How to choose your sound bar: Sonos and Denon connected bars
In this3rd article on soundbars 2022, I'll talk about an unavoidable trend of our time, the streaming of music.
Who better to meet the demands of audio enthusiasts than Denon and Sonos, both of whom started out in the field of music reproduction before making the leap into cinema surround sound. The result is a high-performance hybrid product with a user-friendly control application that allows users to control the cinema soundtrack as well as to search for music content that is easily accessible via multiple playlists.
3 models to choose from all perfectly configurable
First, it's good to know that while there are fewer manufacturers of connected bars, Sonos and Denon offer a solid reputation as world leaders in electronics. This ensures you get reliable, long-lasting products that will benefit from continuous OTA (over the Internet) updates that keep your investment up to date with what will be selling in stores in the years following your purchase.
Three models are offered: two from Sonos and one from Denon for the current year.
Sonos offers the "Beam" while Denon offers the "Sound bar 550", two equivalent formulas. For the demanding amateur, the very famous "ARC" with its 11 amplifiers (each driving a speaker), will provide power and precision.
All three units are designed to be configured to the user's taste and budget, offering a subwoofer as well as a choice of rear speakers of various sizes and performance options.
The leitmotiv : DOLBY ATMOS
Dolby Atmos is the latest cinema encoding that maps sound to achieve a three-dimensional effect. With 3D, you feel like you're right there with the sound of rain falling on you or the sound of a plane flying overhead! The best products offer this and the models suggested here are no exception.
1. A complete residential music network
Choosing Denon or Sonos means opting for the infinite prospect of music sources for every room in the house. It will be possible to bring together TV, record player and web music projected through stand-alone speakers or via a conventional stereo system. There are even people who integrate these sets with the distribution in ceilings and walls because connected amplification devices are available from our two manufacturers (AMP and HÉOS).
2. An online application
To get the most out of your connected product, the application is essential and allows you to do the following:
- Link internet radio and streaming services such as Deezer and Spotify
- Add additional speakers and select the content to be played on them
- Add a traditional sound system (Denon)
- Analyze and adjust room sound automatically (Sonos via Trueplay)
- Select the type of surround effect up to Dolby Atmos
- Adjust the bass and treble as well as the back and sub-bass levels if necessary
- Schedule customizable playlists
- Update your products (can be activated automatically).
The differences: each model
To learn more about surround possibilities in general, I would refer you to a previous article entitled "Technologies: How to find your way around". Let's now look at the three models I evaluated:
SONOS BEAM (Gen2)
The second-generation Beam is an accomplished product. First offered in 2017, it features a compact package including four mid and low frequency drivers as well as a treble to be driven by 5 dedicated amplifiers. The sound is crisp and clean, significantly improved over the first generation.
You can control the Beam by voice using Google Assistant or Alexa, depending on your preference. This comes in handy when you're searching for music content by genre or artist: ask and you shall receive!
To make listening more enjoyable in movie theaters, a voice enhancement feature is available, as well as a night mode to enhance sound effects at low volumes. In either case, if you need to reduce the overall volume, your Beam will enhance what's less audible without altering the overall level, which is perfect for avoiding disturbance.
Possibility of adding the Sonos SUB subwoofer and ONE rear speakers with or without voice commands.
DENON HOME SOUND BAR 550
Here, we add the high musical resolution because the Denon products are all compatible with the musical files with high flow such as FLAC 24 bits - 192 kHz as well as DSD 2.8/5.6 MHz.
To distribute the whole, an ingenious configuration of 4 midrange and bass speakers coupled with 2 passive radiators and 2 tweeters ensure authentic high fidelity.
To control your Bar 550, you can choose between Alexa, your mobile device app or the backlit motion-sensing touch controls, but also a good old "joystick" included with it!
To access content, we will connect it via 2 HDMI ports or fiber optics. For the musical listening, we will be able to diffuse from numerous source including even a USB plug allowing the listening of your personal library of high resolution FLAC or DSD pieces.
Finally DENON offers, in addition to a host of stand-alone speakers from their "Home" series, traditional audio system amplifiers that offer to transfer even more content that can be picked up from your turntable for example.
The Sonos ARC has a reputation for sought-after performance. It's ideal for large TVs 55" and larger. It's beautiful, slim and powerful with a clarity of sound that's uniquely its own. Whether you're listening to music or watching a movie, what's most striking is how "airy" and easily audible everything sounds, no closed-in sound here...
The stereo soundstage seems larger than the bar itself, thanks to the side speakers that reflect sound from the walls back to the listener. Focusing is also very good, and you can easily identify where the sounding objects in the soundstage are coming from. Listening to a rock concert is so fascinating that you feel like you're there...
However, on the "minus" side, we note that all this clarity will be to the detriment of the bass, which fortunately can be compensated by the addition of the wireless "SUB" box. In this "ARC + SUB" configuration, we will obtain the most "musical" bar ever. Add rear speakers to perfect its immersive 3D Atmos cinema performance and get the best of both worlds: cinema and audiophile!
Plus, you can link music services through the Sonos app, play them right out of the box, and access a variety of features including setting a morning alarm! The Sonos app also lets you configure the performance in your room by analyzing it via built-in microphones. Unfortunately, this feature is only available on Apple iOS, and not on Android.
Although Sonos cannot reproduce signals encoded in very high resolution DSD, it is now possible to play FLAC encoded in 24 bits for a richer resolution in nuances. To do so, the user will have to use the new S2 application replacing the initial S1 version.
On the cinema side, all types of content are covered: Dolby Digital, DTS, Dolby Digital Plus, Atmos, Dolby TrueHD, Dolby PCM multi-channel, etc.
The final word
In this final word, let me summarize well.
If you want an all-in-one system without the need to buy a subwoofer, the Beam or the DENON 550 are the ones to choose.
For total versatility in music content, the 550 will take precedence over the BEAM. If you want a traditional remote control, the 550 is the one to choose, as the other two are only controlled by application.
In each case, a bass speaker and rear speakers can be added for surround sound effects.
The top of the tops will be the "ARC" but to really enjoy it, you will have to add the "SUB" because it remains deficient in bass but what a sound!
By the way, I invite you to read my 4 articles including this one to find the ideal type of sound bar for you. Lhe last two years have seen an increase in television sales and manufacturers have chosen to focus on this complementary product. We are in an era of quality and performance and a sound bar is now a must have addition to modern performance TV's.