Sonos Beam Gen 2: the arrival of Dolby Atmos

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Successor to the iconic Sonos Beam, the new Sonos Beam Gen 2 promises an even more immersive sound with Dolby Atmos compatibility. For this purpose, it features an HDMI eARC port coupled with a more powerful processor providing a better simulation of the various effects thanks to more powerful DSP modes. The ultra-connectivity of the previous model, with AirPlay 2 compatibility, streaming and Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant voice control remains in place to facilitate the control of this Sonos soundbar. Priced at €499, can the Sonos Beam 2 be the new standard for 3D sound in a single compact device? Are the new features worth replacing your first-generation Sonos Beam?

The second gen Sonos beam soundbar features an HDMi eARC port and Dolby Atmos compatibility for an even more immersive sound reproduction. 

Sonos Beam (Gen 2): packaging & accessories

Like all of Sonos’ latest equipment, the Sonos Beam V2 comes in a recycled cardboard box. Inside the box, it is securely wedged inside a cardboard insert and protected by a synthetic fabric cover matching the color of the soundbar. On either side of the bar are the accessories: a power cable, an HDMI cable, an optical to HDMI adapter and a quick start guide.

The Sonos Beam Gen 2 soundbar comes with a power cable, an HDMI cable as well as an optical to HDMI adapter.

Sonos Beam (Gen 2): presentation

Dolby Atmos 

Launched over three years ago, the first Sonos Beam was a huge success thanks to its ability to deliver powerful and realistic sound in a compact format. However, the latest developments in audio have made this soundbar less immersive than some recent models, most notably the Sonos ARC, which was the first Dolby Atmos-compatible Sonos soundbar when it launched in 2020. With the new Sonos Beam Gen 2, the American brand wants to bring this spatial audio technology to its entry-level model to provide a more immersive listening experience in a format that is still as compact, discreet and nearly half the price of its larger counterpart.

With the Sonos Arc, the Sonos Beam Gen 2 is the second Dolby Atmos-compatible Sonos soundbar.

To provide Dolby Atmos sound, the new Sonos Beam Gen 2 uses the same acoustic design as its predecessor, with four drivers for the mids, a tweeter for the highs and three passive radiators tasked with extending the bass response. However, it differs by adopting a more powerful processor capable of controlling each driver more precisely and, for the first time, handling DTS tracks and the majority of Dolby formats, including Dolby Atmos. That said, the Atmos effects are only simulated and not reproduced by genuine dedicated drivers as is the case with the Sonos ARC, which features dedicated drivers on its upper panel. Although quite convincing, the result remains subjective and variable from one room to another.

The Sonos Beam 2 soundbar’s new processor lets you control the different drivers more precisely to simulate Dolby Atmos effects.

Sonic improvements

In an attempt to provide the best sound simulation in each room, the Sonos Beam 2 soundbar incorporates Sonos Trueplay acoustic calibration technology. This technology adjusts the sound reproduction according to the resonance and reverberation of the room. To make these adjustments, however, it is still necessary to use the Sonos app from an iOS device (iPhone or iPad). Although Android users cannot take advantage of this system, they can still customize the listening experience with the bass, midrange and treble equalizer available from the Sonos app. It is more restrictive and you’ll probably need to have a good ear to achieve the same result. 

To adjust the Sonos Beam Gen 2 soundbar’s sound reproduction more easily, several enhancement modes are available, including a voice mode for more effective reproduction of dialogue. The night mode is also still included, allowing you to reduce the dynamic range in order to minimize sound level differences and enjoy your movies without disturbing those who are already in bed. Although already present on the previous model, these different modes are now even more impressive thanks to the new processor, which ensures higher processing power and greater reliability.

The Sonos Gen 2 soundbar features several sound modes to optimize the reproduction depending on the content being viewed.

HDMI eARC 

To benefit from Dolby Atmos streams, the Sonos Beam’s HDMI port has been upgraded to eARC. It is now possible to retrieve the soundtrack of the program being viewed on the TV, from any source. The Sonos Beam Gen 2 is therefore able to play all your sources, whether it’s a 4K UHD Blu-ray player, a TV show, a network media player, a game console or a show from a VOD service such as Netflix or Amazon Prime Video, for example. Like the Sonos ARC, an HDMI to optical converter/adapter is included to connect the soundbar to a television that only has an optical output. This second connection mode does not, however, allow the retrieval of Atmos tracks.

The Sonos Beam Gen 2 soundbar features an HDMI eARC port to retrieve the soundtrack of the program being viewed on the TV.

Design 

Apart from the technical specifications, the Sonos Beam Gen 2 soundbar has a very similar format, with equally compact dimensions: 651 x 69 x 100mm. This means it fits more discreetly under the TV than the much larger Sonos ARC. Despite this, the Sonos Beam Gen 2 can sometimes hide the bottom of the screen on some TVs. While the size is the same, the design of the Sonos Beam Gen 2 has been updated, ditching the fabric covering on the front in favor of a polycarbonate honeycomb grille. A design borrowed from the Sonos ARC that has proven to be more robust and easier to keep clean, especially for the white model. In addition, the build quality is exemplary, with a precisely assembled polymer shell on the rear panel. This matte black or white chassis has the advantage of reflecting very little light from the image displayed by the TV, thus limiting any risk of light pollution. It also looks more modern and matches the Sonos One and Sonos One SL speakers better, which is ideal if you decide to create a multi-room installation.

The Sonos Beam Gen 2 soundbar has the same design as the Sonos Arc, with a honeycomb front panel that perfectly matches the latest Sonos multi-room speakers.

Handling & controls

Like its predecessor, there are several ways to control the Sonos Beam Gen 2, notably via the capacitive touch interface on the top panel. These controls allow you to play and pause playback, adjust the volume and activate or deactivate the microphones. The bar can also be controlled using the remote control of the associated television, or via the mobile app on your smartphone or tablet.

The top panel of the Sonos Beam 2 features capacitive touch controls for quick control of the soundbar’s features.

For even more simplicity, the Sonos Beam Gen 2 integrates Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. When the microphones are activated, you can control the soundbar vocally. Voice pickup is quite effective, provided that the Beam is not too far away or positioned higher than the listener. It is then possible to adjust the volume, start music playback, change the title or even turn on the TV (CEC protocol required) simply by asking.

Wireless multi-room and home theater

As its story shows (discover the history of the Sonos brand), Sonos is without a doubt the multi-room specialist and leader on the market. It’s therefore only natural that the Sonos Beam 2 is AirPlay 2 and Sonos multi-room compatible. It can be grouped with other AirPlay 2 or Sonos speakers and multi-room devices to enjoy music throughout your home. The Sonos Beam 2’s multi-room capabilities are not limited to music playback, as it can also be used to play multi-channel movie soundtracks. Any pair of Sonos speakers such as the Sonos One, Sonos One SL, or even Sonos Five can be used for surround sound effects. Similarly, bass reproduction can be handled by the Sonos Sub wireless subwoofer to make the most of action scenes.

Streaming 

Like the previous version, the Sonos Beam V2 soundbar’s features are multiplied when connected to the internet via WiFi or Ethernet. Once connected to the network, it has the same features as other Sonos connected speakers. Music control is then done using the excellent Sonos app for iOS and Android. It allows you to play music shared on your local network, access most online music services such as Deezer, Spotify, Apple Music, and even services offering Hi-Res music such as Qobuz and Tidal. Amazon Music is also supported, with 24-bit/48kHz compatibility announced for later this year. Countless internet radio stations can be accessed via TuneIn, while Apple device users can take advantage of the AirPlay 2 protocol to stream audio from any app to the Sonos Beam soundbar.

The Sonos app provides access to most online music services. Streaming can also be carried out via AirPlay 2 from any mobile app.

Sonos Beam (Gen 2): configuration

The Sonos Beam (Gen 2) soundbar is just as easy to set up as the previous model. First, the soundbar needs to be connected to the television. In our case, we connected it directly to the HDMI eARC port of an LG OLED65CX 4K UHD TV using an Audioquest Cinnamon HDMI cable. If your TV doesn’t have an HDMI eARC port but is equipped with an optical output, Sonos provides an optical/HDMI adapter to convert the television’s optical output to an HDMI output.

Simply place your smartphone on the Sonos Beam 2 soundbar and it will be automatically detected by the Sonos application.

After connecting the Sonos Beam 2 to the television, you’ll need to turn it on to continue the setup in the Sonos application. The app guides you through each step of the configuration process. First, you’re prompted to create a Sonos account if it’s your first piece of Sonos equipment, then activate the smartphone’s Bluetooth to set up a new system. The app then scans the surrounding Bluetooth connections to automatically detect the Sonos Beam. Once identified, it is necessary to press the pairing button with the infinity symbol on the back of the Beam. The soundbar is then paired with the app and all that is left to do is to select the WiFi network and enter the password.

Once the Sonos Beam soundbar is connected, the Sonos app prompts you to configure the Sonos Sub. If you are using the Sonos Beam alone, just click on the “not now” option to skip this step and enjoy the soundbar right away. Finally, you’re prompted to add surround speakers if you wish. Because the reproduction of surround effects can be carried out by almost any Sonos connected speaker such as the SONOS ONE, SONOS One SL, or the Sonos Five, it is first necessary to select the name of the speakers you’re using (in our case, two Sonos One SLs, named Sonos One in the app) from a drop-down menu. The installation procedure is then completed quickly, in just a few steps.

To pair the surround speakers, first the left speaker must be connected, then the right speaker. 

Sonos Beam (Gen 2): settings

Once you’ve set up the Sonos Beam 2 and the various optional Sonos elements, you can adjust the audio settings for optimal playback in the listening room. In particular, the level of the surround speakers can be adjusted to ensure that the effects are always perfectly audible, even when the speakers are placed far away from the listener. If you’re using a Sonos Sub, it can also be adjusted. All of these settings are easily done in the Sonos app. 

For iOS smartphone or tablet users, setting up the Sonos Beam 2 is even easier thanks to the TruePlay auto-calibration system. The latter uses the microphone on the iPhone or iPad featuring the Sonos app to calibrate the sound of the soundbar according to its environment. The TruePlay calibration is done in two steps. First you must sit in your usual listening position with the phone at eye level. The Sonos Beam 2 – as well as the surround speakers and subwoofer if they are present – will then play different sounds and frequencies.

The first step of the TruePlay calibration is carried out by sitting in the usual listening position.

The second step in TruePlay calibration is to move around the room while different sounds and frequencies are played to more effectively assess how the room affects the sound reproduction. Sonos provides a short video of 30 seconds to explain how to position and move the smartphone. Then, the various sounds are emitted. After a minute of moving around, the calibration is finished and can be saved. The sound is then more balanced, for both music and home theater sessions.

For the second part of the TruePlay calibration, the user must move around the room, smartphone in hand.

Sonos Beam (Gen 2): listening impressions

Sonos Beam Gen 2

On its own, the Sonos Beam 2 soundbar created a soundstage that extended far beyond the physical boundaries of the TV. The various frontal effects benefited from a precise and realistic separation between each channel, which contributed to a much more effective perception of dialogue. These dialogues were delivered with conviction, authority and an appealing depth that allowed each intonation to be clearly heard. Even when the soundtrack went into overdrive, it never overpowered the center channel, which remained well defined and clearly in focus, without even needing to be perfectly centered in front of the soundbar. 

Without claiming to compete with the Sonos ARC, which is equipped with real Atmos drivers, the Sonos Beam 2 soundbar managed to create a fairly immersive atmosphere with Dolby Atmos movies and series. We felt a slight reverberation that brought height and amplitude to the soundstage. The effects did not seem to really come from overhead as they do with a true Atmos system, but the sound still gained depth and openness. This enhanced the immersion in the movie, with a less projected sound that was more evenly distributed throughout the room.

The Sonos Beam 2 soundbar’s Dolby Atmos compatibility adds height and width to the soundstage.

The Sonos Beam 2 soundbar’s real tour de force is its ability to deliver powerful, dynamic sound in an ultra-compact package. In a room of about 20m², it energetically reproduced every soundtrack we threw at it. The bass was punchy, lively, and surprisingly powerful. Even in a living room of almost 60 square meters, the Sonos Beam 2 did not falter and managed to fill the space effectively. The infra bass, on the other hand, was more timid, but this didn’t hinder the realism of the listening experience. You can also pair it with the Sonos Subwoofer to enjoy deeper lows in a large living space.

Sonos Beam Gen 2 + Sonos One SL (pair)

Although the Sonos Beam Gen 2 managed to create a rather spacious soundstage, the surround effects remained quite subtle. To achieve a more consistent reproduction, we paired the Beam with a pair of Sonos One SL wireless speakers. We were then able to enjoy a larger sound space and an even more immersive listening experience. The distribution of the different effects was more coherent and tangible. The power of the Sonos One SL ensured that the various surround effects were clearly audible, whether the speakers were placed close to or several feet behind the listener. The sound signature of these speakers was also very similar to that of the Sonos Beam Gen 2, ensuring perfect tonal consistency.

Pairing the Sonos Beam Gen 2 with a pair of Sonos One SL wireless speakers provides a more accurate and effective surround sound experience.

Sonos Beam (Gen 2): compared to…

Sonos ARC: sold for €999, the Sonos ARC soundbar has the same streaming and multi-room features, with the ability to create a wireless home theater system with other Sonos elements. It is also Dolby Atmos compatible, but the reproduction of these effects is more realistic and impressive thanks to the integration of dedicated drivers on the top of the soundbar. However, the Sonos ARC is much bigger and is best suited to large televisions. The Sonos Beam 2 therefore has the advantage of being more compact and easier to integrate in any interior.

The Sonos Arc offers a more effective reproduction of Atmos effects thanks to the use of dedicated drivers on the top of the soundbar.

Denon Home 550: available for €550, this Denon soundbar is equipped with nine drivers to reproduce Atmos and DTS:X effects. Like the Sonos Beam 2, the Denon model relies exclusively on DSP modes to simulate Atmos effects as it does not have dedicated drivers. The immersion is therefore less convincing than with a specialized model like the Sonos ARC. Apart from that, it offers HEOS compatibility for streaming, DLNA and USB playback up to 24-bit/192kHz and DSD 5.6 MHz, as well as multi-room capabilities to create a wireless home theater setup with the Denon Home 150, Denon Home 250 or Denon Home 350 speakers. However, the configuration and management of the system do not reach the level of the Sonos Beam 2, which is unrivalled in this respect.

Sonos Beam (Gen 2): who is it for?

The Sonos Beam Gen 2 soundbar is ideal for users looking to boost the power and realism of their TV’s sound while enjoying a visually discreet sound system. It’s perfect for both seasoned users and beginners thanks to its ease of use and easy configuration. The Sonos app for iOS and Android is the centerpiece for setting up and customizing this soundbar, while voice control takes the concept even further. 

As with any new generation of a device, one might wonder if replacing the Sonos Beam 1 with the Sonos Beam Gen 2 makes sense. In practice, even though Dolby Atmos support provides a slightly more immersive listening experience, this single feature does not justify renewing your  Sonos Beam. If you want to enjoy Atmos sound, the Sonos Arc will be much more appropriate. On the other hand, the Sonos Beam Gen 2’s updated design may be interesting if you want to enjoy a more modern-looking device that more effectively matches the Sonos wireless speakers.

The Sonos Beam Gen 2 soundbar is ideal for enjoying powerful, immersive sound in a compact, visually discreet system.

Sonos Beam (Gen 2): conclusion

With the Sonos Beam 2, the American manufacturer keeps the power, compactness and generosity of its most popular soundbar while offering a more modern design and Dolby Atmos compatibility. This compatibility provides sound that is a little more spacious and open, for slightly better immersion. In addition, dialogue is always perfectly reproduced and tangible. However, the Sonos Beam Gen 2 reveals its true potential when paired with a pair of Sonos wireless speakers for surround effects, without which the latter are rather timid. In a large room, fans of deep, powerful bass will also want to pair the soundbar with the Sonos Sub. In conclusion, the Sonos Beam 2 is a compact, plug-and-play solution for optimizing the sound of any TV.

We liked:

  • The modern and compact design
  • The powerful sound
  • The control app
  • The ease of use
  • The multi-room capabilities for creating a wireless home theater setup

We would have liked:

  • Atmos drivers
  • For the surround effects to have been less restrained

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