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Sonos created the Beam (Check on Amazon.com) in order to complement its current ecosystem of wireless sound equipment, with new functionalities and features not present in the Sonos Playbar (Check on Amazon.com), Sonos One (Check on Amazon.com) or Sonos Playbase (Check on Amazon.com).
The Sonos Beam tries to integrate into one device the commodity of a wireless “intelligent” speaker (thanks to voice control) and a compact soundbar that can improve the audio of your flat TV.
Sonos Beam – Features
With dimensions of 25.6×2.7×3.9 inches and weighing about 6.5lb, the Sonos Beam has a clean, compact and minimalist appearance, that does not attract attention and goes completely unnoticed in both white and matt black. With no lights or other annoying highlights, it hides all the electronics behind an elegant and acoustically transparent fabric that surrounds the front, sides, and back of the bar.
Underneath we find 4 elliptical-shaped woofers with full-range frequency response, three other passive radiators that improve bass output by reducing distortion to a minimum, and a tweeter whose main mission is to make the dialogues more clear.
The Sonos Beam supports stereo PCM signals and Dolby Digital 5.1 but not other formats such as DTS, Dolby Atmos, and DTS: X.
Sonos Beam – Connectivity
In terms of connectivity, it has dual-band WiFi (2.4 and 5GHz) with which it connects to both the home router and other compatible Sonos equipment creating an internal network. Other than that in the rear we find an Ethernet port, an HDMI ARC port, and a synchronization and pairing button.
The HDMI ARC port is the “new” kid on the block. Thanks to it you can connect the Sonos Beam a compatible TV and use the speaker to turn it on or off. If your TV doesn’t support ARC, an HDMI adapter to optical in is included in the package (but you lose the ability to control your TV).
There are no more connections. The are no more HDMI ports, or an analog RCA or a 3.5mm auxiliary jack. It is not that they are essential, but if you have a dated TV or you want to connect other equipment to the Sonos Beam, you will find it more difficult to do, if at all possible. In its upper side, we find the basic tactile controls such as volume and play/pause. There is also a status LED that indicates if the equipment is turned on.
Some of the novelties of this new Sonos speaker is the inclusion of both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant and the compatibility with AirPlay 2.
As for Bluetooth connectivity, Sonos has chosen once again to use the low-energy Bluetooth interface only to temporarily communicate with your mobile device during the installation process. Subsequently, audio streaming is always done via the local network, which results in higher sound quality.
Sonos Beam – Sound
As soon as I started testing the audio I was astonished. How is it possible that such a huge amount of sound comes out of such a small device? I turned up the volume and there was no sign of distortion until I almost reached the max setting, at which point the soundbar began to vibrate and it was necessary to lower it.
The voices are very clear and well defined and are heard above all other sounds, something that is extremely welcome in a soundbar. It has good bass that goes down to about 50Hz, so effects such as explosions, shots, punches, etc. are well represented, although it cannot match the deep sounds coming out of a subwoofer.
The Sonos Beam is able to fill a medium-sized room but the frequency response is not as flat as it should. It seems that a small part of the bass and some higher bands are predominant over the medium frequencies, which may sound spectacular but subtracts from realism.
Thankfully there is an equalizer and we can play a bit with the bass and treble partially solving the problem.
Although it is true that the soundbar did not show any appreciable distortion, the sweet spot for the volume is between half and three-quarters of maximum output (depends on the source material, of course).
Once we found the sweet spot and dialed down the bass and treble via the equalizer we got a very impressive sound, with a good punch, and the ability to surprise the listener when he sees how small the soundbar really is. In fact, some of us were fooled to believe that there was also a Sonos Sub connected to the Beam.
On the other hand, the stereo sound isn’t that good. Although the Beam has several drivers located on the sides to improve sound dispersion, it fails to create a convincing sound stage. It is true that the sound can fill a room (especially a small one), but being such a compact device, in general, it cannot produce a quality stereo.
With music, the Sonos Beam behaved admirably although there were some small nuances. The sound lacks body, stage presence, and some fidelity. This was especially clear with classical and acoustic music in which instruments and vocals should be clearly distinguished and where some medium-bass frequencies are clearly missing. Then again, the voices are well defined at all times.
Sonos Beam – Verdict
Sonos wanted to complement its ecosystem of audio equipment with a new soundbar that is perfect for medium-sized rooms. And indeed it is. At moderate volumes, it gave us the feeling of a much larger speaker and occasionally that a subwoofer was also connected, which shows how much work have Sonos’ engineers put into this speaker.
The volume provided by the soundbar is outstanding and more than enough to complement a flat TV, substantially improving its sound.
However, if your TV lacks an HDMI ARC port you will be required to use the optical connection (via the included adapter).
A remote control with basic functions is also absent. It is true that you can use your smartphone, but it never hurts to have a remote control.
If you are looking for a compact soundbar with no additional subwoofer and one that is capable of using the home WiFi (which offers better quality than the typical Bluetooth connection) and especially if you have or intend to connect it to other Sonos speakers for a complete multiroom configuration [or create a 5.1 surround system (Check on Amazon.com) with the added purchase of a Sonos Sub (Check on Amazon.com) and two Sonos One (Check on Amazon.com) speakers] the Beam (Check on Amazon.com) is probably your best option.
If you desire a more traditional Home Theater experience with even more volume, enveloping effects, a more realistic acoustic stage, and multiple connection possibilities there are better options out there.