Review: Sonos Beam Gen 2 Sound Bar

Review: Sonos Beam Gen 2 Sound Bar

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Sonos has a remarkable track record when it comes to creating products that simplify, improve, and enhance your home theater experience. With the introduction of the original Beam compact sound bar (now affectionately known as Beam Gen 1), Sonos changed the surround system game by simplifying the setup and integration of a home theater system, television, and remote control with the inclusion of one of the first HDMI ARC-capable sound systems. The Beam Gen 1 was also extraordinarily compact and was the obvious choice for TVs smaller than 50". Sonos was also early to embrace the concept of the digital household, providing built-in voice control with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. And it didn’t hurt that the Beam Gen 1 sounded fantastic for its size.

With the Beam Gen 2, Sonos once again takes a market-leading position with features that add extraordinary value and capability to an already high-quality yet affordable sound bar. The biggest news with the Beam Gen 2 is that Sonos brings full Dolby Atmos capability to a second product in the Sonos ecosystem, the first being the Arc sound bar. Other popular multichannel audio formats are now open to the Beam Gen 2, as well as a host of other improvements.

Dolby Atmos Multichannel Capability

The Dolby Atmos system is the market-leading surround system in the home theater industry. With Dolby Atmos, your movie soundtracks become completely immersive experiences, with sounds occurring not only around you, but above you as well. Dolby Atmos is even capable of sound localization, which is what a director does when they want a particular sound — for example a dinosaur’s footstep —  to come not from only somewhere to your left but specifically three feet behind your left shoulder.

To pull that off requires quite a lot of computational power, and Sonos has increased the CPU brawn of the Beam Gen 2 by 40%, compared to the Beam Gen 1.

This lets the Beam Gen 2 do much more than just throw a sound in a particular direction. The Beam Gen 2 is able to render the Dolby Atmos signal in a particular audio mix to recreate the soundstage both horizontally and vertically. It can do this even though the compact Beam Gen 2 has five front-firing drivers, with none directed up at the ceiling. The Beam Gen 2’s processor employs psychoacoustic algorithms to achieve this remarkable effect.

Psychoacoustic Processing Power

All of that psychoacoustic processing power has been brought to bear on the addition of several other popular multichannel formats to the Beam Gen 2’s arsenal. If you have a collection of Blu-ray discs, you’ll be thrilled to know that the Beam Gen 2 has full DTS multichannel capabilities. In the past, playing Blu-ray discs on a non-DTS-compatible system meant that you just got a nice stereo mix for your viewing experience. Now, you’ll get the director’s full intent for dialog, action, foley, sound effects, music, and sound design.

The Beam Gen 2 also opens the door to the world of Dolby Atmos Music, which is one of the more popular of the leading 3D music streaming formats. Subscription streaming services such as Apple Music, Amazon Ultra HD, and Tidal offer mixes of the latest hits from top artists in this immersive audio format. This also means that as multichannel audio formats with even higher resolutions become available, the Beam Gen 2 will be able to play them for you, without any problem.

Vocals and dialogue were a priority for the Beam Gen 1. In the Beam Gen 2, that extra processing power is also focused on making dialogue even easier to hear, vocals more clear, and overall sound processing even better.

Sonos Beam (Gen 2) Compact Smart Sound Bar with Dolby Atmos

Simple, yet superior

One of the other significant technical improvements that enable this remarkable increase in ability is the addition of an HDMI eARC port. With a data exchange rate of 18 gigabytes per second, the Beam Gen 2’s HDMI port is the key to facilitating flawless multichannel audio communication between the Beam Gen 2, your TV, your Blu-ray player, and your streaming audio devices.

It also means that the Beam Gen 2 adheres to the simple setup goals of the Beam Gen 1: Plug in one one power cable and one HDMI cable, and your setup is complete. One remote control can control your entire system.

Does this mean that you can add Dolby Atmos just by plugging an HDMI cable into your existing television? If your TV has an HDMI eARC connection, absolutely. If your TV has an HDMI ARC connection that also supports Dolby Digital+, the answer is also yes. Without that Dolby Digital+ compatibility, however, Dolby Atmos content coming from your TV will not be able to be rendered.

Fitting Into Your World

With its narrow width and compact footprint, the Beam Gen 2 is perfect for small to medium spaces, and especially for televisions that are 49" inches or smaller. It’s one of the few sound bars on the market that looks great with smaller TVs.

But the Beam Gen 2 is designed to fit in to your life in other significant ways. You’ve already got a number of devices that can play movies and audio. The Beam Gen 2 introduces NFC, or Near Field Connection, a protocol that makes pairing any device as simple as holding the device near the Beam Gen 2. You can even expand your as system by wirelessly connecting a Sub for deeper bass and a pair of matching rear surrounds for an even more immersive listening experience.

And it just looks totally cool. The new polycarbonate grille looks stylish, in both the white and black finishes. It’s bound to be more durable than the previous fabric covering, as it resists tearing. And the white finish model goes an extra couple of steps to fit in to your decor, by having an entirely white back panel, including the connection port area, and white cables.

Great Sound That Fits Your Space and Budget

Sonos has done a remarkable job with this upgrade. The Beam Gen 2 can stand on its own as the centerpiece of your small home theater setup, or it can be the command center for a full surround system, or even a multi-room setup. With its remarkable surround and multichannel audio capabilities, it’s going to give a lot of the more expensive sound bars a run for their money. But the real brilliance of the Beam Gen 2 is most evident in how easily it can integrate with and take command of other speakers in the Sonos family to make a comprehensive and flawlessly connected home theater system.

Sonos Beam (Gen 2) Compact Smart Sound Bar

Available in Black or White.

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Sonos Beam (Gen 2) Compact Smart Sound Bar by TV
Sonos Beam (Gen 2) Compact Smart Sound Bar closeup
People watching soccer game on TV with Sonos Beam Gen 2 sound bar
Family watching TV with Sonos Beam Gen 2
Sonos Beam (Gen 2) Compact Smart Sound Bar closeup
Sonos Beam Gen 2 sound bar in white with TV
Sonos Beam Gen 2 sound bar mounted on wall
Couple playing video games with TV and sound bar
Couple watching movie with Sonos Beam Gen 2 and Sub Gen 3

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