sonos rear speakers and subwoofers possible
  • + Comprehensive Sonos app

Sonos Arc Cons:

  • – No DTS
    – Few connections

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