Sonos Beam Gen 2 – quality Dolby Atmos compatible soundbar (review)

The Sonos Beam Gen 2 is its refresh of the popular compact Beam with full Dolby Atmos (DA) decoding, clear speech enhancement and Trueplay room tuning for the best experience in your home.

The Sonos Bean Gen 2 is excellent value. It also now plays 24-bit/48Hz Ultra HD and DA music (via Amazon Music Unlimited) and has DTS:X decoding. In short, it has excellent dynamic range and crystal-clear sound.

Let’s explain Dolby Atmos concerning this soundbar

Dolby Atmos (DA) has up to 128 channels of sound where it can place sound objects as they move left/right, up/down, and around the room. It is called 3D spatial sound and, in theory, covers a 360° ‘dome’ of sound. The Sonos Bar Gen 2 decodes the DA metadata and downmixes to its 5.0 amp/speakers.

It has a left/right/centre front and left/right surround (side-firing) powered by five D-class amps. There are two passive forward-firing radiators to reinforce bass – they do a great job. It uses ‘psychoacoustics’ to trick your ears into hearing 3D spatial (height) sound. In essence, it phases sound across the speaker array.

Don’t worry; any DA all-in-one soundbar does this, and it is all about how well it does it. The Sonos secrete sauce is how well this $699 soundbar adapts Dolby Atmos to what it has. For ‘DA effect’, the Sonos Beam Gen 2 blitzes any other brands that I have heard

It can also use a pair of Sonos One (or SL) or Fives and its Gen 3 Sub-woofer to enhance the Dolby Atmos experience. It becomes a 7.1 system – not 5.1.2 as the rears are not up-firing. But as far as a standalone soundbar goes – it may not need that, so try it alone first.

Sonos Beam Gen 2

WebsiteAustralia
Price$699 in black or white with free Australian delivery
FromSonos online and selected Sonos retailers shipping from 5 October
Country of OriginChina
CompanySonos is an American Audio company based in Santa Barbara, California [Est 2002]. It develops and manufactures smart speakers designed to last for at least five years. Sonos speakers play music simultaneously in multiple rooms.
MoreCyberShack Sonos news and reviews

First impression – small and light

It is smaller than I expected at 651 x 100 x 69mm x 2.8kg. It comes in Matte White or Black and has wall mounting sockets (12.7mm x 10-32 thread). Being smaller means you can generally fit it between the TV legs.

There are front LEDs, and the rear has power in, Ethernet, HDMI 2.1 eARC and the pairing button.

Set-up – so easy

Download the Sonos App (Android or iOS)

  • Create an account if you don’t already have Sonos gear
  • Plugin the Sonos Beam Gen 2 to power (there is an optional Ethernet connection, but use Wi-Fi for now)
  • The App finds the Sonos Beam Gen 2 and asks you to place your smartphone on it to set up an NFC pair connection.
  • It will then update any firmware. Allocate it to a room (for voice assistance)
  • Plug the HDMI eARC cable (or ARC or Optical – adapter provided for older devices) into the TV eARC port and the Sonos Beam Gen 2 port.
  • The TV should find it, and you will start to hear sound via the Beam Gen 2. The TV remote then controls the sound.
  • You can wall mount with the optional $79 Beam mount

That is it – and it is fool-proof. In years of reviewing Sonos, I have never experienced a set-up issue.

We are also testing the Sonos Sub and a pair of rear One SL speakers – totalling $2376. These make it a 7.1 system, or the rears can be set to “Ambient’ which supplements the front sound (5.0)

As usual, the App found the speakers and set them up in home theatre mode – simple.

Sonos App

My first piece of advice is to leave all settings at default. But if you do want to fiddle, each screen has a handy reset button.

One thing the Android App cannot do is use Trueplay as it is for iPhone only. It adapts the sound to the room. If you don’t have an iPhone, get someone who has and install the App, sign in and tune the room. Don’t forget to remove the App after use.

The App also allows you to add a voice service – at this stage, Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa. Siri support is via AirPlay 2 on iPhone. This can do anything that a voice assistant speaker typically does.

As you get familiar with the App, you can do things like

  • Change the EQ (it is a simple +/- 10Db bass and treble slider)
  • Turn on/off loudness
  • Change default start-up levels for music and TV
  • Change the purpose of the rear speakers (if you have them) from ambient (supplement the Sonos Beam Gen 2) to full (separate outputs into the rear left/right channels – 7.0)
  • Alter sub-woofer levels (if you have it), and this is quite effective
  • Sync TV dialogue (in case lip-sync is not perfect)
  • Compensate (to a degree) for a slow Wi-Fi AC router by changing the millisecond latency
  • Set up a TV remote (if not set up during installation)

Sound codec support

It has:

  • Mono/Stereo PCM
  • Dolby Digital
  • DTS
  • Dolby Digital Plus
  • Dolby Atmos (Dolby Digital Plus)
  • Dolby Atmos (DA)
  • Dolby TrueHD
  • Dolby Atmos (True HD)
  • Multichannel PCM
  • Dolby Multichannel PCM

This means that it caters for almost every sound codec from 1.0 to 5.1 and Dolby Atmos and DTS. Remember that 90% of the time, you will be listening to PCM 2.0 free-to-air TV or 5.1 Dolby Digital/Plus and this soundbar is perfect for that.

One HDMI

The prime purpose of HDMI 2.1 eARC is to pass through DA metadata to the soundbar. If the TV supports Dolby Vision and DA, you can use its standard HDMI 2.1 Ports for other devices and pass through the DA metadata (or any other TV sound type) to the Sonos Beam Gen 2.

Read our HDMI cable guide HDMI cables are not all the same. Which one do you need?

Sound/Volume

The maximum volume is 85dB with negligible distortion. That will fill a small to medium room but remember the maximum psychoacoustic throw is about 5 metres from the TV. In short – it is brilliant – far better than any all-in-one I have encountered. And it is far clearer – no muddy tone or sibilance – perfect for the hearing impaired.

The Beam 2 achieves a beautifully flat neutral (excellent) frequency response, neither adding nor subtracting from the source content. This allows so much scope for different EQs like clear voice or whatever music genre you like.

It has some deep bass building solidly from 20Hz to about 50Hz; then, it is flat almost right through to 20kHz.

The optional rear front-firing Sonos One SL speakers add fine details you don’t hear from the soundbar three to four metres away. They also aid in sound phasing, so they may be a good investment.

CyberShack’s view – Sonos Beam Gen 2 is an exceptional $699 soundbar

Sonos is an aspirational brand – a bit like Apple or Dyson. Yes, it is more expensive, but Sonos has a legion of fans that won’t use anything else. Price is what you pay – value is what you get!

I want to position this soundbar. It is a $699, all-in-one, 5.0 Dolby Atmos capable (via psychoacoustics) soundbar. At the price is brilliant value for its performance. But it is not a 5.1.2 DA soundbar with discrete front left/right up-firing speakers nor a 7.1.4 with rear left/right forward-firing and up-firing speakers.

So, the compromise is simple. Do you spend $699 for a pretty good DA that will suit most of our needs or up to $2000 for a discrete system from LG or Samsung? The answer is equally simple.

  • Buy this if you don’t have a DV/DA TV (as it will be the best sounding 5.0 ‘smart’ soundbar for the price)
  • Buy this if you have a DV/DA TV and a viewing space of about 5 x 5m with the right room design (left and right walls to bounce sound off)
  • Don’t buy this if you want full DA or have a larger space to fill. LG works best with any brand TV, and you can’t go past its SP11RA 7.1.4 ($1749) or its SP9YA 5.1.2 ($1298 with rear speakers). If you have a recent Samsung Q-series TV, its HW-Q950A was $1999 but run out at $1399.

So, while it lacks up-firing speakers (the Sonos Arc has these), real-world tests show it produces a reasonable Dolby Atmos experience. The DA decoding and downmix to its five speakers/amps are flawless and add some 3D spatial height. ‘Some’ is the operative word as it does require the correct type of room to bounce that sound around.

Rating

So far, this is the best 5.0 soundbar (DA or otherwise) we have seen, especially for a compact one. Its clear dialogue is outstanding, so it is also suitable for the hearing impaired. Its psychoacoustics are excellent – not as good as dedicated speakers but very good. There are no downsides as long as you don’t have a sprawling, large TV viewing area.

We recommend it for media rooms and smaller lounges.

Sonos Beam Gen 2

$699
9.1

Features

8.5/10

Value

10.0/10

Performance

9.0/10

Ease of Use

9.0/10

Design

9.0/10

Pros

  • The best 5.0 Dolby Atmos soundbar we have tested
  • For 2.0 to 5.1, the EQ allows you to fine-tune it for clear dialogue or other sound signature
  • Does a great job with psychoacoustic Dolby height projection
  • The price is right
  • Does not need the sub-woofer or rears, although the latter enhances the DA experience

Cons

  • Adding the two rears/sub means you should look at dedicated 7.1.2 or higher DA systems


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