Sonos’ compact soundbar is upgraded to the second generation. Main novelty? The arrival of Dolby Atmos, once exclusive to the Arc.
A little over three years ago, Sonos launched the Beam – a sound bar with an interesting proposition due to its compact size. During our test bench, we were seduced by its services, astonishing in terms of its measurements. Since then, the company specializing in high-end sound products has launched the Arc, a much larger product and bringing a major novelty: Dolby Atmos. And, for its second generation, the Beam also offers itself the most immersive audio format available.
The Beam is therefore this promise to offer Dolby Atmos in a small bar, twice as affordable as the Arc (499 against 999 €). If not, we find the Sonos philosophy, articulated around a closed ecosystem, certainly, but evolving.
In short, the Sonos Beam has everything it needs to become a possible essential Christmas present. This does not mean that a renewal of its first generation Beam is an obligation.
The Sonos Beam 2 is also compact
One would have thought that Sonos would not change his mind when it comes to the design of the Beam 2. In reality, we can notice a small difference in the dimensions: the second generation has gained 0.5 centimeters in height . It may not sound like much, but in reality those extra few millimeters of thickness are likely to obscure the bottom of your television, depending on its position relative to the cabinet. A problem that will not arise if your screen is hung on the wall.
Comparison of dimensions between Beam and Beam 2 :
|Height||68.5 mm||69 mm|
|Width||651 mm||651 mm|
|Depth||100 mm||100 mm|
We obviously find the manufacturing quality of Sonos, that is to say exemplary. Available in white or black, the Beam 2 is carefully packaged and will be forgotten once installed. Quite the opposite of the Arc.
The speakers that compose it are nestled behind an acoustic grille of the most beautiful effect, both elegant and premium with its multiple holes. The logo – a palindrome, as a reminder – is tone on tone, which supports its discretion. The hood, slightly hollowed out, features tactile keys surrounding the indicator light (white).
The magical application
Like other Sonos products, the Beam 2 trusts the home app. Available on iOS and Android, it is essential to start the configuration, which is done in a few minutes, the time to find the Beam, connect it to its Wi-Fi network and update it. From the application, you can access several features and various parameters. The menus are sometimes a little confusing and the application can be capricious. But, overall, the ergonomics yet without a dedicated remote control is appreciable.
The ergonomics, however, without a dedicated remote control is appreciable.
To make the most of the Beam 2, it is necessary to connect it to an eARC compatible HDMI port – for enhanced Audio Return Channel. To put it simply, Audio Return Channel means that your television will act as a gateway between the bar and your playback device, which is also connected to the television (a box, a video game console). This will allow the bar to take control of the sound reproduction. The term enhanced refers to the most advanced features, normally reserved for the most recent products.
Your television is not eARC compatible? Do not panic. The ARC standard will suffice to allow the bar to provide its services. Except that you will not necessarily benefit from the most advanced audio formats (example: Dolby Atmos). There are exceptions depending on the references (an ARC television can still pass a Dolby Atmos stream). If your television does not have an ARC port (it is very old), Sonos provides an HDMI to optical adapter. In this configuration, you will only have access to the bare minimum. But we imagine that acquiring a sound bar will not be the priority of those who have a very old television.
The closed ecosystem of Sonos
Sonos products are built on a closed ecosystem, which comes with strengths and weaknesses. The philosophy is similar to that of Apple: the more we accept to fully register in the software environment, the better we benefit from it. And, in turn, the more products you add to your account, the more you can take advantage of advanced features. Do you have two Sonos One? You can combine them with the Beam to make a real home theater (with channels on the back). Are you a fan of multi-room? The application allows you to play a piece of music on all connected speakers, at the same time or not. Once you accept the limits that Sonos has assumed, everything becomes easier. This is even more true if you have a playback device, since Sonos and AirPlay go hand in hand.
What are his limits ? Sonos still ignores DTS audio formats, which obviously applies to DTS: X (competitor to Dolby Atmos). There is also the single HDMI port, which simplifies everything when you have a whole chain of compatible products, but can be problematic if the TV has few HDMI ports available (the Beam will condemn one).
We will also deplore the absence of Bluetooth, a technology reserved for nomadic products in the eyes of Sonos (the Move and the Roam), and of Chromecast, which would make life easier for Android users. For music playback, remember that the application allows you to launch a service – Apple Music, Spotify, etc. – via the Internet. When you have the subscription you need of course.
Moreover, owners of an Android smartphone still cannot calibrate the Beam 2 – a feature that is still the preserve of iPhones.
A bar as efficient as ever
Sonos had made a more than honorable copy with its Arc, the most ambitious soundbar imagined by the manufacturer. While it may seem surprising to see him give in to marketing badge for the Beam, much more limited with its five speakers (against eleven for the Arc), we have to admit that it is doing well with honors. We start by finding the advantages of the previous generation, starting with an astonishing reserve of power – without too much need to increase the volume – and a sufficient base in the bass (fortunately, because the Sonos subwoofer is very expensive).
To these two positive criteria is added a nice precision: there are many details in what transcribed the Beam and it is a real added value compared to what a simple television can offer. We also appreciate the mode that allows to accept the voices, which stand out much better for a better appreciation of the dialogues (which helps in action films).
When it comes to Dolby Atmos, Sonos promises “ a 3D effect that lets you perceive airplanes as if they were passing overhead, footsteps as realistic as if they were actually crossing the room, and total sound immersion. ” Just that. We will temper the fierceness of the multinational a little, especially on airplane noise. Admittedly, the Beam 2 manages to gain a little height – but not enough to raise your head to the ceiling either.
More concretely, here, Dolby Atmos further reinforces the precision of the various sound effects on the horizontal plane. The immersive gain is real, but the Arc remains well above when it comes to feeling this bubble effect giving the impression of being under siege from all sides. In short, owners of a Beam 1 will not immediately feel the need to change devices.