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    The Sonos Arc is our favorite all-in-one Dolby Atmos soundbar for fantastic audio

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    The Sonos Arc is an excellent all-in-one soundbar.

    Tyler Hayes/Business Insider

    The Sonos Arc is the popular audio brand’s flagship soundbar. It’s designed to provide immersive audio performance from just a single soundbar unit and includes Dolby Atmos support for a truly enveloping home theater experience. Atmos uses object-based mixing and up-firing speaker drivers to create the sense that sound is coming from all directions — even above your head.

    At $899, the Sonos Arc is aimed squarely at customers who want premium sound without the extra hassle of an AV receiver or the clutter of a multi-speaker setup. At this price, the Arc isn’t an impulse buy, but its performance cements it as one of the best soundbars available for anyone who wants a convenient, all-in-one Atmos solution.

    Getting the Sonos Arc set up is easy, but its large size won’t fit all TV stands

    The Sonos Arc can connect to your TV using an HDMI or optical cable.

    Tyler Hayes/Business Insider

    The Arc is molded out of matte black or matte white plastic. Even so, it oozes a premium look and feel. It’s a vast upgrade over the fabric exterior used on Sonos’ older Playbar. While dust will still stick to it, it’s much easier to wipe down than the Playbar’s fabric, which was always a pain.

    However, at 45 inches long, the Arc won’t fit every media console, and its 3.4-inch height could block some TV screens. You’ll also need to place it on top, rather than inside, a cabinet to get the full benefit of its up-firing speakers. We recommend measuring your space and display height before buying the Arc. If you have issues with console placement, the soundbar can be mounted to a wall. 

    The Arc has an HDMI eARC port for pairing with modern TVs and an optical adapter if you have an older display without HDMI. On the downside, there are no extra HDMI ports, so you can’t connect a media player or gaming console to the bar and then pass it through to your TV.

    During my testing, I connected the Arc to an LG OLED TV and used an Apple TV 4K connected to the TV for streaming. To get Dolby Atmos, you’ll need to use the HDMI port, not optical. Your display or media player must also support Dolby Atmos. The Arc also supports standard DTS surround sound, but it does not support the more advanced DTS:X format.

    The Sonos Arc delivers 5.0.2 channels of audio on its own. This translates to front left, front center, and front right channels, along with simulated rear left and rear right channels. Two up-firing speakers are integrated as well to bounce sound off your ceiling during Dolby Atmos playback.

    In addition to listening to the soundbar on its own, I also tested the Arc with two rear Sonos Play:1 speakers and a Sonos Sub to create a full 5.1.2 system with dedicated bass and genuine surround channels. The Play:1 and Sub are both sold separately. 

    In all, it takes around 10 minutes to go from unboxing to listening. This quick setup has less to do with the Arc specifically and more to do with the seamless wireless ecosystem Sonos has been building for the last decade. It should be noted, however, that the soundbar lacks video passthrough support. This means that you can’t feed video from a Blu-ray player or streaming device through the soundbar to your TV.

    During setup, there’s also an option for Trueplay tuning which will adjust the sound for your specific room shape and size. I skipped this initially to get a sense of the device’s out-of-box sound, but I went back and completed this process the next day. Trueplay tuning definitely changes the sound, and the adjustments provide an improvement in my room. Your mileage may vary depending on your preferences.

    Movies, TV shows, and music come through with clear, crisp audio

    The Arc sounds great no matter what you’re watching.

    Tyler Hayes/Business Insider

    The Arc offers wonderful audio quality with brilliant dynamic range and incredibly detailed sound. Even if used outside a home theater setting, the Arc is easily one of the top speakers that Sonos makes. The Sonos Five might sound a little meatier because of its larger drivers, but as a movie- and music-listening device, the Arc excels.

    I listened to music directly through the Sonos app, via AirPlay, and using Apple TV. The source audio obviously makes a difference. If you can listen using one of the best music streaming services like Tidal for lossless audio, you’ll hear an improvement in clarity and fullness.

    But no matter what you’re listening to, it’s as if the Arc fades from view so that only its audio is left front and center. Instrument placement is distinct, and it often feels as if I’m right there in the room with the musician.

    Audio quality for TV shows and movies is similarly impressive. The better the source, the more the speaker disappears, allowing you to become immersed in the show or movie with sound coming from all directions.

    Projecting convincing rear audio effects from a single soundbar is incredibly difficult, but sound easily fills the area in front of you for a wide, 180-degree soundfield. And thanks to the soundbar’s up-firing drivers for height effects, it never feels like you need satellite speakers, though they can enhance the experience even more if you add them.

    The Arc also features a Night Mode and Speech Enhancement feature. Night Mode lowers intense sounds for a more balanced and soft listening level. Meanwhile, Speech Enhancement boosts the EQ frequency associated with the human voice. Night Mode works well for limiting to range for quieter listening but is more of a nicety than a necessary function. Speech Enhancement also comes in handy to further bring out dialogue, but I never really find voices to be hard to hear when using the regular mode.

    On the downside, like most standalone soundbars, the Arc is a bit lacking in bass. On its own, it’s respectable in smaller rooms, but in larger living rooms, it just can’t provide the deep low frequencies and rumble that a dedicated subwoofer offers. Thankfully, it’s easy to upgrade the system with a wireless Sonos Sub if you decide you want extra bass later on.

    The Arc really comes alive when playing Dolby Atmos surround sound content

    With Dolby Atmos support and up-firing speakers, the Arc is able to simulate overhead sound effects.

    Tyler Hayes/Business Insider

    While the Arc’s performance is impressive no matter what audio format you listen to, Dolby Atmos support is the soundbar’s defining feature. I spent a lot of my time with the speaker focused on listening to Atmos content, both from music and movies to get a sense of the scope it provides.

    Dolby Atmos titles are available on a lot of the best streaming services and Blu-ray discs. Disney Plus offers Dolby Atmos on select movies and shows as part of its ad-free service. Netflix also supports Atmos through its Premium tier. You can also buy or rent digital movies with Atmos from services like Apple TV and Fandango. On the music side, Tidal, Amazon Music Unlimited, and Apple Music all offer a selection of albums in Dolby Atmos.

    Dolby Atmos aims to provide an immersive audio experience that’s even more engaging than regular surround sound. To this end, many Atmos systems, like the Sonos Arc, feature up-firing speaker drivers. These drivers are angled to bounce sound off the ceiling, simulating the effect of audio coming from above your head.

    Because the speaker in my living room is closer to the right wall, the Atmos effect is more pronounced on the right side. Similarly, the height of your room’s ceiling will also determine the effectiveness of the sound coming from the top. Trueplay tuning should help with this as it tells the system how big your room is and where the soundbar is in relation to the walls.

    Action movies like “Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse,” “Avengers: Endgame,” “Black Panther,” and “Baby Driver,” offer great examples of the benefits that Atmos can provide. The red throne room fight scene in “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” is a particularly good demonstration, resulting in an impressive dome of audio. A lot of added immersion comes from enveloping ambient sounds and background effects that fill the room. Try closing your eyes when listening to Atmos movies to really focus on the enhanced effects.

    On the music side, “Expectation” from Grouplove is a fun listen in Dolby Atmos, as the format allows it to produce a wider sound field. Albums from The Weeknd, Halsey, and Norah Jones also sound great in Atmos.

    If you’ve already invested in a smart TV, streaming box, or Blu-ray player that supports Dolby Atmos, then a soundbar like the Arc could be the missing piece you need to complete your home theater setup. However, if you don’t have any Dolby Atmos sources to hook up to the Arc, you won’t be getting the soundbar’s full value.

    The soundbar also supports tons of smart features

    The Arc can function like a smart speaker with voice control.

    Sonos

    Beyond Dolby Atmos, the Arc includes features like AirPlay and access to hundreds of streaming audio services. It is also a full-fledged Sonos speaker, so the company’s standard wireless features, like support for grouping with other Sonos gear, are present. 

    The Arc is the first Sonos speaker to offer support for the brand’s “TV Swap” feature when paired with its new Sonos Ace headphones. This function allows you to wirelessly switch between audio playback on the soundbar and private listening through the headphones with the press of a button. Unfortunately, we could not get this feature to work during our testing. Sonos says we encountered a rare bug that it’s working to fix. We don’t expect this issue to be common for most setups.

    Just like the Beam or Move, the Sonos Arc features built-in microphones for voice assistant capabilities. You can use either Alexa or Google Assistant, depending on which one you prefer, but you can’t have both enabled simultaneously. If you use Alexa, you can also use it to turn the TV on or off, or change the channel.

    Should you buy it?

    The Sonos Arc is an excellent soundbar for anyone who wants a single-unit audio device with Dolby Atmos support.

    Amazon

    For buyers who want a convenient all-in-one home theater system, the Sonos Arc is a tremendously impressive device and one of the best Dolby Atmos soundbars you can get. If you’ve invested in a TV or media player that supports Atmos, then the Arc could be exactly what you’re looking for. It’s a single-unit soundbar that can handle all types of content, from music to movies, and it pairs perfectly with the best 4K TVs you can buy.

    If, however, you’re not going to take advantage of all its capabilities, like Dolby Atmos and voice control, then the $899 price makes it hard to justify. The Arc is a fantastic premium soundbar, but for buyers with more casual audio needs, there are less costly models to consider. Check out our guide to the best budget soundbars for more affordable alternatives. 

    Conversely, buyers who want a multi-speaker soundbar system with separate satellite speakers and a dedicated subwoofer should consider the Vizio Elevate or Samsung Q990C to get an even more immersive experience, albeit at the cost of the Arc’s all-in-one convenience. 

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