Gadgets for humans

Sonos announces the Arc soundbar, its first Dolby Atmos speaker

The long awaited update to the Playbar is one of Sonos' most interesting speakers yet

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Sonos makes some of the world’s most popular wireless speakers, but when it comes to home theater, the company omission of Dolby Atmos support has long been a sore point. Fret no more: Sonos today announced the $799 Arc soundbar, the long-awaited replacement to the Playbar released way back in 2013. The Arc is Sonos‘ first speaker to support Dolby Atmos, and is, according to the company, “one of the most technically complicated products we’ve ever made.”

For those not in the know, Dolby Atmos adds a dimension of height to surround sound, letting you hear sounds from above as well as to your sides or behind you. As with most mainstream Atmos solutions, the Arc works by strategically bouncing sound off your walls. The soundbar contains 11 drivers strategically angled to create the necessary reflections, which the system then finetunes using its automated ‘TruePlay’ calibration system.

In other words, the speaker will change its sound to adjust to your specific room. The system is able to detect when the speaker is mounted to a wall, for instance, to adjust bass response and minimizes nasty resonances. According to Sonos, it will also adjust sound depending on the distance to your walls and ceiling for a more realistic sound. Product Manager Scott Fink says:

“A five-channel phased array optimized the phase and magnitude of each transducer for better control the output at every angle, effectively steering the audio to match what happens on-screen.”

The speaker will also adjust its performance depending on what type of audio its being fed. For example, if you’re not listening to Atmos, it will use the ceiling-bounce drivers to reinforce bass instead. There are also a handful of EQ settings, including a Night Mode to minimize loud surprises and a Speech Enhancement mode to improve dialogue clarity.

And if you do want more bass, you can pair it the Sonos Sub; the Arc will automatically adjust its frequency response to free up performance for other frequencies. You can also combine it with a pair of Sonos Ones for a more immersive surround experience.

The speaker supports both ARC and the newer eARC standard so you can control it easily via your TV’s existing remote. It also supports both the Google Assistant and Alexa — including its own set of microphones — should you want touch-free control. And of course, it supports all the same music playback features available on other Sonos speakers.

At $799 though, it’s pricey, so you’ve got to really trust the Sonos system to buy it blindly. We’ll be giving it the review treatment once our unit arrives, but if it already tickles your fancy, the Sonos Arc is up for pre-order today and will be available globally starting June 10.

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Published May 6, 2020 — 20:05 UTC

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