Sonos winds up the volume with Arc soundbar, Sub woofer, Five speaker

The world's most popular wireless multi-room speaker system gets three new components plus a smart app upgrade.

By David Flynn, May 7 2020
Sonos winds up the volume with Arc soundbar, Sub woofer, Five speaker

Sonos is blasting out a mid-year refresh to two of its home theatre cornerstones and its most powerful stand-alone speaker: here's your first look at the Arc soundbar, the Sonos Sub (Gen 3) subwoofer and Sonos Five (2020), all of which land on June 10.

They'll be accompanied by a new Sonos S2 app to unlock all their enhanced audio goodness, along with new features such as saved 'room groups'.

Sonos Arc soundbar

The Arc brings 2020 home theatre smarts and sensibility to Sonos' soundbar range, replacing both the Playbar and Playbase – although the more modern and more compact Beam remains in the line-up as a companion for mid-sized TVs.

The Arc, on the other hand, is a soundbar built for the latest big-screen tellies and the latest content with Dolby Atmos soundtracks.

It's very long – just over 1.1 metres (25cm more than the Playbar) – and very stylish, swapping the rectangular edges of the Playbar and Beam for a cylindrical form with a 270-degree curved grille, with touch-sensitive controls on the top rather than tucked away at the side.

Inside lurk 11 gutsy Class-D digital amplifiers powering eight elliptical woofers for mid-range down to bass, and three sharp high-frequency tweeters.

With side-firing speakers at either end of the bazooka-like tube, as well as front-facing drivers, that's sufficient to recreate a 5.0 speaker system on its own.

But if you're watching streaming or local content with Dolby Atmos, a pair of upward-firing drivers fills out the cinematic '3D' soundstage with a vertical feel for everything from intense thunderstorms to choppers zooming overhead.

Like the rest of its siblings, the Arc works with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa for voice control – but the real smarts in this smart speaker are less about telling it what to do, and more about what it does automatically.

For example, if you pair the Arc with a Sonos Sub, the Arc will recalibrate itself to focus more on mid-range audio such as dialogue while handing all the meaty low-end duties over to the Sub.

When it launches in Australia on June 10, the Sonos Arc will sell for $1,399.

Sonos Sub (Gen 3) subwoofer

While the Arc is pretty much an all-new soundbar, the Sub (Gen 3) – to allow its full name – is more of a future-proofed finesse of Sonos' second-gen subwoofer.

It looks all-but-identical, and sounds the same unless you get into the more purist realm of high bit-rate audio and other cleverness that'll be delivered through Sonos' new S2 platform.

When the Sub (Gen 3) lands on June 10, it'll be yours in either black and white for $999, while the Sub (Gen 2) will be marked down and run out to make way for its successor. If you're not fussy about having the very latest and greatest, there's little reason not to consider picking up a second-gen SUB for added music and home theatre oomph.

Sonos Five (2020) speaker

Out goes the Play:5 and in comes the Sonos Five. Same looks, bar a more subtle nameplate and the option of an on-trend white case, same innards, and same $749 price tag on the outside.

The Sonos Five also has the same audio characteristics as the Play:5, so it's capable of filling rooms of any size with lively, rich, fully-rounded and just plain 'big' sound with more acoustic horsepower than you’d think from its unassuming blockish looks.

Don’t expect wall-shaking, neighbour-bothering bass – but what’s there is clean and packs more than enough distortion-free doof for most people.

However, in what strikes us as a very odd decision, Sonos opted not to equip the Five with voice control via Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa.

As with the Sub (Gen 3), the Sonos Five is architectured for new S2 tricks, but by the same token you won't go wrong plonking a Play:5 in your living room or open-plan office.

Sonos Three speaker

Given that Sonos has now swapped out the compact Play:1 for the Sonos One, and replaced the Play:5 with the Sonos Five, you'd be forgiven for asking "Where's the Sonos Three?".

The Play:3, as the name suggests, was Sonos' mid-range speaker for mid-sized rooms. It's also close to a decade old, and was discontinued in mid-2018 without a follow-up in sight.

It could be argued that the Play:3 found itself squeezed between the punchy 1 and the powerful 5, with very few spaces suited to the 3's modest ambitions. A Sonos spokesman wouldn't be drawn on if there's a Sonos Three on the roadmap.

Sonos S2 app

We've mentioned the Sonos S2 software which drives the Arc, Sub (Gen 3) and Sonos Five (2020). Putting this in the hands of users will be the role of the Sonos S2 app, which will be released on June 8 – two days before the new speakers touch down.

This app enables features like the Arc's Dolby Atmos plus higher-resolution audio technologies, although it'll also work fine with other popular previous-gen kit such as Sonos Play:1 and One, Play:5, Playbar, Beam and Sub.

Sonos promises the S2 app's revamped screens "will make it even simpler for customers to search for content and control sound", but we're most excited about the ability to save 'room groups'.

Instead of selecting your soundscape on a room-by-room basis, you'll be able to define several presets which can then be switched on or off with a single tap.


David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

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26 Feb 2020

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Does anyone know if the new Sonos system supports playing direct from Apple Devices?

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