How To Choose A Sonos Home Theater System



Creating the perfect home theater setup can transform your living space into a cinematic haven, offering immersive experiences and unforgettable moments with family and friends. But with the myriad of options available, navigating the path to the best home theater setup can be overwhelming. This article is your guide to making informed choices, balancing your preferences with your budget, and achieving a home theater system that truly amazes. And I'm going to do it all with the Sonos ecosystem. So, why Sonos?

Why Choose Sonos for Your Home Theater Speakers

Simply put: Sonos offers easy setup, great sound, and incredible versatility to scale your system up and down. And, best of all, it's wireless. so you don't have to worry about running wire, drilling holes, messing with remotes, or stacking gear.

Sonos delivers a seamless and immersive audio experience that effortlessly syncs with your TV or streaming devices, creating a true cinematic effect in your living room. Its user-friendly app allows for easy setup and customization, ensuring that you can fine-tune the sound to your specific preferences. Moreover, Sonos provides a wide range of speakers, soundbars, and subwoofers to cater to various room sizes and budgets, offering flexibility in crafting your ideal home theater setup. Sonos products are known for their exceptional audio quality, delivering crystal-clear dialogue, powerful bass, and dynamic surround sound that brings movies, TV shows, and music to life. With its reputation for reliability (which World Wide Stereo can attest to) and software updates, you'll be reaping the benefits of a Sonos system for your home theater audio needs for many years to come.

Choosing the right Sonos home theater configuration for you comes down to 3 main factors:

  1. Connectivity
  2. Surround Sound vs. Spatial Audio
  3. Display & Room Size

I’ll go over what’s available to you from Sonos in their S2 platform and I’ll share some configurations you may not know about. 


The Best Sonos Home Theater System

 Sonos Ultimate Home Theater System

Sonos Ultimate Home Theater Set with Arc Wireless Soundbar, Pair of Sub Wireless Subwoofer (Gen 3), and Pair of Era 300 Wireless Smart Speakers (Black)

Let's not waste anyone's time. If you're just here to find out what the best Sonos home theater system is, this is the ULTIMATE Sonos home theater system. With the Arc, two Era 300s, and two Sub (Gen 3)s, you’ve got yourself a killer 7.2.4 Dolby Atmos surround sound system. And, it only has five Sonos speakers and not one inch of speaker wire. How can you get a 7.2.4 Dolby Atmos system with only 5 speakers you might ask?

The Arc will utilize its driver array as the front left, right, and center speakers, It will use the dedicated up-firing speakers to act as front height speakers. The Era 300s will become your rear surrounds and rear height speakers using their dedicated upward firing tweeter. The Sub (Gen 3)s will give you two dedicated subwoofers, and you can put them anywhere in the room because they’re wireless. You can have one in the front (let's say front right) to give more presence in your Front Sound Stage. And you have one in the rear (let's say rear left) which can also be laid flat on its side and under your couch so you can feel the bass hit.

If you have a larger space, a larger budget, and you want maximum performance, this is the best Sonos home theater system without a doubt. If you want more choices, Sonos has a ton of options and various configurations to meet your budget, room size, screen size, and desired level of surround sound experience.


Let’s get a little technical and talk about connectivity. The quality of your surround sound system is dependent upon the output capability of your display (as in: your TV or projector). Are you connecting with HDMI or Optical? Are you using Audio Return Channel (ARC) or Enhanced Audio Return Channel (eARC)?

eARC capable displays are going to deliver the highest level of audio performance, like Dolby Atmos with Dolby TrueHD. You can find which connection you have simply by checking the back of your TV (or even read the manual). HDMI connections will be labeled with ARC or eARC so you know which input to connect to and its sound capability. Most TVs today will have an eARC HDMI connection, but they’ll also still have an optical output. Older TVs will only have an optical connection.

The Sonos Arc, Beam Gen2, and Amp all use an HDMI connection to connect to your TV. Arc and Beam Gen2 are eARC and ARC capable. The Amp only uses ARC with its HDMI connection. The Sonos Ray is the only piece with an optical connection or TOSLINK.

That doesn’t mean you’re limited to just the Ray if your TV or projector only has an optical connection. There is an optical to HDMI converter so you can connect your TV to Arc, Beam (Gen 2), or the Amp (they’re not included with the Amp).

Sonos HDMI Chart

For Lossless Spatial Audio like Dolby ATMOS with Dolby TrueHD, you will need to have an HDMI connection capable of Enhanced Audio Return Channel or eARC. With an ARC capable TV or projector you won’t have the option of lossless spatial audio BUT you will get as high as Dolby Atmos with Dolby Digital Plus. With an Optical connection, you are limited to a 5.1 Surround Sound system (Dolby Digital).

Surround Sound HDMI Chart


Surround Sound vs. Spatial Audio

Surround sound and spatial audio are both audio technologies that aim to enhance the immersion and realism of audio experiences, particularly in home theaters and entertainment systems. However, they achieve this in different ways.

Surround sound is a traditional audio technology that has been around for decades. It typically uses multiple audio channels and speakers placed around a room to create a sense of directionality and immersion in sound. The most common formats for surround sound are 5.1 and 7.1, where the numbers represent the main speakers (front, center, and rear) and the ".1" indicates the subwoofer for low-frequency effects (bass).

A Sonos 5.1 surround sound system includes a soundbar, two surround speakers, and a subwoofer. The soundbar is able to render the front left, center, and right channels. The two surround speakers render the additional two channels. The subwoofer adds the ".1" to complete the 5.1 setup. If you remove the surrounds, you end up with a 3.1 system and if you add a second sub, your ".1" becomes a ".2".  

Surround sound systems use audio codecs like Dolby Digital or DTS to encode and decode audio tracks, allowing specific sounds to be directed to different speakers to simulate the sensation of sounds coming from different directions. While surround sound can be very effective for creating a sense of space and direction, it relies on the physical placement of speakers in your room, and the experience may not be consistent for everyone in the audience.

There are three elements that make up a surround sound system:

  1. Front Speakers (left, center, & right),
  2. Surround Speakers (matching rear or side speakers),
  3. Subwoofer.

Spatial audio, on the other hand, is a newer and more advanced audio technology that focuses on creating a three-dimensional sound field providing the illusion that sound is coming from all around and above you, as opposed to from predefined speaker positions. Spatial audio uses advanced processing techniques, often without relying on a specific physical speaker setup. Spatial audio systems typically include the addition of “height” speakers, which may also be called wide speakers, or overhead speakers. These are channels that are above ear level.

Thanks to spatial audio technology such as Dolby Atmos or DTS:X and innovative surround sound methods/psychoacoustic technology (gulp), you no longer need to rely on placing speakers directly on your ceiling to experience the sensation of a plane soaring high in the sky. The technology that Sonos uses in their Era 100 and Era 300 speakers creates a "virtual surround sound" effect that disperses and reflects sound throughout the room to create a more expansive soundstage without the need for additional speakers. 

For example, adding a pair of Era 100 or Era 300 speakers to your Dolby Atmos supported Sonos soundbar and Sub combo will result in a spatial audio setup that renders as a 7.1.4 home theater setup.

Home Theater Number Definition

To expand on the above mentioned number configuration in a surround system and spatial audio system (ie. 5.1, 5.1.2, 7.1, or 7.2.4), simply put, the first number is the number of surround sound speakers (front right, front center, front left, right surround, left surround), the second number is the number of subwoofers, and the last number is the number of “height” speakers (even if virtually rendered). The greater the numbers, the more immersive the listening experience will be. 

Display & Room Size

As your display grows, so should your audio. How big your room is will come into play with how you will fill that room with sound, and will likely play a factor in your screen size.

Check out my article, “How Do I Decide The Right Screen Size And Type For My Home Theater?” for some guidance there.

Sonos Arc

Sonos Arc with 75in TV

The Sonos Arc is partnered best with large screens (think 65” and above) and larger rooms. The sound it produces is spacious and airy. It will fill the room with its 11 internal speakers and (2) dedicated height channels.

The Arc alone is a rendered 5.0.2 soundbar and it creates an arch of audio for its dedicated height speakers and was thusly named, Arc. It will do a lot of heavy lifting on its own, but as I said earlier it will be even better paired with more speakers.

By rendered, I mean there aren’t dedicated rear speakers, but it uses its speaker array to make it feel like there are. The Arc is best placed below your display pulled off the wall, so nothing blocks the dedicated height speakers.

Sonos Beam (Gen 2)

Sonos Beam with 65in TV

Beam (Gen 2) is partnered best with screens between 55” and 65” and a smaller to medium sized room. It's more compact than the Arc and it’s sound has more direct audio with a pronounced mid-range, which helps with more accurate speaking voices in movies.

Beam (Gen 2) is also a rendered 5.0.2. soundbar. It has 5 internal speakers and utilizes psychoacoustics to render height channels. Ideally you want to place the Beam (Gen 2) in an open space and keep 2" minimum clearance on both sides for the best sound quality.

Sonos Ray

Sonos Ray with 55in TV

Ray is partnered best with smaller TVs up to about 55” and a smaller space like an apartment. It’s listed as a 3.0 speaker array, and I’m going to bet it’s a rendered 3.0. It has clearer vocals than any TV speaker on the market, and is good for smaller sound systems, or even a computer setup. The Ray can be tucked into a space with enclosed sides because all of its speakers are front-firing. 

The wildcard here is the Sonos Amp in a surround system because it will work with all size displays and rooms. Why is that? It will depend on the size of the passive speakers to help determine where it will play best. You can use floor standing speakers, bookshelf speakers, and architectural speakers like in-wall or in-ceiling speakers.

Even better yet, if you use the special speakers that were produced by Sonance in a collaboration with Sonos, you will be able to use Sonos’ Trueplay room tuning technology. These are the only non-integrated Sonos speaker that can do that.

Sonos Sub vs Sub Mini

Deciding on the Sub or Sub mini will also depend on your room size and factors in the other Sonos speakers you are pairing it with. Though, it's pretty simple: use the Sub for larger rooms and the Sub Mini for smaller rooms. Or, if you just want the maximum pulse-pounding bass experience, go with the Sub. The larger of the two, the Sonos Sub, delivers room-filling bass for larger rooms. As mentioned earlier in this article, it's design is versatile enough to place in the room upright facing forward or sideways in profile view, or it can be laid down out of site under a couch or nestled between furniture. 

If you're looking to add bass to a smaller room or space, go with the Sub Mini. Though smaller and more compact, it's still a powerful addition to your system. It pairs best with the Ray or Beam (Gen 2). 

For maximum impact, add a second sub. This add the ".2" to your configuration. Go big or go home.

Home Theater Options

Sonos "math" is difficult because of how they will rearrange the speakers, change the arrays, disable speakers, all dependent on the configuration you find them in. We have a full list of all the possible configurations below, and how to accomplish them. I even mention those "unmentionable" IKEA x Sonos speakers.

If you have a question about one of these configurations, leave it in the comment section where I can better explain the differences.

Sonos Home Theater Configurations

  • 2.0 - Amp with Passive Speakers
  • 2.1 - Amp with Sub (Gen 3) or Sub Mini
  • 2.2 - Amp with (2) Sub (Gen 3)s
  • 3.0 - Ray (dual tweeter)
  • 3.1 - Ray with Sub (Gen 3) or Ray with Sub Mini
  • 4.0 - (2) Amps / (1) Amp with One or Five
  • 4.1 - (2) Amps with Sub (Gen 3) or Sub Mini
  • 4.2 - (2) Amps with (2) Sub (Gen 3)
  • 5.0.2 - Beam (Gen 2)Rendered (rear and Atmos channels virtualized)
  • 5.0.2 - ArcRendered (rear and Atmos channels virtualized)
  • 5.1 - Ray with Sub (Gen 3) + One  or Five
  • 5.1 -  Ray with Sub Mini + One or Five
  • 5.1.2 - Beam (Gen 2) with Sub (Gen 3)Rendered (rear and Atmos channels virtualized)
  • 5.1.2 - Beam (Gen 2) with Sub Mini Rendered (rear and Atmos channels virtualized)
  • 5.1.2 - Arc with Sub (Gen 3)Rendered (rear and Atmos channels virtualized)
  • 5.1.2 - Arc with Sub Mini - Rendered (rear and Atmos channels virtualized)
  • 5.1.2 - Beam (Gen 2) + Pair of Ones (or 2x Five, 2x Ikea Symfonisk) + Sub - Rendered (front height channels virtualized)
  • 5.1.2 - Arc + Pair of Ones (or 2x Five, 2x Ikea Symfonisk) + Sub
  • 5.2.2 - Rendered (rear and Atmos channels virtualized) - Beam (Gen 2) with (2) Sub (Gen 3)
  • 7.1.4 - Rendering (rear sides & height virtualized) - Arc + Pair of Era 100s + Sub / Beam (Gen 2) + Pair of Era 100s + Sub
  • 7.1.4 - Rendering (front height is virtualized) - Beam (Gen 2) + Pair of Era 300s + Sub
  • 7.1.4 - ARC with Era 300 with Sub (Gen 3) or Sub Mini
  • 7.2.4 - ARC with Era 300 with (2) Sub (Gen 3)s - The Real Deal Holyfield Atmos Surround system.


There are so many articles that talk about Sonos surround systems, but not enough that go over all the options. As you can see there are a lot, which speaks to why Sonos surround systems are so versatile. If you feel like you’re overwhelmed with choices, or you can’t decide what you want, or are working with a limited budget, Sonos has a good solution for you.

Sonos doesn’t lock you into a single setup, and you can upgrade or change components at any time.

  • Start with a soundbar. A soundbar will dramatically upgrade your TV audio with richer, more immersive sound, crisper dialogue, and more pronounced bass.
  • Add a subwoofer to improve your bass experience with added dimension and impact and free up your soundbar to focus on delivering crisper midrange and cleaner highs.
  • Add surrounds for that immersive surround sound experience.
  • And just keep going from there.
  • And when you update, feel free to move things around.

I did this just recently in my own system at home. I had a PayBar (now discontinued), Five's, and a Sub (Gen 2) in my living room. When I upgraded to the Arc and the Era 300s, I reconfigured my whole Sonos system.

I moved my One from my kitchen to my dining room for music listening. I moved my Play:3 from my bedroom to my kitchen. I moved my Five's from my rear speakers to my bedroom, and the PlayBar moved to my office to act as a speaker for my 50” computer monitor.

That is the beauty of a Sonos system. This is why a Sonos system is so incredibly versatile.

Sound Experience

What do all of these sound like? I get asked to do a demo in the comments of nearly every video that we post to YouTube. Now, you can try to listen to some of these setups virtually here on YouTube, but let’s be real, it’s not the same as listening to them in person.

Check them out in person at our Montgomeryville location where we have a lot of these setups ready for you to listen to and enjoy.

Or, take advantage of our 60-day return policy or "in-home audition" as we like to call it, and give them an in-home demo. Just don’t forget to hold onto all the packaging. Happy listening!

Comments (1)

Please share your thoughts below.


1 Comment

I have just took 3 rooms and opened into one large 14×36 vaulted ceiling. One end is kitchen and other is living room. Want great sound through out. I’m looking at the 7.2.4 system and should I add an Amp? How would it help, love your video but didn’t go into when and why’s of adding an Amp. Thanks

Leave a Comment

Related Articles