Sonos launches major product update. There is a but, however

A gorgeous Dolby Atmos enabled soundbar, new subs and speakers, which will use all the power of the new software platform, are set to debut in June. Most probably you will decide not to integrate them with any pre-existing Sonos connected audio system, if you already have one. Here's why.

Sonos is today the leading company for connected audio. Founded less than 20 years ago, it has built up a strong portfolio of products that directly connect to home wifi and get controlled as a group or individually by a simple-to-use, yet versatile mobile app and more recently by Alexa or Google Assistant.  Sonos has earned a relevant position in the audio market with a unique digital multiroom system, great sound, gorgeous devices, and a partnership with Ikea that boosted the brand's popularity outside of the US.  Last month, the brand has taken the first step into content-creation with a custom radio aggregator which includes also channels curated by artists like Thom Yorke; obviously, it can be played only through a Sonos speaker (even if having it in your headphones could sound nice, sometime in the future).

Today the brand is reviving its lineup with three new products, the most important being a brand-new Soundbar called Arc. Sonos' former soundbar is called Beam launched two years ago and is one of the most successful products in the company's history. Soundbars are quite a thing, nowadays, and
Sonos Arc is Beam on steroids, delivered in a hyper-elegant package. It's the first Sonos product to feature Dolby Atmos, an audio standard that nowadays is pretty common among online streaming services – Sonos says that more than 25 of them provide it. So, Arc is the brand new Sonos standard for home-theatre experience, especially if combined with the upgraded Subs – but we'll talk about it later. From the press release, we learn that “tuned in partnership with Oscar-winning mixing engineers”, Arc sports 11 drivers – of them, two upward-firing for 3D audio – which produces “dramatic clarity, detail and depth”, Sonos says. The new soundbar comes loaded with all of the company's display of software power: speech enhancement to clarify vocals, night sound “to temper loud explosions”, and updated Trueplay technology that tunes the soundbar according to the environment it's installed in; theatre setups include stereo, Dolby 5.1 and already mentioned Dolby Atmos.

Sonos Arc
Sonos Arc

Esthetically Arc is probably the finest device that Sonos ever put on the shelves, along with the iconical Sub and the limited edition One speakers designed with the millennials-friendly Danish furniture brand Hay. But while the latter consisted in an explosion of colour perfect for Instagram-friendly house decor, Sonos Arc “aims to be timeless”, explain to Domus, during a Zoom Q&A session, Deirdre Leid (Product Leader) and Dana Krieger (Director of Design, Hardware). That starts from the choice of colours, just two, black and white, so “to make the product disappear in the living room”, either when it's wall-mounted or just sitting on your credenza.
One of Arc's peculiarities lies in its shape since it's not squared, like most of the soundbars that you can buy, featuring instead rounded edges. “We needed a different approach, also because of Dolby Atmos”, Mrs Leid and Mr Kreiger explain: “we see a lot of squared boxes, we wanted to be different”. In the end, this shape makes also the product look smaller than it is, and appears good-looking and finished from any point of view, even from the bottom. “It's a super-complicated product”, they explain, with design team and development team that worked side by side to achieve its peculiar 3D-shaped seamless plastic grille with more of 76,000 holes, that deliver sound both horizontally and vertically. “We developed a new manufacturing technique to create it”, Dana Krieger says, “which uses thermoforming and Computer Numerical Control drilling”.
But it's also a product with lots of fine details, like the ambient sensor that automatically dims the status LEDs when you're watching a movie and the room is dark.

Sonos Five

Along with Arc, Sonos also launched the third generation of its Subs, which enrich the home-theatre sound experience focusing on midrange and clean basses, and employ two force-cancelling drivers that eliminate vibration and rattle, and the up-to-date version of the most powerful Sonos speaker, which is now just called “Five” – it used to be called Play:5 in the old lineup. Sonos Five features increased memory, more processing power, new wireless radio and the new colour white, which comes as an option along with the traditional black edition.  

Sonos Sub

All of these products will be powered up by S2, Sonos next-generation software platform, which will debut in June 8 providing support for higher resolution audio technologies, like the Dolby Atmos experience of Arc, increased security and overall better user experience, Sonos say. But this could not come as good news for long-time Sonos aficionados: many old devices from the brand's past won't get the update and remain stuck to what the brand now has renamed as “S1”, the old software platform. You can imagine Sonos as two separate sub-systems, as S1 devices won't connect with S2 speakers, and vice-versa. So, it's possible that you just can't integrate an Arc soundbar with Dolby Atmos in your pre-existing, perfectly-connected Sonos home-system, the one that fires up parties with the same Moderat-inspired music selection playing both in the backyard and in the living room, while some Vivaldi plays for those who want to chill out in the kitchen from the old Sonos Play:1 placed there. You could stay on S1 – but no Dolby Atmos then! –, or have two separate systems (ugly!) or put your hand into your pockets and participate to Sonos' trade up program, which offers discounted new products to owners of previous devices.

S2, the new Sonos App, which you can download starting June 8

All new products can be pre-ordered from today on Sonos website. They will start to ship on June 10. Sonos Arc is available for 899 euros, Sonos Sub for 799 euros and Sonos Five for 579 euros.

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