The Sonos One was one of many first third-party smart speakers to help Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant, letting you deal with it like a much bigger, better-sounding Echo. The $399 Sonos Beam takes that voice assistant expertise and places it in entrance of your TV. This small soundbar affords hands-free Alexa, can play audio out of your TV or wirelessly stream from the 50 totally different providers Sonos helps, and will get surprisingly loud for its measurement. It is a great one-piece sound system for anybody trying so as to add audio energy and a voice assistant to their front room with out coping with a lot of totally different units directly, incomes it our Editors’ Selection.
A Small, Streamlined Soundbar
The Sonos Beam is downright puny in contrast with the corporate’s earlier house theater speaker methods just like the Playbar and the Playbase. It is a 2.7-by-25.7-by-Four.Zero-inch (HWD) bar that mixes stark proper angles and flat surfaces for the entrance, again, and high with semicircular curves on the left and proper sides. It is accessible in black or white variations, with the colour selection making use of to each the graceful high panel and wrap-around material grille on the entrance, sides, and again.
A molded Sonos brand sits within the heart of the entrance of the soundbar, the one design breaking apart the grille till you see the small recess for ports on the again. The recess holds connectors for the included energy cable, the included HDMI cable, and an Ethernet cable (not included) if you’d like a wired community connection as an alternative of counting on the Beam’s 2.4GHz wi-fi connectivity. A setup button between the ports places the soundbar into setup mode, activating an ad-hoc Wi-Fi community for configuring the system together with your smartphone or pill. No optical audio enter is current on the again of the Beam, however you may nonetheless use an optical audio reference to the included optical-to-HDMI adapter.
The highest panel of the Beam holds the soundbar’s touch-sensitive controls, that are practically similar to these on the Sonos One. A row of three easy icons affords fundamental playback and quantity controls: Faucet the middle icon for play/pause, faucet the left or proper icons for quantity up/down, and swipe from left to proper or proper to left for monitor ahead/again. A standing mild above the play/pause icon reveals when the Beam is on and related to your house community. A microphone icon above the standing mild toggles the soundbar’s microphone, with a smaller mild above it glowing white when the Beam is listening for the Alexa wake-up phrase.
Just like the Playbar and the Playbase, the Beam would not embrace a distant. This is not an issue, as a result of the soundbar will be configured to work together with your TV distant management. If utilizing an HDMI-ARC connection, the TV distant ought to modify quantity robotically. If utilizing the optical adapter, you may manually set your TV distant by educating it the distant’s infrared instructions via the Sonos app. Each management methods have been easy to arrange in testing.
Setting Up the Beam
Establishing the Beam is rather like organising the Sonos One or every other Sonos speaker. Plug it in, open the Android or iOS app, and comply with the directions. When prompted, press the setup button on the again of the Beam to make the soundbar generate its personal Wi-Fi community, which the app will hook up with as a way to inform the Beam how to hook up with your personal house community. You will have to create a free Sonos account, which helps you to handle all your Sonos units and set them up in teams. After that, the app will ask you to signal into your Amazon account to hyperlink the Beam to Alexa, and also you’re prepared to make use of it.
Relying on your house theater setup, you would possibly have to take just a few further steps to get the Beam working together with your TV and, presumably, media streamer. When you use the optical adapter, you will have to show the Beam your TV distant’s instructions to allow you to modify quantity (HDMI-CEC management via your TV’s HDMI ARC port ought to robotically get every thing working collectively in the event you simply use HDMI). If you wish to use the Beam’s hands-free Alexa to regulate your Fireplace TV media streamer, you will need to hyperlink the Beam to your Fireplace TV system via the Alexa app; this integration is all on Amazon’s aspect of the fence, and out of Sonos’ fingers.
Sonos is without doubt one of the most well-established names in streaming multi-room audio methods, and that reveals in every thing you are able to do with the Beam. As a part of the Sonos ecosystem, you need to use the Beam by itself or group it with different Sonos audio system as a part of a given room’s sound system (together with the house theater-specific additions of encompass sound satellites). You possibly can then management the Beam via the Sonos software program in your smartphone (Android or iOS) or pc (Home windows or OS X). After all, as soon as the Beam is related to your community you can too simply ask Alexa to play music via it, and the wired audio connection out of your TV works with out utilizing the app. Apple’s AirPlay 2 may even be added with a firmware replace within the close to future. Bluetooth is not accessible, so you may’t arrange easy, point-to-point music streaming out of your cellphone with out the Sonos software program.
Sonos’ platform is powerful, with help for 50 music streaming services together with Apple Music, Amazon Music, Google Play Music, Pandora, Sirius XM, Spotify, and Tidal. Some providers require signing in via the Sonos app and utilizing that to navigate your music libraries, however a number of huge names are a lot less complicated to make use of. Google Play Music, Spotify, Tidal, and a number of other others help streaming on to the Beam from every service’s app, letting you successfully deal with the soundbar like a Google Solid or Apple AirPlay speaker in these instances. These connection and streaming selections assist make up for the dearth of Bluetooth, even when it might have been good to see as a backup choice.
Alexa On Your Soundbar
As an Alexa system, the Sonos Beam affords a lot of the similar advantages and features as an Echo speaker. You need to use Amazon’s voice assistant just by saying “Alexa,” adopted by a voice command. Alexa can supply common info like climate forecasts and unit conversion, play music from a wide range of streaming providers together with Amazon Music, and management Alexa-compatible smart home devices like Philips Hue lights and Nest thermostats. When you hyperlink the Beam to a Fireplace TV system, you can too entry streaming video via Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, Hulu, and different Alexa-compatible providers. A number of apps even help voice instructions to regulate playback and navigation.
Alexa on the Beam is not fairly as full-featured as you get on Amazon’s personal units just like the Echo and Fire TV Cube. You possibly can’t change the wake phrase from “Alexa” to an alternate like “Echo,” “Amazon,” or “Laptop,” and you may’t use Amazon’s Drop In voice name system. Additionally, whereas some streaming video providers will be managed with voice, you may’t use Alexa to deliver up non-media visible info in your Fireplace TV, like displaying on-screen climate forecasts or accessing dwell feeds from Alexa-compatible house safety cameras just like the Amazon Cloud Cam.
Contemplating its small measurement, the Sonos Beam packs a shocking quantity of cinematic audio energy. It would not attain into the ultra-low sub-bass frequencies to rattle your partitions (except you pair it with a $699 Sonos Sub subwoofer to do the heavy lifting on that finish), however it should simply fill the room with highly effective sound from low-mids to highs. It additionally would not try to simulate directional encompass sound, however the speaker’s 4 woofers, three passive radiators, and single tweeter produce a pleasant, large-sounding audio subject.
The swelling, epic soundtrack of Pacific Rim comes via with loads of power, and the sounds of big robots combating and monsters screeching give the sense of a a lot bigger sound system than the small soundbar would point out. The larger and costlier Playbar and Playbase each produce considerably extra low-end rumble, however the Beam manages to sound appreciably loud and bombastic. Voices additionally come via clearly towards the sounds of rain and rubble, demonstrating very balanced, sculpted audio that fits motion films nicely.
On line casino Royale additionally sounds surprisingly massive and satisfyingly clear on the Beam. The high-stakes poker scenes get loads of high-mid and excessive frequency presence, making each spoken line simple to listen to and bringing out each clink of poker chips hitting one another. Within the brief automobile chase scene after the sport, the roar of the engine is loud and thrilling, giving the sense of energy even with out making tables or partitions vibrate with sub-bass.
The Beam additionally handles music very nicely, although with out the elective subwoofer it shares related frequency and response limitations to the Sonos One. Our bass check monitor, The Knife’s “Silent Shout,” distorts a bit at most quantity when the woofers attempt to reproduce the kick drum hits. Decreasing the amount to about two-thirds retains the monitor loud whereas avoiding the crackle.
The low bass sounds in Large Assault’s “Teardrop” come via with a strong quantity of power, giving the kick drum beats presence to face out within the combine regardless of not getting a wall-shaking quantity of sub-bass response. The beats begin to distort with quantity pumped as much as most, however cranking it down just a bit reduces any crackle or popping. Simply as importantly, the vocals on the monitor come via with loads of readability and texture, and even the quiet harpsichord will be heard towards the heartbeat-like drums.
Peter Gabriel’s “Burn You Up, Burn You Down” sounds full and wealthy on the Sonos Beam, with some caveats. The bassline will get loads of low-mid presence to fill the room, whereas the snare and high-hat hits stand out within the high-mids and highs to steadiness it out. Gabriel’s voice fights with the regular experience of cymbals for consideration in that frequency vary, and would not rise above the beat as a lot as we like to listen to. It is a full, thrilling combine that does not give the vocals fairly sufficient presence to faithfully reproduce the monitor.
A Do-It-All Speaker System
The Sonos Beam is a compelling soundbar that places out shocking energy for its measurement. Films sound massive and thrilling, and music comes via very properly, with a beneficiant quantity of bass response even with no subwoofer. The addition of hands-free Alexa makes it an much more helpful speaker system, providing you with Echo-like voice instructions along with the wired TV audio choices and Sonos’ a great deal of supported streaming providers. It would not have the sheer energy of Sonos’ Playbase, however its smaller kind and price ticket mixed with Alexa make it rather more tempting for many customers on the lookout for some further audio energy for his or her TVs.
If you need a lot of rumble for a little bit more cash, and do not thoughts shedding the voice assistant, the JBL Bar 3.1 features a subwoofer and may put out even greater sound because of its greater measurement. For a one-piece Alexa-equipped sound system, although, the Sonos Beam sounds glorious for an affordable value, and earns our Editors’ Selection.