SONOS Beam is the smarter, more connected, more affordable soundbar

SONOS Beam is the smarter, more connected, more affordable soundbar

Yolanda Curtis
June 9, 2018

When it comes to smart speakers, the Sonos Beam is about as versatile as you can get. The company says that “the result is a product that faithfully represents the artists' work and delivers an unparalleled listening experience”. The Sonos Beam could change that. Provided that your TV supports a standard called HDMI-ARC (audio return channel, which has been in the HDMI spec since 2009), the Beam will take the audio from your TV and play it through its own speakers, in effect working exactly like your TV's built-in speakers. ARC has very limited bandwidth. The new Beam soundbar is 60% smaller than the old option and priced at $399 so more affordable too, though this does make me anxious about its ability to produce loud deep audio for movies. Perhaps a second-generation Playbar will fit into that space.

In our demo, we were able to test voice control via Alexa for some smart lights and turning on the television to music playback from an iPad via Siri.

That said, the Beam will be the first Sonos speaker to ship with Apple's AirPlay 2.

Sporting a five-microphone array, the Sonos Beam looks to be a solid entry-level speaker in the manufacturer's living room collection.

- “AirPlay 2 will be available on Sonos in July via a free software update. You can stream music to it from virtually any mobile device using the Sonos app, with any music service as the source, rather than being limited to one particular service (cough, Apple Music).

Sonos bills the Beam as a "3-in-1" proposition, marrying great audio with voice control and compact dimensions.

"You don't have to worry about what voice system you're already using", suggested Gartner analyst Brian Blau, who was at the event.

"This lets them jump in quickly, without forcing the tens of millions of early adopters to have to choose between their existing Alexa or Siri habits and a theoretical Sonos assistant", McQuivey said.

Apart from Sonos' speakers, Apple also revealed late last month that it is bringing AirPlay 2 support to other third-party speaker systems from other brands, including Bang & Olufsen, Denon, Libratone, Marantz, Naim, Bluesound, Bose, Bowers & Wilkins, Marshall and Pioneer.

The company also imagines a future where it can be neutral and offer consumers choice. It is only 65 centimeters long.

Finally, the price is lower than you might expect from Sonos: It can be yours for US$399 from July 17, and preorders are open now.

As previously mentioned, the Sonos Beam will be made available for $399, £399, and €399. There is a single tweeter in the middle along with three passive radiators.

We've so far only experienced a 15-minute sound demo of Beam in a staged environment created to replicate a medium-sized living room.

The speakers are powered by five Class-D digital amplifiers that have been tuned to match the speaker drivers and acoustic architecture.

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