Sonos has built its reputation as a premium audio manufacturer by not making compromises or cutting corners when designing their products. We have Sonos speakers everywhere in our homes and our office, and they’ve consistently been some of the best sounding wireless speakers we’ve heard at their price point. Their most recent release, the Sonos Beam, arrives as their most compact and budget friendly soundbar ever. We recently got to test them in our existing setups and were intrigued to find out if the petite package of the Beam could reach the lofty standards set by its predecessors.
When we first received the Beam’s box, we were stunned at how small it was. The packaging is very environmentally friendly with small but sturdy cardboard separating the contents. There was still a bit of plastic covering on the products but we love the direction Sonos is heading in. Once we got our hands on the Beam itself we were amazed again. It is by far the most compact option in the Sonos TV range, being only 25” wide, 3” deep and 4” tall. The smaller footprint means that its output isn’t as loud as the larger TV speaker options like the Playbar and Playbase, but that does make it better suited to smaller rooms. It also means it’s much easier to fit in with your TV setup and solves the compatibility issues the Playbase had with many TV stands.
On the back, there are only three ports: power, ethernet and HDMI. This makes the setup process incredibly simple and makes switching between sources seamless. As long as you have it connected to an Audio Return Channel (ARC) HDMI port on your TV, then whatever content you’re playing will benefit from the Beam’s sound. If your TV is older then you can use the included optical audio adapter in the box to get set up. On top you’ll find the capacitive controls including a microphone off button for when you want privacy, which can also be turned off entirely so they don’t shine at night. The Beam’s speaker grills are cloth rather than the traditional metal, and though we love the white colour there’s always the worry that it’ll get dirty over time. We also wish that the white model came with a matching white cable but unfortunately it comes with a black one. If you’re a little OCD and prefer the colours to blend seamlessly into each other, then we recommend you go with black.
When Sonos was designing the Beam, they wanted to build it from the ground up, rather than trying to cram the contents of a larger speaker into a smaller package. Sonos have managed to pack four woofers and one centre tweeter into the Beam’s frame and the configuration results in a rich, detailed soundstage that feels right at home with the rest of the Sonos lineup. Whether you’re playing music or TV audio, the Beam will handle both with the same excellent result. It won’t get as loud as the Playbase or Playbar, but it is enough to fill the smaller rooms it was intended for. There’s more bass than we were expecting from something so small, and it’s pretty punchy too. The treble is super clear, and dialogue will benefit from the boosted mid-rage, and there’s plenty of separation across all frequencies.
For something that sits in front of you, there is an impressively wide sense of space. The effect is dependant on the room the speaker is in and what surfaces it can use to bounce the sound. This is achieved using the Trueplay feature built into the Sonos app which uses your phone and speaker together to map the layout of your room and configures the speaker’s output to sound best in that particular room. For their TV range, Sonos has added an extra tuning step where it will also analyse where you’ll be sitting to watch content. Trueplay works really well and does an excellent job of masking the fact that the sound is only coming from a single unit.
As a Sonos speaker, it’s simple to integrate the Beam into an existing setup. We paired it with a set of Sonos ONEs, and the sense of space improves again, especially when watching movies with sound coming from all directions. You can expand all the way up to 5.1 surround sound with the addition of the Sonos sub, but considering the target market for the Beam is those whose space is at a premium, it probably won’t be a popular configuration for Beam users.
The Sonos Beam is the first soundbar to include Alexa capability and features a five far-field microphone array for picking up your commands. It worked as well as we expected, and was able to pick up our voices from different points in the room thanks to those excellent microphones inside. If your television supports Consumer Electronics Control (CEC), then you can use the Beam to turn your television on and off with your voice. If you have a Fire TV product you can use the Sonos Beam and your voice to access content. For example, say “Alexa, play Stranger Things on Netflix” give it a few seconds and it’ll be queued up ready to play. Unfortunately we don’t have Fire TV but we can imagine how useful it would be when your hands are greasy while devouring a pizza. You can also use the Beam as a voice-controlled hub for your existing Sonos setup if you have older speakers that aren’t smart assistant compatible. The Beam is part of the Sonos lineup that will be receiving future smart assistant updates with AirPlay 2 coming very soon, and Google Assistant and Siri implementation scheduled for later in the year as well.
With such powerful sound coming from the speaker, a handy feature on the Beam is Night Mode which will level the audio, so that loud sounds such as explosions are quieter, and soft sounds such as dialogue are still easily heard. This is perfect for when someone is asleep in another room, and you don’t want to be constantly adjusting the volume to keep the sound level down. You can also adjust the EQ settings in the Sonos app to turn down the bass levels so what you’re listening to doesn’t vibrate through your walls to your neighbours.
Sonos Beam Review | The Wrap Up
We’re really impressed with both the quality and volume that comes out of such a compact bar speaker. Compared to other soundbars in a similar form factor, the Beam is streets ahead in terms of sound quality. Add in Alexa capability and seamless integration with the Sonos ecosystem, at $599 AUD the Sonos Beam is definitely one of the best value options on the market.