The Sonos Beam Gen 2 is the latest sound bar from the multi-room audio company, Sonos. Delivering improved features, HDMI eARC compatibility, a clean design and now Dolby Atmos, on paper, the refreshed Beam delivers in all areas a new buyer could hope. While it may be a bit more expensive than past offerings, Sonos has delivered in the ways that count in this iteration, making the Beam Gen 2 a great option for anyone looking for great audio for gaming and media.
The Sonos Beam was one of CGMagazine’s top picks for sound bars thanks to the pricing, compatibility with current Sonos hardware, and its size, which fits most setups. The Beam Gen 2 on the surface is a great evolution of the hardware, delivering in the areas that it was lacking, while keeping the essence that made the first iteration so compelling.
Unboxing the new Beam, and you will find Sonos has managed to maintain the ease of setup that the brand is known for. Once you have the Sonos Beam Gen 2 out of the box and hooked up via HDMI, you simply open the app and let the wizard guide you through the process. Thanks to the company’s TruePlay technology, which calibrates the soundbar’s audio to your room’s dimensions using its built-in microphones, the process was painless. Once everything was in place, and the wizard finished updating, the new Beam was ready to play some audio.
“The Sonos Beam Gen 2 feels very similar to the first iteration of the soundbar.”
The Sonos Beam Gen 2 feels very similar to the first iteration of the soundbar. At 2.72 x 25.63 x 3.94 inches (H x W x D), this is a device made to fit most setups and still looks great even in smaller areas. Coming in either black or white (as most Sonos products), it has the clean lines and elegant look we have come to expect from the brand.
Jumping from the first generation to this version of the Beam, little has changed overall. The most noticeable change is the choice to move away from the cloth grill found on the Gen 1 to a plastic grill found on the Gen 2. While it will not have many acoustic benefits, this will mean the Beam Gen 2 will be much easier to clean on a daily basis, something I can attest to during testing.
The top of the Sonos Beam Gen 2 has a very similar set of buttons if you have used a Sonos product over the past five years. You will find a microphone for the voice assistant, a set of play, pause, volume up and down touch buttons, along with a button to mute the microphone for privacy. They all work as expected, and they keep with the minimalistic look Sonos brings with the Beam overall look.
“Sonos made the right choice, delivering everything you need, with none of the bloat seen in many other brands’ offerings.”
Looking at the back of the Sonos Beam Gen 2, you will find power, HDMI, optical and Ethernet ports. Sonos has kept the I/O to a minimum, making the overall unboxing and initial setup process as simple as possible. I am always a fan of inputs, especially for audio gear, but in this case, Sonos made the right choice, delivering everything you need, with none of the bloat seen in many other brands’ offerings.
Once you are all hooked up, much like the first iteration, the Beam Gen 2 has the option to add rear speakers or a sub to expand your audio experience. Through the Sonos app, the process is painless, and if you already have a pair of speakers kicking around, you can add them to the room with a few button presses. It is one of the best aspects of Sonos hardware, and it is good to see it still present in this latest device. For testing, I paired it with a set of Sonos One speakers, and it worked flawlessly.
As noted before, unlike the first generation Beam, the Gen 2 now features eARC compatibility, giving the Beam access to many more audio formats, including high-end audio codecs for crystal clear sound. It also brings Dolby Atmos support, something the first beam was lacking. Granted, this is not true Dolby Atmos, since the beam does lack the up-firing drivers seen on the Sonos Arc, but the acoustic wizardry at play manages to simulate the impression of height from your games and movies, at least to some degree.
“The Sonos Beam Gen 2 is very powerful for its size, and it delivers a wide soundstage that will fill most small rooms.”
Comparing it to its bigger brother is not entirely fair, they are very different products. The Sonos Beam Gen 2 is very powerful for its size, and it delivers a wide soundstage that will fill most small rooms. The feeling of height that Dolby Atmos manages is there, and it feels good. It is not nearly as immersive and while not as good as the company’s top-end ARC soundbar, the Beam Gen 2’s offering is a notable improvement, and something very welcome for all the gamers and movie fans out there that were only experiencing a piece of the audio experience.
The new Beam tackles up to 32 channels of audio, along with eight-channel 24-bit/192kHz uncompressed 38Mbps data streams. So, beyond the addition of Atmos, it can also play all your hi-res audio files that may have been limited up to this point.
As with any Sonos device, you expect the Beam Gen 2 to be great for music, and thankfully the company does not disappoint. The Sonos app makes it easy to listen from all your favourite audio sources, and the well-balanced soundstage makes most audio played through it sound crisp, clear, and true to the intent of the artist. It will not be as loud as the larger Sonos offerings but should fill even larger rooms with ease and clarity.
“I was pleasantly surprised at how well the Beam managed the Atmos audio from the Xbox Series X.”
With gaming, I was pleasantly surprised at how well the Beam managed the Atmos audio from the Xbox Series X. As mentioned before, it will not be near as immersive as you could find on the ARC, or many other high-end audio offerings, but it does manage to feel fantastic, and a major step above what the first-generation Beam delivered.
Jumping into some Forza, I could feel the audio wash over me as I went through some races. Granted, some immersion was lost when I stood up, having the simulated height audio lost when much above couch level. Even saying that, with its price and how easy the Beam is to set up, this is a major step forward and one Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 owners should consider.
Sonos has managed to deliver an audio experience that feels fantastic, immersive, and, combined with the $699 price point, hard to beat. With the addition of eARC, Dolby Atmos and all the new hardware under the hood, this is a worthy upgrade of an already great soundbar.
For everyone that has already enjoyed the first-generation Beam from Sonos, it may not be worth making the leap. For anyone who demands the best audio experience possible, loves to game, or simply can’t afford the Sonos ARC, the Sonos Beam Gen 2 is a soundbar that will be hard to beat. Great audio, expandability, and the Sonos app experience, make the Sonos Beam Gen 2 one of the best soundbars of the year.