Sonos Beam combines smart speaker and soundbar
The wireless audio experts at Sonos just unveiled their newest device: The Sonos Beam. Built specifically for the living room, and with Amazon Alexa functionality on board, it rolls the functions of a smart speaker and a soundbar into a single device.
During the launch event, Sonos reiterated its commitment to making its platform as open as possible – you can already play tunes from Google Play Music, Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer and more on its hardware – and to that end, the Beam will support "additional voice assistants" over time.
In other words, Sonos wants to get this working with the Google Assistant and Siri further down the line, just like the Sonos One.
Out of the box you get Alexa, and as well as all the usual Alexa functions – updates on the weather, reminders to buy milk – you'll be able to use your voice to control your television, as long as it supports the up-and-coming HDMI ARC (Audio Return Channel) standard. Essentially, it gives the soundbar the power to act as a full remote control, changing volume levels, turning the set on and off, and so on.
Besides the embedded smarts, there is of course the sound. This device is smaller and cheaper than the Sonos Playbase, the company's previous premium speaker for the living room, so if you're not concerned with digital assistants then the Playbase might still be the better bet in terms of audio quality.
The Beam has five main speakers to the Playbase's 10, but Sonos is still promising "incredible room-filling sound" from the speaker, and as with every Sonos device, you can connect it up to other Sonos speakers on your home network (so you could maybe add the Sonos Sub for some extra base).
The Beam includes four custom-built elliptical full-range woofers, a single tweeter, and three passive radiators, which apparently gives it "deep, warm bass" and "superior mid-range performance" if you want to take Sonos' word for it. The company's speakers are usually top-notch in terms of audio quality, so we'd expect the same again. Five linear far-field microphones handle voice detection duties.
As usual, you can stream music from Spotify, Google Play Music, Apple Music and a host of other places via the Sonos app on mobile and desktop. Sonos has also promised that AirPlay 2 support will be arriving next month.
And the Beam has been built to make the audio from your movies and TV shows sound as good as your music. The speaker has a speech enhancement feature for hard-to-hear dialog, and even a Night Sound mode that apparently lets you watch the box without waking the whole household.
It's smaller than you might realize too, just 25.6 inches (65 cm) long, 3.94 inches (10 cm) deep, and 2.7 inches (6.9 cm) high. In the spec sheet, Sonos says it's perfect for "small to mid-sized rooms," so maybe not a good choice for halls and bigger spaces.
Finally, the price is lower than you might expect from Sonos: It can be yours for US$399 from July 17, and preorders are open now.
Product page: Sonos