Sonos Beam Review
Pros: Compact design great for smaller rooms, seamlessly integrates with other Sonos products, excellent musical sound quality
Cons: Not the loudest, Sonos app required for set up, no plug and play
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|Price||$399 List||$280 List|
$278.00 at Amazon
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|Pros||Compact design great for smaller rooms, seamlessly integrates with other Sonos products, excellent musical sound quality||Great sound for the price, bluetooth, external subwoofer||Easy setup, great price tag, subwoofer included||Compact footprint, simple setup, versatile physical inputs||Low price, includes subwoofer|
|Cons||Not the loudest, Sonos app required for set up, no plug and play||No wifi connection, no EQ controls||Not the best overall sound quality||No smart features, minimal EQ customization||No HDMI connection, weak low end|
|Bottom Line||This a great sounding little bar that excels with musical content, and packs plenty of punch as part of a home theater system||This is the best sounding entry-level soundbar, and the loudest model we tested||This soundbar is loaded with great features and has an enormous sound, making it an exceptionally good value||This soundbar sounds great for its size, but can't hold a candle to higher-end models||This model is affordable and fairly easy to set up, though there are similarly priced options that deliver much better sound quality and advanced connectivity|
|Rating Categories||Sonos Beam||Sony HT-S350||Vizio V-Series 2.1...||Bose TV Speaker||Samsung HW-A450/ZA...|
|Sound Quality (45%)|
|Ease of Use (35%)|
|Specs||Sonos Beam||Sony HT-S350||Vizio V-Series 2.1...||Bose TV Speaker||Samsung HW-A450/ZA...|
|Dimensions||2.72" x 25.625" x 3.94"||Bar: 2.6" x 35.5" x 3.5"
Sub: 15.4" x 7.5" x 15.13"
|Bar: 2.28" x 36.00" x 3.20"
Sub: 9.9" x 8.25" x 8.25"
|Bar: 2.6" x 35.5" x 3.5"
Sub: 15.4" x 7.5" x 15.13""
|Bar: 2.1" x 33.9" x 2.9"
Sub: 13.5" x 7.1" x 10.7"
|External Subwoofer||No (optional)||Yes||Yes||No (optional)||Yes|
|Inputs (wired)||Digital audio in (optical), Ethernet, HDMI (ARC)||Digitcal audio in (optical), HDMI (ARC)||Digital audio in (optical), HDMI (ARC), 3.5mm AUX VA, 3.5mm AUX, USB||Digital audio in (optical), HDMI (ARC), 3.5mm AUX||Digital audio in (optical), USB|
|Supported Audio File Formats||Stereo PCM, Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby Atmos (Dolby Digital Plus), Dolby Atmos*, Dolby TrueHD*, Dolby Atmos (True HD)*, Multichannel PCM*, Dolby Multichannel PCM*||Dolby Digital, Dolby Dual mono, LPCM 2ch||DTS||Dolby||Dolby 2ch, DTS 2ch|
|Voice Assistants||Alexa, Google Assistant||n/a||None, but has a dedicated 3.5mm AUX port to connect a VA device||n/a||n/a|
|Syncs with:||Sonos||None||None||Bose Simplesync enabled speakers||Samsung Wireless Surround Rear Speakers|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Beam has both Alexa built-in and is Apple Airplay compatible. In our opinion, this makes the Beam a perfect centerpiece for a Sonos system, especially for iOS users. Not only does the Alexa capability let you control everything with your voice, but Airplay lets Apple users get around some of the small annoyances of the Sonos ecosystem (lack of native compatibility with YouTube and no Bluetooth being the biggest ones). The latest version of the Beam supports Dolby Atmos for a more immersive experience.
The Beam really shines in our sound quality testing, much like its bigger brother, the Sonos Arc. Strong points here include a rich and well-balanced soundstage, Dolby Atmos support, and deep, well-articulated bass, which is especially impressive considering its smaller size.
Overall the Beam made movies and music sound substantially better than our TV's built-in speakers, and could almost convince us that we were sitting in a movie theater. While there are more bassy models out there, Beam's low end is punchy without being overwhelming, while the mids and highs are clear and crisp, even at higher volumes. With the dialogue-enhancement mode switched on, the dialogue sounds richly accentuated and full, unlike cheaper models where dialogue enhancement can sound like an unpleasant treble boost. Dolby Atmos content sounds excellent and adds dimension, though it's still apparent that all the sound is coming from one speaker in front of us.
This soundbar is equally suited to playing music as it is video content. The Beam sounds much better for music than all of the less expensive models we evaluated and is well-balanced through the EQ band. There are several models with a more powerful low end, but they often sound boomy and muddy compared to the Beam's clear and articulate low-end. On its own, we think it's impressive, and it integrates perfectly with the Sonos ecosystem, making it a worthy addition to a Sonos outfitted home.
Ease of Use
Though the Beam requires an app to set it up, the app is well-designed and intuitive, making it easy to get the soundbar up and running or to toggle through settings and customization features. We do miss the ability to connect devices using Bluetooth, though, and note that Google Assistant is not supported by this device.
If you're plugging it into a TV, setup is a breeze. Just plug in an HDMI cable to the TV's HDMI ARC port or use the included optical adapter and you're pretty much good to go. If you want to change the sound settings or stream music to the soundbar, you'll have to use the Sonos app. This involves downloading the app, connecting both it and the soundbar to your WiFi network, and logging into all your streaming services (Spotify, Pandora, etc.) within the Sonos app. This process isn't exactly difficult, but it does feel like some extra hoops to jump through. We would occasionally find ourselves wishing the Beam had a simple Bluetooth connection like most other soundbars. This was particularly true when a guest wanted to play some music off of their phone. Bluetooth would make that a 5-second process, but the Sonos systems require a lot of extra setup by forcing users to go through the app and play music over WiFi.
This soundbar uses WiFi to connect to the Sonos system, Apple Airplay, and to link up with your streaming services. Unlike most other Sonos products, the Beam is Apple Airplay compatible. This isn't quite as convenient as Bluetooth, but it does mean that any Apple-using guests that visit need only to connect to your WiFi network in order to take over DJ duties at your next party. It also means that Apple users can easily stream things to the soundbar that aren't natively supported in the Sonos app (YouTube being the most significant example). Android users will be limited to using the Sonos app without Airplay.
The Beam has Amazon Alexa built-in. This lets you control any music services that are compatible with your Amazon account with your voice. If your TV is HDMI ARC and CEC compatible, you can even control all the basic TV functions with your voice (turn the TV on/off, raise and lower the volume). Most newer TVs are HDMI ARC compatible (which basically means a single HDMI connection can both send and receive signals in both directions, allowing the TV to talk to the Beam, and vice versa).
Sonos offers a healthy dose of sound adjustments and useful sound presets. The Sonos app lets you adjust the bass, treble, and balance of the Beam with a series of digital sliders. You can also queue up a number of different sound modes, probably the most useful among them being speech enhancement. This mode provides a volume boost and aims to add extra clarity to dialogue, so you can always understand what the characters in your favorite movie are saying. In our experience, this also goes a long way towards solving the action movie problem, where you're constantly having to raise the volume during slower, dialogue-packed scenes, and then have to remember to crank the volume back down before the big battle scene lest you go deaf. There is also a night sound mode, which cuts off the top end volume of loud sound effects so you don't wake your neighbor during a late-night Netflix binge. This is also useful for dampening the sound of those overly loud commercials.
The Beam doesn't bring a ton of power to the table, maxing out at 85 dBa according to our tests. This isn't enough to drive your next house party, but in terms of the home theater experience, it's got plenty of oomph for exciting action or emotional dramas. This is especially impressive considering its size.
The Beam keeps it very simple with mostly straight lines, curved ends, and an all-black exterior. Buttons are recessed and hidden on top of the bar so that it doesn't disturb the clean look from the front. The metal and plastic housing is easy to keep clean and provides good protection for the speakers and electronics inside. If space is an issue, the Beam is an excellent option, as it's one of the smaller designs at 25" long.
The Sonos Beam certainly isn't cheap, but it packs great performance and a lot of features per dollar. If it's within your price range, you're not going to be disappointed by the Beam, and purveyors of the Sonos system should find it a no-brainer.
The Sonos Beam is both a great soundbar and one of the best bases on which to build a multi-speaker Sonos ecosystem. If it's in your soundbar budget, we highly recommend it, especially if you're looking to save some space.
— Michelle Powell and Matt Bento
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