The Sonos Beam ($399) is the smartest soundbar we've seen yet, and that's because it has Alexa inside. No, it's not just for controlling your smart home devices or getting updates about the weather; you can also use the Beam to control your TV.
The Beam also supports every music-streaming service under the sun; it's AirPlay-compatible, and it can make dialog sound clearer when you're watching movies and shows. Just as important, this soundbar is compact, so it should fit under most TVs easily.
But is the Beam for you? Here's what you need to know before you buy.
What is the Sonos Beam?
Sonos Beam is the latest soundbar from Sonos, joining the more premium Playbar and Playbase. The device plugs in to your television and other home entertainment devices and plays all the audio from those gadgets. Better yet, it's a full-on Sonos speaker, so you can also use the Sonos Beam to stream music, audiobooks and other content.
The Sonos Beam can be used both as a single speaker for your room and as part of a broader surround-sound setup.
How much does Sonos Beam cost, and what's the release date?
The Sonos Beam costs $399. The device also comes with 45-day returns, so if you're unhappy with it during that period, simply send it back.
The device will be available July 17, but you can preorder it now.
How does the Alexa integration work?
Think of Sonos Beam as a bigger and better-sounding Echo device in your home. The device is compatible with Amazon's Alexa assistant. So, if you want to ask questions, control smart home devices or use one of thousands of skills, simply issue Alexa voice commands, and the soundbar will respond accordingly.
Better yet, the Alexa integration will also let you control your television with only your voice, effectively eliminating the need for your remote. So, whether you want to turn on the TV or boost the volume, a simple voice command barked at the Sonos Beam will get the job done.
How does the Beam work with Fire TV?
Once your devices are linked, you can issue voice commands to the Sonos Beam to have it turn on a show on your Fire TV or change from one streaming service to another. And as long as you're logged into a service like HBO or Netflix, you can simply call out, for example, "Play Game of Thrones," and Fire TV will turn the show on for you.
What are the top audio features?
For one, the Sonos Beam's sound is bolstered by full-range woofers and tweeters that can harmonize low and high frequencies. And if you're watching TV while everyone else is asleep, you can turn on a Night Sound feature that will keep your audio at a level point, automatically turning down the sound when the volume spikes.
When you're listening to dialogue, you can turn on a Speech Enhancement feature that isolates and improve dialogue clarity.
Why does the Beam feature HDMI ARC, and what does it let you do?
An HDMI ARC port helps sync the audio and picture with your TV, and it automatically pairs your TV remote to the Beam. However, most TVs older than 5 years don't have this port.
Note that your TV needs HDMI ARC in order for the Alexa TV commands to work.
MORE: What Is HDMI ARC?
Which music services does the Beam support?
Because the Sonos Beam is a Sonos speaker, it supports a wide range of music services. You can see the full list of 63 right here. From Apple Music and Spotify to Amazon Music, Pandora and Tidal, Sonos covers them all. There's even Audible for audiobooks and Radio by TuneIn for accessing local and international radio stations.
Just in case you're an iPhone or iPad user, you can also beam audio from those devices to the device, thanks to its AirPlay support. In fact, the Beam (as well as all other Sonos speakers) will gain AirPlay 2 support in July, allowing you to use Apple's instant music-streaming tech in a multiroom speaker setup.
What kinds of rooms is Sonos Beam best for?
The Beam is best for small or medium-size rooms where, as the company puts it, "space is at a premium."
Sonos doesn't explain what exactly it means by small or medium-size rooms, but chances are, the Beam will work best in a bedroom or study instead of a large living room.
Where should I put it?
The Sonos Beam is nearly 26 inches wide and about 4 inches deep. It's also about 3 inches tall. It'll fit perfectly in front of your television on a TV stand. You can also place it on other furniture around the room.
But since this soundbar plays audio out into the room, make sure you put it as centered as possible. You'll also want it pointing at you, so you can get the best sound.
One other note: The Beam is meant to be placed somewhere around your television and not underneath it. So, don't make the mistake of using the soundbar as a quasi-stand for your set.
Can I wall-mount the Sonos Beam?
Yes, but you'll need to buy a Sonos custom-designed wall mount in either black or white if you want the simplest solution. You can also use third-party mounts that you can buy from the Sonos website.
Does it work with other Sonos speakers?
Yup. The Beam was designed to be integrated into a broader Sonos setup with a variety of speakers from the company.
Pair the Sonos Beam with the company's Play:1 or Play:3 speakers or perhaps even its subwoofer. Together, they can create a full-fledged surround-sound setup..
To make it a bit easier for you to get going with a surround-sound system, Sonos sells a 3.1-channel home theater set for $999, as well as a three-room set with the Beam and two Play:1 speakers for $649.
How is the Beam different from the Playbar and Playbase?
Sonos says that that the Beam is compact and can fit pretty much anywhere, while the Playbar and Playbase are bigger and are designed to fill large spaces with audio.
The Playbase has a low profile and is sturdy enough to support TVs sitting on top of it that weigh up to 77 pounds. The Playbar is designed to sit next to your TV or be wall-mounted. Neither the Playbase nor the Playbar have Alexa integrated, but they can connect to an Amazon Echo or Echo Dot.