The launch of the Sonos Beam comes at a time when issues are altering at a speedy tempo for the sensible speaker firm. Within the not-too-distant previous, Sonos was pleased with its barely shallow product pool. The explanation: it was assured that the gadgets it will definitely did carry to market had been constructed to final.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: this review doesn’t include the Sonos Beam’s AirPlay 2 functionality. This part of the software is still in beta. When it arrives out of beta, we will update the review accordingly.]
Sonos shied away from the speedy improve cycle favored by different tech corporations, as an alternative refining the audio system it had with quite a few software program enhancements. It didn’t have to saturate a wise speaker promote it all-but owned.
However this was earlier than Amazon, Google and, to a lesser extent, Apple earmarked the speaker house as their subsequent huge takeover; including within the USP of voice management and selling their audio system because the gateway drug to the sensible residence.
This meant Sonos needed to cease with its languid launch schedule and begin to compete. And compete it has. There are presently 4 Sonos audio system (the Alexa-infused Sonos One, Sonos Play:1, Sonos Play:3 and Sonos Play:5) and three residence theater audio setups (Sonos PlayBar, Sonos PlayBase and the brand new Sonos Beam) you should purchase proper now. That’s seven merchandise, three of which got here out within the final 12 months.
The most recent, as you have guessed, is the Sonos Beam, a comparatively slim soundbar that fills the entry-level residence theater audio hole. It’s the small-form measurement Sonos has been sorely missing with regards to its TV connectivity.
The Sonos Beam is a tool that’s been paired down sufficient to be inexpensive however corners haven’t been reduce, merely trimmed and tidied.
Sonos Beam design
The scale of the Sonos Beam is vital. It’s a soundbar that can fortunately sit in entrance of a 32-inch arrange or a 40-inch plus TV. We should always know, as we examined it on each variants.
Measuring 650 x 100 x 685mm, it’s a lot smaller than its super-sized sibling, the Sonos PlayBar. In actual fact, it’s 60% smaller (and that may be mentioned of the worth, too) however has the addition of HDMI connectivity – one thing the Sonos PlayBar sorely lacked.
It’s a slick-looking system, taking its design cues from each the Sonos One and the Sonos Play:5. The controls on the highest are contact delicate and look similar to the Sonos One.
The setup is easy: a 4 dot sq. on the left for quantity down, the identical on the fitting for up and a play/pause button within the center. Above that is the power to show the speaker mic on and off.
We almost slipped there and referred to as it the Alexa mic, as that’s what it presently is. However Sonos can also be promising Google Assistant performance and Siri integration. Sonos isn’t completely happy to talk with one voice however many and it’s a wise, shrewd transfer by the corporate. There may be undoubtedly an ‘if you happen to can’t beat them, be part of them’ mentality with Sonos in the mean time.
That doesn’t imply that it has scrimped on design high quality. The 43,000 hand-drilled holes might now not be there – one thing the over-engineered PlayBase boasted – but it surely’s nonetheless a lovely-looking system. As a substitute of a metallic grille, material is draped over the opening to the audio system.
The soundbar might be mounted or plonked in entrance of the TV. With a depth of 100mm, most TVs will fortunately have it sit in entrance of them and it not impinge on the precise display, merely block the stand.
Contained in the Sonos Beam are 4 full-range drivers, a middle tweeter and three passive radiators that are there so as to add to the bass. These drivers work collectively to assist the speaker ship sound someplace in between a Sonos Play:three and Sonos PlayBar. The audio system inside have been specifically made for the Beam, although, so there isn’t any recycling right here by Sonos.
The Sonos Beam is designed for three-channels, however it may possibly almost make these three channels sound like true encompass sound because of Trueplay – a software program characteristic that calibrates the sound to the room.
The magic occurs throughout setup when the speaker asks you to make use of your pill or smartphone to ‘scan’ the room (basically wave your system round whereas the speaker performs a collection of sounds).
When Trueplay is enabled, the room fills with sound – it looks like it really works higher with one thing like a soundbar because the radius is that a lot bigger. If you happen to’re an Android consumer, sadly you’ll miss out on this selection as Trueplay is simply accessible by way of iOS gadgets in the mean time.
Flip the system round and the ports are minimal. There’s an ethernet, HDMI slot, energy and a Wi-Fi button.
Sonos Beam setup
Setup of the Sonos Beam is two-fold. In case your TV has HDMI ARC (Audio Return Channel, there will probably be a logo close to the HDMI slot), then it’s a cinch. HDMI ARC permits the Beam to sync up audio and movie and have every little thing working by way of your TV’s distant in a matter of minutes.
That final half is fairly vital for the Sonos Beam because the system doesn’t include a distant. As with all Sonos merchandise, the concept is that you just use the Sonos app to regulate quantity, hyperlink up audio system and the like. That is fantastic however in a house theater situation, you need this as an addition reasonably than the only real solution to management your speaker. And that’s why Sonos selected HDMI ARC.
With out HDMI ARC, issues turn into a little bit extra sophisticated. Sonos has achieved its due diligence, although, and added in an optical adaptor to the arrange. Plug this into the accompanying HDMI cable and you need to use the Beam by way of the optical port.
To make it work correctly, nevertheless, you must delve into the settings of the Sonos app (and those in your TV, too).
In our exams, we needed to reconfigure the Beam in order that it could mechanically come on when the TV was turned on. Clearly, you don’t have to do that but it surely means going into the app each time if it isn’t sorted.
It wasn’t very clear the place and the way to do that, however after a couple of minutes of going by way of myriad menus, we discovered the TV Autoplay setting in Room Setting>TV. It’s additionally right here that you may configure the distant management setup. Observe the directions on the app and it is best to have the distant working together with your Beam very quickly.
Whereas we didn’t thoughts going by way of the app, it’s clear that Sonos would like you utilize HDMI Arc. Its app, whereas nice sufficient, is presently setup to assist extra with ensuring your Sonos system works in unison with another Sonos gadgets you will have and to not configure a house theater system. Now it has the PlayBar, PlayBase and the Beam, although, we are able to see this altering sooner or later.
To present the app some credit score, alongside the 60+ audio providers which might be suitable with it, it does have plenty of good residence theater choices. Two of probably the most used are located simply above the quantity slider. These are Evening Sound (which takes out any booming bass, so you’ll be able to watch one thing when the remainder of your clan are in mattress) and Speech Enhancement. Since utilizing the Beam now we have had Speech Enhancement on nearly on a regular basis and it’s actually helped with the readability of speech, particularly in any scenes we’re watching which might be stuffed with bombast.
Dig into the room settings and there may be additionally an EQ choice (with bass and treble sliders and a Loudness button), and TV Dialog settings which lets you sync the voice if it’s a little bit off (one thing you received’t get utilizing HDMI ARC).
Sonos Beam voice management
There may be, after all, one other solution to management the Sonos Beam, and that’s together with your voice. One of many huge options of the Beam is its Alexa integration. That is one thing that was first seen on the Sonos One (the place it really works extraordinarily nicely), however utilizing Alexa to regulate part of a tv is a complete different matter. It’s one thing that’s taking place increasingly more – Alexa voice management is now accessible with the Amazon Hearth TV and Hearth TV Stick and it is usually accessible within the Amazon Hearth TV Dice.
There’s a thread right here: all of those merchandise are Amazon based mostly, and you will have an Amazon Hearth TV or Hearth TV Follow get probably the most out of the Sonos Beam’s voice performance. If certainly one of these are plugged into your TV, then the Beam provides up the ability to go looking Netflix and Amazon Prime – one thing which is enjoyable, if nonetheless a little bit awkward, to do.
With out Amazon’s back-end tech, you’ll be able to nonetheless use the voice controls for issues like quantity (Alexa, flip it up 30% and many others), to request radio stations and to pause and play no matter you’re listening to. Additionally, you will be capable of flip your TV on and off with Alexa if you’re utilizing HDMI ARC.
It’s enjoyable, if a contact restricted. And talking of contact, we discovered ourselves utilizing the intuitive contact controls on the highest of the Beam way over we thought that we might.
Having Alexa voice management is all nicely and good, but it surely does lock you into an ecosystem. Whereas that is how it will likely be for the close to future, Google Assistant can also be coming to the Sonos Beam, as is Siri integration – the latter by way of AirPlay 2 assist. For the context of this assessment, we had been instructed to not use this performance because it’s nonetheless in Beta mode. Will probably be accessible for the Sonos Beam’s launch.
Whereas we are able to’t give our verdict a method or one other concerning the success of AirPlay 2 on the Beam, understanding it’s there makes us recognize what Sonos is attempting to do – take advantage of accessible soundbar it presumably can. Properly, accessible inside the context that you just nonetheless want to make use of it as a part of the Sonos ecosystem.