“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

What Hi-Fi (UK) - - Contents - JOE COX GLOBAL ED­I­TOR-IN-CHIEF

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

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