Review: Sonos Arc, Sub (Gen 3), 2 x One SL

Sonos' best home theater solution

Sonos' best soundbar, Arc, gets even better with wireless rear speakers and subwoofer. Here you get real home theater sound.

Published 2 September 2021 - 7:00 am
Sonos Arc, Sub (Gen 3), 2 x One SL
Geir Nordby

The first time we reviewed the Sonos Arc was last summer. A likeable soundbar, that completely on its own – without a subwoofer or anything else – managed to elevate the film experience considerably. Not only is it much better than the sound you get from any TV (like mostly anything would be!), But it is also better than many other soundbars at the same price where the subwoofer is included in the price. Its greatest strength lies in the clean, open sound image that opens out into the room like a gas. The sound effects on Atmos soundtracks give a nice illusion of coming from above, and the side speakers also give a greater conviction about serving the sound from behind, than many other soundbars.

sonos sub gen3
Sonos SUB has reached it’s 3rd generation. In terms of sound, it is similar to previous editions, but it has a more powerful processor to make it more future-proof. Photo: Sonos

Still, there is a limit to what a soundbar can do on its own, without additional subwoofers or rear speakers. And since Sonos offers solutions there, it’s high time to find out what a complete Sonos surround system sounds like. With the Arc in front, the latest generation of the excellent SUB to handle the bass, and with a pair of Sonos One SL as rear speakers.

A pair of Sonos One SLs are ideal as rear speakers along with the Arc soundbar. If you are not satisfied, you can alternatively buy the more expensive Sonos Five. Photo: Sonos

This is a very flexible solution, since the rear speakers are actually a pair of standard Sonos wireless speakers, which can play music in other rooms when you are not using them for home theater. But the easiest thing is of course to set them up once and let them stand.

Patience test

The initial setup takes some time. Especially if some of the products are not updated with the latest firmware. First, Arc must be added, and possibly updated. A few minutes later, the app can find the subwoofer, pair it with the soundbar … and update the subwoofer. The same thing happens with every rear speaker. The app first finds one, then you have to choose to update. Then the other speaker can be added. But first it needs to be updated. It is almost painful! This could have been made so much easier, by being able to find all Sonos products in the app, choose to pair the subwoofer and rear speakers with Arc and thus create a complete surround system. Then the app could ask us to update all the components.

Sonos Arc & Panasonic TV
The Sonos Arc is about the width of a 50-inch TV. Photo: Geir Gråbein Nordby


When the setup is finally done, the rest goes playfully easy. Select TruePlay to correct the sound according to the room acoustics. This removes any coloring and peaks in the sound image, but at the same time you lose warmth and fullness in the midrange area. We would prefer to be able to choose between different sound settings after correction, so that you can tailor the sound to your own taste.

Otherwise, it is not difficult to operate the system. The TV is connected to the HDMI eARC socket, and the sound is easily streamed from there. To listen to music, use the app to log in to your favorite services. Tidal, YouTube, Apple Music, you name it. And Spotify Connect, then. Sonos speakers in different rooms can be easily grouped to play the same music, if you want.

Sonos Arc Black
The Sonos Arc and the other speakers in the family are also available in black. Photo: Sonos

The sound of the Sonos Arc & Co

Sonos Arc with family sounds very open and detailed, very similar to what the soundbar does on its own. Only with a much more stable and physical bass, and with more magnificent and ambient surround sound from the extra rear speakers.

The dialogues on film, such as the Netflix masterpiece The Irishman with Dolby Atmos soundtracks, are really clockwise and stand out from the rest of the soundscape. Joe Pesci and Robert De Niro’s conversation from each side of a bar counter is reproduced with even clearer consonants than with the Samsung Q960A, so that you can easilty hear each syllable.

The setup button on the Sonos Arc is located on the back. Here you will also find an HDMI connector with eARC function for high-resolution audio. Photo: Geir Gråbein Nordby

The surround sound is large and open, and although Samsung can boast several channels and speaker elements, we do not think the sound image behind is somewhat behind with Sonos. The impression of height – “sound from above” – is also well taken care of with Sonos, but here Samsung is probably a notch more distinct. Not least because the rear speakers also projects sound upwards towards the ceiling. Not just the soundbar, as with Sonos.

Should we deduct for something, it is that the sound is always a bit thin. Yes, the subwoofer gives good and partly physical bass effects, but it lacks a bit of push and commitment in the middle bass area. And we miss the Samsung system’s big, massive chest sound. Right there, Sonos is a bit messy, and can also be experienced as a bit sharp.

Sonos Arc 11 speakers
The Sonos Arc has 11 speakers, each with a separate amplifier. But even if it fixes surround sound well on its own, it gets even better with a pair of Sonos Ones behind. Photo: Sonos


Music also sounds clear and open with Sonos. Very “hi-fi”. We experience the sound as correct, without any unwanted masking or staining. Instruments and voices come out well. Again, it is a slightly slim sound character, which we would like to fix a bit. But on music, we still feel that Sonos is preferable to Samsung, not least because of a better subwoofer. Samsung is a bit more noisy in the bass, where Sonos is more controlled and resolved.

All sound – including music in stereo – is basically rendered in surround with the Sonos system. There are no different sound modes here, for example you can not choose pure stereo. You can, however, disable the rear speakers in the app to listen to music in stereo. Then the Arc soundbar will still try to simulate a surround effect, but it will be smaller than with the rear speakers activated. We could have wanted a stereo or Pure Direct sound mode here anyway.

Sonos Arc White with Sub
Foto: Sonos


Sonos Arc is a good soundbar on its owne – and even better with wireless subwoofer and rear speakers! The actual audio signature will be very similar, and if you do not like the slightly slim audio signature of Arc, then it is not certain that the extra speakers will change the impression. The sound is still a bit slim, but it is on the other hand very detailed and airy, and the subwoofer SUB (Gen 3) provides a quality bass with weight that you do not get with the included subwoofer for other soundbars. A bass we think Arc desperately needs.

The price tag gets to be much higher by adding sub and rear speakers, but we think it’s worth it. Alternatively, you can start with the soundbar alone, and build up the system along the way. Tip: The less expensive IKEA Symfonisk speakers also work in this setup.

Sonos Arc, Sub (Gen 3), 2 x One SL
High End

We think

Open and nice sound, with a lot of details. The surround sound with rear speakers is really good, and the subwoofer provides high quality bass. Overall good usability. The dynamics are never sparkling. TruePlay room correction removes warmth in the sound, and we would like the possibility for different sound choices after correction. The initial setup may take some time.

3 thoughts on “Sonos Arc, Sub (Gen 3), 2 x One SL”

  1. I have a three of those components. When watching a movie they are very dynamic, but when watching just a regular TV show the only sound you hear is the Arc sound bar. You can barely hear the rear speakers even if they are right next to your ears. I bought them at Best Buy and had geek squad install them, yet I feel I’m missing something they didn’t tell me. Any ideas on how to fix the TV problem?

    1. Kithsiri Deegala

      You can try changing Music Playback from Ambient to Full under Surround Audio.

    2. You can change the volume of the rear surrounds by updating the distance in the app. There are 3 distances to choose from. Choose the furthest option and it’ll increase the volume of the surrounds.

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