Sonos beam gen 2 review

Dimensions: 65.1cm x 6.85cm x 10cm
Weight: 2.8kg
Speaker configuration: 5.0
Connections: Optical, HDMI ARC/eARC, ethernet, wifi, AirPlay 2
Sound formats: Dolby Atmos, Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby True HD, DTS
Voice assistant? Alexa and Google Assistant
Separate subwoofer included? Not included, sold separately
Design
If you just casually glance over at the dainty second generation Sonos beam soundbar sat underneath our TV, chances are you wouldn’t notice any difference between it and the previous model it replaced. With the same compact dimensions, the same amount of heft, the same strangely pleasingly-curved edges and the same touch controls on the top, it would be hard to tell them apart… with a glance.

But on closer inspection, there’s a bit more elegance to the second-generation beam, bringing it more in line with the brand’s other, more premium Sonos arc. That’s because the beam gen 2 has done away with the dust-hungry fabric of yesteryear, replacing it with a sleeker polycarbonate grill. It’s not only more practical for your home, but just looks a whole lot slicker too.

It’s a petite little speaker that won’t get in the way of your home’s aesthetic thanks to the fairly minimalist design. On the top, you’ll find the same volume, play and pause buttons as well as one to mute or unmute for Google Assistant or Alexa. There’s also far-field microphones and LED lights too.

The rear is similar to the first generation beam soundbar, with an ethernet port, the power outlet and optical outlet all slotted into a tidy alcove in the back. The HDMI ARC port is now an eARC compatible port, which is arguably the standout feature of the new beam, giving us access to Dolby Atmos (more on that later). That said, we’re still a little disappointed that there’s only one HDMI port on the rear.

The soundbar comes in either white or black, and the power cord, HDMI cable and even the alcove matches that colour. It’s a nice little touch that was omitted from the Sonos arc.

Like all Sonos products, it’s a doddle to set up. Just hook the soundbar up to your TV, making sure to plug the HDMI into the eARC port on your TV (if you have one) so that it can receive Dolby Atmos signals, open up the Sonos S2 app and follow the set up instructions.

We’d always recommend setting your Sonos soundbar up using Trueplay in the app once the beam is in its forever position. Trueplay bounces sound-waves off furniture and walls in your room, ensuring that audio from the bar sounds good wherever you sit. The sound disparity can be night and day. You’ll hear a few Laser-like bleeps and bloops from the soundbar, so don’t be alarmed. This isn’t an alien invasion.

Sound

But how did it all sound once we were all set up? Pretty good for a compact virtual Dolby Atmos soundbar.

Packed inside the Sonos beam’s polycarbonate frame, you’ll find four front-facing elliptical mid-woofers; a centre tweeter, which has been improved for better dialogue production and three passive radiators to help with the lower frequencies. The drivers are powered by five Class D amplifiers. There’s no upfiring speaker drivers here, so the object-positioning Dolby Atmos sound will be delivered virtually, unlike the Sonos arc which has dedicated upfiring drivers.

What’s different here is that there are now five speaker arrays, rather than three. The two extra arrays are solely here to deal with height and surround sound, giving the impression that sound is coming from above you as well as from the front.

But was it any good? The first thing we did was bring up our favourite film for testing Dolby Atmos content – 6 Underground – an admittedly terrible film that happens to have some pretty splendid sound design. From the first car chase, we could immediately hear the enhanced sense of depth and space in the room as a car somersaulted into the sky above us.

While the height of the sound isn’t as extreme as it is on the Sonos arc, we still felt immersed while watching. This was even more evident in the numerous scenes of helicopters in Black Widow flying above, to the side and below us. It’s definitely better at placing objects in front, to the left and right, but without an upfiring speaker, we weren’t too surprised.

The clarity of the dialogue in the latest series of Doctor Who was also massively improved thanks to the tweeter in the centre of the soundbar. We didn’t find ourselves having to pump up the volume to hear what people were saying, like we did when watching the show when using the TV’s speakers.

Again, there’s a real sense of depth when it comes to music. Although there isn’t a huge amount of rumbling bass when listening to bass-heavy tracks like Imagine Dragon’s Radioactive and Massive Attack’s Angel, there was no ear-splitting distortion as seen on other soundbars of this size. There was some boom to the lower frequencies, but it was overall pretty measured.

Mid and lower frequencies perform as admirably as you’d expect from a Sonos soundbar. The plucked strings on Dan Romer’s Luca soundtrack come across beautifully, and the vocals on pop anthems like Dua Lipa’s One Kiss are clear and distinct within the mix. If you’re thinking about getting a smart speaker, music on the Sonos beam 2 will sound better than any Amazon Echo out there.

 

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