The wireless home-audio specialist Sonos is launching the first of its next-generation speakers with a new Dolby Atmos voice-controlled soundbar called Arc.
Arc replaces the firm’s popular Playbar and Playbase as its top-end TV sound system, re-engineered to provide a wider, more powerful sound and built on the new S2 software platform, which is due to roll out to existing speakers soon.
The elliptical soundbar contains 11 separate speakers and is designed to sit below, above or in front of a TV. Four woofer speakers face forwards to provide the centre, left and right channels, two point to the side to provide the wide and rear channels, while two more point upwards to provide the height channel that is part of Dolby’s Atmos home-cinema sound. Three tweeters provide high notes, while the bar can be wall or table-top mounted, adjusting automatically for the best sound.
Arc builds on the success of Sonos’s cheaper Beam soundbar, being one of the few manufacturers integrating both Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant for optional voice control. It also has Sonos’s speech enhancement system for clarifying dialogue in TV and movies, and its night sound system, which tempers loud effects for quieter listening, a feature popular with people who live in close proximity to others.
The soundbar connects to the TV via HDMI, supporting the new eARC standard required for Dolby Atmos, but is backward-compatible with the previous ARC and optical audio connections. As with Sonos’s other products, Arc can also be combined with the firm’s wireless sub and a pair of rear speakers.
Arc is one of the firm’s first speakers to launch on its new S2 software, which supports higher-resolution audio and other more advanced features. It connects to wifi and can stream music from a vast array of services including the new, free Sonos radio, Spotify, Apple Music and others, while also supporting Apple’s AirPlay 2 and Spotify Connect. S2 will launch with a new and improved app for controlling the system, including the user-requested feature of saved multi-room groups.
Arc will cost £799 in the UK and $799 in the US (A$1,399 in Australia), shipping from 10 June, available in white or black.
Alongside the Arc soundbar, Sonos is also launching revamped versions of its wireless Sub and Play:5 speakers, now simply known as Sonos 5, which match the previous versions on sound but have improved wifi, memory and processing power used to support more advanced features down the road. The Sub (gen 3) and Sonos 5 will be available on 10 June for £699/$699/A$999 and £499/$499/A$749 respectively.
Sonos has been embroiled in several controversies over recent months, first by suing Google over patents, among other complaints associated with voice technologies, and has accused Amazon of doing something similar. Sonos, which has 10 million customers using 29m of its products, is being seen as a bellwether for smaller companies standing up to being squeezed by the big US technology firms.
The company also faced complaints from users over its plans to stop supporting speakers over five years old as part of its shift to the S2 platform. Sonos later clarified that its “legacy” speakers would continue to work as they do now, but would have to be isolated from other speakers upgraded to the S2 platform. Sonos previously won praise for its unusually long software support life.