If you are looking for a new sound bar for your home theater setup, and you really want the best design, functionality and sound, you very well might have narrowed your list down to two possibilities: the Sonos Arc and the Bose Smart Soundbar 900.
But how can you decide between the two? Between the Arc and the 900, which Dolby Atmos soundbar is best for you and your needs?
That’s just what this article is all about, because though they are both great products, and you would undoubtedly be thrilled with either choice, you will eventually need to choose…
So, to help you do just that, I will look at the key differences between the Bose Smart Soundbar 900 and the Sonos Arc in some detail, and also talk about my own personal experience with and feelings about the two, focusing on these four general categories:
- Design and Appearance
I do think there is a lot of useful information and insight in the following sections, but if you are in a hurry – say the movie’s about to start – and just want to get to the bottom line, here’s my pick:
Sonos Arc or Bose 900? The Bottom Line
The Winner? The Sonos Arc Soundbar!
The Bose Smart Soundbar 900 is a very talented product, with beautiful sound, great connectivity and all the important features and compatibility. It is well made, looks great and works pretty much flawlessly.
The Sonos Arc, on the other hand, is also very smart and highly functional. It has basically the same connectivity and compatibility, with a couple of exceptions, is beautifully made and beautifully finished, and is a joy to use.
So either way you will make a great choice – indeed, these may be the two best soundbars you can get at this price level – but for me the Sonos Arc has markedly better sound, with stronger dynamics and more excitement, better bass and a larger and much more immersive soundstage.
So, as they used to tell us in school, everybody’s a winner, but yeah, the Sonos is, IMHO, the actual winner!
But now let’s look at this question a bit more deeply, because this is, in fact, a very close race, and there may be factors which make you decide differently.
Sonos Arc vs Bose Smart Soundbar 900: Price
This is the quickest and easiest category, because for all intents and purposes the Sonos Arc soundbar and the Bose Smart Soundbar 900 have similar price range. The price varies depending on whether there are any discounts or where you buy the soundbards.
The Winner? It’s a draw – do a quick price comparison online.
Bose 900 vs Sonos Arc: Design and Appearance
The Sonos Arc soundbar is pretty long – almost 45 inches across – and works well with even larger televisions. The Bose 900 is a bit shorter – just over 40 inches across – and is also a bit shorter in height – about 2.3 inches tall, as opposed to the Sonos Arc’s ~3.5 inch height.
So the Bose is smaller, and would fit in more places (including under TVs that sit lower on their stands), although the rounded design of the Arc makes it look a bit smaller than it is, and they have a similar visual impact in a room.
Being soundbars, they also have a fairly similar look overall. Both are available in either black or white, and are both very nicely made, with premium fit and finish – I would be happy to have either in my home theater room or family room.
I have to say, though, that the tempered glass top of the Bose Soundbar 900 is just gorgeous, and overall I slightly prefer the Bose’s look – but this is, of course, just personal preference.
The Winner? Smaller, more versatile with placement and slightly prettier, the Bose Smart Soundbar 900 has the slight edge, though both are well designed and well made, and both quite nice looking in their way.
Sonos Arc vs Bose 900: Functionality
Connectivity – Sonos vs Bose
The Bose Smart Soundbar 900 is about as advanced as it gets in terms of functionality. It has optical and coaxial video connectors as well as an eARC HDMI port. The 900 is both Bluetooth and wifi enabled, supports AirPlay 2 and Spotify Connect and is Dolby Atmos certified.
The Sonos Arc soundbar is also wifi ready, though it does not have Bluetooth – which honestly, for home theater, is not a big deal. The Arc also supports AirPlay 2 and Spotify Select, just like the 900, is also Atmos capable and has the same basic wired connectivity – eARC HDMI and both optical and coaxial video ports.
Controls – Sonos vs Bose
As far as controls go, Bose’s Smart Soundbar 900 has a nice basic remote, and simple touch controls on the soundbar itself, as well as a kind of confusing status light. The Bose Music app is excellent – though some updates have been a bit buggy – and gives you an impressive level of control over surround sound. and other functions.
All that said, I would love to have more sound control functions on the remote or on the bar – if the app is not working, or not at hand, you cannot, as one example, change surround settings without it.
One very nice thing about the Bose Smart Soundbar 900 is their Voice4Video, which gives you much more range of control over video, including turning your TV on and off, changing channels, pausing, playing and seeking in a video and even switching audio inputs.
The Sonos Arc does not have a remote control, but has fantastically intuitive – and really cool – capacitive touch controls on the bar itself. It also has a very good app, though it seems a bit more geared toward music than video – still, it has all the functionality you could want, and is easy to use.
Like the Bose I would like to have more control over the Sonos’ sound without having to use the app, but that just seems to be the trend – these days I feel a little silly ordering my coffee directly from the barista, instead of placing the order on an app while I’m standing in line, inches away from, you know, the barista.
And while the Voice4Video on the Bose is great, I seem to have better luck with the Sonos voice controls overall – getting them to work consistently and just using them – though this is doubtless due to many factors, including not just the microphones’ sensitivity but also my position relative to the bar, the room’s characteristics and ambient noise.
The Winner? Really, this category is a bit of a toss-up. I like the Voice4Video functions, and know some people would love them, and the Bose also does have a limited remote control. The Sonos, on the other hand, has much better – brilliant, even – touch controls on the bar, and possibly (though not definitely) a more sensitive voice-control microphone array. Anyway, somehow, for some reason, I enjoy using the Sonos a little bit more than the Bose.
Bose 900 vs Sonos Arc: Sound
This is the category where I begin to see a much stronger and clearer difference between the two, with the Sonos handily outperforming the Bose.
But before I get into my impressions, let me say that this is pretty subjective, and some may prefer the Bose sound. I should also clearly state that both the Bose and the Sonos sound just fantastic, and I would be thrilled to live with either. These are truly premium, top-notch Dolby Atmos soundbars, and both are wonderful.
As a general statement, I can say that the Bose 900 has a clear, bright and bracing sound, with plenty of detail and definition and a nice open quality, where the Sonos is a bit darker and has stronger and deeper bass – still very, very detailed and clear, but perhaps a bit easier to listen to, a bit more musical and, as a result, also a bit nicer with music.
But focusing on movies and home theater, to me the Sonos just has more authority. For one thing, whether it is because of the side-facing speakers on the Sonos, the overall speaker placement, the digital processing, the amplification or other factors, the Sonos presents a much bigger, more precise and immersive surround sound image, with more specific placement and better movement and flow.
The Bose 900 is great in this regard too, and does cast a very impressive soundfield, but the Sonos soundstage is bigger, and more convincingly fills a large room – in fact, sometimes with the Sonos I kind of forgot all about the room itself, and was just in the movie’s world, which didn’t happen with the Bose, or at least not as often or to the same extent.
The Sonos Arc has better deep bass, and marginally better dynamics and impact, and for me at least I prefer the more neutral and transparent sonic signature, compared to the somewhat bright nature of the Bose. Things are very present and obvious with the Bose, and do have impact, but the same sounds are more realistic with the Sonos, lending them a different kind of impact.
That said, lots of folks like a brighter sound, and it is possible that the Bose 900 does present a bit more detail than the Sonos, and for many people would be more engaging.
Both the Sonos Arc and the Bose Smart Soundbar 900 have smart room equalization systems, which use microphones to hear the room and make adjustments. The Bose system is, in theory at least, a bit more accurate – you actually wear a headband with a microphone so that the 900 can calibrate optimally for your listening position.
The Sonos uses microphones on the soundbar itself for calibration, and while – again, at least in theory – this should not provide quite as satisfactory of results, in practice the Sonos Arc just seems to fill a room better and sound better – though this may, again, have as much to do with speaker placement, digital processing, amplification and all kinds of design and environmental factors.
But regardless of the reasons, after spending a lot of time listening to both the Bose 900 and the Sonos Arc, to me it’s pretty clear…
The Winner? – The Sonos Arc. Though the Bose 900 is also a beautiful sounding soundbar with impressive Dolby Atmos surround sound performance, the Arc is just more natural, realistic and musical in sound, has bigger and better surround imaging, deeper and stronger bass and more energy overall.
Conclusion: Between the Sonos Arc and the Bose Smart Soundbar 900, Which Should You Choose?
Well, if it were just about sound, I would say it’s easy – the Sonos Arc is a better sounding sound bar than the Bose 900, and more enjoyable and exciting with both movies and music.
On the other hand, the Bose Smart Soundbar 900 does have some advantages, mostly in terms of functionality and usability – the extended voice commands of Voice4Video and the control it gives you over the video programming, the remote control, the Bluetooth connectivity, and the slightly smaller size and better flexibility in placement.
If you think any of these factors is important, you can choose a Bose Soundbar 900 with absolute confidence – it too is a splendid performer, with fantastic sound, and should offer many years of pleasure.
But at the end of the day my biggest factor is how deeply I fall into the movie I’m watching, and for this the Sonos Arc soundbar is a better choice, and offers a more immersive and engaging experience.