You solely want to take a look at the lengthy listing of failed sophomore albums that got here after blistering debuts to know that following up a profitable sound with one thing extra mature and complex is a difficult enterprise. However that is the duty that Sonos’ newest soundbar, the Beam Gen 2, has undertaken because it seeks to interchange the favored authentic and ups the ante by providing immersive Dolby Atmos assist from the identical small bundle.
The Beam Gen 2 has massive (and conversely small) sneakers to fill to be able to impress us, because it’s no secret that we’re ardent admirers of the unique Beam Gen 1. Since its launch in 2018, that 3.zero channel soundbar has received the What Hello-Fi? Award for one of the best soundbar in its value class yearly since. Key to its success has been a simplicity of design and streamlined performance that, remarkably for its measurement, has been in a position to overcome two of the same old limitations of compact audio system: sonic scale and weight.
With the arrival of its bigger sibling, the Arc, in 2020, Sonos proved that it could actually convincingly ship Dolby Atmos audio in a bigger chassis. However we’re somewhat apprehensive about whether or not the expertise can justify its inclusion in a compact soundbar, particularly when, not like the Arc, there are not any upward-firing audio system to be discovered within the Beam Gen 2.
In truth, the brand new Beam’s structure is far the identical as its predecessor’s, however the quintet of front-facing drivers are configured into 5 separate arrays reasonably than three. When watching Atmos content material, two of those arrays are devoted to reproducing overhead and encompass sounds. With enhanced processor energy the Sonos Beam Gen 2 makes use of psychoacoustic HRTF (head-related switch perform) expertise to offer the impression of peak while not having to get vertical.
We have skilled Dolby Atmos supply by processing wizardry earlier than, and the outcomes have been blended, steadily veering towards artificial and ineffectual (although the identical may also be stated of some Dolby Atmos soundbars that truly do have peak audio system). So it’s with some trepidation that we unbox the brand new Sonos Beam.
Priced at £449 /$449 / AU$699, the Sonos Beam Gen 2 is barely dearer than the unique Beam, which launched at £399 / $399 / AU$599. However that distinction may be very a lot in step with the corporate’s latest improve within the costs throughout a lot of its merchandise. The brand new Beam remains to be the most affordable Sonos soundbar within the firm’s two-strong soundbar line-up, priced considerably decrease than the Arc, which at present prices £899 / $899 / AU$1499.
If you wish to use Beam Gen 2 in a bigger encompass system it may be expanded by the addition of two One SL rear audio system (£358 / $358 / AU$538) and, if required, a Sub (£699 / $699 / AU$999).
Different compact Dolby Atmos soundbars on this bracket are skinny on the bottom. There’s LG’s providing, the bijou however sonically lacklustre Eclair, which has upward drivers however is much more dear at £700 / $700 / AU$1000. Or there’s Sony’s HT-G700 (£399 / $598 / AU$899), which additionally has a digital Atmos impact however is far larger and, just like the Eclair, lacks community connectivity.
Bodily, the brand new Beam is nearly similar to its forebear, with the identical dimensions and trendy curved edges. The one outwardly distinguishing function is the addition of a perforated polycarbonate grille – much like that of the Sonos Arc – supposed to be extra sturdy and simpler to scrub than the unique’s woven material end. Some folks will undoubtedly desire the softer look of the previous Beam however we reasonably like the brand new Beam’s smooth frontage.
Below the polycarbonate are 4 front-facing elliptical mid-woofers and an improved centre tweeter that the corporate claims will produce crisper and clearer dialogue than the unique Beam. The drivers are powered by 5 Class D amplifiers, whereas three passive radiators present low-end frequency reinforcement.
On the highest floor are the identical touch-sensitive buttons, LEDs and far-field mics for voice management of Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant as on the unique Beam. Housed on the rear within the ‘cable cove’ are sockets for energy, ethernet and HDMI eARC in addition to a join/reset push button. New for the Beam Gen 2 is an identical of this cove to the end of the soundbar (matte black or matte white) and the inclusion of colour-complementary HDMI and energy cords. Our take a look at pattern is white and in our reasonably gray take a look at room the brilliant cables draw a little bit of consideration to themselves, however these with lighter areas inclined to wall mounting would possibly higher respect this element.
Not that many soundbars at this value level include networking capabilities, however this being a Sonos product, the Beam Gen 2’s skill to combine right into a wireless multiroom system is key to its design. Which means that you’ll want the Sonos S2 app to get essentially the most out of your buy and get it on-line. Whilst you can management the amount out of your TV distant, the app is the place you’ll discover entry to Trueplay (Sonos’ comparatively concerned room calibration expertise) a 2-band EQ in addition to affirmation of which audio codec you are at present receiving. You’ll additionally want it in case you want to join it to different Sonos merchandise to construct a encompass system.
Having wi-fi means you may also stream to the Beam Gen 2 from a handheld system utilizing Apple AirPlay 2, and Spotify Join is built-in too. There may also be a forthcoming improve so as to add assist for Amazon Music Ultra HD audio (for each the Beam Gen 2 and other Sonos models), which is able to give entry to lossless 24-bit/48kHz tracks in addition to Dolby Atmos Music.
By way of audio codecs, the Beam Gen 2 helps stereo PCM, Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Atmos (each the Digital+ and TrueHD variations), multichannel PCM and Dolby Multichannel PCM. Decoding for DTS digital encompass shall be added to this and different Sonos merchandise at a later date however this sadly received’t prolong to DTS:X.
Dolby Atmos is basically the headline function of the Beam Gen 2, so can Sonos obtain overhead sound with none peak drivers? Properly, real overhead sounds are maybe a stretch too far, however there’s extra to Dolby Atmos than aeroplanes and helicopters, and the Beam Gen 2 handles the format higher than any equally priced soundbar. Atmos permits a movie’s manufacturing mixers to locations sounds and music as discrete objects inside a soundfield, and being able to decode it signifies that customers can watch films with a extra compelling soundtrack, whether or not it’s a sedate drama or a car-flipping blockbuster.
When listening to Atmos movies with the Beam Gen 2 there’s tangible movement, depth and area, which heightens the drama and sense of immersion. The soundstage is expansive and we strive pairing the brand new Beam each with bigger 55-inch and 65-inch screens, in addition to a extra modest 43-incher, and it enhances the cinematic scale and viewing expertise for all three.
Within the opening of Roma, in Atmos, the sound design usually leads the digital camera past the extremities of the picture earlier than the digital camera pans to meet up with it. The Beam Gen 2 tasks the altering sonic perspective extremely effectively, with accuracy and readability. Whether or not it’s a chirping chicken, a automotive or a voice, there’s outstanding consistency throughout the whole soundfield, and seamless handover between drivers, which now we have to say doesn’t at all times occur when a Dolby Atmos soundbar has upward drivers to deal with.
Sonos Beam Gen 2 tech specs
Sound format assist Dolby Atmos DP / Dolby Atmos True HD / Dolby Digital / Multichannel PCM/ Dolby Multichannel PCM / stereo PCM
AirPlay 2 Sure
Finishes Black matte, white matte
Voice management Works with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.
Dimensions (hwd) 7 x 65 x 10cm
Weight 2.eight kg
Within the extremely stress-inducing scene wherein the daddy painstakingly parks his automotive within the household’s slim driveway whereas smoking a cigarette and blasting classical music, the speedy modifying from inside to exterior, above the automotive to under the bumper, is expertly matched by the Beam Gen 2’s rendering of area and dynamics. And regardless of the dearth of upward drivers, there is a remarkably actual sense of the engine idling away up above within the low pictures.
On the very finish of the movie, the place the housekeeper wades deep into the ocean to save lots of the household’s youngsters, the brand new Beam copes effectively with the thunderous crashing waves, which we’ve heard different soundbars with separate subs fail to grapple with. Its projection just isn’t fairly as spectacular as that of the Sonos Arc, the place there’s far more of a sense of the rising water enveloping the viewer, however it’s nonetheless a really competent and extra delicate interpretation than that of the Beam Gen 1.
So clear and clear is the improved central tweeter that when watching Bohemian Rhapsody, the harmonic distortion on Freddy Mercury’s vocal from the unique recordings of Dwell Support, which generally isn’t that noticeable, may be very obvious and truly begins to turn into a bit irritating. However this doesn’t detract from the improbable job the Beam Gen 2 does in representing the Atmos sound design because the digital camera’s viewpoint roams concerning the stage and every instrument or monitor comes into sonic focus. The sound of every instrument feels pure and unprocessed, regardless of the place it sits within the shot, and when the digital camera flies over the viewers there’s an actual wide-sweeping sensation of motion and expanse.
To check the Beam’s dealing with of element and timbre we stream Amy Winehouse’s Tears Dry On Their Personal with its lush ’60s-style association. Within the sparse opening, that includes solely woodblocks, celeste and wind gamers, the transients are glowing and effectively outlined whereas the vocal is open and current. Within the low mids, the brass feels wealthy and, though we’d love to listen to extra of the baritone sax’s full-throated vary, the decrease notes are effectively dealt with if somewhat curtailed. That stated there’s nonetheless a larger depth of tone right here than you get from the Beam Gen 1, which has extra of a hands-off method to any frequencies past its attain.
Because the second verse begins and the accompaniment turns into denser, each instrument has sonic area to breathe and ornamentation, such because the clarinet weaving across the vocal line, comes properly to the fore.
With Frightened Rabbit’s Previous Previous Long-established, the Beam Gen 2 retains up with the frantic strumming of the acoustic guitar paired with the heavy, deadpan kick drum. The timing isn’t good however the soundbar retains the low finish taut sufficient to keep up coherence with the nimble greater frequencies.
Swapping to the eclectic overload of Break up Enz’s Candy Desires, there’s loads of velocity and drive to seize the funkier components, significantly the bass, with a robust vanguard. Regardless of the vocal sitting decrease within the combine, it nonetheless sings out and, not like the unique Beam, we really feel extra comfy pushing the amount with out veering into harshness.
The Beam Gen 2 not solely lives as much as the excessive bar set by its predecessor however exceeds it by a margin that greater than justifies its new function set and better price. The choice by Sonos to make use of processing energy and forward-facing drivers to recreate Dolby Atmos has paid off with a extra succesful and efficient dealing with of the format than many dearer soundbars with upward-firing drivers. The Sonos Beam Gen 2 is just one of the best Dolby Atmos soundbar at this value level, and it elevates itself but additional with its streaming smarts, compact design and professional dealing with of movement, depth and area.
Atmos apart, it sounds unbelievable, reaching deeper than the Beam Gen 1 with extra refinement, a hotter treble, and wider dynamic vary. The place the Beam Gen 1 would possibly skim over sure complicated sounds the Gen 2 has a larger capability to take them on, persistently leading to a richer, extra nuanced and assorted listening expertise.
Learn our assessment of the LG Eclair
See our Sonos Arc assessment
Take a look at our assessment of the Sony HT-G700