Sonos Beam (Gen 2)
RRP $ 449.00
“Dolby Atmos provides a contact of 3D enjoyable to an already wonderful soundbar.”
Immersive, room-filling sound
No HDMI inputs
Requires appropriate TV for Dolby Atmos
Since debuting in 2018, the $ 399 Sonos Beam has been among the best small soundbars you should buy because of its nice sound, compact and trendy design, straightforward integration with Sonos’ sound platform for the entire home and residential its capability to double as a wise speaker for Alexa or Google Assistant.
However in recent times Dolby Atmos – the 3D encompass sound format that makes motion pictures and music rather more immersive – has turn into vastly well-liked, not least because of its acceptance by streaming giants like Netflix, Disney +, Amazon Prime Video, and each Apple TV + in addition to Apple Music. Which means that most new soundbars, together with Sonos’ $ 799 flagship Arc soundbar, are actually Atmos appropriate, and the second era Beam is not any exception.
The brand new Sonos Beam is costlier at $ 449. So the questions are whether or not present Beam house owners ought to even take into consideration an improve and what potential Beam newbies can count on from it.
A few small modifications
First issues first, earlier than studying this hands-on check, make sure to take a look at our evaluation of the unique Sonos Beam. Sonos made only a few modifications to the second era model. To any extent further, I am going to simply focus on what these modifications are and the way they have an effect on the beam’s efficiency.
I’m a fan of the grid. It is a lot simpler to wash and does not entice as a lot mud within the first place.
A few of these modifications are comparatively minor, akin to the choice to exchange the material speaker grille with one product of inflexible plastic. The largest change is within the sound, which I am going to get into in a second. It is value noting, nevertheless, that whereas I’m discussing the modifications Sonos made to the Beam, this isn’t an try to determine which one is healthier as a result of, except for remaining Gen 1 stock, the second era Beam is now the one one you can purchase.
What’s within the field?
Simon Cohen / Digital Tendencies
Sonos has at all times been the king of simplicity, and that goes from setup to software program to packaging. The brand new Beam is available in a plain printed, totally recyclable field, and the one plastic you will discover are the 2 small poly luggage that shield the included HDMI cable and optical-to-HDMI adapter. If Sonos finds a method to erase these luggage, it’s going to have a few of the most sustainable packaging within the enterprise.
Within the field you will discover the beam, color-coordinated energy and HDMI cables, the adapter talked about and a few printed matter for ensures, and so forth.
Simon Cohen / Digital Tendencies
I like the standard look of fabric grilles on a speaker. However because the proprietor of two cats, I can verify that cloth grids are extra like mud and fur magnets that must be cleaned pretty continuously. I do not know if that was the thought behind Sonos when it determined to exchange the material grille on the primary era Beam with a perforated plastic model, however I am a fan. It is a lot simpler to wash and does not entice as a lot mud within the first place at.
Establishing Sonos merchandise has at all times been remarkably straightforward. The brand new beam is even simpler.
The white Gen 2 check system Sonos despatched me seems nice. And in case you’re a die-hard fan of white merchandise, this new Beam goes with each different white Sonos speaker you may personal, from the Sonos One to the tiny new Roam.
An (even) less complicated set-up
Establishing Sonos merchandise has at all times been remarkably straightforward. Plug it in, open the Sonos app, faucet some settings and press a button or two on the speaker. Two minutes later and that is it. The brand new beam is even simpler to arrange thanks to close area communication (NFC) from Sonos. As quickly as I put the beam on the wall and began the Sonos S2 app, the app acknowledged the beam and requested me to finish the setup.
This is able to have been as straightforward as tapping my iPhone in opposition to the highest of the beam, however my phone case is ridiculously thick (it was designed to be connected to a motorbike) in order that part did not work. The app cleverly noticed that I used to be having issues and requested if I want to swap to an audio-based setup. After I stated sure, I used to be requested to carry the phone subsequent to the speaker whereas the speaker performed an encoded audio tone. 5 seconds later I used to be carried out. I’ve to provide Sonos loopy props – the corporate simply retains making its merchandise simpler to work with.
The connection to my TV was additionally a breeze. As quickly because the HDMI cable is plugged in, the Beam mechanically acknowledges your tv and determines the instructions it wants to manage it. That is particularly helpful in case you select to make use of Alexa’s TV management capabilities.
Is it atmos?
Sonos Beam Gen 2 (above, in white) and Sonos Beam Gen 1. Simon Cohen / Digital Tendencies
Dolby Atmos could be a tough know-how to know. In an excellent world, we might all purchase devoted 5.1.2 or higher dwelling theater techniques with a minimum of two ceiling audio system to provide us all the juicy hemispherical sound results that Atmos is understood for. That is not real looking for many of us, which is why Dolby Atmos soundbars have turn into so well-liked. With built-in up-firing drivers that radiate sound from the ceiling to our ears, the very best Atmos soundbars present a compelling substitute for the put in ceiling audio system. However here is the factor about Dolby Atmos: because of sound virtualization which makes use of some very intelligent methods to simulate the presence of upward-facing or ceiling-based peak channels, it may really be delivered over simply two channels.
With the addition of virtualized encompass sound, it is an much more spectacular addition to your TV.
How effectively virtualization works is determined by various components together with the scale of the soundbar, the variety of drivers it may use to create the simulated sound, the scale and form of your room, and even whether or not you may have Have the soundbar switched on on a tabletop or on the wall.
Normally, this type of virtualized Atmos sound simply cannot compete with what you get from devoted audio system, and the brand new Beam is not any exception. Nevertheless, Sonos has managed to elicit a shocking quantity of extra immersion from the driving force setup that’s precisely the identical underneath this perforated grille because the first-generation Beam.
Sonos Beam Gen 2 (above, white) and Beam Gen 1. Simon Cohen / Digital Tendencies
To get a really feel for the distinction between the primary and second era fashions, I stacked them vertically and performed quite a lot of content material by switching the HDMI cable between them. The sound stage of the brand new beam is considerably wider and when enjoying Atmos content material you get a small however noticeable peak impact. The Beam has at all times outperformed its weight class relating to filling a room with nice sound, and with the addition of virtualized encompass sound, it is an much more spectacular addition to your TV.
For enjoyable, I attempted the lately remastered traditional High Gun from the Eighties. Certainly, these epic dogfight scenes and the long-lasting opening sequence on board an plane service sounded implausible. The beam nonetheless lacks the deep, low-end rumble of sound bars that include their very own subwoofers, however I used to be pleasantly shocked at how effectively it mimicked a full encompass system. Much more shocking is how effectively this impact carries over to plain 5.1 content material.
There have been a few events once I thought the primary era Beam was offering a bit extra comprehensible dialogue, however the distinction was small.
The one port drawback
Simon Cohen / Digital Tendencies
The brand new Beam has a single HDMI ARC / eARC port for connection to a tv. The eARC part is new – it permits HDMI-eARC enabled televisions to ship a high-resolution, lossless 24-bit audio sign to the soundbar, whereas the primary era Beam was restricted to lossy digital audio. That single port wasn’t a severe limiting issue for the first-generation Beam, because the speaker could not decode greater than Dolby 5.1, which meant that each tv for the previous 15 years may use its full capabilities, even when it meant having an optical- to make use of HDMI adapter.
However with the Dolby Atmos capabilities of the brand new beam, that is not the case. To be able to hear Dolby Atmos from the brand new Beam, your TV should additionally help Dolby Atmos. If you wish to hear Dolby Atmos out of your different units (akin to streaming bins, recreation consoles or Blu-ray gamers), they need to even be linked to the HDMI inputs in your TV. There’s merely no different method to switch Atmos content material to the brand new beam.
When you’ve got a Dolby Atmos TV with a lot of HDMI ports, this could work simply positive. Nevertheless, in case your TV just isn’t Dolby Atmos appropriate, then you’ll by no means have the ability to take full benefit of this speaker. Many different Atmos sound bars include a minimum of one HDMI enter so you may join an Apple TV 4K or a Roku Extremely. This is able to ship the Atmos content material straight to the speaker whereas the video goes to the TV, however that is not an choice with the brand new Beam.
For Dolby Atmos Music, Sonos plans to help this format later this yr. It begins with Amazon Music HD, however hopefully different providers that supply Atmos Music and lossless music like Tidal and Apple Music shall be added quickly.
The Sonos Beam is a bit more costly now, nevertheless it’s value it. The extra immersion supplied by the speaker’s virtualized Dolby Atmos and 5.1 encompass sound makes an already highly effective soundbar for motion pictures and music even higher. When you’ve got an Atmos-enabled TV, it is value upgrading to make the most of the higher sound. Even when your TV is not Atmos-enabled, the brand new Beam might provide improved immersion over its predecessor, however the distinction shall be much less noticeable.