Sonos has announced the follow-up to its hugely successful Sonos Beam soundbar. The all-new Sonos Beam Gen 2 ups the ante on its predecessor by offering support for Dolby Atmos immersive audio, which is now no longer the reserve of the pricier Sonos Arc soundbar.
The Sonos Beam was first launched in 2018, offering 3.0 channels of clear, exceptional sound in a compact design. Despite stiff competition, it has won the What Hi-Fi? Award for best soundbar in its price category ever since. Key to the Beam's success has been the simplicity of its design that, remarkably for its size, was able to overcome two of the usual limitations of compact speakers: scale and weight.
With the arrival of its larger sibling, the Sonos Arc, in 2020, Sonos proved for the first time that it could convincingly deliver Dolby Atmos immersive audio. And last year, it too took home a What Hi-Fi? Award in its higher price bracket.
Now, as customers are increasingly interested in creating a cinematic experience at home and in smaller spaces, Sonos has added Dolby Atmos support to the new Beam Gen 2. A recipe for success? We hope so.
So, how has Sonos integrated Dolby Atmos surround sound in a small, single unit? And should you be excited for its 5th October release date?
Below is everything there is to know about the new Sonos Beam...
When is the Sonos Beam Gen 2's release date?
Worldwide pre-order for the Beam Gen 2 opens on 14th September, with availability starting on 5th October.
How much does the Sonos Beam Gen 2 cost?
The Sonos Beam Gen 2 will be priced at £449 ($449/AU$699) initially – slightly higher than the original Beam, which launched at £399 ($399 / AU$599) in 2018. There’s no word yet on whether Sonos will drop the price of the Gen 1 model, but given that company has recently raised the prices of many of its other products, that seems unlikely. That said, it would be fair to suggest that the original Sonos Beam might well be on the end of a Black Friday discount soon...
The new Beam is still the cheapest Sonos soundbar in the company's two-strong soundbar line-up, priced significantly lower than the ‘full-fat Atmos’ Arc, which currently costs £899 ($899, AU$1499) after a price increase of £100 ($100, AU$100).
How does the Beam Gen 2 deliver Dolby Atmos?
While the new Beam's driver count is the same as its predecessor's, they are configured differently.
Under the grille of the new Beam are four front-facing elliptical mid-woofers and a centre tweeter that the company claims will produce crisper and clearer dialogue than the original Beam. The drivers are powered by five Class D amplifiers, while three passive radiators will provide low-end frequencies.
Rather than using upward-facing drivers, as is the case for many Dolby Atmos soundbars, two of the Beam Gen 2's five speakers are dedicated to reproducing overhead and surround sounds from a forward-facing position.
Sonos says the Beam Gen 2 will deliver Dolby Atmos using psycho-acoustic techniques, employing new software made possible by a CPU that is supposedly 40 per cent faster than that of the original model.
We've experienced the Dolby Atmos delivery through a combination of front-firing speakers and processing before, and the results have been mixed. We shouldn't expect the effect to be as convincing as it is through the Arc (or other premium Atmos soundbars), but fingers crossed it's a worthwhile sonic upgrade over the Beam Gen 1.
What connectivity does the Beam Gen 2 have?
The addition of an eARC HDMI socket is one of the major improvements of the Sonos Beam Gen 2, meaning that the soundbar will be able to accept higher-quality, higher-bitrate audio (such as Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio) directly from a TV.
Some might will be disappointed to see there’s still no HDMI passthrough in the Beam. Sonos insists that this decision helps to keep the soundbar's set-up as simple as possible, and with that aim in mind, NFC (Near Field Communication) capabilities have been added to provide users with a simplified initial wi-fi setup.
If your TV doesn't have ARC/eARC you can use the included Sonos Optical audio Adaptor and use you TVs optical output instead.
Alongside 2.4/5GHz WiFi, there's also a physical Ethernet connection.
- All you need to know about HDMI ARC and HDMI eARC
What else is new about the Beam Gen 2?
While it has the same form factor as its predecessor (6.9 x 65 x 10cm), the new Beam will have an updated monochromatic aesthetic sporting a perforated polycarbonate grille – similar to that of the Sonos Arc. The company says will be more durable and easier to clean than the fabric finish on the original Beam.
Both the black and white versions of the new Beam will have a colour-matched 'cable cove' for the power, ethernet and new eARC sockets at the rear. Maintaining the same dimensions means that the Beam Gen 2 will also be compatible with existing Beam accessories such as its dedicated wall mounts (£59/ $59/ AU$79).
As with the original Beam, the updated model will support Sonos’ TruePlay room calibration and the Sonos S2 app that, among several music streaming features, allows users to adjust treble, bass and the 'loudness' feature, as well as access modes for Night Sound and Speech Enhancement.
The new Beam is still compatible with Apple Airplay 2, Amazon Alexa and Google Assitant, too.
Does the Beam Gen 2 support Dolby Atmos Music? And which other audio formats are supported?
The Beam Gen 2 will offer support for stereo PCM, Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby True HD, Dolby Atmos (in both the Digital Plus and True HD formats), multichannel PCM and Dolby Multichannel PCM at launch, with plans to add decoding for DTS digital surround (but not DTS:X) at a later date.
Sonos also plans to add support for Amazon Music Ultra HD audio to many of its products, including both the new and old Beam, which will allow listeners to stream tracks in lossless 24-bit/48kHz. The Beam Gen 2 and the Arc will get support to playback Dolby Atmos Music, too.
Is the Beam Gen 2 compatible with other Sonos speakers?
As with the original Beam and the Arc, users will be able to expand their home cinema set up with the Sonos Sub, which is now priced at £749 ($749, AU$1099) after a new price increase, and the Sonos One surrounds, which start at £179 ($199, AU$289) each for the Sonos One S, also following a slight price bump.
As you'd expect from Sonos, the Beam Gen 2 can talk to any other Sonos product you have in your home. of course, AirPlay 2 allows you to build a multi-room system with any product that supports that Apple platform.
Will my original Beam still be supported by Sonos?
While the Beam Gen 2 is a replacement for the original Beam, owners of the latter can sleep easy (for the time being anyway). Sonos has said it will continue to provide support and software updates. For just how long, we do not know.
Sonos Beam Gen 1 vs Sonos Beam Gen 2
Read our Sonos Beam review
Read our review of the Sonos Arc