Arc, the preview test of the intelligent soundbar of Sonos – La Stampa

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We listened to more music, we enjoyed more films and TV series, we had more time for ourselves. This, if we like, was the positive side of the pandemic, which forced us to rethink what we really need and what makes us happy. Songs and cinema, for example, may not change our lives, but they certainly make it better. Why then use small televisions and mediocre systems? In times of evenings at home and remote cinema, a TV of at least 50 inches and a soundbar can be sensible investments. Two growing markets, and so Sonos, which already had the excellent Beam in its catalog, presented the Arc soundbar for a few weeks, which can now be pre-ordered all over the world. It replaces Playbar and Playbase, and is designed to be combined with televisions from 50 inches upwards, and in fact the dimensions are considerable (8.7 x 114 x 11.6 cm), but the weight is also quite important: 6.25 kg .

The status led is at the center of the soundbar; the brightness is automatically adjusted in relation to the environment

The status led is at the center of the soundbar; the brightness is automatically adjusted in relation to the environment

Design

The Arc can be wall mounted, with an optional accessory, or placed on a surface, and automatically adjusts the frequency response. Available in black or white, it has a discreet design, with a metal grid that covers three quarters of the surface and hides the speakers. They are 11, driven by as many class D digital amplifiers: eight elliptical woofers (four along the front, two at the top and one at each end), and three tweeters with silk dome, all integrated in the front but with two diagonally oriented. Above the Sonos logo are the LEDs that indicate the status of the appliance; the brightness automatically adjusts to that of the room so as not to disturb when the lights are off. As on other devices of the American company, the controls are touch: you can adjust the volume and start or pause playback, but also go to the previous or next track. On the right is the button to activate or deactivate the four microphones for Alexa or Google Assistant voice commands, with a single LED indicating whether they are active or not.

The light that indicates whether the voice assistant microphone is working is located to the right of the soundbar

The light that indicates whether the voice assistant microphone is working is located to the right of the soundbar

Versatile

Yes, because, just like the Play One speaker and the Beam soundbar, Arc can also use different voice assistants (for now Alexa and Google Assistant, perhaps in the future also Siri), and integrates all music streaming services, from Deezer to Spotify , from Apple Music to Tidal. Usually a speaker with Google Assistant is not compatible with Alexa, and vice versa, but only for a question of software and commercial agreements, because the hardware requirements are the same: microphone, wi-fi connection, a chip for processing data. Sonos immediately chose a different path, as CEO Patrick Spence explains: “We are and will always be an open platform, we work with other companies that share our vision to bring our customers a better experience, leaving them maximum freedom to choice”.

On the back of the Arc there is a power outlet, an ethernet connection for connection to the network (but there is obviously Wi-Fi), and an HDMI port. An optical adapter is included in the package for those who have an older TV, but the ideal is to use the HDMI Arc (Audio Return Channel) to bring the audio signal from the TV to the soundbar. In this way, you will not need a second remote control, and it will also be possible to configure the TV in to control it through the Arc voice assistant. Unlike Beam, the new Sonos soundbar supports eArc (Enhanced Audio Return Channel), which manages Dolby Atmos encoding on compatible televisions. There are over 25 streaming apps that broadcast content in this format: Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney + and Apple TV, for example.

Space

Arc adjusts the sound profile via software based on the home theater configuration and the content reproduced, in stereo, Dolby 5.1 or Dolby Atmos. There is also Trueplay technology to adjust Arc’s acoustic profile according to the acoustic characteristics of the room. The procedure is similar to that used for the speakers: the app starts, and the device emits a series of sounds; the smartphone’s microphone records them and compares them with the original, then adjusts the frequency response of Arc in order to compensate for resonances, rumblings and environmental reflections. The soundbar takes two measurements: one made at the ideal listening point, the other moving around the room and twirling the smartphone. Funny, especially for those who will see you do it. Warning: the app works on smartphones and tablets of all platforms, but calibration with Trueplay is only available with iPhone. The result obviously depends on the starting condition, but in our case the effect was very evident, especially on the voices, which have become clearer, with the dialogues of the most intelligible films (and if it is still not enough there is the Speech Enhancement setting in the app). You can then adjust the bass and treble tones and the Loudness.

Two of the 11 speakers on the Sonos Arc are at the ends of the soundbar

Two of the 11 speakers on the Sonos Arc are at the ends of the soundbar

The sound

Hardware, software, algorithms, environment: the sound of today’s speakers comes from the combination of multiple factors, and Sonos Arc proves it best. By exploiting the reflection of the walls, he manages to recreate a good effect of depth, with sounds and noises capable of surprising, when they appear in specific points of the room, far beyond the soundbar. “It takes much more than a pair of speakers pointing upwards,” says Patrick Spence, CEO of the California company. And he underlines how the optimization work on Arc required “months of tests and hundreds of listening tests”.

Sonos speakers have always had a fairly neutral tonal balance, and the Arc is no different. The true high-fidelity purists will have fault, but in each price range the products of the American company are a reference for the quality of the audio, always correct and pleasant. After the enthusiasm of the first contact, in fact, with these objects we usually live together for a long time, and over time we tend to put aside the amazement for special effects and give more weight to other parameters, such as ease of listening, clarity in the reproduction of speech, the ability to credibly reproduce the position of musicians and actors. From all three points of view, Arc offers excellent results, although certainly a stereo system with two separate speakers makes the separation between the left and right channel better: here the effect is wider, and not necessarily as precise. With music, Arc seems to us to play better than a normal mono speaker, precisely because of this greater spatiality. With films and TV programs, it does exactly what is required of a quality soundbar: it reproduces the audio with clarity and precision, but it is never in the foreground, and the effects of the Dolby Atmos are very evident, but they do not distract from that that happens on the screen.

The back of Arc is essential: the socket for the power cable, the one for Ethernet and the input for an Hdmi Arc connection

The back of Arc is essential: the socket for the power cable, the one for Ethernet and the input for an Hdmi Arc connection

Pros and cons

There is no analogue input, and, as on other Sonos products, Bluetooth is missing. All in all, for Arc we can say the same as for Beam: it offers good audio quality for music and for TV, it is compatible with a huge number of streaming music platforms, and can play audio files on hard drives and computers, for those who still USA. It is a soundbar and its place is in the living room, under the TV, but it is also perfect for music, in the whole house. In addition, there are several expansion possibilities: in addition to the three speaker models and the sub which has just released a new version, you can use a Connect Amp, combined with traditional speakers, which also allows you to listen to analog sources. A couple of Sonos One are enough to have a discreet and versatile home theater system, and for those who want to spend even less there are always the Sonos-Ikea speakers, which start from 99 euros.

Dolby Atmos is an indispensable feature today for a device in this price range, but Sonos also offers compatibility with future formats offered by the new software platform, a vast ecosystem of compatible products and unmatched ease of use. The new app will arrive on June 8, Arc will go on sale from June 10 to 899 euros.



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https://www.lastampa.it/tecnologia/prove/2020/06/04/news/arc-la-prova-in-anteprima-della-soundbar-intelligente-di-sonos-1.38927810

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