Sonos Arc, sub and surrounds and the Beosound Stage

russraff

Well-known Member
I thought I'd post this a I have owned both and thought people may be interested. There are a few folks that are particularly evangelical to either systems so maybe this will add some balance...

TL : DR
  1. Music first, AV last - get the Stage.
  2. If you can only accommodate a single sound bar - get the Stage
  3. If you want a sound system to just work with minimum messing about - get the stage.
  4. If you want genuine bass, like the idea of active speakers and no hulking amp, like the idea that the system will expand with surrounds and you aren't interested in music - get the ARC+Sub+1SL's
  5. If you want everything music and AV but need it to look nice without taking out a 2nd mortgage for a CEDIA install, Get the ARC, Sub, 1SL's and a pair of Fives.
  6. You absolutely need to have that Atmos effect - get speakers in the celling.

So, I moved from what most would call a fairly high end system - not daft high end, but okay. Denon 6400, Klipsch 600M/404c speakers and an XTZ edge sub. I have also had Miller and Kreisel LCR950s and Monitor Audio Silvers in the recent past. This in an 18x11.5ft room. I wanted more space and a cleaner system with as few compromises as possible. The idea was that a sound bar would do the AV and a pair of active standmounts music. The options were the Beosound stage with a pair of KEF LSX's in due course, and Sonos with the option to expand into a full 5.1 and ad Fives for music.

Beosound Stage
I originally got the Stage knowing that there were a few reviews that lauded praise onto it and that it was a dead end, but fully functioning, system.
Musically the Stage is actually very good and for those wanting a musical speaker 80% of the time and an easy avenue into AV 10% its an ideal solution. Male vocals are a bit chesty and closed in, but there is enough space (I'm firing across the shorter axis) for stereo imaging. Highs are rolled off, a bit like Linn speakers, but there is still plenty of detail. Play the There is Time from Mumford and Sons Johannesburg. Just before the second sung line at the start, the singer takes a breath through the nose - you ought to be able to pick out a nose 'whistle.' I can *just* make it out with the Stage on standard settings.
More for AV, but there is no real bass depth under 50 Hz - it'll do 40hz but it's not clean. Speaking of which the stage will go to improbable levels using those custom Pearless drivers - just don't play Daft Punk.
More problematically, the Stage uses a DSP to virtualise the surrounds and Atmos speakers and is the only way to achieve surround sound. Not engaging 'Virtualise' and everything is downmixed to a 3.1 system, albeit with higher fidelity. The DSP is okay, as an effect, but definitely messes with the quality of the sound; turn off this feature and there is a positive pickup with dialogue and midrange far clearer. Also, don't use upmix and virtualise at the same time, for example watching stereo from sky or older movies, as this is devastating to sound quality. Even with just virtualise, using None or Movie pre-sets dialogue was sometimes hard to discern - 6 Underground on Netflix or the scene in Empire Strikes back where the 'We need proof not leads' conversation happens. As there is no possible adjustment you just have to put up with it.
That said, the Stage does multi channel LPCM fine and if fed 7.1 will downmix without missing anything. This is through Netflix, prime PLEX both through a C9 TV and an Nvidia shield. DTS of any colour is not supported.

One oddity is that the stage at one point started to make funny knocking noises through the speakers, like a xylophone, with True HD Atmos sound only. a power cycle sorted.

Sonos
The Arc by itself is not as good as the Stage for AV and nowhere close for Music.
For the former Arc lacks weight and overall volume is limited for bass heavy passages using latest software. The surround feel is okay but the virtualised system on the Stage is better in it's effect, if not quality, and LFE is *far* better handled on the Stage. You'd expect as much as the stage is £400 more expensive - much more so in the States. BUT, you can address these shortcomings by throwing more £££ at Sonos and add the Sub and 1SL's. Yes this makes the Sonos a £600 investment over the Stage but if AV is important its well worth it. Now you have an all active system that is simple to setup, has proper LFE bass, no high freq roll off (with trueplay), proper surrounds and looks great. Dialogue never sounds recessed and the Arc performs far better now bass and surrounds are handles elsewhere. If I'm being honest, a better AV system than my outgoing separates system.
Speaking of trueplay, you have to do this a few times before you get the hang of it but offers a good way of balancing the system using Infinite Response Filters. Don't go to the edges of the room and localise ~2 to 3m the sweeps in the general area of the seating position. Otherwise, speakers are properly aligned and calibrated but only with an iPhone - I have an iPhone 8 - to the point where if you don't have an iPhone then don't bother with the is Sonos System.

For music this Sonos ARC system, no matter the config, is a bit of a mess. For some reason Sonos insists on having some kind of pseudo surround effort going on that simply doesn't work. More than that, the L+R tweeters are so aggressively angled that there is an overly diffuse sound for music that I find unpalatable. For AV, this diffuse nature never materialises, which is really odd. Music sounds weirdly stretched in the mid range though the sub is well sorted and high frequency detail is well delivered. That Mumford and Sons track is much more clear than the stage, it's just that the system doesn't hang together for 2 channel music. Of course, Sonos may be hardening in this AV only performance so that people buy the Fives for music.
**Update: Stereo is better than I thought, but you need to place the sub in just the right position. Trueplay is not as advanced as Audyssey and doesn't mess about in the time domain, so sub placement is more critical than I had assumed. Also, reduce music surrounds to -15 and in ambient mode only or bass is doubled in the sub (the surround's bass profile I *think* is passed to the sub with the trueplay corrections intact, as opposed to transferring the bass clean to the sub and using the sub's trueplay filters - at least this is what it sounds like), causing far too much mid range bass bloat and distortion. Those that find stereo music has too little mid range richness with the surrounds on ambient may want to move the sub to a more agreeable position. Some people are saying that they have the sub at +5 - I'd advise the opposite and reduce the sub output to get a cleaner less bloated effect than Sonos' post trueplay results. Even now, music is still not up to Stage standards but is far closer. If Sonos could offer a Yamaha style 'Natural' mode for music, where the high frequencies are less aggressively EQ'd and a seperate music mode where the rears are ignored, things would be near perfect for the system.

A couple of oddities I've discovered - playing a 7.1 Dolby demo track reveals that through the LG C9 Plex is not playing the 2x rear speakers. This is likely an LG issue as through the Shield via eArc there are no such issues.
**Update: Use 'Auto' setting rather than passthrough on the LG while enabling eArc and the rear speakers play fine through the Arc.

Also 5.1/7.1 LPCM is not possible, so faffing about with transcoding is needed for DTS flavour sound. No idea about Dolby MAT as I don't have an Xbox or Apple TV.

Neither system does height speakers well. At all.

So I went Sonos as I wanted the sound bar system to be AV and I plan on getting active speakers dedicated to music.

That's it. Happy to field questions if anyone is interested to hear.

Thanks,
Russell.
 
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Riverwilliam123

Standard Member
Excellent reviews 👍. Coincidentally I am trying to decide between the stage and a pair of Kef LSX for music and AV. Not overly bothered about a full set up so either a complete bar or bookshelf active speakers will be fine but struggling between these 2. I'm guessing the Kef will be better for music and the stage TV but both have good reviews and both look amazing.
 

Chillie6

Distinguished Member
Thanks for that Russell. Like you I came from a separates system but I never felt I was getting the best out of it. Due to my room layout the positions of the front three speakers was always a compromise.
The room looks a lot less cluttered now. I have a lot of blurays with DTS soundtracks and I’m using an xbox to convert to Dolby digital.
My tv is only arc enabled. So my source of Dolby Atmos has been limited to the built in streaming apps. I’m considering purchase of the HDFury Arcarna to give me an earc capability and thereby allowing me to extract full Dolby Atmos from my discs.
I must say i have been more than impressed with the performance of the Arc + Sub + One SLs. It definitely fills the room with sound. To my ears this system performs better than my previous separates.
The Atmos soundtracks I’ve heard from Netflix programs (especially 6 Underground) has been quite impressive. Effects have been placed around my room such that sounds appear to becoming from the walls where no speakers are present. My room size is approx 12 x 13 feet.
I don’t use my Arc for music, I prefer to listen through headphones and my iPad. Interestingly music on blu ray comes across really well. (Bohemian Rhapsody, Rocket man, Rammstein live in Paris for example)
 

russraff

Well-known Member
I'd get the Stage, no question.
Excellent reviews 👍. Coincidentally I am trying to decide between the stage and a pair of Kef LSX for music and AV. Not overly bothered about a full set up so either a complete bar or bookshelf active speakers will be fine but struggling between these 2. I'm guessing the Kef will be better for music and the stage TV but both have good reviews and both look amazing.
I'd get the Stage, no question. It'll do both AV and music and remains musical, whereas the KEF's only have optical in? Also the Stage has an HDMI input to you can hook through it. I just think that if the solution needs to do AV the LSX aren't right. The Klipsch Fives, however, may well be a better alternative, but even then the Stage is the more considered solution.
 
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russraff

Well-known Member
Made a couple of updates. Until Sonos release a new firmware suite, this is as good as it'll get - which is pretty damn good.
 

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