SONOS BEAM

A home cin­ema cousin to the mega suc­cess­ful Sonos One, Beam is an ex­cel­lent, af­ford­able sound­bar with Ama­zon Alexa built in

Australian T3 - - CONTENTS -

Does Sonos’ much-hyped new Alexa-en­abled sound­bar live up to the song and dance?

The down­side of TVs now be­ing thin­ner than a Jatz is that the sound they put out is not all that im­pres­sive. To get the most out of TV au­dio, some­thing ex­tra is re­quired. And yet multi-speaker sur­round sys­tems are not ideal for those who don’t live in a stately home or con­verted ware­house. That’s where sound­bars come in – and Sonos Beam is a great sound­bar.

Small, light, loud, white

Sonos al­ready makes a sound­bar, with the vaguely rude name of Play­bar, but Beam is much lighter and smaller than that, and a few hun­dred dol­lars cheaper. It’s a short bar that comes in black or white/off-white. It ben­e­fits hugely from the ad­di­tion of an HDMI in­put, and also adds voice sup­port for Ama­zon’s Alexa AI as­sis­tant and Ap­ple AirPlay 2 au­dio stream­ing.

Beam fol­lows very pre­cisely in the foot­steps of the Sonos One: it’s af­ford­able and com­pact, with a pro­ces­sor pow­er­ful enough to act as a plat­form that can be up­dated and honed over time. As such, as well as AirPlay 2 and Alexa, it could, once the right deals are inked, sup­port Google Home, Chrome­cast, and plat­forms and AI as­sis­tants as yet un­known in the fu­ture.

First and fore­most, though, Beam is a home cin­ema sound­bar and mu­sic speaker, and for sport and gen­eral live TV du­ties it’s very solid, adding use­ful vol­ume and pres­ence to the big match or the lat­est re­al­ity show im­be­cile-fest.

How­ever, whack on a movie from a ser­vice or player with a proper Dolby sound­track, and the Beam de­liv­ers a big, adren­a­line-pump­ing boost to the au­dio. Of course, given its com­pact di­men­sions, the bass doesn’t de­scend low enough to rat­tle the room, but it has real power, with a sur­pris­ingly wide sound­stage, too.

Alexa is ir­ri­tat­ingly in­con­sis­tent, but if you have a com­pat­i­ble Fire TV de­vice, it is use­ful for search­ing through the vast quan­tity of con­tent on there – al­though not sur­pris­ingly, it’s more sat­is­fy­ing to use with Ama­zon Prime Video than main ri­val Net­flix.

Re­ally, Alexa and AirPlay 2, multi-room and sur­round sound ca­pa­bil­ity (you could add a pair of Sonos Ones as rear sur­rounds, and a Sonos Sub for a big­ger bot­tom end) are just bonus fea­tures; this is worth $600 as a sound­bar alone. Oh yeah, and it’s also a very good mu­sic speaker. Not cheap and dis­pos­able, yet feel­ing like quite the bar­gain, Sonos has got this Beam spot on.

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