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The 6 Best Alternatives to a Sonos Arc

Are you looking for a premium soundbar to take your home theater setup to the next level, but the $899 price tag of the Sonos Arc is holding you back? You‘re not alone. While the Arc is widely regarded as one of the best soundbars money can buy, it‘s not the only option out there. In fact, there are several excellent alternatives that deliver comparable (if not better) performance for a lot less.

As an audio enthusiast who has tested dozens of soundbars over the years, I‘ve put together this expert guide on the best Sonos Arc alternatives available today. Whether you‘re looking for the ultimate immersive Dolby Atmos experience, a budget-friendly option that doesn‘t skimp on features, or a gaming-focused soundbar optimized for your PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X, there‘s something here for everyone.

But first, let‘s take a quick look at what makes the Sonos Arc so popular and where its competitors are aiming to one-up it.

Sonos Arc: The Pros and Cons

There‘s no denying that the Sonos Arc is a fantastic piece of hardware. Its sleek, minimalist design makes it a great fit for any living room aesthetic. The Arc delivers impressive, room-filling sound thanks to its 11 built-in drivers (including two upward-firing speakers for Dolby Atmos) and advanced tuning software. Integration with the Sonos ecosystem is seamless, allowing you to easily expand to a full surround sound setup by adding a Sub and a pair of One SL speakers.

However, the Arc does have some drawbacks. The lack of a physical remote can be annoying if you don‘t always want to use the Sonos app on your phone. There‘s also no Bluetooth connectivity or support for DTS:X audio. Perhaps most importantly though, that hefty $899 price is simply too expensive for many people, especially if you don‘t need features like AirPlay or direct voice control.

With that context in mind, let‘s dive into my top picks for Sonos Arc alternatives that won‘t break the bank.

  1. Polk Audio MagniFi Max AX

For those who want the most immersive Dolby Atmos experience possible without spending Sonos money, the Polk Audio MagniFi Max AX is my top recommendation. This 5.1.2 channel soundbar comes with a beefy 10-inch wireless subwoofer and delivers a truly impressive surround sound performance.

The MagniFi Max AX features 11 built-in drivers, including two upward-firing speakers that bounce sound off the ceiling for a convincing Atmos effect. It supports both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X 3D audio formats, allowing you to get the most out of your 4K Blu-rays and streaming content. Polk‘s patented VoiceAdjust technology ensures crystal-clear dialogue even during loud action scenes.

In terms of connectivity, you get HDMI eARC, optical audio, a 3.5mm aux jack, plus Wi-Fi and Bluetooth wireless streaming with Chromecast and AirPlay 2 support. The included remote gives you easy control over volume, sound modes, and more. Setup is a breeze thanks to the guided instructions in the Polk Connect app.

While not cheap at $799, the MagniFi Max AX still comes in $100 less than the Sonos Arc while matching or exceeding it in performance. The only real downside is the soundbar‘s size – at 45 inches wide, it may be too large for some TV setups. But if you have the space, the MagniFi Max AX is a fantastic choice.

  1. Vizio Elevate

Another top pick for the best Dolby Atmos experience is Vizio‘s flagship Elevate soundbar. This 5.1.4 system features unique rotating speakers on the top of the bar that automatically switch position based on the content. When you‘re playing Atmos content, the speakers face upward to deliver overhead effects. For standard 5.1 audio, they rotate forward for a wider soundstage.

The Elevate packs a total of 18 drivers into its main soundbar unit, which is accompanied by a 10-inch wireless subwoofer and two wired satellite speakers for true surround sound. It supports both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X along with multiple sound enhancement technologies like a dedicated center channel for dialogue clarity.

While not as sleek-looking as the Sonos Arc, the Vizio Elevate has a premium build quality with a nice metal grill finish. The included backlit remote makes it easy to switch between sound modes and control playback. You also get a good selection of wired and wireless connectivity options including Bluetooth, Chromecast, and a dedicated input for smart speakers like an Amazon Echo.

At $999, the Elevate isn‘t a budget option. But given its innovative design and excellent performance, it still presents a strong value compared to the Sonos Arc, especially if you watch a lot of Atmos content. The main downside is that setup is a bit more involved since you have to wire the satellite speakers to the subwoofer.

  1. Samsung HW-Q950A

Samsung‘s flagship HW-Q950A is another enticing alternative for those seeking the ultimate Dolby Atmos experience. This monster 11.1.4 channel system consists of a soundbar, subwoofer, and two wireless rear speakers for a fully immersive hemisphere of sound. The main soundbar unit alone packs in 16 drivers including four upward-firing Atmos channels.

One of the HW-Q950A‘s standout features is its support for Q-Symphony, which allows the soundbar to sync up with the speakers on select Samsung QLED TVs for an expanded front soundstage. It also offers built-in Alexa voice control and an active Game Pro Mode that boosts directionality for more immersive gaming.

While very expensive at $1599, the HW-Q950A is one of the only soundbars that truly rivals a high-end component surround sound system. The main drawback is that unlike the Sonos Arc, Samsung‘s system can‘t easily be expanded down the line – you‘re locked into the 11.1.4 configuration out of the box.

  1. Yamaha YAS-209

For those on a tighter budget, the Yamaha YAS-209 is an excellent affordable option. This 2.1 channel soundbar and wireless subwoofer combo delivers impressive sound quality for the price. While it doesn‘t support Dolby Atmos, the YAS-209 does offer DTS Virtual:X technology which simulates a 3D surround effect from its front-firing drivers.

The YAS-209 also has Amazon Alexa built-in for hands-free voice control, making it a great choice if you want the smart speaker functionality of the Sonos Arc without paying a premium. Other handy features include a Clear Voice mode for enhanced dialogue and a special subwoofer-synced bass mode for extra punch.

In terms of design, the YAS-209 has an understated look with a slim profile that‘s easy to wall-mount if desired. Connectivity options are fairly basic but cover the essentials with HDMI ARC, optical audio, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi. While the included remote isn‘t backlit, it provides easy access to all the main functions.

Overall, the Yamaha YAS-209 is proof that you don‘t have to spend a ton to get great soundbar performance. At just $299, it‘s a fraction of the cost of the Sonos Arc while still delivering very satisfying sound for movies, TV, and music. The main thing you give up at this price point is a more immersive surround experience.

  1. Bose Smart Soundbar 900

Prefer the slick look and premium build of the Sonos Arc but want something more geared toward gaming? Check out the Bose Smart Soundbar 900. With its tempered glass top and elegant wraparound metal grille, this is one sexy piece of audio gear. But it‘s not just a pretty face – the Soundbar 900 is also a beast when it comes to performance.

Under the hood, the Soundbar 900 boasts nine drivers including two dipole transducers and two up-firing speakers for Dolby Atmos effects. Bose‘s PhaseGuide technology helps create a wide, immersive soundstage while the QuietPort design ensures clean, distortion-free bass even at high volumes. The result is a fantastically dynamic and engaging listening experience, especially for gaming.

The Soundbar 900 offers both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, plus Bose SimpleSync which allows you to pair it with select Bose headphones for private listening. You also get built-in Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant for voice control and Chromecast/AirPlay 2 for high-quality music streaming. Physical connections include HDMI eARC and optical audio.

At $899, the Bose Smart Soundbar 900 matches the Sonos Arc in price while offering a few unique advantages like MultiBeam technology and SimpleSync. It‘s an excellent choice for gamers or anyone who wants a premium soundbar that looks as great as it sounds. The main downside is the lack of a separate subwoofer which may disappoint those craving really deep bass.

  1. Klipsch Cinema 600

Klipsch is known for making high-end speakers with a signature dynamic and exciting sound. Their Cinema 600 soundbar carries on that tradition in a more affordable and convenient form factor ideal for smaller rooms. This 3.1 system consists of a 45-inch soundbar with a dedicated center channel and 8-inch wireless subwoofer.

While it may not have as many bells and whistles as some of the other options on this list, the Cinema 600 excels where it counts – audio quality. Klipsch‘s proprietary Tractrix horn technology and aluminium tweeters deliver crystal clear highs and mids while the beefy subwoofer handles the low end with aplomb. Three preset sound modes (Surround, Dialogue, Night) let you easily optimize the EQ for different content.

Connectivity options on the Cinema 600 are fairly basic but functional. You get HDMI ARC, optical audio, a 3.5mm analog jack, USB, and Bluetooth. While there‘s no Wi-Fi or integrated voice control, the system is compatible with universal remotes. The included remote is nice and simple with individual buttons for each sound mode and an LED display on the soundbar showing the selected input.

Aesthetically, the Cinema 600 sports a classic look with a black wood grain finish and metallic accents. The main drawback is the lack of Atmos support, as this is strictly a 3.1 setup. But if you mainly watch TV and movies in a small to medium-sized room, the Cinema 600‘s stellar sound quality and no-fuss operation make it a great value at $499.

Choosing the Right Soundbar

With such a wide range of alternatives to the Sonos Arc, you might be wondering how to pick the best one for your specific needs and preferences. Here are a few key factors to consider:

  1. Audio Channels and Dolby Atmos

If you‘re looking for the most immersive movie watching experience, a soundbar that supports Dolby Atmos is a must. Atmos adds a height dimension to the standard surround sound experience by literally putting sound above you. To get the full effect, you‘ll want a soundbar with dedicated upward-firing or ceiling-mounted speakers like the Polk MagniFi Max AX or Vizio Elevate.

For smaller rooms or more casual viewing, a simpler 2.1 or 3.1 channel system with a good subwoofer will still be a huge improvement over your TV‘s built-in speakers. Virtual surround technologies like DTS:X can help create a more expansive soundfield even without dedicated rear speakers.

  1. Connectivity

Think about how you plan to connect your soundbar to your TV and other devices. HDMI ARC/eARC is the most convenient option as it allows you to use your TV remote to control the soundbar volume. However, you‘ll need to make sure your TV has an HDMI port labeled ARC or eARC. The next best option is optical (aka TOSLINK) which most soundbars also support.

If you want to stream music or audio from your phone to the soundbar, look for models with Wi-Fi and/or Bluetooth. Wi-Fi allows for higher quality streaming from services like Spotify but Bluetooth is more universal. Some bars like the Sonos Arc and Bose Smart Soundbar 900 support both.

  1. Size and Design

Before buying a soundbar, make sure to measure your TV stand or entertainment center to ensure a good fit. You‘ll want the soundbar to be roughly the same width as your TV – a bit smaller is fine but avoid anything that will hang over the edges.

Also think about the aesthetic of your space and choose a design that will complement it. Soundbars come in a range of styles from ultra-minimalist to more flashy and futuristic. The Sonos Arc and Bose Smart Soundbar 900 blend in seamlessly with modern decor while the Klipsch Cinema 600 has a more classic wood grain look.

  1. Budget

Of course, your budget will be a major factor in deciding which soundbar to buy. The good news is that you can find very solid performers at nearly every price point. While the super premium options like the Samsung HW-Q950A deliver the most knockout performance, more affordable alternatives like the Vizio Elevate or Yamaha YAS-209 will still be a massive sonic upgrade for most people.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Will a soundbar work with any TV?
A: Yes, you can connect a soundbar to any modern TV that has an HDMI ARC, optical audio, or 3.5mm headphone output jack. Some older TVs may not have these ports in which case you‘d need to use the soundbar‘s analog RCA inputs (if it has them) or an external device like a streaming box or game console.

Q: Do I need a subwoofer?
A: While you don‘t absolutely need one, a subwoofer will dramatically improve bass response and overall sound quality, especially for movie watching. All of the soundbars featured in this guide except for the Bose Smart Soundbar 900 come with a wireless subwoofer. If you‘re tight on space, look for a soundbar with a built-in sub like the Sonos Arc.

Q: Can I use my soundbar for music?
A: Absolutely! Any good soundbar should work well for both movies and music. Models with Wi-Fi and/or Bluetooth connectivity make it easy to stream your favorite tunes. Some soundbars like the Sonos Arc also support multi-room audio so you can enjoy the same music throughout your home.

Q: Are soundbars better than surround sound speaker systems?
A: It depends. A well-designed 5.1 or 7.1 surround system with separate speakers will generally outperform a soundbar in terms of spaciousness and precise localization of sounds. However, soundbars are much more convenient, easier to set up, and can still deliver a very compelling surround experience, especially high-end models like the Samsung HW-Q950A and Nakamichi Shockwafe Ultra.

The Bottom Line

While the Sonos Arc is undeniably an excellent soundbar, it‘s far from the only game in town. Depending on your budget, room size, and feature priorities there are lots of compelling alternatives that perform just as well if not better.

For the ultimate Dolby Atmos experience, the Polk MagniFi Max AX and Vizio Elevate are the cream of the crop. Gamers will love the dynamic sound and slick looks of the Bose Smart Soundbar 900. Budget-conscious buyers should check out the Yamaha YAS-209 and Klipsch Cinema 600. And if you want to go all out, the colossal Samsung HW-Q950A is in a class of its own.

Whichever route you choose, all of these soundbars will take your TV audio to the next level. But the only way to know for sure which one is right for you is to listen for yourself. See if your local electronics store has any models set up for demo, or buy from a retailer with a good return policy so you can test at home with your favorite content. Enjoy the upgrade!