The Sonos Beam underwent a revision recently this year, the end result being a 2nd generation variant of the original soundbar that has been available on store shelves since September. The question at hand, though, is: are the updates meaningful enough that they would warrant consumers to swap it out with their 1st generation Beam, and does it warrant paying the near RM3000 price tag that is attached to it.
TC Acoustics, the official distributor for Sonos products in the region, we’re able to seek out the answers those questions.
What Is It?
To restate the obvious, the Beam Gen 2 – as its name would suggest – is the 2nd generation of Sonos’ currently existing series of home entertainment audio products of the same sub-brand. One of the more important upgrades Sonos has provided with this soundbar is support for Dolby Atmos and support for 3D Audio through a single output unit.
To that end, the Beam Gen 2 also comes with a new HDMI eARC connection port, allowing it to support an even greater range of audio formats, including Dolby TrueHD and Dolby Multichannel PCM, among others.
Aesthetically, the Beam Gen 2 shares the same look and design as its predecessor. It even possesses the same number of tweeters, woofers, amplifiers, and radiators as the first. Beyond that, the Beam Gen 2 retains virtually all the same features and functions like Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, plus access and tweaking from the dedicated Sonos app and the Trueplay function.
Is It Any Good?
Like its predecessor, setting up the Beam Gen 2 is literally a plug-and-play job, and the shape of the soundbar makes it exceedingly simple to set up in the living space of your choice. Once determined, getting it ready to use is all done via the dedicated Sonos app for it, which you can use to access the Sonos Radio feature or just link it up to your Spotify or Apple Music account.
From a performance standpoint, the Beam Gen 2 is loud, sounds clear, and shows no sign of breakings in the highs and mids, while the lows are deep, rich, and present no distortion. On top of that, the internal speaker arrangement really is nearly all-enveloping and allows you to hear whatever you’re playing at the time That said, this soundbar is not without its own set of flaws.
The Bad Stuff. Tell Me.
Despite the audio delivery being clear and concise, the Beam Gen 2 is lacking in certain areas. Sound staging does exist, but it isn’t quite as accurate as I had hoped. For instance, bass notes in Stacey Kent’s La Venus de Milo stand out but they also drown out the vocals and other acoustic elements as well. The same can be said with Yoko Kanno and the Seatbelt’s Digging My Potato; the highs delivered by the harmonica deliver a swirl of harmonics that, sadly, nearly drown each other out, to the detriment of the underlying drumbeat that is helping keep the tempo. For songs like The Eagles’ Hell Freezes Over Edition of Hotel California, it feels like the Beam Gen 2 tries to compress them all, to the point that it nearly becomes difficult to pick out.
On another note, Sonos still isn’t allowing consumers to play around with the Beam Gen 2’s sound signature, and that restriction is reflected through the absence of an equaliser within the dedicated app. To that end, the soundbar does have an auto-tuning feature that automatically calibrates and optimises its performance within a select living space, but sadly, it is limited via Apple Airplay, with no Android alternative yet to be available.
Another Sonos-centric issue that has followed the Beam Gen 2 is the lack of Bluetooth connectivity: the only way that you’ll gain access to this soundbar is through Wi-Fi connectivity and its app, which I find to be very frustrating, especially since I’m the kind of person that has long enjoyed the convenience of Bluetooth-enabled audio peripherals.
Lastly, the Beam Gen 2 retails for RM2699, standalone. To that end, you could pair it with a Sonos Sub Gen 3, but that will cost you an additional RM4299.
Should I Buy It?
At the end of the day, the Sonos Beam Gen 2 is, beyond a shadow of a doubt, a soundbar that is guaranteed to provide a very enjoyable experience within the living room, at least for RM2699. That said, if you’re already pouring that sort of money into a soundbar, I would go so far as to recommend you to invest that additional RM4299 for a Sub Gen 3 to complement the setup.
As for those of you who already own the 1st generation Beam and are looking to trade up for the new Beam, do note that you’re doing so for the sake of the Dolby Atmos experience and that you are not missing much in regards to the difference of their audio performance.