Sonos has announced a next-generation version of the What Hi-Fi? Award-winning Sonos Beam. The big news is that the Beam Gen 2, which will launch next month, adds support for Dolby Atmos, as well as enhanced processing power and eARC connectivity.
Rather than using upward-facing drivers, as is the norm for a Dolby Atmos soundbar, Sonos says the Beam Gen 2 will deliver Dolby Atmos using psycho-acoustic techniques, employing new software made possible by a CPU that is 40% faster than that of the original model. Two of the soundbar's five speaker arrays will be dedicated to reproducing overhead and surround sounds, albeit from a forward-facing position.
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 higher-end Sonos Arc – that the company says will be more durable and easier to clean than the previous fabric finish. Both the black and white versions of the new Beam will have a colour matched 'cable cove' for the power, ethernet and 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 wall mounts.
Under the grille are four front-facing elliptical mid-woofers and a centre tweeter that the company claims will result in even more crisp and clear dialogue than the original Beam. The drivers are powered by five Class D amplifiers, while three passive radiators will provide low-end frequencies.
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's Ultra HD audio to many of its products, including both the new and old Beam, which will allow listeners to stream tracks in lossless 24bit/48kHz. The Beam Gen 2 and the Arc will additionally get support to playback Dolby Atmos Music.
As with the original Beam, the updated model will support Sonos’ TruePlay room calibration and the Sonos S2 app that allows users to adjust treble, bass and the 'loudness' feature, as well as access modes for Night Sound and Speech Enhancement.
The new Beam maintains compatibility with Apple Airplay 2 as well as Amazon Alexa and Google Assitant and, while some users will be disappointed to see there’s still no HDMI passthrough, Sonos insists that this decision helps to keep the soundbar's set-up as simple as possible. With that aim in mind, NFC (Near Field Communication) capabilities have been added to provide users with a simplified initial wi-fi setup.
The Sonos Beam Gen 2 comes in white or black and is priced at £449 / $449 / AU$699, with availability from 5th October and pre-orders beginning on 14th September.
While the Beam Gen 2 is a replacement for the original Beam, owners of the latter can rest assured that Sonos has said it will continue to provide support and software updates.
Read our Sonos Beam Gen 1 review