With the increased popularity of wireless and other solo-stand speakers, it can be easy to lose focus on the master in the house: the main speaker for our home theatre system.
For months I’ve been contemplating the right soundbar. I knew it had to be one of the big four: Sonos, Samsung, Bose, or Bang & Olufsen.
I have a Samsung Smart TV, so I was tempted to go with a soundbar from that brand, but then I realised just because a brand’s visual products look fantastic, doesn’t mean its audio products sound great.
I also struck Bose and B&O off the list because, frankly, for their high price tags, there really wasn’t too much more bang for my buck.
I already owned a Sonos Play:1 solitary speaker and I’ve used it often to stream music from my phone. For a little bugger, the Play:1 makes big noise. Hence, I figured a Sonos soundbar has got to be the right choice, right? Absolutely.
The Sonos Beam is slim enough to fit in with any home entertainment set-up, unimposingly set up in front of any TV, and attaching itself through an HDMI cable. If you don’t have HDMI ARC (ie: Audio Return Channel) on your TV, then setup can be a bit tricky, but speak with a trusty tech rep in the local showroom and they’ll fill you in with simple enough steps.
Back to the soundbar itself. When it comes to its television connectivity, the Beam is the small-form size speaker Sonos have been lacking – up until now. Measuring a sleek 650mm x 100mm x 68.5mm, it’s 60 per cent smaller than its super-sized big brother, the Sonos PlayBar, so will obviously sit well in front of any medium or larger sized TV.
Controls are at the top of the bar and are touch-sensitive – similar looking to the controls on the Sonos One, so fans will be familiar with the functionality and navigation. The controls are minimal, too, keeping things typically Sonos-simple. There’s a four-dot square on the left for Volume Down; a four-dot square on the right for Volume Up; and a Play/Pause button in the middle. There’s also a button to turn the speaker mic on and off, where Alexa is waiting to take your commands (Sonos is planning to have Google Assist and Siri available through their systems soon).
As for sound, the Beam delivers it in spades. Highs spiral up, lows aren’t too thunderous, and sound is crystal clear at most volumes. Audio aficionados will be happy to know the Beam boasts four full-range drivers, a centre tweeter, and three passive radiators for added oomph in the bass department. In effect, the Beam delivers sound that sits somewhere between the Sonos Play:3 and bigger Sonos PlayBar.
Setup is really simple, with the Beam doing all the work for you. It’s just a matter of plugging it in and turning it on and the Beam will sync audio and picture, ultimately operating through your TV’s remote in a matter of minutes.
You’ll notice when you take the Beam out of its box that it doesn’t come with a remote control. Instead, you have the option to go through your TV’s remote – so long as you have that HDMI ARC connection, or through your phone using the Sonos app. Ultimately, it’s all very efficient, economical and easy. Even the cool graphics that pop up on your screen while the Beam is doing its sync thing will give you a nice surprise.
Without a doubt, sound quality is the most important thing to consider when shopping for a speaker or soundbar, yet surprisingly it can be overlooked while you’re being impressed by the length and size of various bars at your JBs, Good Guys or Harvey Normans. With so many soundbars on the market, it’s evermore important to make the right choice when looking to invest in your next purchase.
Living and working in environments where media is either conveniently converging or annoyingly all over the place, it’s good to know some tech companies are getting things nice and streamlined: Sonos, of course, being one of these. In fact, the brand has been an innovator in streamlining for over a decade now.
In sum, the Sonos Beam is a slim speaker that packs a mighty punch. The sound beyond impressive, indeed immersive, spreading nicely across an average-sized living room. Antonino Tati
The Sonos Beam is available in quality audio and electronic stores, RRP $595.00. Visit www.sonos.com for more information.
(Sonos Beam also has AirPlay 2 functionality. To get AirPlay 2 up and running, you simply need to download the latest version of the Sonos app onto your iPhone or iPad, then run the firmware update for your Sonos Beam. After that, swipe up from the bottom of the screen and select the music playback section where you’ll find the Sonos Beam speaker).