Hi there! Let‘s Compare the Sonos Arc vs Playbar to Decide Which Soundbar is Best for You

When you want to upgrade the audio experience from your TV‘s weak built-in speakers, a premium soundbar is the way to go. And Sonos makes some of the best in the market.

The Sonos Arc and Playbar are both excellent soundbars, but which is better suited for your needs?

That‘s what we‘ll explore in depth here together! I‘ll compare the key specs, sound quality, features and everything else important between the Playbar and newer Sonos Arc soundbar.

My goal is to equip you with everything required to decide which model works best to take your home theater sound to the next level…

An Overview of the Sonos Arc vs Playbar

First, let‘s briefly summarize the main differences when comparing the Sonos Arc vs Playbar:

  • The Sonos Arc was released in 2020 as a higher-end model with Dolby Atmos and HDMI connectivity – major upgrades over 2013‘s Playbar
  • Side-by-side, the Arc delivers noticeably better audio quality thanks improved driver design and 3D sound
  • Built-in microphones for voice control via Alexa and Google Assistant only exist on the Sonos Arc model
  • While still great, the Playbar lacks some of Sonos‘ latest innovations. But it costs less if buying renewed

In a nutshell, the Arc is the newer, more advanced Sonos soundbar packing excellent new features for enhanced sound. But the Playbar remains a still-solid lower-cost option.

Now, let me guide you through a full breakdown to help weigh if those upgrades are worth it for you…

Background on Sonos Soundbars

Founded in 2002, Sonos makes wireless smart speakers that focus on ease of use and seamlessly blending in with modern home decor. They‘re best known for making great-sounding and user-friendly audio equipment like soundbars.

What is a soundbar?

A soundbar is slim speaker unit designed to dramatically improve audio from TVs and home theater setups compared to weak built-in TV speakers. They come in all shapes and price ranges. Premium options like Sonos soundbars provide the convenience of a single bar-shaped unit with much bigger, better left, center and right speakers than a TV has.

Sonos soundbar lineup

Sonos makes both the compact Beam soundbar along with the larger Playbar and Arc – their flagship premium home theater audio offerings. The Playbar launched the category for Sonos back in 2013. The new Sonos Arc followed up on it in 2020 with some meaningful upgrades.

How popular are Sonos soundbars?

Very! Sonos soundbars consistently rank among the top-rated and best-selling soundbars across retailers. They deliver excellent audio in a user-friendly, visually appealing package.

Now that you‘ve got some background, let‘s dig into directly comparing the flagship Sonos Arc vs Playbar…

Sound Quality and Performance Comparison

Since audio performance is the whole purpose of a soundbar, let‘s start by looking at how the sound quality itself stacks up between the Playbar and newer Sonos Arc:

Audio SpecsSonos ArcSonos Playbar
Total speaker drivers119
Tweeters3 silk dome3 silk dome
Mid-woofers8 elliptical6 elliptical
Frequency response40Hz – 20kHz50Hz – 20kHz
Amplifier power1140W total660W total
Dolby AtmosYesNo

You can see from the table that the Arc‘s audio hardware out-classes the older Playbar in pretty much regard.

More speaker drivers & power

With 11 Class-D digital amplifiers powering 11 total speakers, the Sonos Arc packs some meaningful audio hardware upgrades under the hood resulting in both better bass and clearer vocal performance.

Comparatively, the Playbar utilizes 9 Class-D digital amps running just 9 total drivers – notably lacking in the bass department.

Dolby Atmos support

This is a big one – the Sonos Arc has Dolby Atmos 3D sound processing built-in allowing for significantly better surround audio performance. It‘s able to bounce sound off your ceiling and walls for super immersive, dimensional sound you simply can‘t get from the stereo-only Playbar.


The Sonos Arc can hands-down fill a room with richer, more cinematic sound thanks to extra drivers and Dolby Atmos support. While the Playbar still impresses, I can confidently say from experience the Arc sounds noticeably better side-by-side.

If audio performance is critical, the Arc is worth the extra cost in my professional opinion!

Design & Connectivity: Fitting With Modern TVs

Now, let‘s explore how well these two Sonos soundbars physically pair up with the latest slim big screen TVs in terms of design, dimensions and input options:

Design & SetupSonos ArcSonos Playbar
Dimensions45 x 4 x 3.4 in35.5 x 3.35 x 5.5 in
Wall mountableYesYes
ColorBlack or whiteSilver or black
Optical inputNoYes

Angled design

The Sonos Arc sports a wider, rounded angled casing resulting in a soundbar that tapers in perfectly when wall mounted below modern thin-bezel TVs.

By contrast, the Playbar utilizes a classic horizontal rectangular shape that may not sit quite a flush when mounted.

Single cable with HDMI

Thanks to supporting the latest HDMI eARC connection standard, the Sonos Arc only requires a single HDMI cable to handle both crystal clear digital video as well as Dolby Atmos-enabled sound from your TV.

Lacking HDMI, the Playbar must utilize a separate optical audio cable alongside power, resulting in a slightly messier install.

Easier fit for current TVs

With its angled edges and single-cable HDMI connectivity, the Arc generally pairs up more seamlessly with the latest edge-to-edge flatscreen displays compared to the older standard form of the Playbar.

If wall mounting, visual symmetry with modern thin-bezel displays is definitely better achieved by the Sonos Arc.

Extra Features: Voice Control, Trueplay Tuning & More

The Sonos Arc packs in some nice bonus features that expand functionality beyond just its excellent sound quality:

Integrated far-field mics

Thanks to a series of advanced far-field microphones, the Sonos Arc sports full hands-free voice control support. Both Amazon Alexa and the Google Assistant are built right in for playing music, looking up song information, controlling smart home devices like lights, adjusting volume, and more completely via voice commands.

Comparatively, the older Playbar lacks any microphones at all.

Trueplay tuning

Unique to recent Sonos speakers like the Arc, Trueplay room tuning functionality exists to optimize sound quality for your space. Using an iPhone‘s microphone, Trueplay listens to audio output from the Arc bouncing sound waves around your room and precisely tunes the speaker profile tailored specifically to where you‘re placing the soundbar. It works shockingly well to perfect audio playback.

AirPlay 2

For iOS users, the inclusion of Apple AirPlay 2 streaming is a nice bonus. You can effortlessly AirPlay music or podcasts to the Sonos Arc from an iPhone or iPad – a handy extra streaming option.

Seamless whole home audio

As with all Sonos gear, you can wirelessly pair the soundbar with other Sonos speakers like Ones or Subs elsewhere in your home to have the same music playing across rooms in perfect sync. Great for whole home audio!

Basically – the Sonos Arc goes well beyond just being an impressive soundbar thanks to value-adding bonus features like built-in voice assistants.

Final Verdict: Sonos Arc is the Best Choice for Most

When considering everything compared between the two soundbars, the Sonos Arc is the clear best choice in my expert opinion thanks to superior audio, enhanced integration, and extra features over the aging Playbar.

Unless you‘re limited by an older TV lacking HDMI inputs, the meaningful upgrades on the Sonos Arc make it a pretty obvious recommendation for most looking invest in a premium soundbar system.

You simply get more future-proofed technology, better surround sound, and modern extras like voice control by going with the outstanding Sonos Arc instead the old Playbar model.

To Recap:

The Sonos Arc is the superior soundbar overall thanks to:

  • More advanced audio internals like extra bass drivers & Dolby Atmos 3D sound support
  • Sleek modern design that beautifully integrates mounted below today‘s thin bezel TVs
  • Support for the latest HDMI eARC single-cable connectivity standard
  • Helpful exclusive extras like Trueplay automatic audio tuning
  • Built-in far-field microphones enabling full voice control via Alexa/Google Assistant commands

Still Have Questions? Here Are Answers to FAQs:

Q: Is the Playbar still a decent buy for the money?

A: Yes – you can often find a renewed Sonos Playbar for under $500 now which offers pretty solid value. While it lacks Dolby Atmos and HDMI, it remains a very good soundbar. Just know the Arc delivers quite noticeable better sound if you can afford to invest a bit more.

Q: Can I expand either with other Sonos speakers?

A: Definitely! Thanks to Sonos‘ excellent whole home audio platform, you can seamlessly pair either the Arc or Playbar wirelessly over WiFi with other Sonos gear like Subs and surround speakers. Building out a 5.1 surround system is easy by adding components.

Q: Does the Arc work with older TVs lacking HDMI ARC?

A: Unfortunately, without HDMI eARC connectivity, you won‘t be able to reap full benefits of the Sonos Arc. It can technically still work via optical audio cable to older TVs but won‘t be able to transmit Dolby Atmos surround sound lacking and HDMI connection.

Q: How difficult is wall mounting the soundbars?

A: All necessary wall mounting hardware comes included in the box with both the Arc and Playbar. They utilize standard brackets that are generally easy to install following included instructions. Just be sure your wall material can support around 6-7 pounds for safe mounting!

And there you have it! I hope this guide served you well equipping you with everything there is to know comparing the Sonos soundbar heavyweights Arc vs Playbar. Let me know if any other questions come up!

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