Sonos Beam Soundbar is Still King of Consumer Desires
Check the boxes and tell me what I'm missing with the Sonos Beam. Their newest soundbar venture is compact, smart, stylish, brand recognition, affordable, and, expectedly, sounds incredible.
Consumer sweetheart and occasional CI firebrand Sonos is back in the game with a soundbar that is ultimately smaller (and cheaper) than their Playbase, bigger than the Play:1, and ready to compete with the Google/Apple/Amazon smart speakers of the world.
Sonically, the three-channel soundbar has four full-range woofers surrounding a center tweeter, amplified by three passive radiators to really pack a punch. While the soundstage doesn't exactly punch you in the chest, it can hook up to a pair of Sonos Ones and a Sonos Sub to achieve a true 5.1 surround system, sans Dolby Atmos support.
The Sonos Beam is not doing any of the fancy auto-room correction that the HomePod or Google Home Max are hanging their hat on, but that doesn't take away from the expected quality of the soundbar.
But maybe we are burying the lead here. Of course, you are going to get a killer sound out of a Sonos product, that's a given. What the Beam is going to be known for is taking over the living room in a way that no other smart speaker can. The beam I/O consists of a power port, a power button, an ethernet slot, and an HDMI input.
That's it. And with that, the Sonos Beam can control your TV, play nice with any of the other smart speakers in the home, and actually capitalizes on the HDMI-ARC spec that has eluded many products - mainly TVs - since it was first introduced nearly a decade ago. Not that there haven't been a plethora of creative products that do utilize this function, but now a consumer can finally do it on their own and that's important for building a foundation of beneficial technology education.
However the one input also means the Beam is not meant to replace everything, it's just meant to control some audio. That means no smart-apps, no streaming video out, no set-top box options. Just some good old fashion voice-controlled audio.
It's a catch 22, but there's a good chance that Sonos is doubling down on the creative solutions of the integrator to figure out the mess of cables instead of acting as a lightning rod for home theater woes. It also means the Sonos Beam has longevity. There are no important firmware updates or missing compatibility from future HDMI spec to slow it down. It's a purebred soundbar that doesn't lose it's identity in an arms race to be a swiss army knife.
Finally, the agnosticism of Sonos means the Beam will, as mentioned, work with all your devices. Prebaked with Amazon Alexa, it is getting Google support later this year and is on the short list of AirPlay 2 enabled products. This goes hand-in-hand with Sonos' desire to court the CI community once more, by giving them a plethora of options to be successful.
The Sonos Beam will hit the market July 17 at $399, $50 more than Apple's HomePod and right on par with the Google Home Max, but offers a mess of more function and opportunity to make your next client happy.