Pass me, Sonos
Sonos still made his own way. The speaker manufacturer is dedicated to the speakers connected to the network before there are home networks and they sold a tablet-type remote before there have tablets. Their surround sound systems install quickly and work perfectly. You can buy some speakers, press a few buttons and have 5.1 sound in less time than it takes to get a traditional home audio system out of its shipping box. .
This last model is an addition to the line Sonos and is sold next to the Playbase – a lumpen sound bar designed to sit directly under the TVs not attached to the wall – and the Playbar, traditionally -styled sound bar that preceded the beam. Both products had all the strengths of Sonos – exceptional sound, incredible interfaces and easy setup – but the base was too much for more stylish installations and the bar was too long while retaining an aesthetic reminiscent of the Crutchfield 2008 catalogs.
The $ 399 Beam is Sonos' answer to that and it's more than just a pretty box. The speaker includes Alexa – and promised Google Support Assistant – and it vastly improves the sound of your TV. Designed as an addition to your current TV, it can be standalone or connected to the Sonos subwoofer and some satellite surround speakers for a true surround sound experience. It really shines alone, however, thanks to its small size and its more than acceptable audio range.
To use the Beam, you must display an iOS or Android app to view your Spotify accounts, Apple Music, Amazon and Pandora (this is a small sample.) You select a song. or playlist and start listening. Then, when you want to watch TV, the speaker automatically switches to TV mode – including the speech enhancement features that actually work – when the TV is turned on. An included setting system turns your phone into a scanner that automatically enhances the room's audio.
The range is limited by the size and shape of the Beam and there are very few natural basses coming out of this thing. However, in terms of scope, the beam is fine. He can play an action movie with a little noise and then continue playing light jazz or pop. I've had some amazingly revealing sessions with the Beam while listening to classic rock and more modern dishes and it's very usable as a home audio center.
The Beam is two feet long and three inches high. It comes in black or white and is very discreet in the home theater setup. Interestingly, the product supports HDMI-ARC aka HDMI Audio Return Channel. This standard, introduced in TVs manufactured in the past five years, allows the TV to automatically broadcast audio and manage volume controls via a single HDMI cable. What this means, however, is that you are going to have a bad time if you do not have HDMI-ARC.
Sonos includes an adapter that can also accept optical audio output, but the setup requires you to turn off the speakers on your TV and route all the audio to the optical output. It's a bit of a mess and if you do not have any of these outputs – HDMI-ARC or Optical – then you probably need a new TV. That said, HDMI-ARC is a little discordant for beginners, but Sonos is sure that enough TVs support it that they can use it instead of just optics.
The Beam does not compete directly with other "smart" speakers like the HomePod. It is very specifically a consumer electronics device, even though it supports AirPlay 2 and Alexa. Sonos makes speakers and good at that and this goal has always been in the foreground. While other speakers can deliver a more complete sound in a much smaller package, the Beam offers both excellent TV sound and excellent music playback for less than any other bar high-end audio. The audio throughout the room is expensive – about $ 1,200 for a Sub and two satellites – but you can simply add pieces as you go. One thing, though, is clear: Sonos has always been the best wireless speaker for the money and the bundle is another win for the scrappy and innovative speaker company.