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7 Reasons to Think Twice Before Buying the Sonos Arc Soundbar: An Expert‘s Perspective

As a digital technology expert and audio enthusiast, I‘ve seen my fair share of hyped-up gadgets that don‘t quite live up to their promises. The Sonos Arc soundbar is one of the latest products to fit that bill, with its sleek design and impressive spec sheet masking some significant flaws and limitations that potential buyers should be aware of. In this in-depth analysis, I‘ll break down 7 key reasons why you might want to think twice before investing in the Sonos Arc – and suggest some alternatives that offer better value and performance for your home theater setup.

1. Trueplay Room Calibration is Frustratingly Limited

One of the Arc‘s headline features is its Trueplay room calibration system, which promises to optimize the soundbar‘s output for your specific room acoustics. However, in practice, Trueplay falls short in several key ways:

  • It only works with iOS devices, excluding the 72% of global smartphone users who use Android (Statista)
  • The calibration process is cumbersome and imprecise, requiring you to walk around the room waving your iPhone or iPad awkwardly while it plays test tones
  • Results can be inconsistent and may not actually improve sound quality in many rooms

Compare this to the calibration systems offered by competitors like Yamaha, Anthem, and Audyssey, which use professionally calibrated microphones to take multiple measurements around the listening area and automatically adjust speaker levels, distances, and EQ. These systems work with any mobile device and provide much more accurate and reliable results with minimal user input.

As an audio professional, I can confidently say that proper room calibration is essential for getting the best possible sound quality from any speaker system – and the Sonos Arc‘s Trueplay just doesn‘t cut it. If you‘re spending this much on a soundbar, you deserve a calibration system that actually works well and delivers consistent results.

2. Limited Connectivity Options Compromise Flexibility

Another major drawback of the Sonos Arc is its limited connectivity options. With just a single HDMI input and no passthrough, the Arc makes it unnecessarily difficult to integrate multiple devices into your home theater setup:

  • If you have multiple HDMI sources (gaming console, streaming box, cable/satellite receiver, etc.), you‘ll need to constantly swap cables or invest in a separate HDMI switch
  • The lack of an HDMI output means you can‘t route video through the soundbar and pass it to your TV, which can introduce lag and compatibility issues
  • If your TV doesn‘t have a dedicated HDMI ARC/eARC port, you‘ll be forced to use the lower-quality optical audio connection instead

These limitations are especially frustrating given the Arc‘s premium price point. Many competing soundbars in the same range offer multiple HDMI inputs and outputs, making it much easier to connect and switch between all your devices. Some even include additional ports like USB and analog audio for maximum versatility.

As a technology expert, I believe that a high-end soundbar should make your home theater setup simpler and more seamless – not more complicated. The Sonos Arc‘s lack of connectivity options is a major strike against it, especially compared to more flexible competitors.

3. No DTS:X Support Means You‘re Missing Out

While the Sonos Arc does support Dolby Atmos (more on that later), it notably lacks support for the competing DTS:X immersive audio format. This may not seem like a big deal at first, but consider this:

  • DTS:X is found on many 4K Blu-rays and streaming titles, often as the default or only immersive audio option
  • Some content (like certain gaming consoles) outputs DTS bitstreams by default, which the Arc cannot decode at all
  • DTS:X offers some unique advantages over Atmos, like the ability to adjust dialog volume independently and more flexible speaker layouts

By omitting DTS:X support, the Sonos Arc limits its own versatility and forces you to stick with Atmos-enabled content if you want the full immersive audio experience. This can be especially frustrating for gamers and movie buffs with large 4K Blu-ray collections, many of which feature DTS:X soundtracks that the Arc simply can‘t play properly.

In contrast, most other premium soundbars (including models from LG, Sony, Samsung, and Vizio) support both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, ensuring you can enjoy your entire library of content without compromise. As an audio expert, I think it‘s well worth investing in a soundbar that gives you the full range of immersive audio options, not just one.

4. You‘re Locked Into the Sonos Ecosystem

One of Sonos‘ main selling points is its multi-room audio ecosystem, which lets you easily group and control multiple wireless speakers throughout your home. The Arc integrates seamlessly with this ecosystem – but that tight integration comes at a cost:

  • Sonos uses a proprietary wireless mesh network that isn‘t compatible with industry standards like Google Cast or Amazon Multi-Room Music
  • You can‘t easily mix and match Sonos speakers with those from other brands, limiting your options if you want to expand or upgrade your setup down the line
  • Sonos has a history of abandoning older products, sometimes rendering them unusable when they no longer receive software updates

While the Sonos ecosystem does offer some convenience and user-friendly features, it‘s important to understand the long-term implications of buying into a closed, proprietary platform. With the Arc, you‘re not just investing in a soundbar – you‘re committing to the Sonos way of doing things, for better or worse.

Personally, as someone who values flexibility and interoperability in my technology products, I‘m wary of putting all my eggs in one basket – especially when that basket has a track record of planned obsolescence. There are plenty of excellent soundbars on the market that play nicely with a wide range of other devices and platforms, giving you more control over your setup as your needs and preferences evolve.

5. Middling Sound Quality for Movies and TV

While the Sonos Arc does a decent job with music playback, its performance with movies and TV shows leaves something to be desired – especially for a soundbar in this price range. Here are some key observations from professional reviews and independent testing:

  • Gizmodo: "Atmos performance was lacking… I couldn‘t hear the height speakers at all in most scenarios, and the surround effect was spotty at best."
  • RTINGS: "For a premium soundbar, the Arc has a pretty disappointing surround performance… It has to downmix surround content into stereo to play it, which doesn‘t sound as immersive."
  • Wirecutter: "It doesn‘t sound quite as good as the [competing] Samsung HW-Q90R… the Arc doesn‘t have rear speakers or offer a tremendously wide soundstage."

In my experience, the Arc‘s lacklustre movie and TV performance can be largely attributed to its limited speaker configuration and reliance on virtual surround processing. With just three front channels and two upfiring drivers, the Arc simply can‘t replicate the precise directional cues and immersive soundstage of a true 5.1.2 or 7.1.2 surround setup.

Compare this to other soundbars in the same price range, like the LG SN11RG or JBL 9.1, which include dedicated wireless rear speakers and more robust up-firing driver arrays. These setups can much more accurately recreate the immersive Atmos experience, with discrete sound coming from all around and above you.

As a digital technology expert and audio nerd, I believe that investing in a premium soundbar should get you premium movie and TV performance – not just "good enough" virtualizations. If you‘re serious about home theater and want to be fully immersed in your content, the Sonos Arc may leave you underwhelmed.

6. Wireless Audio is Too Apple-Centric

In addition to Sonos‘ own wireless ecosystem, the Arc supports Apple‘s AirPlay 2 standard for streaming audio from iOS devices, Macs, and Apple TVs. However, there are a few key limitations to be aware of:

  • AirPlay 2 only works with Apple devices – if you have an Android phone or Windows PC, you‘re out of luck
  • There‘s no Bluetooth support at all, so you can‘t easily connect wireless headphones or stream from non-Apple devices
  • Sonos‘ software doesn‘t let you stream audio from the Arc to other AirPlay 2 speakers, only from them to the Arc

These limitations can be frustrating if you live in a mixed-device household or simply prefer the convenience and universal compatibility of Bluetooth. It‘s especially disappointing given that nearly every other soundbar on the market (even much cheaper models) includes Bluetooth support as a standard feature.

As someone who values flexibility and interoperability, I think it‘s important for wireless audio products to support a wide range of devices and platforms. The Sonos Arc‘s Apple-centric approach may work well for those fully bought into the iOS ecosystem, but it excludes a significant portion of potential users and use cases.

7. Better Value Found Elsewhere

Finally, we come to the question of value. At $899, the Sonos Arc is one of the most expensive single-unit soundbars on the market – and given its various limitations and drawbacks, it‘s hard to justify that premium price tag. For the same price or less, you can find competing soundbars that offer:

  • More immersive surround configurations with dedicated rear speakers
  • Both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X immersive audio support
  • Multiple HDMI inputs and wireless connectivity options
  • More advanced room calibration systems with professional-grade microphones
  • Expandability with other speakers and accessories within the same ecosystem

Don‘t get me wrong – the Sonos Arc is a well-designed, easy-to-use soundbar with some nice features. But when you dig into the details and compare it to other options in the same price range, it‘s hard not to feel like you‘re overpaying for an incomplete package.

As a digital technology expert, my goal is always to help people get the best possible value and performance for their money. And in the case of high-end soundbars, I believe there are simply better options out there than the Sonos Arc.

Alternatives to Consider

So, what are some of those better options? Here are a few of my top recommendations for premium soundbars that outperform the Sonos Arc in various ways:

  1. Samsung HW-Q950A

    • 11.1.4-channel configuration with wireless rear speakers and subwoofer
    • Both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X support
    • Automatic SpaceFit room calibration with included microphone
    • Multiple HDMI inputs and wireless connectivity options
    • Expandable with optional wireless surround speakers
  2. LG SP11RA

    • 7.1.4-channel configuration with wireless rear speakers and subwoofer
    • Both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X support
    • AI Room Calibration with spatial awareness mapping
    • Multiple HDMI inputs and wireless connectivity options
    • Works with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa for voice control
  3. JBL Bar 9.1

    • 9.1-channel configuration with detachable, battery-powered wireless rear speakers
    • Both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X support
    • Automatic MultiBeam calibration for immersive surround sound
    • Multiple HDMI inputs and wireless connectivity options
    • 10-inch wireless subwoofer for deep, powerful bass

Of course, the right soundbar for you will depend on your specific needs, preferences, and budget. But if you‘re looking for a premium audio experience that truly delivers on the promise of immersive sound, I believe any of these options will serve you better than the Sonos Arc in the long run.


To sum up, while the Sonos Arc may be a popular and well-marketed soundbar, it has some significant drawbacks that potential buyers should be aware of:

  1. The Trueplay room calibration system is limited and imprecise compared to competing standards
  2. With only one HDMI input and no passthrough, the Arc lacks flexibility for multi-device setups
  3. The lack of DTS:X support means you may not get the full immersive experience with your content
  4. Sonos‘ closed ecosystem and history of planned obsolescence could leave you hanging in the long run
  5. Movie and TV performance is underwhelming compared to similarly-priced competitors
  6. Wireless audio is too Apple-centric, with no Bluetooth support or easy compatibility with other ecosystems
  7. You can find better value and more features in other premium soundbars for the same price or less

Ultimately, investing in a high-end soundbar is a big decision that requires careful consideration of your specific needs and priorities. As a digital technology expert and audio lover, my goal is to help you make an informed choice that will deliver the best possible performance and value for your home theater setup.

If you‘re drawn to the Sonos Arc for its simplicity and user-friendly features, I absolutely respect that. But I also encourage you to explore other options and weigh the long-term costs and benefits before making your final decision. With a little research and critical thinking, you may just find a soundbar that better aligns with your goals and expectations – and helps you get the most out of your favorite movies, shows, and tunes for years to come.