Sonos Beam Review: The Smart TV Sound Bar with Amazon Alexa Built-in
In this article, I cover:
- The Sonos Beam sound bar review
- The features of the Sonos Beam sound bar.
- How Alexa works with the Sonos Beam
- How to setup the Sonos Beam for your home
- Comparison of the Sonos Beam vs Sonos Playbar
Sonos Beam Review
The Sonos Beam is the one of the new sound bars that just came out from Sonos.
I have my entire house wired up with Sonos speakers, and I just got a Sonos beam.
I wanted to test the Sonos Beam because I used to have a Sonos Playbar and I wanted to see if the Beam has the same sound quality as the Playbar, which is a little larger.
The original Playbar was launched a couple of years ago and the Sonos Beam came out around 2018.
The Sonos Beam is designed to be a soundbar that will work with your existing TV to provide rich audio but it also doubles as a streaming music player (just like any Sonos device).
So, what that means is that you can stream Spotify, Amazon Music etc. and it doubles as a sound system.
In my set up, I have a Sonos Beam paired with two Sonos One SL, which are the smaller speakers/microphones to create a surround sound environment.
You can create a surround sound system with the Beam.
Both sound bars have exceptional sound quality in the mid-to-high range.
However, why I like the Sonos Beam more than the Playbar after testing them side-by-side is because the Beam has really good bass.
While the Playbar has more bass, the Beam did a great job for any TV-watching and music-listening, and is probably going to perform better than any other sound system that has streaming capabilities and Alexa built-in.
The Sonos Beam has four full-range drivers in it, a center tweeter and three passive radiators.
And those three passive radiators create a deep, rich bass sound, which you wouldn’t expect for a product this small.
The Beam is significantly smaller than the Playbar and can be easily mounted underneath any TV.
But why I like the Beam most, is that it has Alexa built-in.
You can do voice commands like “Alexa, turn off/on the lights”, “Alexa, adjust my thermostat” etc. right to the Sonos Beam.
What really impressed me about the Beam, is that those Alexa commands came in loud and clear, meaning the Beam could hear me from far away.
The microphone on the Sonos Beam is much better than on the other Alexa devices in terms of listening to your voice and hearing your command.
With the Sonos Beam you get the Alexa device built-in, the Sonos quality speaker built-in, and you also get the sound bar feature.
So, you really have three devices all packed into one with great sound.
Some people online say that it doesn’t have rich enough bass.
You can watch a YouTube video comparing the Sonos Playbar with the Beam.
I don’t know about you, but I can’t tell the difference.
If you want more bass, you can always add a Sonos Sub, which just plugs into the wall.
Or if you just add surround sound speakers, like I did, you are going to get rich sound quality because the audio is coming at you from all different angles.
Sonos Beam Sound Bar Features
As mentioned above, with the Sonos Beam you can stream music from your phone, you can it with different rooms, which means you can pair it with other Sonos speakers so the same music is playing throughout the house.
Alternatively, you can have the Sonos Beam paired with the surround sound speakers playing only that music in the one area and have the other speakers off, or you can have different music playing throughout the house at once.
In addition, it has AirPlay functionality too.
This means if you have music on your iPhone or in the iTunes store, you have native control from your iPhone to just swipe up and basically begin playing music right to your Sonos Beam.
Not all smart speakers have AirPlay functionality.
Obviously, it is going to work with Android as well… and you can always use the Sonos app.
The AirPlay functionality just means you can stream music straight from your phone, no issues with native integration with the Sonos controller…so that’s a nice feature for those who are iPhone users.
I like the style of the Sonos Beam.
It has smooth, round edges.
I ended up getting black, however, you can get it in white or black.
It is a nice piece of technology and nice design, that’s going to fit anywhere.
Regarding the controls on it – it has a capacitive touch screen.
It isn’t a touch screen in the same sense as a tablet or phone touch screen, but it’s all capacitive, one solid color white.
It has volume (up and down) controls on it.
Play and stop controls, and an Alexa mute button.
The other thing that is actually crazy about the Sonos Beam, and is why I love Sonos speakers and recommend them over other competing speaker systems – it doesn’t have it yet – but in the future you’ll be able to get an over-the-air update that will allow Siri and Google Home functions to be built into the Sonos Beam.
That is what’s great about Sonos – just like Tesla – they provide over-the-air updates to make their products better.
Over time you’re going to get more functionality, more features with the Sonos Beam than a competing non-smart speaker.
And that’s what I love about the Sonos ecosystem.
So they are going to have an update that will allow Siri and Google Home to be built-in to the Sonos Beam.
Now, here’s what I saw made the biggest difference for my room, and that involves another feature that is unique to Sonos…
…they have what is called a Trueplay calibration.
You can use Trueplay calibration with the standalone Beam or you can do it as part of a surround sound system.
I found that it made the biggest difference for the surround sound system that I have set up and it was amazing.
What the Trueplay calibration does is it takes your microphone on your Apple iPhone, and you click the button in the app on Sonos titled ‘Trueplay tuning’.
You then walk around your room and your iPhone is recording a variety of different noises, sending that data to Sonos and it is custom-tuning your speaker to your specific room.
It literally takes in all that data.
You simply wave your phone up and down, walk slowly throughout your room and the Sonos is putting out these chirps for about a minute and it’s calibrated all the different acoustics of that room.
What this means is, no matter where you are standing or sitting in that room, you're going to hear the best possible audio that you can.
Trueplay is always collecting data. It gets better with time.
And I noticed probably two or three days after I had the Trueplay setup just how clear the sound is and how nice the immersive sound is from the Sonos Beam and the surround sound speakers.
Don’t get me wrong, you don’t need to have the surround sound speakers.
The Sonos Beam is great as a standalone device.
It is just an option if you want it.
How to set up the Sonos Beam?
The Sonos Beam connects to your TV through a HDMI port.
The Playbar and some other sound bars use an optical port.
HDMI is much easier to connect. Pretty much every TV has an HDMI port on it.
There is also some added functionality when you use the HDMI port.
With the HDMI port connected to your TV, you can actually use the soundbar to control your TV with some limited commands.
HDMI to your TV means you can have two-way communication.
So, what that means is that you can actually tell your Sonos sound bar, “Alexa, turn on the TV”, and it will turn on your TV.
Or you can say, “Alexa, turn off the TV” and it will turn off your TV.
You can also control the volume with Alexa voice command.
So for some people, that is a really nice feature.
I love it because sometimes I’ll turn the TV on, I go do something else, and I've left it on and I’m not near the remote control - so now when I walk by, I can just say “Alexa, turn off the TV”.
This is a really great feature, and something I think a lot of people will find adds functionality to it.
Something to keep-in-mind about you TV
What you need to know about surround sound with any Sonos product or Sonos Beam, is that when you connect such devices to your TV…
…and this isn’t every TV, but a particular brand/manufacturer is notorious for this and you can do the research yourself on this…
…but a TV gets an input from your cable box or your satellite box, it takes that and then outputs the sound to the HDMI.
Well, some TVs dumb down the sound for processing.
So, instead of getting true 5.1 surround sound which may be coming from the cable box and your TV, they dumb it down to something that is surround sound like, but it isn't going to export that quality to the Sonos Beam.
This isn’t to just the Sonos Beam, but to any sound bar or surround sound system.
So, you want to make sure if you are looking at a TV or your existing TV, to get the most out of your surround sound system, that you have a TV that supports throughput of that sound at full 5.1 surround sound quality.
And, Sony TVs, they do that!
Sony TVs actually take the full audio in and output the full audio out.
There are also some Sony TVs that work with Alexa, including the one listed above.
This is just something to know, that there is a couple brands that have this issue i.e. that dumb down the sound but Sony is one of them that does not do that so you're going to get the best quality sound on them.
Sonos Beam vs Sonos Playbar Comparison
If you're looking for a new speaker or a new sound bar for your TV, I highly recommend going with the Sonos Beam.
You are going to have better sound from the Sonos Beam than if you were to buy a Sonos One, and it is going to support using your TV as a sound bar.
And, it has Alexa built-in just like the Sonos One.
It’s a really versatile speaker, and cheaper than the Sonos Playbar.
If you are a crazy audio person and you just want the Sonos Playbar, then that is also a great option.
The Playbar just doesn’t have Alexa built-in, it doesn’t have a HDMI connection, and it is a lot larger than the Sonos Beam.
The Sonos Beam looks nice. It’s compact. It doesn’t overwhelm your TV or your sound system. It just blends in with surroundings.
I personally, after testing both the Sonos Beam and Sonos Playbar, am sticking with the Sonos Beam.
People might say – “that’s crazy! Why didn’t you go with the larger Playbar?”
Because of the room I have my setup in, I don’t need to blast music at 200 decibels.
For listening to TV and music at the standard audio levels that I listen to, it’s great!
Now, if you have a room with really high ceilings or room that’s really open and expansive, maybe you should go with the sound bar – the Sonos Playbar.
For most people, the Sonos Beam is going to perfectly serve your audio needs.
The Alexa built-in functionality is what had me sold, with the ability to control my TV with on/off voice commands, as well as the super easy setup with HDMI.
It took me like two minutes to set the Sonos Beam up, and it was working perfectly with my TV immediately.
I had great sound from the TV, and great sound when it was playing music.
And it was really easy to set up with surround sound.
It has all the excellent features Sonos is known for on the Sonos app, as well as the Trueplay tuning and some of the custom features you can do when you have a surround sound setup with a Beam and two Sonos speakers.