New Sonos Arc adds Dolby Atmos to shoot down the soundbar opposition

Beautiful Dolby Atmos soundbar is Beam's big brother and launches alongside updates of Play 5 and Sub

Sonos Arc
(Image credit: Sonos)

Sonos Arc is the first soundbar from the brand with Dolby Atmos built in. Sonos already makes the best set of multi-room speakers you can get without spending a lot of money, and it also makes some excellent home cinema speakers – soundbars specifically, although you've also long been able to use its smaller speakers as rear surround speakers.

Sonos' market dominance is such that it seems to lag behind certain audio trends at times. Most notably, it has never formerly supported hi-res audio – which most people admittedly don't really care about – and Dolby Atmos, which a lot of people are very interested in. Well, that's no longer the case.

Arc is a logical progression from Sonos – with Alexa on board it's a successor to the multi-T3-Award winning Sonos Beam, and a replacement for both the Sonos Playbar, which is pretty old, and the Playbase which came out relatively recently, but it turns out nobody wants 'soundbases'. Which is a shame, but there we go.  

Alongside Sonos Arc there's a new Sonos Sub – the brand's highly impressive wireless woofer for big booty bass – and Sonos Play 5. Now named Sonos 5, the latter is available in all white for the first time. Both these old stagers have had their innards upgraded with faster processors and all that, but should sound essentially identical to their predecessors. 

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Sonos Arc

(Image credit: Sonos)

Sonos has come up with a typically attractive speaker with Sonos Arc, and the price is probably a winning proposition – it's not affordable like the Beam but it's not really all that expensive and everyone knows the audio quality, app, range of music sources supported and ease of use will be way better than many much more expensive speakers. 

There's not support for DTS, which will annoy those with lots of Blu-ray disks and hard drives full of legally ripped Blu-ray disks… But Netflix, Amazon, Apple TV and every other significant streaming service has opted for Dolby Digital (5.1) and Dolby Atmos (5.1 with vertical knobs on). So those of us with lots of Blu-rays and DVDs with DTS encoded audio will just have to suck that up for now. Sonos says it won't rule out DTS support, but it's obvious that ship has now sailed. 

Sonos Arc: spec

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Sonos Arc

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Sonos Arc

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Sonos Arc

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Sonos Arc

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Sonos Arc

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Sonos Arc

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Sonos Arc supports Dolby Atmos via upward firing drivers in its 114.2mm length body. As usual with Sonos, the brand has actually taken the time to consider how tall and deep the bar should be, so as to not muck up your visibility of the bottom portion of your TV – it's 8.7cm tall and 11.6cm deep. There's also infra-red pass-through so if that does obstruct your TV's IR receiver, that shouldn't be a problem.

If you want to wall mount the Arc below your TV instead, it will also optimise its audio to reflect that. Even better, while Sonos' Trueplay tuning is still included – it's intended to optimise the audio for the size, shape and acoustic qualities of your front room – as with last year's Sonos Move, this no longer requires you to walk around the room wafting your phone about, like some kind of ponce. It just does the settings for you.

The same four far-field, beam-forming mics that manage this also hopefully ensure Alexa and Google can hear you – we've always found Beam, Arc's predecessor, works better than all of Amazon's own speakers in this respect.

That aside, audio is handled by 11 Class-D digital amplifiers, with three 'precisely angled' – as opposed to crappily angled – silk-dome tweeters managing the mid and top end, and eight elliptical woofers giving bottom-end heft even if you don't have a Sub.

As ever, Sonos has made sure Arc is quite beautiful to look at, and easy to set up, Inputs are limited to wireless audio and an HDMI eARC connection for Dolby Digital and Atmos audio via your TV. Home cinema purists are not likely to be impressed by that, but most people with a TV made in the last few years should not find it a problem. YOu just plug it in, fire up Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple TV etc, and off you go. 

The Sonos Arc, Five and Sub are all designed specifically to work with the brand's new app and back end, branching off from the one used by Sonos products prior to Sonos One. Again, that has caused a lot of gnashing of teeth with existing Sonos users, but there we go. 

The new app and back end allow for support for higher resolution audio. So far that is limited to Dolby Atmos but it could eventually allow for hi-def audio streams from Amazon Music HD, Tidal HiFi, Qobuz, and your NAS drive. 

Funnily enough, the best selling speaker out of the three new Sonos speakers announced today will probably be the Sonos Five – a hardware and aesthetic update of the elderly Play 5 that isn't remarkable in any other way. Slightly oddly, the Five has not been redesigned to include an upward firing driver, so while it can work as a rear surround, it can't handle full-on Atmos duties. Rear vertical channels are provided solely by the Arc bouncing sound off your ceiling.

Partly because of that, and also in terms of looks and positioning, Sonos Arc is clearly the main attraction here. I expect it to do well, if not perhaps as well as the smaller Beam.

Sonos Arc: release date and price

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Sonos Arc

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Sonos new speakers 2020

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Sonos new speakers 2020

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Sonos Arc costs US $799 / £799 / €899 / AU$1,399 and is available to pre-order now, with shipping from June 10.

Sonos Five costs US $499 / £499 / €579 / AU$749 and is available to pre-order now, with shipping from June 10.

Sonos Sub costs US $699 / £699 / €799 / AU$999 and is available to pre-order now, with shipping from June 10.

• Pre-order Sonos Arc now
• Pre-order Sonos Sub v4 now
• Pre-order Sonos 5 now