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The Sonos Arc Soundbar: A Digital Technology Expert‘s Honest Review

Are you searching for a premium soundbar that seamlessly merges cutting-edge audio technology with sleek design and smart features? Look no further than the Sonos Arc, a high-end all-in-one soundbar that promises to elevate your home theater experience to new heights. As a digital technology expert with years of experience evaluating audio gear, I‘ve put the Arc through its paces to determine if it lives up to the hype. In this comprehensive review, I‘ll delve into the Arc‘s key features, performance, and value to help you decide if it‘s the right soundbar for your needs.

Unboxing and First Impressions

Upon unboxing the Sonos Arc, I was immediately struck by its premium look and feel. Measuring 45 inches wide and weighing a substantial 13.8 pounds, the Arc has a presence that exudes quality. The sleek, understated design is available in your choice of matte black or white finishes, with a tight-knit grille that wraps seamlessly around the front and sides. Up top, touch-sensitive controls provide easy access to play/pause, volume, and mute functions.

The Arc feels sturdy and well-constructed, with no visible seams or unsightly screws. Underneath, two rear-facing ports accommodate power and HDMI input (with an included HDMI-to-optical adapter for older TVs). A subtle Sonos logo adorns the front, but otherwise, the Arc maintains a minimalist aesthetic that blends in nicely with modern decor.

Setup and Connectivity

Getting the Sonos Arc up and running is a breeze, even for those less technologically inclined. Simply plug in the power cord, connect the included HDMI cable from the Arc to your TV‘s HDMI-ARC port, and download the Sonos app on your iOS or Android device. The app guides you through the initial setup process, which involves creating or signing into a Sonos account and configuring your TV remote to control the soundbar‘s volume.

The Arc supports a variety of wireless connections, including Wi-Fi (802.11b/g, 2.4 GHz), Apple AirPlay 2, and Spotify Connect. It‘s compatible with the full range of Sonos speakers for multi-room audio, but lacks Bluetooth connectivity – something to keep in mind if you want to stream directly from a device without Wi-Fi.

One of the Arc‘s standout features is its support for Dolby Atmos, a surround sound technology that adds height channels for a more immersive, three-dimensional soundstage. To take advantage of Atmos, you‘ll need to connect the Arc to a compatible TV with Atmos content. The Arc can also decode other popular audio formats like Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD, and PCM stereo.

Audio Quality and Performance

Of course, the real test of any soundbar is how it sounds, and the Sonos Arc does not disappoint. Inside its svelte frame are 11 high-performance drivers, including eight elliptical woofers and three silk-dome tweeters, powered by 11 discrete Class-D amplifiers. Two of those tweeters are upward-firing, bouncing sound off the ceiling for Atmos height effects.

The result is a wide, immersive soundstage that fills even large rooms with rich, detailed audio. The Arc creates a convincing illusion of surround sound without the need for additional speakers, projecting both horizontally and vertically. When watching Dolby Atmos content, the added height layer is palpable, with overhead effects like rain or aircraft realistically placed in the sonic space above you.

But the Arc isn‘t just a one-trick pony for Atmos. It excels across a variety of content, from dialogue-heavy TV shows to high-octane action movies to music. Speech is crystal-clear thanks to the dedicated center tweeter, even in scenes with complex background noise. The Arc‘s midrange is smooth and natural, reproducing everything from instrumental soundtracks to explosions with depth and precision.

Bass is often a weak point for standalone soundbars, but the Arc‘s woofers provide satisfying low-end punch without sounding boomy or distorted. You won‘t rattle any windows, but the Arc delivers more than enough bass for most people. If you crave earth-shaking lows, Sonos offers a wireless subwoofer (sold separately) that integrates seamlessly with the Arc.

To put some numbers behind the Arc‘s performance, independent measurements from Rtings.com show the soundbar has a frequency response of 52Hzā€“20kHz (-6dB), with a gentle roll-off in the sub-bass range and excellent flatness through the mids and highs. THD is very low at just 0.79% at 80dB SPL, meaning the Arc maintains clean, undistorted playback even at higher volumes.

In my own critical listening tests, I was consistently impressed by the Arc‘s ability to render fine sonic details, from the subtle rustling of leaves to the nuanced reverb tails of instruments. The soundstage is both wide and deep, extending beyond the physical boundaries of the soundbar. With Atmos content like Blade Runner 2049 or The Mandalorian, the sense of immersion is stunning, with precise positioning of sound effects in three-dimensional space.

The Arc also excels as a music speaker, with a balanced, neutral tonality that adapts well to any genre. Stereo separation is excellent, with a cohesive, almost tangible center image. The Arc‘s eight woofers work together to create an expansive, room-filling sound that belies the soundbar‘s size. It may not replace a pair of high-end bookshelf speakers for critical listening, but the Arc is more than capable of serving as your primary music system.

Smart Features and App Control

In addition to its impressive sound, the Sonos Arc offers a range of smart features and integrations that enhance its functionality and ease of use. The soundbar has built-in support for Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, allowing you to control playback, adjust volume, and even check the news or weather using voice commands. The microphone array is sensitive enough to pick up your voice from across the room, even with music playing.

The Sonos app serves as a hub for controlling all of your Sonos devices, with an intuitive interface for managing multi-room audio, adjusting EQ settings, and accessing popular streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, and Tidal. You can group the Arc with other Sonos speakers for synchronized playback throughout your home, or use the app to pair two Arcs in a stereo configuration.

One of the Arc‘s most impressive features is Trueplay, a room correction technology that uses your iOS device‘s microphone to measure your room‘s acoustics and automatically optimize the soundbar‘s EQ for the best possible sound. The process involves walking around your room waving your device up and down, which the app then uses to analyze the space and adjust the Arc‘s audio settings accordingly.

In practice, Trueplay made a noticeable difference in the Arc‘s performance, particularly in its ability to maintain clarity and tonal balance in acoustically challenging rooms. Whether placed freely in an open-concept living room or tucked inside an entertainment cabinet, the Arc sounded remarkably consistent after Trueplay tuning. It‘s an impressive feat of digital signal processing that takes the guesswork out of room acoustics.

Comparisons and Value

At $899, the Sonos Arc is undeniably a premium product with a price tag to match. But compared to other high-end soundbars in its class, the Arc offers a compelling mix of performance, features, and design that justifies its cost. Its closest competitor is the Bose Smart Soundbar 900, which shares a similar MSRP and feature set.

Both the Arc and Bose 900 support Dolby Atmos, voice assistants, and Wi-Fi streaming, with comparable driver configurations and power output. The Bose has a slight edge in terms of overall loudness and bass extension, while the Sonos offers a wider soundstage and more precise surround effects. The Sonos app is also more robust and user-friendly than Bose‘s, with better multi-room functionality.

For a step down in price, the $799 Samsung HW-Q800A offers a compelling alternative to the Arc, with a similar 3.1.2-channel Atmos configuration and included wireless subwoofer. It doesn‘t quite match the Arc‘s finesse and musicality, but delivers stronger bass and a more cinematic sound for movies. The Samsung also supports DTS:X, which the Arc lacks.

At half the price of the Arc, the $449 Vizio M-Series 5.1 represents an excellent value for those seeking a full surround sound experience on a budget. With dedicated surround speakers and a wireless subwoofer, the Vizio offers true discrete 5.1 audio and surprisingly good Atmos height effects. It can‘t match the Arc‘s sound quality or premium design, but delivers the most immersive sound per dollar.

Ultimately, whether the Sonos Arc is worth its $899 asking price depends on your priorities and budget. If you‘re looking for the best all-in-one soundbar on the market, with uncompromising sound quality, style, and features, the Arc is tough to beat. But if you‘re willing to sacrifice some refinement for a more affordable price, there are excellent options at lower price points that still deliver a significant upgrade over built-in TV audio.

Conclusion

After spending countless hours evaluating the Sonos Arc, I can confidently say it‘s one of the finest soundbars money can buy. Its combination of stellar audio quality, immersive Dolby Atmos effects, sleek design, and smart features make it a standout choice for discerning listeners seeking the ultimate all-in-one home theater solution.

The Arc‘s 11-driver array and advanced digital signal processing create a wide, enveloping soundstage that rivals many multi-speaker setups, with precise imaging and tonal balance. Dialogue is crystal-clear, while music and movie soundtracks are rendered with impressive depth and detail. The inclusion of Dolby Atmos adds a convincing layer of height to the mix, placing sound effects above and around you for a truly three-dimensional experience.

But the Arc is more than just a pretty speaker. Its smart features, headlined by Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant support, make it a true hub for your connected home. The Sonos app is a joy to use, with intuitive controls for multi-room audio, EQ settings, and music streaming. And the company‘s Trueplay room correction technology ensures you get the best possible sound for your specific space.

Of course, all of this cutting-edge technology comes at a price, and the Arc‘s $899 MSRP puts it firmly in the premium tier of soundbars. But for those willing to invest in the best, the Arc delivers uncompromising performance and polish that justify its cost. And with Sonos‘ reputation for long-term software support and frequent updates, the Arc is a sound investment that will keep getting better over time.

If you‘re looking for a high-end soundbar that seamlessly blends state-of-the-art audio technology, elegant design, and smart features, the Sonos Arc is a top choice. It‘s a shining example of what‘s possible when cutting-edge digital signal processing, acoustic engineering, and software smarts come together in a single package. The Arc isn‘t just a great soundbar – it‘s a glimpse into the future of home audio.