Review Sonos Beam Gen 2 (2021)
In 2018 Sonos released the fairly affordable Sonos Beam. This model is priced a lot lower than the other speakers from Sonos, such as the Playbar (at the time) and the current Arc. For many people who were looking for a sleek and compact TV speaker with beautiful sound, the Beam is a godsend. Does that also apply to the new Sonos Beam Gen 2? Basically, the TV speaker is unchanged, but with support for Dolby Atmos. Dolby Atmos is one of the latest audio trends. In the past year you hear this more and more, also at Apple. It is in the speakers of the latest MacBooks and iMac and since the summer of this year you can also listen to Apple Music in Dolby Atmos. My expectations were therefore high.
Sonos Beam Gen 2 (2021) in brief
Here are the main features of the Sonos Beam Gen 2 in a nutshell:
- Compact speaker for under your television
- Afmetingen: 69 x 651 x 100mm
- Available in black and white
- Five digital amplifiers, a center tweeter, four midwoofers, three passive radiators and multiple microphones
- 40% faster chip provides better sound compared to the first generation
- Support for Dolby Atmos
- Compatible with HDMI ARC and eARC
- Custom design without fabric cover
- Can be paired with other Sonos speakers
- Works with AirPlay 2, Google Assistant
- Price: €499, €50 more than the predecessor
Text, review and photos: Benjamin Kuijten (@BenjaminRK). The test was conducted in October 2021. The Sonos Beam 2 has been made available by the manufacturer. A 55-inch Sony OLED TV with eARC was used for this test, which was temporarily made available by Sonos.
Since 2019 I have had a Sonos Beam under my television. In the months and years that followed, I expanded this with two IKEA Sonos Symfonisk table lamp speakers and a Sonos Sub, for that little bit of extra sound and surround effect. I was therefore curious when Sonos announced the second generation Beam, which includes support for Dolby Atmos. With more and more content in Dolby Atmos becoming available (via Apple TV+, Disney+, as well as Apple Music), I wanted to add this to my home. But before you can fully enjoy Dolby Atmos, you have to take a number of things into account.
Our lineup for the Sonos Beam Gen 2
Dolby Atmos is a technique in which the sound comes virtually from all sides. It is also called 3D audio, without having to place all individual speakers above, below, left and right. But with only an Apple TV 4K and Dolby Atmos content you are not there yet. You should also have a television that can send the Dolby Atmos signal via HDMI to the Sonos Beam. That immediately makes Dolby Atmos less easily accessible for many people, because a television of about four years old does not offer support. That was also the case with my own television. For this review we were therefore able to use a newer Sony OLED TV with support for Dolby Atmos to be able to use the full possibilities.
If you want to watch Dolby Atmos content via the Apple TV 4K, you also need eARC. The Apple TV uses a higher bandwidth format, so you also have to pay attention to support for eARC. ARC stands for Audio Return Channel and in eARC the e stands for Enhanced. In other words: an improved version of the ARC connection that you find on the majority of televisions. Not all brands have eARC in their latest models, so check your television carefully if Dolby Atmos is the reason for you to choose this speaker and if you want to watch via the Apple TV.
Design Sonos Beam 2021
In terms of design, we are happy with the new second generation Sonos Beam. We were already a fan of the original model, because with its more compact design and sleek rounded design, it fits into every household. For this review of the Sonos Beam Gen 2, we tested the black model. This fits nicely in your interior, even if you have a white TV cabinet. The biggest difference with the earlier version is that the upholstery is no longer made of fabric. Although we found the textile covering charming, it does have a disadvantage in the long run: fabric sticks to it like a magnet. As a result, the black upholstery becomes a bit more matte over time. For the second generation, Sonos has opted for the hole profile that you also find with other Sonos speakers, such as the Sonos Move and the newer Sonos Roam.
Due to this new design, we find the Sonos Beam even tighter. The black is deeper black and we expect the same with the white variant. You will also quickly see dust or other dirt with the white upholstery, so you will not be bothered with the new version. The rest of the design has remained unchanged. The sides are still round and the slightly concave top is made of matte plastic. There you will also find a few touch-sensitive buttons. We have to admit that we rarely use these. The sound from the TV goes automatically through the speaker and if we want to play music ourselves, we do that via AirPlay via the iPhone or iPad. Sending sound from the HomePod to the Sonos via AirPlay is also fine. There is also a small light on top that glows white or green. If you find that annoying, you can also simply disable it via the app.
Set up Sonos Beam Gen 2
Setting up the Sonos Beam 2 is a piece of cake, although the method depends on your situation. If you don’t have a Sonos speaker at home yet, you have to create an account and the setup is a little less fast. If you already have a Sonos speaker at home, such as a Sonos One, you simply add the Beam to your account. In both cases you scan the Beam via NFC on your iPhone. You just have to hold it against it for a while and the setup is almost done. The NFC scan is new compared to the previous model. For further setting you choose a logical name (for example TV) and you can also add it to the Home app thanks to AirPlay. You can read more about this in our tip about adding a speaker to HomeKit.
If you have been a Sonos user for many years and, for example, have an older Playbar or a first generation Sonos Beam with surround speakers or a Sonos Sub, the setup will be a bit more complicated. You can’t just replace an existing soundbar. So you must first remove the surround speakers and the Sub, so that you can then remove the soundbar that you want to replace with the new Beam from your setup. Fortunately, reconnecting your surround speakers and Sub goes fairly smoothly afterwards.
Sound quality Sonos Beam Gen 2
Immediately after use, we noticed a difference in the sound quality of the Sonos Beam Gen 2. The sound sounds a lot fuller and warmer and less tinny than with the first generation Beam. Although we were already satisfied with that sound, especially if you have a somewhat smaller living room or if you don’t want your apartment neighbors too much, we find the sound of the Sonos Beam Gen 2 just a bit more impressive. That also applies to the playback of normal TV, so without the Dolby Atmos content. This better sound is possible thanks to the faster chip and not so much because of more or better parts inside. The sound quality is far from reaching the level of a Sonos Arc, but for those who simply want to give their built-in TV speaker a major upgrade, the Sonos Beam is a great option.
Another important addition is the support for Dolby Atmos. As mentioned, this creates a virtual surround sound, so that it seems as if sound comes from above, left and right. Although the sound does indeed sound a lot more spacious, you should not expect that you are in a Dolby Atmos cinema room. The Sonos Beam is simply far too small for that. For a somewhat richer Dolby Atmos experience, we would rather fall back on the Sonos Arc. We tested Dolby Atmos with Apple Music and a few movies, among others. A movie that we watched in Dolby Atmos is Rocketman, a movie that contains a lot of music. Certain instruments sound just a bit better during the songs than without the Dolby Atmos effect and you are also more sucked into the film.
Yet we get the feeling that nowadays the Dolby Atmos label is almost stuck. It sometimes loses some of its value as a result. One Dolby Atmos is not the other. When using regular AirPods with Apple Music, you can also listen in Dolby Atmos, for example. And although it certainly sounds more spacious there, it is not the case that everything literally flies around your ears. The same is true with the Sonos Beam: it certainly makes the audio of your TV a bit more spacious, but you will certainly not constantly look around you while watching a movie to check where the sound came from.
Also keep in mind that you need suitable content and TV for Dolby Atmos. Just watching TV via cable with Dolby Atmos is not possible and it is not possible to make the music from your older 2015 LCD TV Dolby Atmos ready. If you are considering the Sonos Beam Gen 2 because of the Dolby Atmos addition, first check whether your TV is suitable. On Netflix, you can find suitable content by searching for it with the search term “Atmos”, and in the Apple TV app on the Apple TV, you’ll see the Dolby Atmos symbol next to suitable movies and series. One advantage is that all Apple TV+ content is available with this sound quality. You can check whether you are actually looking in Dobly Atmos via the Sonos app.
We mainly tested the Sonos Beam in combination with two IKEA Symfonisk speakers and a Sonos Sub, but the Sonos Beam also holds its own without these extra speakers. Even then, the sound sounds good and it is a true upgrade for the audio of your own TV. But you should not think that surround speakers or a sub are no longer necessary if you have a Sonos Beam with Dolby Atmos; it actually adds something. Fortunately, expanding your system is very easy. If you don’t want to spend that much money in one go, you can always spread it over several years.
Other Sonos Beam 2 . Features
The advantage of all recent Sonos speakers is that they are immediately ready for AirPlay 2. This makes it a piece of cake to transfer music or other audio from your iPhone, iPad or Mac to the Sonos speaker. Other features in the Sonos Beam include built-in Google Assistant. There are microphones in it so that you can give commands for your smarthome via the Google Assistant, via the Sonos speaker itself. Because we prefer to do everything via HomeKit and Siri, we have not used this anymore outside of testing. It is a pity that Siri is not in the Sonos speaker itself, but that is more up to Apple than Sonos itself. Using Siri on your iPhone or iPad to play music on the Sonos, on the other hand, is possible.
Sonos Beam (Gen 2)
- Improved sound, even without Dolby Atmos
- More spatial audio with Dobly Atmos content
- Improved design thanks to new grille
- Met AirPlay 2
- Dolby Atmos doesn’t really make a big difference
- Price €50 higher
Conclusion Sonos Beam Gen 2 review
The Sonos Beam Gen 2 is a good choice if you’re looking for a powerful and simple soundbar and you want to enjoy better sound that comes from your television. Compared to the first model, the sound is audible…