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Sonos Beam Gen 2 soundbar adds Dolby Atmos, better performance

The new Sonos Beam is coming in October for $449.

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Sonos

Eagle-eyed observers may have noticed that last week's Sonos price increases, by 10% on most products, didn't include the Beam. Now we know why. The company has taken the wraps off a new Beam (Gen 2) soundbar, which offers a number of upgrades over the original, including compatibility with Dolby Atmos and better performance, according to Sonos.

The speaker retains the design of the original Sonos Beam, a compact soundbar with an elongated pill shape and built-in Alexa and Google Assistant voice support. The main design change is a polycarbonate grille, as opposed to cloth on the original, which brings it in line with other models in the range.

Under the grille, Gen 2 improvements include a more powerful processor, with a new phased array (five zones versus three), and HDMI eARC compatibility. The two new arrays are dedicated to surround and height information and help provide simulated Dolby Atmos performance. That's right, it's only simulated because while it can decode Atmos, the new speaker has the same exact driver complement as before: four elliptical midwoofers, one central tweeter and three passive bass radiators. Actual upfiring drivers, which are required for "true" immersive playback, are absent on the new Beam.

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The second-gen Sonos Beam looks just like the original.

Sonos

When I reviewed the first Sonos Beam the main issue I had wasn't the lack of Dolby Atmos, but lack of bass. While I will reserve judgement until I get my hands on one of the new units, it doesn't appear that the situation will change that much. If you're serious about bass performance you'll need to either also get the Sonos Sub or upgrade to the Sonos Arc (which does do full Atmos). Current Beam owners may be disappointed to learn that their soundbars, which have a vanilla HDMI-ARC connection and slower processor, won't be adding Dolby Atmos capability.

It will be interesting to see how the Beam (Gen 2) competes with similarly priced speakers offering genuine Dolby Atmos surround, such as the Vizio M512a-H6. On paper, the reason to choose the Sonos instead is that it's a compact speaker and features the company's streaming music platform (including compatibility with Amazon Music Ultra HD) as well as a choice of voice assistants.

The Sonos Beam (Gen 2) will be available Oct. 5 for $449, £449 and AU$699.