Top positive review
Compact, powerful and versatile - well worth the money!
25 July 2018
This review will cover the pros and cons of it, and help you decide if it's better to pick up Sonos' more expensive Playbar or Playbase instead. Because the Beam shines in areas the other two don't and visa versa. And or course, my own verdict on sound quality and features.
- 1x individually amplified tweeter at the front centre behind the logo
- 4x individually amplified full range woofers, two fire sideways to increase soundstage and improve stereo/3.0
- 3x passive bass radiators to squeeze as much bass out as possible, two at front and one at the back
- 1x ethernet port
- 1x HDMI ARC connection
- 2.4Ghz WiFi connectivity
- Local 5Ghz home theatre speaker connectivity
- DD 5.1 (no DTS or Atmos)
- For more specs go to Sonos' product page and scroll to the bottom
The Beam sounds really great, and considering how compact it is, I was surprised at how much sound it was creating. It delivers rich, detailed mids and highs at moderate volumes and the bass is ok at best - admittedly but that's a symptom of its challenging size.
The size is so small, that they did compromise on bass capability. And it's evident at even low volumes when comparing this to the Playbar/base. Detail levels, and everything else is on point but the bass capability is not up to par with Sonos' other offerings. Does that make this a bad speaker? No. For films, music and sport especially this is a brilliant speaker. There is definitely bass for sure but it's not as loud or punchy as the others! Going to 100% volume causes the bass to mids/highs ratio to go through the roof. It loses control and the bass sounds almost non-existent.
This leads me to recommend the Beam as an addition to a small/medium sized room as large rooms naturally force you to increase volumes and harms soundstage.
Speaking of soundstage... The soundstage is huge. I genuinely feel like there are two other speakers to my left and right. It sounds wider than it is, and this is their most compact offering. This is also important, because if you want a more authentic 5.0 or 5.1 experience then this can do a very good job.
If you do splash out and get a SUB (which I use the Beam with) then this thing turns into a cinema powerhouse - believe me. It retains that excellent mid and high detail that it shines at, and no longer focuses on bass. I'd say adding a SUB to the speaker makes it rival the playbar/base when they have a SUB too. The only compromise is the width of the sound. So it becomes an interesting proposition if you already own a Playbar/base with a SUB... it actually could be worth the upgrade! You can show relatives the Beam with the SUB and the Beam just opens up more and is absolutely phenomenal.
One issue I found with the Beam is that music that plays in stereo can sound empty or from behind the speaker. This is because most of the sound is coming from the left and right side of the Beam, and they're firing sideways at an angle hindering front of speaker performance by a negligible amount. In most films, all three channels are used and the Beam just sounds outstanding.
The Beam has some amazing features that make it stand out to the Playbar/base.
Firstly, it has HDMI ARC support. ARC stands for Audio Return Channel and is what will deliver digital TV audio to the speaker. Most modern TV's have this, and a good way to check is to examine all your HDMI ports on the back and look for the one labelled "ARC".
The Playbar/base have optical which only transfers data in one direction. HDMI ARC has multiple data channels and the speaker can communicate with the TV back and forth while also receiving audio.
This is great, because you don't need a remote to control the Beam. You can use your normal TV remote, and the TV will instruct the Beam to lower/raise the volume. It also communicates with the TV on A/V sync and makes it far easier for new codecs and Dolby audio to be implemented.
It also removes a potential concern that is around when considering a Playbar/base, as some TV's refuse to pass DD 5.1 through an optical connection! HDMI ARC removes that issue.
The Beam has 7 far field microphones so you can use smart assistants. They call these far field mics, because it's supposed to help recognise your voice when music is playing very loudly. Unfortunately, I don't like using Alexa so I have not used it. I am a Google Assistant guy, excitedly waiting for that to come as an update to the Beam.
Currently, the Beam has Amazon Alexa and support for Siri. Siri works differently, as it's not built into the speaker but the speaker works well with Homekit.
And lastly, the Sonos Beam is so versatile. It works on Sonos' modular idea being that you can start with one speaker and slowly add more to your home overtime.
For example, you could buy a Beam today then next month add a SUB then add some rear surrounds then add a Play 1 to the kitchen and then you've fallen into Sonos' evil scheme!
But seriously though, the Beam is an outstanding speaker for what it is, and considering the versatility and sound quality it's well worth the price.