Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar vs Sonos Arc: what are the differences?

Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar vs Sonos Arc
(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

TVs are getting increasingly more sophisticated and visually pleasing, packed with more and more of the latest apps and ease-of-life features to make watching your favourite shows in top quality a breeze.

Speakers that come built into TV sets, however, can sometimes leave a lot to be desired. If this is something you’re looking to remedy, it’s worth knowing that a little help from an accompanying soundbar can elevate your home cinema experience dramatically. 

When it comes to top-tier bars, the Sonos Arc has been a hit since it launched in 2020. We gave it a glowing five-star review, and it is now sitting proudly in our Hall of Fame with a couple of What Hi-Fi? Awards to boot.

Can the upcoming Bose Smart Ultra stand up against Sonos’s serial award-winning Arc soundbar? Let’s go over what we know so far. 

Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar vs Sonos Arc: price

Sonos Arc soundbar

(Image credit: Future)

The Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar is set to cost £899.95 / $899 / AU$1499.95, and is available for preorder now ahead of mid-October availability. 

The Sonos Arc launched at a price of £799 / $799 /AU$1399. We have seen the price dip below £700 / $750 / AU$1400 on occasion, though it currently sits around the same price as it did at launch. 

We look forward to putting Bose’s Smart Ultra Soundbar to the test and seeing if it justifies its heavier price tag.

Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar vs Sonos Arc: build

Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar closeup

(Image credit: Bose)

The Sonos Arc is a big soundbar, designed to suit larger TVs than the more compact Sonos bars such as the Beam Gen 2. It weighs 6.3kg and measures in at 113cm (45-inches) in width and is most suited to TVs 55-inches and up. 

It’s also a fairly tall unit at 8.5cm, which probably won’t obscure your TV’s picture (best to check before purchase, though) but may well be an issue blocking the signals sent from your remote control; or it could have been were it not for the integrated IR repeater, which is enabled by default. We found during our testing that this feature works flawlessly in ensuring the TV receives any signals sent by the remote. 

The Arc features a status light shining through four holes above the logo. These lights stay off for most of the time and their brightness is tailored to the ambient lighting in your room to ensure they don’t appear too bright, even when lit. There is also a touch-sensitive play/pause button integrated into the frame of the bar, with two other touch panels that you can use to control volume. 

The Sonos Arc can also be wall-mounted using the bespoke Sonos wall mount which costs an extra £69 / $79 / AU$99 – though there are also cheaper third party options available. 

The Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar is 104.5cm in width, so it could be slightly easier to accommodate in your setup. It’s 5.8cm tall, making it shorter than the Arc also potentially handy.

Bose has gone for a ‘premium glass’ top with a ‘metal grille’ front for the Smart Ultra. It weighs 5.8kg, so is slightly lighter than the Sonos Arc. 

We’ll report back with our full findings on how the unit feels and looks, of course, once we have it in for testing. 

Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar vs Sonos Arc: features

Sonos Arc wall mounted underneath a TV

(Image credit: Sonos)

The Sonos Arc features an ethernet connection for wired networking and a single HDMI port for ARC (Audio Return Channel) functionality. It also comes with a Sonos Optical Audio Adapter, in case you have an older model of TV without eARC/ARC capabilities. 

The Arc uses speakers to bounce sound off your walls and ceiling to create a 3D audio effect, tailoring the soundfield to your room using Sonos's Trueplay technology.

Users can make use of the Sonos App to adjust equalisation and general parameters – handy if your Arc soundbar is integrated into a wider Sonos ecosystem throughout your home. 

The Arc also offers wireless connectivity and playback, appearing as a device in the Spotify and Tidal phone apps. You can also send almost any audio to the bar via AirPlay 2. Alexa and Google Assistant can also control the bar, with four far-field microphones placed along the chassis of the bar to pick up your voice commands. 

Moving on to the Smart Ultra Soundbar, Bose has included not only an HDMI eARC connection but also an optical output. Handy if your TV doesn’t feature ARC/eARC capabilities – and no need for an adapter as with the Sonos Arc. 

Like the Sonos Arc, the Smart Ultra Soundbar features calibration software, in the form of ADAPTiQ, to help tailor the sound by measuring the properties of your listening environment and adjusting the volume and equalisation accordingly. 

Bose has also included its proprietary TruSpace spatial processing which analyses non-Dolby Atmos signals and upmixes them to produce an immersive audio listening experience for any content you are watching, not just Dolby Atmos compatible shows or movies. 

Bose offers similar wireless connectivity in its Smart Ultra Soundbar, with wi-fi and Bluetooth capabilities allowing users to access streaming services and AirPlay. 

Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar vs Sonos Arc: sound

Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar on a stand in front of a TV with decorations

(Image credit: Bose)

As we noted in our review of the Sonos Arc, not all devices adorned with the Dolby Atmos badge guarantee the quality or immersion you might expect. The Arc, however, provides a convincing Atmos presentation, one of the most impressive we have heard from any soundbar. 

It features 11 Class-D digital amplifiers which power three angled silk-dome tweeters and eight elliptical woofers for a full and rich sound across the frequency spectrum. 

During our tests, we found that the Arc can produce “weighty and tuneful bass, but the lower frequencies never overwhelm, even at its loudest and deepest”. We also thought that “the treble is clean and sparkly” and that speech and dialogue are “so clearly projected that even in the most mumbly of dramas, we never feel the need to enable the Speech Enhancement feature.”

That overall evenness in its tone helps make the Arc a more musical performer than most soundbars – as you would hope from a company that specialises in multi-room music. 

We have not heard the Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar in action yet, so we can’t give hands-on opinions on the sound just yet.

Bose's previous flagship model, the Smart Soundbar 900, received a four-star review and has plenty going for it. This includes decent horizontal projection and crisp dialogue. However, we also thought that the bar struggled to create height in the sound, and also couldn't quite deliver enough low end during certain scenes. We hope to see the Smart Ultra Soundbar perform more capably in some of these aspects. 

Bose's new bar will include an AI Dialogue Mode that aims to balance voices and surround sound depending on what you are watching. It should balance out loud advertisements between quieter TV programmes, for example, which would be a welcome feature in our book.

Bose’s new soundbar features nine drivers, including two upward-firing drivers for immersive sound. 

Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar vs Sonos Arc: early verdict

Sonos Arc on a stand in front of a TV

(Image credit: Future)

The Sonos Arc sets a high bar for what a soundbar can do to improve your TV's audio; it’s a Hall of Famer for good reason.

Bose has its work cut out if it wants to top the Sonos Arc. We gave its Smart Soundbar 900 a very respectable four-star review, so the potential is certainly there. 

However, Bose’s game will have to be upped with the Smart Ultra Soundbar if the company hopes to stand toe to toe with Sonos next time around.


Read our full Sonos Arc review

Best Dolby Atmos soundbars 2023: budget to premium home cinema sound

Sonos Arc vs Sonos Beam (Gen 2): which Dolby Atmos soundbar is best?

Staff Writer

Ainsley Walker is a staff writer at What Hi-Fi?. He studied music journalism at university before working in a variety of roles including as a freelance journalist and teacher. Growing up in a family of hi-fi enthusiasts, this naturally influenced his interest in the topic. Outside of work, Ainsley can be found producing music, tinkering with retro tech, or cheering on Luton Town.