November 23, 2020

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Sonos Arc Soundbar: the Most Powerful TV Speaker but with a Precondition

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Anyone with a little taste for the audio and video experience should not be satisfied with the speaker effect of the TV. No matter how much effort manufacturers make in speaker technology, and no matter how terrific the screen-sounding, bezel-sounding features are, the TV’s feeble speaker system is still just alright.

But then again, not every living room can own a 5.1-channel sound system, whether because of space or budget constraints, or because you don’t need sound quality to that extent. For these people, simple and straightforward soundbars seem to be the better choice.

Sonos has been in the TV speaker business for many years. Beam, Playbar, and Playbase are all impressive and excellent products. In May, they brought an all-new Arc to spearhead their line of TV speakers. Now, Sonos Arc will soon be available for $1,190.

 

Slim but powerful

The Sonos Arc is much slimmer than the Playbase I reviewed earlier. But it is by no means a small device, as it is more than a meter long and weighs 13.7 pounds. You can put Sonos Arc on the wall if your TV cabinet won’t fit, though the brackets will cost extra.

Sonos Arc is available in black and white, and this time I got the black version. Like all black appliances, Sonos Arc isn’t particularly resistant to dirt, especially in homes with pets where you have to clean dog hair, cat hair and dust. The white version should do a lot better, but I think white might not be as versatile as the black one.

Sonos Arc fuselage design continues the Sonos’ original simple style, there is only one Sonos logo. There are three volume and playback control touch key on the top. There are microphone’s indicator light and microphone switch on the right of the top. Opposite is matching buttons, cable outlets and HDMI interface. The rest of the body was covered with as many as 76,000 holes.

Sonos designed the Arc to be that long to accommodate a 5.0.2 audio system inside, with five transverse channels (left, left surround, center, right surround) and two top channels (which reflect sound from the ceiling through the facing speakers). With a Sub, you can enjoy a more powerful bass effect with Sonos’s wireless connection.

 

Simple to set up, but not too demanding

Sonos Arc’s initial setup is as simple as ever. Download the Sonos App and you’ll be prompted to connect it to your home Wi-Fi network. Like Sonos’s legacy products, Arc can play music wirelessly directly over WiFi, as well as over a traditional wired connection.

Sonos Arc also supports Sonos’s own TruePlay tuning feature, but only for iOS apps. Once turned on, you’ll need to hold your iPhone in circles in the air and move around the room. During this process, the APP will receive the audio from the speaker through the iPhone’s microphone, so as to understand the propagation of sound in space. When it’s done, the speaker adjusts the audio output accordingly to provide the best audio experience.

As for the connection to the TV, it was a little more complicated. I was a little confused at first Even though I am very familiar with Sonos products,

Sonos Arc only needs an HDMI cable to connect to your TV, but receiving high standards of audio depends on whether your HDMI port supports Arc or eARC.

The full name of HDMI ARC is “audio return channel,” and its purpose is to allow HDMI ports to transmit audio signals to supported audio devices, providing higher bandwidth and eliminating the need to use audio cables alone. HDMI eARC is an upgrade to HDMI ARC, which has improved transmission bandwidth and speed and supports lossless audio on 5.1 and 7.1 channels.

If your TV model is older and doesn’t support HDMI ARC or eARC, you can use the optical fiber to HDMI converter that comes with Sonos ARC. Just plug the fiber into the TV, and plug the HDMI into the ARC. Instead of experiencing Sonos Arc’s signature Dolby sound features (including Dolby Digital +, Dolby TrueHD, and Dolby Panorama sound), you can console yourself with old Dolby digital sound, provided your old TV supports Dolby digital decoding.

If your TV only supports HDMI ARC, the Dolby sound you can enjoy from Sonos ARC depends on the model of the TV itself. Theoretically, HDMI ARC can support Dolby Panoramic sound, Dolby digital +, and Dolby digital, but you don’t get the thrill of the latest Dolby TrueHD.

Therefore, if you want Sonos Arc to play to its full potential, you’ll need to own (or buy) an HDMI eARC enabled TV to ensure that Sonos Arc supports all Dolby sound.

 

The Sonos app explicitly displays the currently activated sound technology when connecting to your TV to play audio, and if you can’t see anything, that means your TV doesn’t support any Dolby sound, which means you need to upgrade your TV.

 

How’s Arc sound quality?

The plasma TV in my living room is a 2014 LG, so I’m well aware that it doesn’t support HDMI ARC/eARC, or Dolby sound decoding of any kind.

If you’re in my situation and have no plans to upgrade your TV anytime soon, I wouldn’t recommend buying Sonos Arc. That’s not to say the speakers aren’t good. On the contrary, the Sonos Arc delivers an impressive audio experience without any Dolby sound enhancements. It has a very wide sound field and surprisingly solid bass.

Of course, that’s not the end of my review. To fully test Sonos Arc, I managed to borrow a TV that supports HDMI eARC.

If the Sonos Arc with the deactivated Dolby sound is excellent, then the Sonos Arc with the Dolby Panoramic sound enhancement is stunning.

A pair of walkers S1000 in my living room is connected to the TV. Although it’s not a dedicated TV speaker, I’m satisfied with the results, except that the overpowered bass often makes my head hurts. The problem is that the S1000 is just a pair of 2.0 speakers, which is fine for watching dramas and YouTube, but is completely limited by the number of sound channels, and doesn’t deliver any immersive or surround-sound experience.

But as a soundbar, Sonos Arc has no such problem. First, the fuselage is long enough and the five transverse channels create a wide enough sound field to create a sense of surround. In addition, the two facing up speakers will reflect sound from the ceiling in front of you, simulating the top sound channel. With the extra optimization provided by Dolby panoramic sound, you can feel the sound coming from all directions while watching the movie. It’s not as much of a surround as an affirmative theater or a stand-alone home theater system, but it’s still easy to feel and soak in.

Of course, you have to find the right source to enjoy Dolby’s panoramic sound. The blu-ray disc is of course the best solution. If you’re downloading the source from the Internet, you’ll have to choose one with “Atmos” in the file name. Dolby’s panoramic sound has been supported by quite a few movies in recent years, such as nearly all of Netflix’s homemade shows.

Movies at, under the help of the panoramic view and multichannel Dolby sound, “Blade Runner, 2049” at the end of the fight soon to let you feel the water of the sea to drown, “Mission Impossible 5: Mysterious Country” with “Nessun Dorma” that part of the fight to let you as if place oneself the opera house, “1917” in the leading role in the fire of retrograde rush like brought you to the battlefield.

In particular, Sonos Arc offers two sweet features when playing the movie. The “night tone” lowers the bass to avoid disturbing family or neighbors. Voice enhancement, on the other hand, increases the volume of the dialogue in the film, allowing you to hear the characters’ conversations more clearly. In practice, both functions work pretty well.

 

Can Arc be used to listen to music?

Even though it’s a soundbar, Sonos Arc is perfectly capable of being used as a music player in your living room. With the Sonos app, you can bundle your own online Music accounts, including Spotify and Apple Music.

How well does Sonos Arc play music? It may not be up to the standard of professional music speakers such as Sonos’s own music line. The simple reason is that the Sonos Arc is really just a soundbar, which means Sonos will pay extra attention to its high and low frequency performance when tuning it. If you like to listen to vocals and some action music, Arc is perfect for this. But if you prefer jazz, symphony, or even rock, it may be a little less structured in the mid-range.

 

Conclusion

Sonos Arc’s price of close to 1,200 dollars is certainly not low, and there are certain requirements for the TV, but this does not mean that Sonos went off the wrong path in product planning. The reason is simple: People who are willing to pay for this high-end speaker are unlikely to have a bad TV in their home, or they are more likely to pay for an upgrade to enjoy Dolby’s panoramic sound enhanced movie-watching experience.

In addition, there are probably not many HDMI eARC TVs on the market right now, and most of them are high-end models. However, as a future development trend, it is bound to be popularized and decentralized gradually in the next one to two years. As a longer life cycle audio product, it is actually responsible for users to go ahead of TV.

Finally, while Sonos Arc doesn’t offer as much surround and telepresence as a real home theater system, it also saves you the hassle of digging holes through walls. Compared with this kind of product, it is more advantageous in terms of price and convenience. So, if your TV supports HDMI ARC or eARC, and you have high expectations for an audio experience while watching movies, Sonos ARC is definitely a bar speaker you should consider.

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