Sonos has a reputation to uphold when it comes to ease of use, design and sound quality. The first Sonos zoneplayers set the ‘industry standard’ in terms of ease of installation and possibilities to easily play music from online sources. Now we have left more than fifteen years – and about three generations – behind us. We take a look at the Sonos ARC soundbar. Is this the new, golden standard, for soundbars?
Sonos has been busy. The apps have been taken care of and countless new generation products have been introduced. That has taken a lot of effort. One of the consequences is that now a Sonos S1 and a Sonos S2 app can be found in the ‘app-stores’. The S1 app is for the ‘old generations’ and the S2 app is for the ‘new generations’. They can no longer be mixed. And that can lead to some crazy situations where two types of apps are in use in one household (or one ‘business’).
The Sonos ARC is a soundbar with eleven drivers:
- Two on the sides
- Two facing up
- Left and right a tweeter
- Left and right a midrange
- Two center units
- Center tweeter
This makes the Sonos ARC – despite its considerable size – a compact sound bar. Because all these drivers also need amplifiers. And then there are some pcb’s (electronics) for the (wireless and wired) network and the hdmi input. Not to mention the processing of all codecs… so, beside the drivers, there is a lot of other electronics in that soundbar.
The Sonos ARC is made for use under a TV. Logical: it is a sound bar. But where the Sonos Playbar stopped at a ‘kind of’ Dolby Digital experience, the Sonos ARC also supports Dolby Atmos. Even without extra speakers or a subwoofer. Although we definitely recommend the Sub to give the ARC some ‘extra breathing room’ in the bass area. The entire sound balance and sound image is better when using the Sonos Sub.
If you really want ‘real’ surround sound, it is of course possible to connect two surround speakers (S2 generation) to the Sonos ARC. Sonos itself frankly admits that this offers a better experience.
The installation of the Sonos ARC is done via the App. It hasn’t been possible to add products via the desktop app for a while now.
Sonos: that’s really not handy… at all! Especially in business situations where large installations are running and wifi is heavily regulated, it is downright awkward to use an app to set up and add zones. Why not simply via the desktop application (with a wired laptop or desktop pc)? It used to be possible and worked much faster and more convenient. Just bring that back, please!
Anyway: installation takes at most three cables: a network cable (you can also connect wirelessly, but we always recommend a cable for stability reasons), a power cable and an hdmi cable. In case of a TV without arc, a ‘dongle’ is included that converts from optical to hdmi. Sonos supplies everything you need in the box. Very nice!
When we open the app (S2-version, golden logo), we can see in a wizzard how to install the Sonos ARC. Plug it in, give it a name, indicate the room and we are done. At the end Sonos asks if we would like to add a Sonos Sub and surround speakers. We skip that for now.
ARC or optical
The Sonos ARC only has an hdmi input. No optical, coaxial or analog. Now there are pros and cons to that. At the office we have a projector, a (Sony) blu-ray player and an Illusonic AV processor. All no arc. We do have a separate hdmi-audio output on the Sony. But that doesn’t work: the signal is not recognized. Strangely enough, the Sony doesn’t have an optical output either. It does have coaxial. Probably because of the higher bandwidth. The nVidia Shield does not have an optical out either: it does have usb audio. You can already see the problem here: only optical or hdmi-arc is rather limited. And so it may just be that a high-end cinema is not suitable for the Sonos ARC soundbar.
We let the Sonos play some music in the office for a while and then take him home to live with it for more than two weeks. Watching TV, Netflixing and some live blu-rays. In fact what everyone is going to do with a Soundbar.