Sonos has re-engineered the popular Beam sound bar to make a second generation that’s even better. This is a super compact, super impressive Dolby Atmos sound bar that packs a serious punch.
the good bits
Superb, rich audio
Immersive, directional sound stage
Compact footprint and strong build quality
HDMI eARC and built-in voice assistants
the not so good bits
Dolby Atmos is only virtual
Bass could be more impactful
Sonos Beam Gen 2 Dolby Atmos Soundbar
Few names carry the same reputation for sound that Sonos does. The American brand has consistently grown a home audio ecosystem the envy of many and provided the talking point of a fair share of dinner party conversations.
The Sonos Beam Gen 2 builds on the popular first iteration to offer a quality sound bar without breaking into the world of high end, high cost audio. It’s still £449 mind you, which puts it into a new realm above entry level options but still far short of the top end likes of Sonos’ own Arc behemoth.
Not everyone needs a full home cinema but everyone deserves better than the sound your TV speakers produces. In theory, the Sonos Beam Gen 2 should fill that role nicely.
Sonos has found a lovely sweet spot with the design of the Beam Gen 2 (and the Gen 1 for that matter, given they’re pretty much identical). The Sonos Beam neatly walks the line between eye catching and understated, compact but notable – it’s all in even balance.
You’ll find the new Sonos Beam in white or black, both of which are a sleek, matte, monotone affair that’ll work nicely in any living room setup. The fabric speaker grille has been upgraded from the first generation Beam to a new polycarbonate option which while looking very similar from a distance, does have a slightly more premium vibe closer up.
Premium is the word across the board really. Build quality is top drawer like you’d expect from a brand with Sonos’ reputation and while you’ll likely only experience it when setting it up the first time, there’s a satisfying weight to the Beam Gen 2 too. Everything feels solid, like it’s machined from a single block – from a physical perspective I was left in no doubt this is a premium bit of kit.
Across the top are three touch capacitive buttons for volume and playback control, though I’ve never met someone who walks over to their soundbar to turn the telly down, so chances are fingerprints aren’t going to be an issue. There’s a small indicator light on the top too which acknowledges volume changes or when you’ve hit mute. In a slightly peculiar choice the light turns green when mute is active, which bucks convention, but I’ll go with it.
At just 651mm long, the Sonos Beam Gen 2 rocks a remarkably small footprint – running around half the width of my 55” LG CX. It makes for an easy integration into the living room and quickly disappears into the scenery on top of a TV unit. The power, HDMI and ethernet connections are all grouped closely together on the rear of the Beam too, so I had no issues corralling cables.
A quick note here on packaging too, it’s great to see Sonos going single-use foam free for the Beam Gen 2 without compromising on that (you guessed it) premium vibe when unboxing. 97% of the gift box is made of sustainable paper too which is a nice footnote.
It may be small in stature, but the Sonos Beam Gen 2 is mighty when it comes to audio performance.
It all starts on the right foot, setup was simple and intuitive – plug the Gen 2 Beam in, download the Sonos S2 app and do what you’re told (politely, of course). If you’re using an iOS device you’ll have access to TruePlay which tunes your Beam to perfectly fit the space it’s in. I’ll warn you now, you’re going to feel silly walking slowly around your room waving your phone like you’re ridding the lounge of bad energy, but the payoff is worth the three minutes of oddity. I did find a noticeable difference to the sound before and after tuning so it’s a shame Android users miss out, it’s not a groundbreaking improvement but it’s an improvement none-the-less.
Once you’re connected, tuned and sat down ready to go the experience is superb. Across any scenario I threw at the Sonos Beam Gen 2 it delivered top class audio with no fuss or bother. Everything is rich, deep and full with noticeable quality and clarity. There’s more volume than you’re ever going to need here too and I chickened out of the volume up button in fear of needing new neighbours before the Beam 2 hit its maximum level.
There’s a lengthy list of audio formats supported by the Gen 2 Beam but the exciting addition is that of Dolby Atmos. You’ll need to temper expectations here slightly, this isn’t an all-out integration like you’ll find with the top end Sonos Arc – but for a virtual solution it does a remarkable job.
Despite its compact size, the Sonos Beam Gen 2 managed to deliver audio that seemed to extend far beyond its reach and pulled the soundscape well past the edge of my 55” LG CX TV. Listening across video, music and gaming I found the Gen 2 filled my living room with sound that while not exactly replicating that total surround sound immersion, did manage to bring a genuine sense of being part of the environment. There’s no upward firing channels on the Gen 2 Beam so the audio ceiling is reasonably low, that said however in dedicated directional testing there was clear definition between each area perhaps with the exception of intense rears.
Watching the Dolby Atmos enabled The Tomorrow War on Prime Video I was engrossed in how holistic the world seemed while not simply coming across as a muddy wall of sound. In larger scale battle scenes with an abundance of loud, competing noise there was still room for each sound to have a directional source – albeit without me ever feeling the urge to whip my head around to see who was coming up behind me. Dialogue is particularly clear too, an all too common downfall with soundbars, and it was noticeable how articulate conversations were even over the heaviest of gunfire and explosions.
Switching to the Xbox Series X and Forza Horizon’s blend of atmospheric sound, car noise, music and dialogue produced similarly impressive results. Cars revved with a deep rumble though as a soundbar without dedicated bass support or an external subwoofer, there wasn’t a huge amount of punch to the lows. The crunching of fences and the scratch of gravel as I veered off the road were all sharp and surprisingly well defined, the same was true of voice overs which seemed to cut through the noise without cutting out detail.
While there is noticeable and defined direction to sounds, this is all somewhat simulated given the size of the Sonos Beam Gen 2. The result is immersive gaming worlds but without a feeling of being truly in the space, so you’re not going to find a competitive advantage with footstep directions in FPS titles, stick to the headphones for that. If that more genuine surround sound is important, you can always sync up with a pair of Sonos Era 100 speakers but bear in mind you’ll need a pair and can’t try and simulate this with just 1 rear option.
Clarity was my main takeaway when it comes to listening to music through the Sonos Beam Gen 2. Playing songs via Spotify through the inbuilt Alexa voice control (Google Assistant is also available if that’s your ecosystem) I was impressed at how rich a variety of songs came across and the Beam 2’s ability to fill the room with music from a broad source. While not quite a vanishing act, unlike other speakers it wasn’t immediately apparent where around me the Sonos Beam Gen 2 was sat and it makes a surprising difference to how absorbing the experience becomes. Songs sounded deep and full with enough bass to not sound hollow, though again a lack of subwoofer means you won’t feel the Beam in your bones.
While there’s little to complain about in terms of pure audio quality, there are a couple of little quality of life annoyances that threaten to take the shine off the experience at times. Volume control seems strangely non-linear and variable, sometimes a single volume up press on my TV remote appears to do almost nothing, sometimes it cranks the volume up a notch.
There’s also no way to listen to multiple audio sources simultaneously, a feature becoming increasingly common on top end headphones. It’d be great to chill in Stardew Valley with sound effects via HDMI eARC while enjoying music via Spotify at the same time. It’s a slightly niche use case perhaps, but for a sound bar looking to be that all in one living room solution it’s a shame to be limited.
I also found times where the Beam Gen 2 would take a little too long recognising an input or switching between inputs. I’m talking 6 or 7 seconds here for my TV to be recognised, or needing to get up and press a button on top of the Beam itself to get eARC audio back after pausing Spotify. I’m painfully aware these are the definition of first-world problems, and probably also almost a compliment that these are the little gripes I have, but they occurred often enough or for long enough for me to side eye the Sonos a tad.
You don’t end up with the reputation Sonos holds without earning it and the Second Generation Sonos Beam is the latest in a long line of excellent products. For a sound bar at this price and almost more importantly, this size, it packs a massive punch and delivers superb quality audio across a range of situations.
While the headline Dolby Atmos support may be virtual and lacking the real height only possible via dedicated upward drivers, there’s enough width and direction to the sound to draw you into any soundscape. Sonos have built on the excellent foundation of the Gen 1 Beam to deliver something even better here.
This is not only a big step up from inbuilt TV speakers, the Sonos Beam Gen 2 is likely a big step up from your current soundbar too.