Sonos Arc and Bose 700 are two of the best soundbars you can find for less than $1,000. If you’re looking for an all-in-one soundbar that sounds great without purchasing a separate subwoofer or surround speakers, either product is a solid choice.
Bose 700 has a great design and excellent sound quality, but lacks surround speakers and doesn’t support Dolby Atmos for surround sound. It is bluetooth-compatible and includes a remote, making for simple connection and usage.
Sonos Arc has great sound quality, also, and features surround and ceiling-directed speakers. Combined with Dolby Atmos, this makes for quality surround sound from an all-in-one soundbar. However, a newer-model TV with an eARC connection is required for Atmos, so this feature will be wasted for many of us. Additionally, there are no RCA jacks or bluetooth connectivity, so it is harder to connect older TVs or computers. Lastly, an iOS (Apple) device is required in order to calibrate the sound of the Sonos Arc to your room.
In terms of appearance, Bose wins by a wide margin. The rectangular shape has crisp lines, and the glass top looks classier than the rounded plastic of Sonos. Having said that, Sonos still has a nice design. It just looks cheaper and less impressive than Bose.
The Sonos Arc is slightly larger and heavier, but neither of these make much difference.
Bose is a 3.0 soundbar with a center, left, and right channel. It lacks an included subwoofer and surround speakers.
Sonos Arc is a 5.0.2 soundbar, with included surround speakers in addition to the center, left, and right. It has no included subwoofer. The 5.0.2 designation, rather than the more-typical 5.0 designation, refers to the fact that Sonos Arc has upward facing speakers that throw sound toward the ceiling, thus enhancing the surround sound effect.
With the Bose being a 3.0 soundbar and the Sonos being 5.0.2, you would think that the Sonos has significantly better sound. This will be discussed in detail later, but suffice it to say, the sound battle between these two soundbars is closer than you would imagine.
Of the two soundbars, only Bose includes a remote. This isn’t a make-or-break feature, but it is definitely nice to have.
Both systems are much improved by adding a subwoofer and surround speakers, but this tacks on another ~$1,000 (for Sonos) to ~$1,300 (for Bose) to the purchase price.
If you plan to upgrade the soundbar by adding a subwoofer and rear channels, Sonos Arc is your best bet. Sonos rear speakers are higher quality, and Sonos also functions better as a whole-home setup.
For the sake of this comparison, we are looking at the Bose 700 as a standalone soundbar versus the Sonos Arc as a standalone soundbar.
As mentioned above, Bose is a simple 3.0 soundbar with a center, left, and right channel.
On the other hand, Sonos Arc is a 5.0.2, so it not only adds built-in surround speakers but also upward-tilted speakers that fire toward the ceiling for three-dimensional sound effects.
In truth, the sound between the two speakers is more similar than you would imagine. To my ear, the Bose has more clarity and depth than Sonos Arc. Sonos does have a better “surround sound” experience, but the difference is not particularly pronounced.
On the Sonos Arc, the treble seemed pronounced, with the bass lacking. Maybe I just expected more subwoofer rattle, considering the soundbar markets itself as a surround sound speaker.
The Bose 700 had excellent bass, and really sharp sound quality throughout mid- and high-ranges.
If all I needed was a soundbar to listen to music, I would choose the Bose 700 without hesitation. But, if the purpose was just listening to music, we wouldn’t be shelling out close to a thousand dollars for a soundbar.
Sound Quality In Home Theater Setup
For the home theater experience, Sonos Arc has some advantages. First, it has the above-mentioned 5.0.2 configuration with surround and ceiling-pointed speakers built-in. This means that, by definition, it will provide a more immersive surround sound experience.
During testing, most people will agree that the surround sound effect is more noticeable with Sonos Arc than with Bose 700.
Next, Sonos Arc supports Dolby Atmos, whereas Bose 700 supports Dolby Digital but not Dolby Atmos.
In theory, Dolby Atmos is a “better” form of surround sound, which can “create” sound anywhere in the 3D space of your home theater. With Dolby Digital through the Bose 700, surround sound is created only by projecting sound from the right, center, or left channel.
This means, again, that Sonos Arc can create a more immersive, three-dimensional auditory experience. Bose 700, on the other hand, will be a flatter, more two-dimensional audio.
However, Dolby Atmos on the Sonos Arc has some limitations.
Dolby Atmos on Sonos Arc — Further Discussion
First, if your TV doesn’t have an eARC connection, Atmos is irrelevant. Generally, only newer TVs have the eARC output.
A TV with a traditional ARC connection, which is combined with an HDMI port and may be labelled “HDMI ARC,” will transmit a downgraded version of Atmos which is just Dolby Digital Plus.
Additionally, even if your TV has the newer eARC connection, most streaming services with “Dolby Atmos” actually use the downgraded version of “Atmos” which is Dolby Digital Plus.
So, it sounds great in theory that Sonos Arc supports Dolby Atmos, the latest and greatest version of surround sound. But, you will really only get true Dolby Atmos through your Sonos Arc if it is hooked up to a new TV with eARC, and if the media (such as Blu-ray) also supports Dolby Atmos.
Software & Features
Overall Thoughts on Setup & Software
Setup on Sonos Arc is simple and painless. Setup on Bose 700 was more challenging, because Bose is following the new trend in electronics where you are expected to download an app and have it guide you through the setup process.
Once set up, both soundbars are generally easy to use. However, each has some limitations and eccentricities.
Sonos has better software across the board. It is significantly more user-friendly than Bose, but with a few caveats which will be discussed later. It also has some great features, like a “night sound” mode to modulate the intensity of loud and jarring noises.
Bose software is frustrating, and very poor considering the high quality of the Bose 700 soundbar as a whole.
Because Sonos software is great, and Bose is poor, it seems like Sonos Arc would win in this category. However, due to the lack of a remote, the lack of traditional (RCA) audio inputs, and the inability to adjust audio settings without an Apple product, Sonos really can’t be called a “winner” in this category.
Bluetooth and Accessory Connection
Although Sonos Arc has state-of-the-art eARC to support Dolby Atmos, it lacks old-school inputs and connections which are needed for more basic functions.
For example, Sonos doesn’t have bluetooth. It also lacks RCA jacks. This means that it is incompatible with many computers and older TVs. If I pay almost a thousand dollars for a soundbar, I really want to be able to hook it up to any computer, TV, or sound system without fuss.
Bose lacks the eARC jack to support Dolby Atmos, but it has bluetooth. This opens the door to connecting other devices.
Using Sonos Trueplay without an Apple Device
Sonos Arc has one baffling shortcoming — audio cannot be properly calibrated without an iOS (Apple) device.
As crazy as this seems, it is true. According to Sonos, Trueplay “measures how sound reflects off walls, furnishings and other surfaces in a room, then fine tunes your Sonos speaker to make sure it sounds great no matter where you’ve placed it.”
Clearly, Trueplay is a needed program, then, to get the most out of your Sonos Arc soundbar. The problem is, Android users can’t access it. Sonos support actually recommends that you “borrow one from someone else to Trueplay your products.”
Again, even though Bose software is lacking in many ways, we can’t call Sonos the software “winner” when it has such obvious and needless shortcomings.
Both the Bose 700 and the Sonos Arc have built-in microphones. Both work with Alexa and Google Assistant. Even though the microphones are high quality, just like any other device with a smart assistant, functioning is imperfect.
If you have an older Sonos or Bose sound system or speaker that you wish to connect to a Bose 700 or Sonos Arc, you will certainly want to check whether or not the 700 or Arc will allow this.
We won’t get into too much detail, but neither system is generally very backward-compatible with older devices.
In terms of the soundbars themselves, both Bose 700 and Sonos Arc have excellent reliability. The build quality of each is solid, and device failure is rare.
The bigger concern, in terms of lifespan of these soundbars, is how quickly they will become obsolete.
Bose has a history of abandoning their products quickly, and halting support as soon as a newer product is introduced. For a pair of headphones or a portable speaker, this isn’t too much of a concern.
But for a soundbar with a price tag of almost $1,000, you need to demand continued support. My concern here is that Bose released the Bose 900 soundbar in September of 2021, so the Bose 700 may be on the road to obsolescence already.
Sonos, too, has a checkered past when it comes to terminating support for products. In 2020, Sonos announced that it would stop supporting many of its older devices, and only support newer, Sonos S2 devices. For anyone frustrated that their Sonos products were becoming obsolete, Sonos responded only by giving a 30% discount on an upgraded Sonos for anyone wishing to “recycle” their old version.
Ultimately, I have concerns with the longevity of the software support for both of these soundbars.
Bose 700 has excellent sound quality, but the surround sound is limited unless you add (expensive) rear channel speakers and a subwoofer. If you want to use your soundbar with an older TV, computer, or other device, Bose 700 has bluetooth and RCA jacks for a simple connection. It also includes a remote.
Sonos Arc provides better surround sound capability, but the surround sound will be downgraded unless you have a new-model TV with an eARC connection. The Sonos Arc does not include a remote, and also forces you to use an Apple device to calibrate the device’s sound to your room.
For great sound quality and an all-in-one soundbar under $1,000, either the Bose 700 or Sonos Arc is a great choice.