Sonos has just revealed it’s newest 2nd generation Sonos Beam sound bar. I got hands-on with it just ahead of it’s public debut.
Sonos Beam 2nd gen review
I’ll tell you what’s new and what’s been added in this version, what you can expect from the changes, how it sounds and if I think it’s a good option for you.
What is Sonos Beam?
Sonos Beam is a smaller and more compact TV sound bar (particularly compared to Sonos Arc; check out that review here). Beam connects to your TV with an HDMI cable to give your TV improved overall audio, because truthfully, internal TV speakers don’t match the level of quality of 4K or 8K video. And let’s be honest, in my set up here with the 2021 Samsung Frame TV (watch that review here on the channel), this screen is an inch wide— you just can’t put any kind of powerful speaker in the TV, so that’s where the Sonos Beam comes in.
The design of Sonos Beam 2nd Gen is pretty much identical in looks, its on the inside where the changes have been made. So you’ll see the same slim look, and it’s exactly the same size, but it has an improved processor that is 40% faster than its predecissor, say Sonos. They’ve also tweaked the insides with new phased speaker arrays, so the new Beam is able to deliver two new audio paths – height and surrounds… which I’m about to get to.
Where Gen 1 has a fabric wrapped grille, the 2nd generation ditches the dust collecting fabric for a slightly more open look made of polycarbonate. Beam is shorter than a lot of soundbars. It’s rounded low profile design is not too tall, and it can be placed on furniture, shelves—or wall mounted. As far as the looks and styling go, I think it’s perfect for my modern space, and I love the fact that it’s white; it blends perfectly into the space where I have placed it.
You can use voice commands to Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa to control the Sonos Beam, or to run your smart home gadgets.
New on Sonos Beam 2nd gen: Dolby Atmos
One of the key things that was missing from Gen1 that’s now been rectified in Gen 2 is that Sonos Beam now has Dolby Atmos. Dolby Atmos adds overhead audio channels to your home theatre and is overall a more immersive and detailed sound. The sound bar doesn’t have dedicated overhead firing speakers in the top so what you’re getting is essentially a virtual Dolby Atmos experience, though I can say the sound quality is definitely improved. The level of detail is noticeable and if you run some Atmos sound tests, you can see and feel the intricacies. Overall the addition of Atmos is right away a huge, noticeable improvement.
The speaker is also now compatible with HDMI eARC on your TV, so you can experience your favorite movies and games in even higher definition sound with support for new audio formats. When I switched the Samsung Frame TV to e-ARC I also noticed that helped bring a lot more depth and detail to the sound, and I was gertting a much wider sound scape than the Bean looks like it should get credit for.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Beam also functions as a simple music speaker too; you can stream from your phone or tablet, or access music and podcasts from any number of streaming services like Spotify.
How to connect
Let’s get to the set up. You can connect with your Beam in a few different ways. You’ll have it connected via HDMI to your TV of course for TV and movie audio. You can also use Airplay, or Wi-fi to play music.
What’s in the Box
There’s not a lot in this box: Sonos beam is quite simply a sound bar; It does not come with a separate subwoofer like some sound bars do, but you can buy a Sonos SUB separately.
There is also no remote control in the box; Beam is designed to use your smartphone, voice commands via a digital assistant, or your existing TV remote. For me, there was no connection even required; once I got the Sonos Beam set up with my Frame TV, the remote just worked to control the Beam audio. Now that’s a treat! I was also able to add the new 2nd generation Sonos Beam to the Sonos app in minutes.
Specs & what’s new
Let’s take a look at the details on the Beam.
There’s four full-range woofers to power the bass. One tweeter drives things like dialogue. Three passive radiators help add warmth. Five Class-D digital amplifiers are there to match the speaker drivers and acoustic architecture. Five microphones are used for echo cancellation and to hear you if you call for Alexa or Google Assistant.
Adjustable bass and treble controls inside the Sonos app let you customize your sound by individual room or groups of rooms.
The main feature you’re interested in is the sound quality. Let’s look at this in two parts; the TV sound quality and music and other audio quality.
TV sound quality
In my days spent with the 2nd generation Sonos Beam, I felt that it gave me great sound overall and was a definite improvement over the gen 1, which is saying a lot because it sounded stellar too. . I really feel like the sound seemed like it was coming from a much larger sound bar. Dialogue sounded crisp and clear, special effects were detailed and it is a phenomenal boost to the basic TV sound. The sound bar gets plenty loud enough too in my living room.
Though this device is meant first and foremost for TV and movie viewing it’s also a kick-ass music speaker and it retains a great quality of sound when it comes to music. I really like having this speaker as an option in my main living area. Overall, listening to music on it sounds great: it’s crisp, clear and well balanced. The bass is pretty impressive, too, even though I did not have the SUB subwoofer to back it up.
How to add Google or Alexa to Sonos
If you’d like to add Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant to any Sonos product like the Beam, here’s how to do it. (You may get a pop up in the app that prompts you for this, and if you do just click it and follow the prompts which lets you choose and enable your assistant.)
No pop up? Fear not. To enable Google Assistant (or Amazon Alexa) yourself just go to the Sonos app, choose Settings, then Services. Choose ‘Add a Service’ under Voice. Choose your preferred assistant, then follow the prompts, which basically involves confirming your device and linking your Google or Amazon account. I tried this and it didn’t work on the first try, so I closed both the Home app and Sonos app and started over. This time everything went smoothly.
Want to dig into this in detail?
What can Voice control on Sonos do?
Both Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa mean you can ask for help with a whole bunch of things: play music, check news or sports scores, set timers, get your questions answered, convert recipe measurements, and more, completely hands free. It’s really great that Sonos has enabled both assistants on its devices so you can choose your favourite. Worth noting, you can’t enable both assistants, you do need to choose only one. The assistant features work great for playing music, making adjustments and controlling my smart home.
Sonos Auto on & Automatic Remote Detection
As I noted earlier, my Sonos Beam paired automatically with my TV so I could use the TV remote, and I was quite impressed I didn’t need to take any extra steps.
The Sonos beam uses something called Automatic Remote Detection that’s designed to link up to your TV remote so you can use it to control the volume. You can also set the Beam to come on automatically when you turn your TV on. My Beam had this pre-enabled.
Does Sonos Beam pair with other Sonos speakers for surround sound?
In a word—yes! You can pair your Beam wirelessly with Sonos Sub for added bass and add pair of Sonos speakers for full surround sound. A setup with left and right rears and a Sub gives you true 5.1 surround sound. Since I did not have any other Sonos speakers on hand I didn’t test this feature.
How does Sonos Beam differ from Sonos Playbar & Arc?
You might be wondering how Sonos Beam compares to other Sonos TV options, particularly Playbar or Sonos Arc. Beam is definitely smaller and shorter and will fit where other devices like Sonos Playbar and Arc can’t. Playbar and Arc do have more speakers on the inside, so they can be expected to produce louder sound with more depth of sound and more bass, but Beam is perfect for small to mid-sized rooms.
Coming soon; Amazon Music’s Ultra High Definition audio, DTS Digital
And one more quick diversion about some new features before we get to the goods…later this year in some areas, Sonos plans to support Amazon Music’s Ultra High Definition audio, which supports lossless audio up to 24-bit / 48kHz on their Sonos speakers, as well as Dolby Atmos Music. And Sonos also plans to add support for decoding DTS Digital Surround Sound later this year too.
Overall review of 2nd gen Sonos Beam sound bar
Overall, the new Sonos Beam checks all the boxes of things I loved about the 1st generation, and now adds a few more. It’s compact and easy to place, it looks great, and the sound quality is phenomenal. With the addition of Dolby Atmos, a great sounding sound bar just went off the charts. Being able to connect to Google and Alexa is huge; since it brings hands-free smart home control to our sound bar, making it very versatile.
While I struggled a bit with getting the Gen 1 version set up and that was my big knock against the 1st Beam, this version has made set up a breeze.
Overall Sonos has kept all the best features of Beam, and added what was on everyone’s wish list. I can recommend Sonos Beam if you need a compact TV audio solution.
Sonos Beam (Gen 2) sells for about $559 CAD.
* Amazon doesn’t have 2nd Gen Beam listed yet so this listing is for Gen 1. If you’d like to get to the Gen 2, click the link above.