Sonos has introduced a new soundbar to its line-up to replace the seven year-old Playbar and that will leave many wondering whether they need to upgrade.
- Sonos Arc: 1,141.7 x 87 x 115.7mm, 6.25kg, HDMI eARC
- Sonos Playbar: 900 x 85 x 140mm, 5.4kg, optical
- Both require broadband and power supply
The Sonos Arc represents a major design rethink in comparison to the Playbar, but not when you consider the rest of the current Sonos speaker family. It adopts smooth curves and elliptical ends, over the square chunky aesthetic of before.
The Arc is a little bigger 8211; longer and with fractionally more height, but has less overall depth. The Playbar8217;s shape means that it offers a very different look when flat than when under a TV, whereas the Arc looks similar in both form factors.
They differ when it comes to the connections on the rear. The Arc has a HDMI port that is HDMI eARC capable. In comparison, the Playbar has a single optical digital audio input (TOSlink). You do get an optical audio adapter in with the Arc, in case that is still your preferred connection (from an older TV, say), but most TVs these days support HDMI ARC or eARC from at least one of their ports.
- Sonos Arc: 8 woofers, 3 tweeters 8211; with Dolby Atmos
- Sonos Playbar: 6 mid-range woofers, 3 tweeters
- Both have Class-D digital amplifiers to match speaker drivers
There is a marked difference in sound between the two bars, most notably because the Arc is the first Sonos speaker to adopt Dolby Atmos support.
The Playbar remains an excellent sound system, with a speaker array that features six mid-range drivers, three tweeters and nine Class D amplifiers. Two of the drivers are angled at either end to deliver a wider soundstage, especially when combined with the front-facing drivers left and right. The centre channel is served by two woofers and one tweeter for precise, clear vocals.
The arc, on the other hand, has been completely reworked and retuned to deliver more of a 5.0.2 experience from the same soundbar. The far left and right drivers are more angled still, to deliver wider side channels, while the front facing drivers work for centre, left and right channels.
There are two extra drivers angled upwards this time, creating the height channels needed for Dolby Atmos. These bounce supported soundtracks off the ceiling to the listening position to provide further immersion in a movie, sporting event or Atmos-mixed music.
- Sonos Arc: HDMI eARC with HDMI CEC and auto sync, Alexa and Google Assistant on-board
- Sonos Playbar: IR receiver
In many respects, the Sonos Playbar is a fairly dumb system when compared to the Arc. It is a Sonos speaker, of course, so connects to the Sonos controller/app and can play streamed music just like all Sonos devices. However, as it connects to a TV (or AV receiver) via optical it is fed audio and that8217;s all.
HDMI eARC adds a number of additional benefits. Not only does it support the bandwidth required to deliver a Dolby Atmos soundtrack, it is a two-way connection so the Arc can communicate with the TV too. This allows HDMI CEC to work between devices, meaning you only need the one remote control to use on both. Your TV remote, for example, can control all functionality of the Arc 8211; volume, mute, etc.
Like the Sonos One and Move, the Arc has Alexa and Google Assistant support on board. That means you can use its four far-field microphone array to issue commands and ask questions of either voice assistant.
To be honest, we often compare new products with the older version they are replacing and rarely do we recommend a generational upgrade. However, in the case of the Sonos Arc, there is a much clearer argument.
As the first Sonos product to adopt Dolby Atmos, and to include actual upward firing drivers, the Sonos Arc has a clear advantage over its predecessor. And, that8217;s without even considering HDMI eARC support, Alexa and Google Assistant, plus a, frankly, sexier look.