A person claiming to be a former employee of Sonos has published a reddit post explaining why Sonos skipped HDMI in its Playbar and why the company’s next soundbar will be based on HDMI 2.1. He claims that a Sonos “mini soundbar” will launch later this year.
Why Sonos decided against HDMI
The user who calls himself ”ImaThrowAwayOK1” published a long post on reddit, which has since been deleted, laying out the internal discussions leading up to the launch of Sonos’ Playbar. As you may recall, Playbar launched with a limited optical audio port rather than HDMI.
- ”To simplify things, Sonos didn’t want anything to do with video input switching. Sonos likes to release a product that is future-proof and using HDMI would mean that Sonos would need to release new iterations every year or two,” the person wrote.
At that time, Sonos expected that the AV receiver “was going to die or at least fall out of favour with your average consumer” and that audio processing would in the future be handled by the TV. However, one of the roadblocks was the limited 1 Mb/s bandwidth of HDMI ARC (Audio Return Channel).
HDMI 2.1 and eARC
HDMI 2.1 introduces so-called eARC (enhanced Audio Return Channel), which increases bandwidth for audio to 38 Mb/s. This allows TVs to output lossless audio, including Dolby Atmos and the full range of DTS audio formats.
The poster claims that eARC is what has made Sonos reconsider its stance on HDMI.
- ”The first product from Sonos to take advantage of this will be a mini soundbar due this year. Hopefully, my rambling goes some way to explaining why Sonos went against industry trend with Playbar and will be able to embrace HDMI this year while sticking to their guns,” the poster wrote and added: “It also means that Sonos is going to be able to make new home theatre products without any compromises and be as simple to use as the Playbar.”
Even though the poster’s information about HDMI 2.1 and eARC is technically accurate, we need to stress that the part about Sonos is a rumor and nothing more. There is currently no evidence to suggest that Sonos is working on this product. You can read the deleted reddit post in its full length via this cached version.
The current Sonos Playbar was launched in 2013. Certification of HDMI 2.1 products will start later in 2018 but the first (fully certified) products are not expected until late 2018 or early 2019.