Sonos Arc + Apple TV 4K + Vizio E-Series (E70-F3)


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There’s been a lot of confusion on this forum (and others) about Atmos compatibility for the Sonos Arc with non-eARC TVs, especially where the Apple TV is concerned.

I have a 2018 Vizio E-Series and after reading entirely too much information on the subject, I still have absolutely no idea if I’ll be able to get Atmos sound from my Apple TV 4K through the Sonos Arc. Seems like a 50/50 chance at best.

I’ve just pre-ordered an Arc and should receive it by the end of the week. I’ll test Atmos compatibility through my E70-F3 via both Apple TV 4K and the built-in apps. In hopes that it will help other E-Series owners, I’ll post my findings here. And if I’m able to get Atmos one way but not another (I’m assuming that if anything works, it will be the built-in apps), I’ll post my (extremely subjective) thoughts on Atmos vs. Dolby Digital Plus sound quality

For what it’s worth, if anyone has any questions or anything they’d like to know, just ask - I’m happy to test as much possible to help answer compatibility questions.

FYI, thanks, and fingers crossed for some Atmos!


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I’ve got a 2018 Vizio P-Series (P75-F1) w/ a Beam 5.1 setup right now. Have an Arc on order too to test out vs the Beam setup which I am already happy with. Sounds like your Arc will arrive sooner than mine. Interested in if the Atmos works. I mainly use the built in apps and Airplay directly to the TV where needed (i.e. HBO). Also have a Apple TV 4K but it is in the bedroom on another TV. 


From what I read the Vizio does pass through Atmos through DD+ but is also dependent on the apps (Prime Video and Vudu work for sure) and I’ve read conflicting things on Netflix which is supposed to work. Whether Atmos works through the Apple TV 4K though I’m not sure since the TV needs to decode Atmos from the ATV 4K’s Dolby MAT output to DD+.

Hey guys I appreciate this question because I’m also looking for answers as on if I will be able to get atmos on my Vizio v series 2018 70in via HDMI-Arc, I also have a Apple TV 4K? I recently preordered my arc and two fives? 

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From what I read the Vizio does pass through Atmos through DD+ but is also dependent on the apps (Prime Video and Vudu work for sure) and I’ve read conflicting things on Netflix which is supposed to work. Whether Atmos works through the Apple TV 4K though I’m not sure since the TV needs to decode Atmos from the ATV 4K’s Dolby MAT output to DD+.

Unfortunately for me, I don’t care a thing in the world about the built-in apps. Atmos not working via the Apple TV 4K will be a deal-breaker for me if it doesn’t work (unless the 5.1 Dolby Digital just blows me away with the sound quality). And yes, although I’m not sure if the TV needs to “decode” the MAT container rather than “strip” (for lack of a better term) and pass along the Dolby Digital Plus bitstream, your point is very well taken. That’s the $799 question. ;-) 

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Hey guys I appreciate this question because I’m also looking for answers as on if I will be able to get atmos on my Vizio v series 2018 70in via HDMI-Arc, I also have a Apple TV 4K? I recently preordered my arc and two fives? 

Fingers crossed for both of us! 

I’ve got a 2018 Vizio P-Series (P75-F1) w/ a Beam 5.1 setup right now. Have an Arc on order too to test out vs the Beam setup which I am already happy with. Sounds like your Arc will arrive sooner than mine. Interested in if the Atmos works. I mainly use the built in apps and Airplay directly to the TV where needed (i.e. HBO). Also have a Apple TV 4K but it is in the bedroom on another TV. 


From what I read the Vizio does pass through Atmos through DD+ but is also dependent on the apps (Prime Video and Vudu work for sure) and I’ve read conflicting things on Netflix which is supposed to work. Whether Atmos works through the Apple TV 4K though I’m not sure since the TV needs to decode Atmos from the ATV 4K’s Dolby MAT output to DD+.

I have this set as well (P75-F1) and am very curious if it is able to pass DD+ to the Arc. I have a playbar already mounted directly under the set, so upgrading to the Arc is a significant investment (new mount, cable re-runs in the wall to provide for proper spacing, etc...) Really appreciate any first hand experience you can share with the P75-F1.

 

Thanks!

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My Sonos Arc is out for delivery and should arrive within a couple of hours. Dying to know whether or not Atmos will work. Will be reporting back soon! 

PS - I’m really, really surprised to see how few Vizio owners seem to be active on the Sonos boards (here and Reddit). Tons of LG, Samsung, and a decent smattering of Sony TV owners, but Vizio seems to be few and far between. 

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My Arc arrived this afternoon and I’ve spent a few hours playing around with it. I have wildly mixed feelings so far. A few initial observations. (Note: this is my first Sonos, for what that’s worth) 

SPOILER ALERT: No Atmos via Apple TV 4K. 

 

BUILD QUALITY: In a word - impressive. Well-packaged, and loved the fabric sleeve it came in. My unit is perfect and looks like a million bucks. Or at least $800. Looks great under the TV and is shockingly unobtrusive. The kids weren’t in the room when I set it up and didn’t even notice it at first.

 

SETUP: Gotta say, I love the concept of what they’re trying to accomplish here. One HDMI cable to the TV and a power cable. Far and away the cleanest, easiest, fastest audio component setup I’ve ever done (and I’ve done a LOT). Setup through the app was relatively painless, though Trueplay failed a couple of times before it completed. 

 

AIRPLAY 2: Freaking love this. Love the integration with Apple Music. Love the fact that I can stream music from any iOS device. Love that I can select the Arc along with my HomePods to play music. Very, very cool. 

 

SOUND QUALITY (GENERAL): I’m not entirely sure how I feel about it yet. The sound field is impressively wide which is cool. I haven’t had a chance to really get it thumping yet, but I haven’t really noticed the muddy bass issue that so many others have. At the same time, it hasn’t really impressed me from a bass perspective yet, either. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a shocking amount of sound coming out of this (fairly) little bar, but I haven’t been “wowed” so far like I was expecting (hoping) to be. It sounds good - really good… but I was expecting exceptional. 

And I’m sure it’s because of the room (open in the back to dining room / kitchen), but it doesn’t do anything at all for rear effects. I’ve got two One SLs coming tomorrow to see how adding those as surrounds impacts the sound. 

Haven’t ordered a Sub 3 yet because the reviews had said the bass was so good that you may not need it. But in my opinion the Arc could really, really benefit from the additional bass a sub would bring. 

 

ATMOS: Have had quite the roller coaster of emotions here. Thought I was getting Atmos out of the Apple TV 4K and was thrilled! Netflix? Atmos! Disney+? Atmos! Apple TV+? Atmos! Plex? Atmos! But then, I noticed that it was reporting that EVERYTHING I was playing on the Apple TV was showing as “Dolby Atmos (DD+)” in the Sonos app. Including things I damn well knew weren’t (hello The Abyss on Plex). A quick reboot of the Apple TV later and goodbye Atmos. :-(

However I HAVE been able to get Atmos on several of the built-in apps on the TV, including Plex so I was able to download and listen to the official Dolby Atmos demo trailers (Leaf, Amaze). Cool sounding? Yep! Wide soundstage? Absolutely! Height effects? Couldn’t hear any at all. Like AT ALL. And I’ve got a nice, big, flat, low ceiling for the Arc to bounce off of so I’m fairly surprised that the effect was so unnoticeable. Had the kids listen as well and they didn’t seem to be able to hear any, either. So, that’s fairly disappointing. Like, not sure if it was worth spending the money disappointing.

 

DTS: With the exception of one short, weird stretch where Plex (on ATV) wasn’t playing any audio At all on anything that didn’t have a straight up AC3 track, I’ve been very pleasantly surprised that Arc’s total lack of DTS support hasn’t been an issue. Plex (or the Apple TV, not sure which) seems to transcode any DTS (or AAC) audio to some variant of Dolby Digital and plays fine. So that made me happy. 

 

STEREO: Hulu on Apple TV only seems to output in Stereo 2.0 which is odd (the built-in app outputs in Dolby Digital 5.1). Along with a bunch of poorly ripped movies in my Plex server in AAC Stereo that leads me to being concerned about how Arc handles stereo audio. Any regular receiver could easily take (matrixes) stereo audio and at least play it using a Dolby Pro Logic decoder, but I’m honestly not sure if Arc does any sort of processing to Stereo signals. That could be an issue for me, but I need to test more to see how it all works. 

 

WRAP-UP: A very mixed bag for me, personally, so far with so, so many “buts.” I want to love it… but I don’t yet. Sounds good... but not amazing and not fundamentally better than what I’d be replacing. Could probably benefit from the addition of the Sub and a pair of One SLs... but for nearly $2,000 it damn well ought to sound good at that point. I’m not getting Atmos from my Apple TV… but so far I haven’t heard any Atmos content that makes me care. AirPlay 2 functionality is awesome…. but I’ve already got a house full of HomePods. 

Will report back as I learn more and add more pieces. Happy to answer any questions anyone has in the meantime. 

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I have a Vizio M658 - 2019 M Series Quantum. No atmos from ATV. And worse…. no Atmos from built in Apps (Netflix/Prime etc).

Inbuilt apps push out DD+ but only 5.1. ATV is DD only. Lousy. 

So irritated at Vizio for lousy support on a new TV and a little irritated the ARC only has one HDMI. If I don’t see a easy solution (I don’t) I might return the ARC. I have a beam + SUB + Surrounds. It’ll continue to serve just fine but was looking forward to being ‘blown away’.

 

Don’t get me wrong, the ARC sounds good, but for $1000 (Canada) I just don’t know if I can live with not getting ATMOS.

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On another note I knew I did my research before buying the Arc. Such as it is, there is no clear information but here, strait out of the M658 manual.

Atmos Vizio - Manual 658

 

That’s about all it says about Atmos. 

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For whatever reason my “initial impressions” post is stuck in moderation hell, so if you’d like to see my thoughts (until my post gets cleared here), you can check it out on reddit:

https://www.reddit.com/r/sonos/comments/h80ckc/sonos_arc_first_impressions_vizio_e70f3_apple_tv/

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On another note I knew I did my research before buying the Arc. Such as it is, there is no clear information but here, strait out of the M658 manual.

Atmos Vizio - Manual 658

 

That’s about all it says about Atmos. 

I’m definitely getting that Atmos icon on my E series when it’s sending through Atmos content (built in Netflix and Plex apps). And obviously the TV knows from Dolby Atmos since there’s an actual icon and all. So agreed very frustrating that it can’t deal with what’s coming out of the Apple TV. Not sure whether to be more peeved at Vizio or Apple here. Or maybe Dolby for making such a damn complicated format. 😎

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Wow. I’m not getting atmos from inbuilt Netflix. Set it bitstream. Etc. Hmmm. I read somewhere that the internal speakers need to be off. Let me check. I think it could be in Auto although I have fiddled with so many settings I can’t be sure.

 

I only got the Arc yesterday. My troubleshooting was limited by my son & wife just wanting to watch TV. I think I have to approach this as a troubleshooting process and use my notepad to track changes. 

I thought the internal apps would work easily. I expected some issues with ATV  

 

...But that line specifically states it will passthrough Atmos. 
 

I’m tempted to pick up a Roku or Fire TV to check it out. 
 

I’m fairly technical so I’m confident if it’s possible I’ll get there but… Sonos=simplicity to me. Having to use my brain this much goes against my usual experience! 


I’ll report back! 
 


 

 

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Wow. I’m not getting atmos from inbuilt Netflix. Set it bitstream. Etc. Hmmm. I read somewhere that the internal speakers need to be off. Let me check. I think it could be in Auto although I have fiddled with so many settings I can’t be sure.

 

I only got the Arc yesterday. My troubleshooting was limited by my son & wife just wanting to watch TV. I think I have to approach this as a troubleshooting process and use my notepad to track changes. 

I thought the internal apps would work easily. I expected some issues with ATV  

 

...But that line specifically states it will passthrough Atmos. 
 

I’m tempted to pick up a Roku or Fire TV to check it out. 
 

I’m fairly technical so I’m confident if it’s possible I’ll get there but… Sonos=simplicity to me. Having to use my brain this much goes against my usual experience! 


I’ll report back! 

I had to have the Digital Audio Output set to Auto on my E-Series to get Atmos out of the built-in apps. PCM lead to Stereo 2.0 output (understandably since the Arc doesn't currently support LPCM), “D Digital” got me to Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 if memory serves (though I’ll need to double-check this), and “Bitstream” only got me Dolby Digital 5.1. 

Since both the Apple TV and the E-Series support Atmos (or at least, in the TV’s case, understands that it exists), I’ve got to believe that a firmware/software update on one or both of them would actually make it work. Apple is outputting Atmos over Dolby Digital Plus over HDMI-ARC (which both the TV and the Sonos Arc understands), but they’re doing it within a Dolby MAT container which apparently only plays well with eARC. I’m sure Apple has their reasons, but I'm equally sure that they could simply push Atmos out over regular Dolby Digital Plus if they wanted to. Same thing with Vizio - I’m guessing since the TV understands Atmos and can handle “Dolby Audio” as they call it, that there could be a firmware update that would see the Dolby Digital Plus stream in a MAT container and use it to pass Atmos. 

I’m not holding my breath for either of these possibilities, however. Neither company has the incentive to spend the resources on what is sure to be a niche of a niche user base. 

In the end, the Sonos Arc is a beautifully designed product that’s about 5 years too early to be truly useful if Atmos is what you’re after. In a few years, as people upgrade their sets to new units that support eARC the Sonos Arc will (should) truly be the plug and play solution that Sonos obviously wants it to be. Until then, we’re paying the price as early adopters to figure all this stuff out. 

PS 1 - I’ve yet to hear any compelling Atmos content out of my Sonos Arc, so I've soured considerably on the idea. But I'm still hoping to be wowed once I add some Sonos One SLs as surrounds. 

PS 2 - A company called HD Fury seems to be hard at work on an add-on device that would allow Sonos Arc users to get eARC (and therefore Atmos) from just about anything that supports it. I’ll definitely be keeping a close eye on this development: 

https://www.reddit.com/r/sonos/comments/h7z9gv/hd_fury_is_working_on_an_earc_solution_for_sonos/

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Hi - thanks for the update. I’m trying out various settings, including those you recommended. No Atmos through Netflix (checking on shows I know are atmos) on the built in app. Speaker off. Tried digital output on each setting. No luck. 
 

Had a play with the ATV now.  No dice. 
 

I know there is not much content as yet - just like 4K/HDR was at first but I knew as 4K HDR shows appeared I could watch them immediately. Right now with Atmos I have idea. 
 

Not giving up. Just. Disappointed. 
 

I know a third party device may help …  but the Sonos decision to simplify is adding complexity! 
 

 

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For whatever reason my “initial impressions” post is stuck in moderation hell, so if you’d like to see my thoughts (until my post gets cleared here), you can check it out on reddit:

https://www.reddit.com/r/sonos/comments/h80ckc/sonos_arc_first_impressions_vizio_e70f3_apple_tv/

Interesting to read your impressions. A few things to note, I think you will be pleasantly surprised with the surrounds, makes a huge difference as indeed does the sub, regarding atmos, I felt the same until I ran trueplay again, ensuring I waved around above the height speakers, and can now confirm definite, and excellent atmos results

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Picked up a Roku. Still no joy with Atmos. Vizio will pass through DD+ from the Roku. But not atmos. 
 

Essentially there is Zero Atmos content available to me through my TV. Did I mention it is a 2019 TV. I don’t think the replacement mode is out yet. It’s current.


I’m utterly disappointed. To top it off I’m underwhelmed with the sound - feels like it’s holding back. Some of the depth is missing. Bass is off and it seems there is a thread about it so I posted a few hours ago. I did some tests and the bass response is definitely suspect. 
 

All in all I think I have my first disappointing Sonos product. It’s so so close I don’t want to give up yet! Not all on Sonos, Vizio to blame a as well. But Sonos just made the arc to simple for its own good. Shame. It’s as simple as the beam really but is dealing with a more complex codec platform. 
 

I’ll think it through for a few days and it might become my first Sonos return. I have to think if I can live with a $1000 atmos Soundbar for the next 5+ years that won’t do atmos unless Vizio update something. Sonos do seem to care about customers but Vizio. Not too sure. May be my first and last Vizio TV. And if Vizios solution is another Vizio product… they can stuff it! Shame because the picture quality is very impressive on this TV to my eyes. 

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It’s been a super-weird day with the Arc. A few more random observations: 

  • Got a pair of One SLs to use as surrounds. Setup was a complete pain in the ass. It took over an hour and a half and multiple factory resets on both speakers to get past all of the errors. Then when I did get them connected they didn’t want to update. Then they didn’t want to register. Then they didn’t want to pair as surrounds to the Arc. A terrible and utterly unexpected experience - the exact opposite of the quickness and ease of setting up the Arc. Far and away the most disappointing aspect of the entire deal so far. 
     
  • 5.1 (or, really, 5.0 since I don’t have the Sub yet) sounds really, really nice. Is it super high-end? No, but it’s effective. And I’m currently running the One SLs on power banks with AC outputs (https://www.omnicharge.co/products/omni-20/) while I figure out placement which is pretty amazing - and flexibility counts for A LOT in my book these days. 
     
  • Also, points for the One SLs just being pretty adorable. They’re just about the same size and shape of my HomePods while packing about the same punch which really makes me pretty happy. 
     
  • For basic TV watching (we’ve been catching up on Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD on Netflix), the Arc + Ones is quite lovely. Dialogue is loud and clear and surround effects on shows with 5.1 are effective. Bass still isn’t quite there yet without the Sub, but the soundstage is every bit as decent as my old setup (though, admittedly, since the TV is shoved into a corner I could never get the Left and Right speakers very far away anyway). 
     
  • For no reason that I can tell, sometimes - but not always - the Sonos app believes that I’m getting Atmos out of my Apple TV on things that are definitely not Atmos. Sometimes the TV will even think that and show the Audio Out Dolby Atmos icon. Makes zero sense to me. 

I’m definitely warming up to it with the addition of the surrounds, but the jury’s still out. Still haven’t decided if I’m going to keep it (nearly $2k all in is a LOT to throw at this - way more than I spent on the TV itself), but I’m digging the ability to AirPlay 2 music to it, I’m digging having surround in my weirdly-shaped living room (which I could never figure out a good way to do before), and the basic simplicity of it is starting to grow on me.

More to come. 

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Thanks for the observations. I ordered mine on 6/6 and my confirmation email says should be delivered by 6/19. 
 

If you don’t have it mounted can you confirm if the Arc blocks the bottom of your TV at all? I’m a little concerned that the height may block off a tiny sliver at the bottom since I don’t plan to mount it but place directly in front of the TV on the console. 
 

I’m curious to try out the sound difference myself since I already find the Beam 5.1 setup to work quite well. Just FYI the Sub makes a huge difference with the Beam. No question I would get the Sub first then the rear surrounds with the Beam. Can’t speak for the Arc yet though given I haven’t tried yet. I’m hoping Atmos will impress but at the same time I have 11-12ft ceilings and an open plan kitchen behind my living area so we’ll see how well

it does. 

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Does the Arc block the bottom of your TV at all? I’m a little concerned that the height may block off a tiny sliver at the bottom since I don’t plan to mount it but place directly in front of the TV on the console. 

 

Not in the least (when paired with my E70-F3). The closer pic, below, is sitting on the floor right in front of the TV, about 3 feet away.  The other one is from the couch, about 15 feet away. It literally disappears when watching TV. I’d thought about getting the white one to match the TV stand and also just because it looked pretty awesome, but I’m glad I went with black because white would probably cause distracting reflections.

 

Just FYI the Sub makes a huge difference with the Beam. No question I would get the Sub first then the rear surrounds with the Beam. Can’t speak for the Arc yet though given I haven’t tried yet. I’m hoping Atmos will impress but at the same time I have 11-12ft ceilings and an open plan kitchen behind my living area so we’ll see how well

it does. 

 

Am definitely looking forward to the Sub’s arrival later this week. Was listening to some EDM with my youngest (he’s a fan) and there was one track that REALLY made the “muddy bass” issue stand out, so am hoping that the Sub will fix that until the software fix comes out. 

 

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Thanks for that. Looks like the official specs for your TV have the stand adding 2.9 inches whereas my P75-F1’s stand adds about 2.67 inches but that should still be enough I’m hoping to not block anything even when viewed straight on. 
 

Let us know your views when you get the Sub. For me the Sub changes everything with the Beam. 

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There have been a lot of hot takes and initial impressions written about the Sonos Arc at this point, but a week in I’ll wrap mine up with my final thoughts just to close out this post and have my say. This all just my opinion and, as always, your mileage may vary so take with the appropriate amount of salt. 

(Note: my long posts seem to keep getting blocked by moderators so I’ll split up into multiple posts)

ARC

By itself, I was not impressed. I wanted to be. Badly. But I wasn’t. It was the first piece that I got of my very first Sonos system and it came with the massive baggage of glowing reviews and my desire to have a quantum leap forward in sound quality from the old 3.1 system I was upgrading from.

Aside from being beautiful to behold and a snap to set up, sound quality was lacking, Atmos effects were seemingly non-existent (in the extremely limited instances where I could get Atmos), and I was experiencing the same muddy bass issue that most everyone else seems to be dealing with as well. 

I found myself seriously wondering if I’d made a mistake in purchasing it. 

Sonos has been very transparent about there being an issue with the bass that they’re working on a software fix for and early indications from the Sonos Reddit is that it will help tremendously. I hope this is the case and I look forward to hearing the difference. 

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ARC + SURROUNDS (ONE SLs)

But rather than box the Arc back up and admit defeat, I doubled-down and ordered a pair of One SLs to use as surrounds. I hadn’t had true surround sound in the living room of our home since we moved in 12 years ago (no particularly good way to run speaker wires to surrounds) so I was excited about the possibility. 

While they didn’t help with the sonic qualities or the bass issues with the Arc itself, they did significantly expand the soundstage and tremendously helped the overall sound quality of the system. Now I was starting to see the potential and the benefit of what Sonos had to offer, especially since I could put them anywhere with power (and have even been running them off of power banks!).

One rather major issue with the surrounds, however, was setup. Quite the opposite of the experience with the Arc, getting the One SLs recognized by the S2 app was a nearly two hour ordeal punctuated by having to connect and disconnect Ethernet cables and do multiple factory resets of the speakers. I don’t honestly remember what particular voodoo magic I finally managed to perform to get them to not just be recognized by the app, but to successfully register and pair as surrounds with the Arc AND see my WiFi network, but if that had been my first experience with Sonos, it probably would have also been my last as they would have gone straight back into the box and back to the store. 

As it is, however, they’ve performed admirably since that initial setup debacle, and the sound quality from them has been nothing short of astounding. Plus, just as with my HomePods before them, I’m continually amazed at the fullness of the sound the One SLs can create and the amount of bass they put out. I’ve listened to quite a bit of music with them on “surround full” which is a mode that I normally would never bother with (in my home theater-centric mind, surrounds are only for ambience when it comes to music), but here I find the added dimension and sonic quality they offer delightful. 

In short, the One SLs were the first Sonos kit that made the start to understand why people seem to really love the sound quality of Sonos speakers. 

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ARC + SURROUNDS + SUB (GEN 2)

After reading many, many users talking about how wonderful the Sub is, I decided to take the plunge. I’ve known full well the massive benefit of well-executed sub bass where movie sound is concerned but since Amazon said the Sub 3 wasn’t going to be available until June 16 anyway I didn’t have much of a choice but to wait. 

As I whined about in another posting, when the 16th came Amazon sent me a note saying that the shipment was delayed. Long story short, I found a Gen 2 in stock at my local Best Buy and, after reading enough on the forums to convince myself that Gen 2 and Gen 3 are close enough that I woudn’t notice or care, I went to go get it (tip of the hat to Best Buy here - not only did they have the order ready for pickup about 20 minutes after I clicked buy, they’ve implemented an awesome contactless curbside pickup process where you just show your ID and the put the item in your trunk). 

I know many have been complaining about the lack of a matte option for the Sub, but I have to admit my breath was kind of taken away when I pulled it out of the box. This was no subwoofer - it was a work of art. Big but not massive. Solid, but not heavy (dense may be a better word). Glossy, but not gaudy. Just looking at it, I was seriously impressed and I really kind of wish it was more on display in my living room as opposed to being hidden behind the TV with all the wires. 

Setup, as opposed to the nightmare of the surrounds, was child’s play. Had it up and running in 2 minutes. 5 minutes more, it was Trueplay-tuned and ready to go. Incredibly simple and user friendly. 

Now with the full system in place was the true test - what would it sound like? In short, incredible. The Arc is, in my opinion, utterly transformed by the addition of a Sub - to the point where I’m honestly kind of surprised that Sonos doesn’t only sell them as a pair. Maybe the bass issue software bug is artificially holding the Arc back, sonically, but the Sub sets the Arc free. 

With low bass being sent to the supremely capable Sub, the Arc was free to open up and deliver some absolutely beautiful sound. The already wide soundstage, now paired with the lovely One SLs and a thumping sub now effortlessly creates a shockingly immersive listening experience that I’m pretty amazed by. Granted, it’s getting a LOT of help from the Sub and the surrounds, but the fact that I’m getting sound this good out of “just” a soundbar is astonishing. 

What’s really nice, too, is that the Sub is nice and subtle when it needs to be (at lower volumes, say, or in less sonically adventurous fare, but when it’s time to rock, it is absolutely happy to rock. Even just the opening titles of Blade Runner 2049 had the entire living room shaking to the point where I was worried about the glass in the front door. And the spinner flying overhead and the score blasting made me want to just sit and watch the entire thing in awe. Even just watching a couple of episodes of Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD was much more engaging and enjoyable with bullets whizzing around in 5.1 surround and Quinjets flying quite effectively all over the room. 

Could I do the Arc without the surrounds? Grudgingly, perhaps, but sure. But the Arc without the Sub. No way. One absolutely requires the other in my personal opinion. 

 

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ATMOS

If there’s one thing that’s going to stick in my craw about the Arc both now and moving forward, it’s Atmos. I’ve only been able to experience Atmos via a couple of built-in apps on my TV and thus far I’ve been underwhelmed…. until today.

Over on Reddit, someone posted a Dolby Atmos 5.1.2 test tone video file that could send white noise to the Atmos “height” channels. I played it and was legitimately shocked at what I heard.

I’d heard the downloadable Dolby Atmos Leaf and Amaze trailers in Atmos several times while playing with the Arc and, though they sounded good, I wasn’t really hearing any height effects (yes, I know there’s a lot more to the 3D spatial positioning of Dolby Atmos and how it places sound around you so please don’t try to educate me - I just wanted to hear sound coming from above me on my $800 soundbar that told me I’d be able to hear things over my head, so sue me). 

Listening to the test tones in Atmos, I’ll be damned if it didn’t honestly, realistically sound like there were speakers mounted on the ceiling near the TV. When I moved closer to the TV to investigate (I was curious to know where in the Arc the up-firing speakers were located), I walked into what I can only think of as the height effects channel’s “sweet spot” where it was UNMISTAKABLE that there was crystal clear audio being bounced off the ceiling and into my ears. In this sweet spot, my brain was absolutely 100% legitimately convinced that there were speakers above my head and that that’s where the sound was coming from. I just stood there like an idiot looking at the ceiling for a good two minutes listening to white noise. My wife didn’t disagree that I looked like an idiot. 

Pulling up Amaze and Leaf again from this vantage point, the Atmos effect was stunning. Granted, I was entirely too close to the TV (a solid 10 feet in front of my usual viewing position on the couch), but with the surrounds now well behind me as opposed to their usual side-firing position which is about the only place I can put them given the shape of the room and standing in the height effects sweet spot the sound was unbelievable. I could hear the rain falling from the ceiling. The surrounds, combined with the wide front soundstage, were truly enveloping me in 360 degree sound. It was mesmerizing. Now I just have to figure out how to get that sound from where I sit on the couch instead of 3 feet in front of the TV…..

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LIMITATIONS AND COMPROMISES

For nearly $2k, you’d think you’d be getting all the bells and whistles, but you’re not. We’re all aware at this point of the many artificial limitations imposed on the Arc: Completely reliant on a technology In its infancy - eARC - to have the best experience. Only a single HDMI port so you’re stuck with the capabilities of your TV rather than your source equipment unlike literally every other piece of AV gear in the world. Lack of DTS support. And that’s not even mentioning the ecosystem lock-in since you can’t pair non-Sonos subs or surrounds to an Arc.  

For as simple as they make certain things, other things are needlessly complicated at the moment and aren’t likely to change anytime soon. The question is how big of a pain in the ass is it to live with these limits? Limits that you don’t get from practically any other audio equipment. 

The answer will be different for everyone, but for me most everything is turning out to be a non-issue. I watch my Blu-rays as ripped files on my Plex server, and Plex happily transcodes DTS into Dolby Digital. I’m not getting Atmos out of my Apple TV (our preferred streaming solution), but what is coming out sounds amazing. 

I’m going to buy one of HDFury’s Arcana dongles when they’re available and that will trick the Arc into thinking it’s connected to a TV full with eARC capability which will also let me get Atmos from many apps on my Apple TV. Is this a hack? Absolutely. Is it more money? Yep. Does it fix everything? Nope - Plex on Apple TV doesn’t support Dolby TrueHD at all so no TrueHD or Atmos from my Blu-ray rips at all. 

But as a tech geek I’m actually excited about things like this. Do I wish the Arc was more capable from an input perspective? Sure. Can I work around it? Yes. 

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