I bought a Sonos Arc soundbar and an LG OLED G2 six months ago to use with my Xbox Series X thinking it would be the most convenient way to expand my existing Sonos setup to handle Dolby Atmos audio from apps like Netflix, Apple TV Plus, and Disney Plus. Now, however, my Sonos Arc soundbar sounds like it’s exploding with a startling loud bang and a series of audio pops when I try to use Dolby Atmos content. I’m not alone, either. I was shocked to learn that hundreds of Sonos Arc owners have experienced these extremely loud audio pops for nearly three years without a fix.
Sonos markets its Arc soundbar as being able to “bring all your entertainment to life and experience breathtakingly realistic spatial audio powered by Dolby Atmos.” The reality for many is that it’s a Dolby Atmos soundbar that can’t handle Atmos properly. I’ve been experiencing these loud audio pops over the past few weeks, with no changes to my setup. Others have been suffering with them for years without a fix in sight, with a single thread on Sonos’ forum full of nearly 1,000 responses from disappointed Arc owners.
After contacting Sonos support to add my voice to the growing number of affected users, I was met with two official workarounds: disable CEC on devices or disable Dolby Atmos and use Dolby Digital 5.1 instead. One of these workarounds means I lose the ability for my TV to control other devices over HDMI-CEC, and the other means disabling Dolby Atmos on a soundbar that’s supposed to be designed for it!
The only workaround that has worked for me is disabling Dolby Atmos, and it’s the same for many other owners stuck with a $900 Dolby Atmos soundbar that can’t handle Atmos.
Not every Sonos Arc owner will experience the issue, though. It’s particularly prevalent with people who use an Xbox Series X or Apple TV 4K to push Dolby Atmos content to their TV, and it seems like this combination is causing issues. One detailed post in the ongoing Sonos support thread suggests that the problem could be related to how the Xbox Series X and Apple TV 4K use a Dolby MAT 2.0 encoder to output sound.
But after nearly three years without a fix, Sonos doesn’t seem to be any closer to resolving things as the company is struggling to reproduce the issues customers are experiencing. Here’s what Sonos product manager Scott Fink had to say in a statement to The Verge:
We are aware that a small percentage of customers have experienced an interoperability issue which is causing a popping sound on Arc. What we know now is that this issue occurs on some Dolby Atmos enabled audio products, including Arc, when connected to certain combinations of streaming devices and TVs while playing Dolby Atmos content.
We are committed to finding the root cause and we’re continuing to test for a reliable reproduction of what customers are describing online and in conversations with our support team. We are also engaging our contacts at third party manufacturers to further explore possible solutions. As this is an issue stemming from the way various devices are working together, there are a range of tests our team needs to conduct to understand the scope and develop a targeted solution for each setup. We’ll let you know as soon as we have an update to share.
Sonos says it can’t reliably reproduce the issue, but that’s bizarre since many customers can. I’m also able to make the audio pop simply by navigating around the Xbox dashboard and then moving to content that isn’t Dolby Atmos and back again. The audio pop is incredibly loud and startling, and the first time I experienced it, I thought the soundbar had exploded and died since the light flashed red and it looked like it briefly turned off.
I’ve had to disable Dolby Atmos to avoid this audio pop, as it has been genuinely making my heart skip a few beats. While it’s possible to go on to watch Dolby Atmos content after the big bang, I have to do so with my miniature dachshund hiding in fear for the rest of the evening.
The “solution” to disable Dolby Atmos “doesn’t feel good,” according to KeithFromSonos, a Sonos employee who regularly posts on Reddit answering community concerns. “I hesitate to say a ‘fix’ is in the works. Only because I don’t want anyone to get tied to the idea that something is coming ‘soon’. The team has been and is actively working towards a solution, the biggest issue we have is reproducing the loud pop.”
Regardless of how complicated this issue might be, it’s ridiculous that it has been ongoing for nearly three years without a fix. Perhaps I’ll offer to ship my 65-inch TV, Xbox Series X, and Sonos Arc to Sonos so it can reproduce the issue and figure out a fix.
If you’re even considering a Sonos Arc soundbar to use with an Xbox Series X or Apple TV 4K, avoid this $900 soundbar until Sonos has fixed this problem or can give us a more detailed response. Otherwise, you’ll probably be left like hundreds or thousands of other Sonos customers with a Dolby Atmos soundbar that can’t handle Dolby Atmos properly.