We’ve been recommending the Sonos Beam to anyone on the market for a compact soundbar with great connectivity for some time, but now that the audio company has announced the Sonos Beam (Gen 2), you might be wondering which bar sound best for you.
From the outside, the Sonos Beam (Gen 2) looks like its predecessor, making it difficult to pinpoint exactly what has changed. In fact, the acoustic architecture of the two soundbars is exactly the same.
However, there is a big difference between the two generations of Beam. The Sonos Beam (Gen 2) brings immersive Dolby Atmos sound to the mini soundbar for the first time, and that could be a game-changer if you want to recreate the ambiance of a home theater.
Unsurprisingly, the second-gen Sonos Beam also saw a small price hike and now that the original Beam has been spoofed this model was starting to shrink. The discount level will only increase as we get closer to Black Friday 2021.
So, should you save the money and go for the original Beam model, or go for the second generation of the smaller Sonos soundbar from Dolby Atmos? We haven’t had a chance to test the Beam (Gen 2) yet, but we’ve taken an in-depth look at all of the new specs and features to help you make the right decision.
Sonos Beam (Gen 2) vs Sonos Beam: price and availability
The new Sonos Beam (Gen 2) will be available for purchase starting October 5 for $ 449 / £ 449 / $ 699 (although it’s available for pre-order now). This makes it more expensive than the original at launch, which costs $ 399 / £ 339 / AU $ 599.
We’ve already started to see prices for the original Sonos Beam drop, and you can almost guarantee that it will be sharply reduced from Black Friday 2021 if stocks last, that is. The first-gen Beam has officially been discontinued, so you need to act quickly if you’ve got your heart into it.
Oddly, we weren’t convinced that the price of the second-gen Sonos Beam wouldn’t change in the future. Sonos recently announced a price hike for a number of its products, saying it evaluates prices on a “market-to-market” basis. One of the biggest price increases is for the company’s other soundbar, the Sonos Arc, which is now $ 100 / £ 100 / AU $ 100 more expensive than before. That doesn’t bode well for the new Beam.
That said, Sonos hasn’t made any suggestion that the Sonos Beam (Gen 2) will see a price increase anytime soon, just be aware that the company’s pricing isn’t set in stone.
The design of the Sonos Beam (Gen 2) and its predecessor is largely the same, although the company has made some subtle changes.
Both soundbars are designed for small spaces, and at 2.72 x 25.63 x 3.94 inches (H x W x D), they should fit comfortably under most TVs. Both devices are also available in black and white color options, they can be mounted on the wall and are controllable via a touch panel located on the top of the unit. You also have the option to use the Sonos S2 app, your TV remote, AirPlay 2, or use the built-in Google Assistant and Alexa voice assistants to control your music playback and other settings.
The only immediately noticeable difference between the two is that Sonos has removed the fabric grille from the original Beam, replacing it with a polycarbonate (or plastic, if you prefer) faceplate.
The plastic grille matches that of the Sonos Arc and, as the company points out, it’s much easier to clean than the dust-collecting fabric. We asked Sonos if the new grille provides any acoustic benefits, but the company told us it was a purely aesthetic choice.
This has certainly aligned the soundbar with the rest of the Sonos ecosystem, as none of the other current-gen Sonos speakers have fabric grilles.
On the back of the soundbar, you’ll now find an HDMI eARC port, rather than the HDMI ARC on the original Beam (we’ll talk about that later).
The biggest audio difference between the Sonos Beam (Gen 2) and the original is that the new soundbar supports Dolby Atmos.
This cinematic sound technology organizes the elements of a movie soundtrack (or compatible music files) into a 3D sphere, making it seem like sound is reaching you from all angles.
True Dolby Atmos speakers and soundbars such as the Sonos Arc use upward tweeters to bounce sound off the ceiling and back down to your ears to make soundtracks feel tall, but the Sonos Beam (Gen 2 ) does it virtually.
According to Sonos, the feeling that sound surrounds you from all angles is achieved with the help of “psychoacoustic techniques,” made possible by the new and improved speaker sets. The second generation Beam contains five bays as opposed to the three found in the original Beam.
While we haven’t tested this out for ourselves yet, the virtual Atmos can be quite convincing, although you probably have a better idea of how tall the more expensive and taller Sonos Arc is.
Otherwise, the rest of the audio technology inside the Sonos Beam (Gen 2) is the same as before. You have five Class D amplifiers, a center tweeter, four elliptical midwoofers, and three passive radiators working together to deliver powerful, balanced sound.
And that’s not a bad thing. In our review of the original Sonos Beam, we were blown away by the richness and depth of the audio, despite the units’ small size. With that in mind, you can certainly expect clear, punchy sound from the new Beam, especially if you pair it with Sonos One SL rear speakers and the Sonos Sub for a more complete home theater setup.
Like all Sonos speakers, the new Beam uses Trueplay, a feature that calibrates the soundbar to the dimensions of your room. The Beam (Gen 2) also always comes with sound modes such as speech enhancement for clear dialogue and night mode when you don’t want to disturb your neighbors and you can change the EQ settings via the ‘S2 application.
Like the original Sonos Beam, the Beam (Gen 2) supports Alexa and Google Assistant, AirPlay 2 and Wi-Fi connectivity, as well as an Ethernet port to wire the soundbar to your router.
As mentioned, you can connect both soundbars to your existing Sonos system for a richer home theater setup or for multi-room audio to fill your entire sound space.
A new connectivity feature included with the Sonos Beam (Gen 2) is HDMI eARC compatibility, which the company says will bring a “richer, more immersive and higher definition sound experience.” Compared to the HDMI ARC connectivity found on the original Beam, eARC can handle more advanced audio formats and deliver higher audio quality.
It’s a shame there isn’t support for HDMI passthrough, which would allow 4K at 120Hz and even 8K at 60Hz, which would make the Beam ideal for consoles supporting 8K such as this. than the PS5 and Xbox Series X.
Nonetheless, the new Beam will be able to handle 32 channels of audio and even eight-channel 38Mbps 24-bit / 192kHz uncompressed data streams. In other words, besides supporting Atmos, it can play high resolution audio files of your favorite songs.
To take with
While we can’t say for sure if you should buy the Sonos Beam (Gen 2) before you can test it out for ourselves, if you want Dolby Atmos without paying for the Sonos Arc, the new soundbar is your best. choice.
You should also go for the new Beam if you want to play high-resolution audio files through your soundbar.
However, if you’re on a budget and Atmos or high-res music isn’t on your radar, the original Sonos Beam is still a fantastic choice and Sonos tells us that it will continue to be supported by updates. update and bug fixes in the future.
However, you will have to act quickly if you want to purchase the original harness. It’s unclear when stock will run out, and it will likely be very popular on Black Friday in November.
Not sold on Sonos? There are many other brilliant soundbars. If you want Dolby Atmos compatibility, check out models like the Samsung HW-Q950A and the Sony HT-X8500. With a strict budget? The Vizio SB362An-F6 is worth a visit, as is the Sony HT-MT300.