The original Sonos Beam is a good, reasonably priced soundbar. It’s also more than three years old, and in that time, Dolby Atmos has started popping up on soundbars left and right. So it’s not surprising that Sonos announced today that it’s introducing the Beam 2, which is a more affordable Atmos alternative to the Sonos Arc.
At $449, the Sonos Beam 2 is slightly more expensive than its predecessor. (This tracks given Sonos’ recent decision to raise its prices across its product line.) It looks nearly identical to the original Beam, except this time Sonos has replaced the fabric grille with polycarbonate for easier cleaning, better durability, and a sleeker look. Otherwise, it’s got the same footprint at 25.6 by 3.9 by 2.7 inches.
While the outside looks the same, the Beam 2's internals got a serious upgrade. The new soundbar sports a faster processor, which Sonos says enabled it to add two speaker arrays for a total of five. (The original Beam had three speaker arrays.) That doesn’t mean more drivers—it’s got the same four elliptical mid-woofers, three passive radiators, center tweeter, and five Class-D digital amplifiers as the original. Instead, Sonos is referring to the software that coordinates playback. The two new arrays are “dedicated to surround and height information”—or basically, what allows the Beam 2 to handle Dolby Atmos. The Beam 2 also adds eARC support.
Like the Sonos Roam, the Beam 2 also has an NFC chip for easier setup. Soundbar setup isn’t usually too difficult, but Sonos says that with the Beam 2, it’s even easier: All you have to do is plug it into TV and an outlet, and tap your phone to the soundbar. As for features, it supports Trueplay—Sonos’ room optimization tech for iOS—as well as speech enhancement for dialogue and automatically adjusts volume at night. You can also add Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. For connectivity, it has wifi, ethernet, and is compatible with Apple AirPlay 2.
In addition to the Beam 2, Sonos also announced today that it’ll be adding support for Amazon Music’s Ultra HD for lossless audio and Dolby Atmos Music. Amazon Music Ultra HD will be available for any S2-compatible speaker except for the Play:1, Play:3, Playbase, and Playbar. Dolby Atmos Music will be limited to the Beam 2 and Arc, however.
We’ll have to see how the Beam 2 stacks up versus the Arc, because at $449, it’s half the cost. On paper, that makes it an attractive alternative, especially if you’re not entirely sure you want to go all in on a home theater. As with the Arc, however, it uses software to simulate height for Dolby Atmos. That doesn’t mean it’ll necessarily be bad—the Arc did an impressive job for a single soundbar. But we’ll have to test for ourselves to see how well Sonos does it in a smaller form factor.
The Sonos Beam 2 is available for preorder starting today in both black and white. It’s expected to ship globally on Oct. 5. Support for Amazon Music Ultra HD and Dolby Atmos Music will come via a software update later this year.