Sonos’ High-Performance Soundbar, the Arc

The new TV-specific speaker is discreet when idle and ultra-impressive in action

After setting a new standard with the Playbar (which debuted in 2014 to widespread acclaim), Sonos expanded upon their line of entertainment-system speakers with the Playbase and Beam. As technology has advanced, several of these products have met their end: the Playbar and Playbase were discontinued. While the former is closest to what most think of when they seek out a TV-specific speaker, its design hampered its potential. If mounted, its internal speakers and drivers projected the sound toward viewers. If sat on a TV stand (how 70% of TV owners arrange their systems) the sound was shot at the ceiling. Though the Playbase aimed to solve these issues, variability in TV size and the ever-growing demand for ultra-sized speakers rendered it obsolete.

Sonos now introduces the Arc ($799), a cleverly designed juggernaut of a speaker with immense depth and range—and the ability to adapt to a wider array of content.

Rounded rather than squared off, and far more enveloping, the Arc impresses and outperforms many similarly and higher priced competitors. Its 270-degree grill—which was constructed using an all-new manufacturing technique developed by Sonos—and the longer body can house a more encompassing system (11 drivers, eight woofers, three treble speakers). Thus, it produces a premium sound without compromise at higher volumes. These improvements were most noticeable during a movie with an emphasis on dialogue or when relying on the Arc as the center-point of our larger Sonos system.

“Arc is one of the most technically complicated products we’ve ever made,” Dana Krieger, Director of Design, Hardware, says. “But to a customer, that still results in a simple experience that just focuses on a great listening moment.”

Many of these moments are afforded by the Sonos Arc’s compatibility with Dolby Atmos. The technology works to assign specific elements of a given stream to different areas, ultimately producing a “surround” soundscape akin to those produced in movie theaters. Because the Arc has upward- and side-facing speakers, plus a suite of them pointed straight ahead, Dolby Atmos can utilize all of them (at different times and with different assignments at once) to produce a surround sound-style output. Plugging your Sonos Arc into your TV through the HDMI eARC port affirms easy compatibility. If you have this port, there’s nothing more you need to do—the Arc will automatically adapt. This is true when streaming music (or radio, audiobooks and podcasts) using your smartphone through the new Sonos S2 Controller app, too. Built-in Voice Assistant compatibility even lets one control the speaker using Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant.

“Creating our first Atmos-capable soundbar, in Arc, was so much more than just pointing a couple speakers upward. Honestly, anyone can do that and flood a room with sound. For Arc, we really focused on the playback precision of all the channels—including the height channels,” Product Manager Scott Fink says.

Available in black or white, the Sonos Arc seamlessly fits into an already established entertainment set-up. Its monotone, uninterrupted appearance aims to make the speaker more of an architectural feature and less of an entertainment console. Measuring out to roughly three by 45 by five inches, and weighing about 14 pounds, it’s wider and heavier than previous releases (and an inch wider than the most commonly owned TV which is 44 inches), but it feels less distracting given its design-forward form. Sonos favored touch controls rather than buttons (eliminating any play/pause, skip, and volume motifs) and the Sonos logo appears in the same tone as your chosen speaker. Additionally, an invisible mount ($79) lets users affix it to the wall without cables or brackets.

Regardless of how or where it is placed, the Sonos Arc, through Trueplay, adjusts the speaker’s collective output to account for ceiling height, acoustics, and how far the speaker resides from its recipients. Plus, toggles within the Sonos controller app allow you to alter its output to account for sleeping kids or thin walls (night sound, which enhances quieter elements and reduces the bass) and movies with extreme highs and lows (with speech enhancement). Altogether, the Arc represents harmony between form and function.

“Arc’s design is purposeful,” Kitty Suidman (Design Director, Color, Finish, Material) says. “Its seamless form and low profile make it feel like a piece of furniture in your home.” Her sentiment mirrors our most concise description of the release: it’s stylish when idle and ultra-impressive in action.

Images courtesy of Sonos