The Sonos Playbar is finally being retired seven years after its introduction in 2013. Replacing the faithful soundbar is the Arc, Sonos’s new $799 premium soundbar with Dolby Atmos for the home theater.
As you can see, the Arc has a completely overhauled design with “270-degree rounded plastic grille” that looks more modern and pushes out loud sound. Sonos says it intentionally made the Arc longer than the Playbar to match bigger TVs, but dimensionally, it’s smaller in volume.
Big sound — Design is secondary to sound quality. The Arc features 11 high-performance drivers — two of which fire upward to blast upwards and then around a room to simulate 3D audio for Dolby Atmos. Sonos says it did a ton of work to ensure there’s no latency in delivering the virtual sound in sync with picture quality.
Much of this sound magic is thanks to Sonos’s Trueplay room-tuning tech that was first introduced on its portable Sonos Move speaker. Trueplay automatically adjusts and adapts based on the space it’s in and accounts for room length, height, and even objects like chandeliers that could affect the sound distribution; unfortunately, you still need to wave an iPhone around like a dork to calibrate Arc during setup. Similarly, connecting the Arc to Sonos’s wall mount (sold separately for $79) also automatically changes the sound dispersion so that it’s not firing sound at the wall behind it.
Sonos tells me that its sound engineers tuned the Arc’s audio profile to about 90 percent. The other 10 percent was fine-tuned by creative partners like audio engineer Chris Jenkins, who’s worked on sound for movies like Mad Max: Fury Road, and record producer Giles Martin, who’s worked with musicians like Paul McCartney and helped produce films with Martin Scorsese and Ron Howard. This collaboration is key to getting Dolby Atmos content to sound exactly the way its creators intended.
The Arc will cost $799 and comes in white and black. Like Sonos’ smaller and more affordable Beam soundbar, the Arc has built-in Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant voice control support and works with AirPlay 2.
Add more boom — In addition to the Arc, Sonos is also announcing a new third-gen Sub and second-gen Play:5 speaker, now called the Sonos Five. Sonos says both products add “increased memory and faster processing power” (translation: more bandwidth for high-res audio streaming and more runaway for future updates).
The new Sub comes in black or white and has a subtly tweaked design that largely resembles its predecessor. At $699, the new Sub is only necessary if you want to add more bass to your sound system. Sonos tells me when paired with the Arc, the Sub will automatically deliver more low-end leaving the soundbar to push out clearer mids and highs.
Also updated is the Play:5 speaker. The second-gen speaker now has a white mesh front (instead of black) to match the molded plastic body and revamped internal guts. Otherwise, the Sonos Five, available in white or black, has the same excellent sound quality and Wi-Fi and AirPlay 2 features as the previous version. It’ll sell for the same $499.
Compatibility check — All three Sonos products ship with Sonos’s new S2 operating system and new Sonos app announced in March. The new Sonos app will hit the App Store and Google Play Store on June 8.
If you’re a Sonos user with one of the company’s “legacy” devices or have an existing Sonos product that has yet to be updated from the S1 OS to S2, you’re going to need to think about whether the Arc, new Sub, and new Sonos Five are worth breaking compatibility.
Non-legacy devices can be updated to the S2 software and will work just fine with the Arc, new Sub, and new Sonos Five.
When you can buy — All three new Sonos devices will be available on June 10 from Sonos.com and select retailers. The only downside is most people can’t walk into a physical store or Sonos experience store to listen before buying during the pandemic. Like many purchasing decisions, you’re going to need to rely on your faith in the brand to deliver quality products. I haven't had a chance to listen to the Arc, but plan to soon.