“A brilliant, feature-packed speaker that’s so much more than a soundbar”
With soundbars and bases, there’s no need to suffer thin television sound in silence
Sonos Beam £399
You can’t accuse Sonos of resting on its laurels. Despite having made a name for itself with its wireless and multi-room achievements, and early speakers such as the Play:3 and Play:5, it soon pressed on into soundbar territory with its critically acclaimed Playbar.
Skip four years to 2018 and now we have the Beam, which once again ups the ante for Sonos’s rivals. The Beam is a smaller (65cm wide), cheaper TV speaker, with a few additions to its spec sheet, including an HDMI connection and voice-control assistants Amazon Alexa and Apple Siri. Sonos is looking to add Google Assistant soon too.
Touch controls on top of the soundbar allow you to select volume up/down, play/pause and microphone mute, while an LED indicates the soundbar’s status and voice feedback. Around the back you’ll find the HDMI connection, ethernet port and a pairing button.
Available in black and white finishes, the Beam looks stylish but understated. Inside are four full-range drivers, one tweeter and three passive radiators, plus five class-d amplifiers. The drivers and radiators are positioned along the front and the far edges of the bar, helping to drive sound around your room for a more immersive, room-filling sound.
The Beam is best described as a typical Sonos product, which is high praise indeed. But the fact it has the edge over its Playbar and Playbase siblings has earned it Product of the Year status.
On the source
This isn’t simply a soundbar: it’s also a wireless, multi-room speaker that can play music from almost any source. Spotify, Tidal, Apple Music, Amazon, Google Play, Deezer, your phone, network-connected hard drives – it’s all supported and all can be combined in on-the-fly playlists and queues.
The Beam can talk to any other Sonos products you have and, thanks to Airplay 2, it can also link with products from other manufacturers. This compatibility means you can add Sonos speakers to form a full surround-sound system.
Sound quality is exceptionally good for its size. Sonos has managed to overcome the usual limitations of compact speakers, and given the Beam’s dimensions, the width and spaciousness of the soundstage are astonishing. Play the opening of the 2017 remake of Ghost In The Shell and the sound effects of the gunfight fill the room in a way that confounds expectations, firing left and right and echoing much further into the room than you’d expect.
There’s good height and weight to the delivery, too. A helicopter seems to arrive from above your head, and when the soundtrack becomes bass-heavy, the Beam reproduces it with authority.
Dialogue is clear and direct, and never drowned out by the rest of the action. There’s a touch of brightness to the treble, particularly at higher volumes, but, for a soundbar of this size and price, it’s eminently forgivable. Essentially, this is an affordable soundbar that could transform your listening experience.
The Beam is a typical Sonos product – high praise indeed