Everyone knows how essential a good TV or gaming monitor is, but many overlook the necessity of having good sound to go along with it. That’s especially true if you’re sitting in the lounge room, or you’ve just converted your office setup to a small size TV and you don’t want to wear headphones all day. That’s where a decent soundbar comes in. And appropriately for the next-gen, 3D audio/Dolby Atmos age we live in, Sonos’s Beam finally has a successor.
A little too simply, perhaps, it’ll be called the Sonos Beam (Gen 2). It comes three years after the launch of the original Sonos Beam, which was a smart, well priced offering that gave Sonos stans (and those badgered by their Sonos-owning friends) an option more affordable than the $1499 Sonos Arc. The smart speaker functions and microphone array were also top notch, and if you’d already made the investment in Sonos speakers throughout the rest of your house, you could simply use the Sonos software suite to have the audio follow you from room to room.
Sonos Beam Gen 2: Specs
But the AI assistant flexibility of the Beam wasn’t enough to overlook the fact that it needed some genuine feature updates for 2021, like support for HDMI eARC, and Dolby Atmos, two things the Sonos Beam Gen 2 corrects. That’s especially handy for anyone who upgraded their TV recently for next-gen console gaming, or just because we now live in an age where OLED TVs can, and are, genuinely being used as reliable desktop monitors. (The Xbox Series X and a range of games — including Warzone, Cyberpunk 2077 and Microsoft Flight Simulator — support Dolby Atmos now, while Sony is adding 3D audio support for receivers and soundbars in a future update.)
Helpfully, the Sonos Beam Gen 2 almost the exact same dimensions as the original, save for an extra 0.5mm of height. It’s still 2.8kg as well, but the upgraded Sonos processor — which Sonos argues won’t cause any supply issues despite the immense silicon shortages we’re facing — has allowed for some extra goodies.
One of the key changes is security. There’s an extra security layer in the second generation Sonos Beam that’s specifically designed for the secure transfer of Wi-Fi credentials. For the regular user, that means you can simply tap your phone onto the Beam, and it’ll be able to automatically configure itself for your network. (The new Beam will also still have an Ethernet 10/100Mbps port, if you didn’t want to connect via Wi-Fi, though.)
The fabric mesh grille has been replaced with a new type of polycarbonate. It’s designed to last longer — the original Beam’s grille would wear down over time — but also to make it easier to clean than before, which is nice for families with kids.
Five speaker arrays are now included, instead of the original three, with the two extra designed to focus on surround and the height of particular sounds. The official Sonos specs say they’ll also apply “time and frequency-based psychoacoustic techniques to provide separation between ear level and overhead audio”. Sonos did confirm in follow-up questioning that these wouldn’t be exclusive to Dolby Atmos or any particular type of content, though.
“The sound enhancements from the new speaker arrays, psychoacoustic techniques and overall retuning are available with any format including Dolby Atmos, 5.1, and stereo music,” Sonos said, adding that stereo music would be upmixed to account for a “centre image correction”.
The Gen 2 bar will also support Dolby Atmos Music and Amazon Music’s spatial audio, although more details on that will be announced later this year. Trueplay still won’t support Android devices — the company said the quality of microphones across the breadth of the Android ecosystem “does not currently allow for a consistent tuning experience”. You can still do manual tuning of the second-gen Beam if you’re not in Apple’s walled garden, and Sonos said they will be “launching its room recommender on the new Sonos website” when the Beam launches next month.
Another new feature is the Night Sound function, which specifically reduces the “intensity of loud sounds and increases the level of quieter sounds”. I asked during a briefing whether the new Beam targeted particular frequencies to accomplish this, but the company didn’t clarify whether that was the case. Those who enjoy sustainability might also appreciate the new Beam’s approach too: there’s no single-use foam, something that’s disturbingly all-too common among many TV and audio manufacturers. A gift box that comes with the new Beam is made of 97 percent sustainable paper, and uncoated kraft paper is used in the internal packaging.
As for those who use DTS sound instead of Dolby Atmos, you’ll get access to that later this year via an update to the Sonos S2 software. That’s not exclusive to the second-generation Beam though: both generations of the Beam and Arc, the Sonos Amp, Playbar and Playbase will all get DTS Digital Surround Sound decoding support at the same time.
Sonos Beam Gen 2: Australian Price, Release Date
It’ll be available in Australia from October 5 for $699 through the Sonos website directly and “participating retailers”. More info about Dolby Atmos and Amazon Music Ultra HD wil will be announced through Sonos’s website and social channels, although there’s no ETA yet on whether those features will be available when the new Beam launches.