Sonos announces second-gen Beam soundbar with Dolby Atmos

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Like many other Sonos speakers, it’s now more expensive

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When Sonos announced a price hike for most of its product lineup last week, some noticed that the entry-level Beam soundbar was absent from the list. And in fact, that’s because the company is working on a follow-up. The new second-generation Beam being announced today costs $449 (a $50 increase over the original), but includes Dolby Atmos audio and an improved exterior design. It will be available in Black or White on October 5.

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But there’s something you should know about the Atmos part right off the bat: The new Beam doesn’t really include any up-firing speakers. Actually, the drivers inside are the same as before. The outside of the Beam has changed from a fabric cover to Sonos’ signature perforated plastic, but nothing about the interior layout has really changed. Sonos says the second generation model has a more capable CPU that is 40 percent faster. This extra horsepower allows the company to pull off more advanced audio virtualization.

The new Beam has more “arrays,” which is what Sonos calls the software that coordinates all playback and phase adjustments to produce immersive sound. The original beam had three arrays, but the new model has five. Two additional arrays are used for steering surround and room surround height audio.

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The new Beam gets a wraparound perforated plastic grille.
Image: Sonos

Despite the lack of real up-firing drivers — Sonos told me it can’t squeeze any into the Beam’s compact form factor — the company insists that the real sense of second-gen beam verticality is what makes the Atmos material pay off. will provide. It sounds like this is one of those cases where you really have to hear it to believe it, and I haven’t had a chance to demo the new soundbar yet. Sonos claims there’s a consistently improved sense of spaciousness with the refreshed Beam that applies whether you’re watching Atmos, regular 5.1 surround, or even stereo content. And the clarity of the dialogue is also clearer than before.

In most other ways, it doesn’t shake up the beam formula too much. It still gets an HDMI port, which has been upgraded to eARC this time around and is thus capable of handling Dolby Atmos, Dolby TrueHD, and multi-channel LPCM. If everything else in your TV series is also HDMI 2.1, eARC should help eliminate any audio sync issues while gaming.

Same port on back, same button on top.
Image: Sonos

Here’s another welcome news: Sonos says it will roll out support for DTS Surround later this year for all soundbars that are on its S2 platform. This extends to products like the Playbar and Playbase, so some devices may be getting the additional functionality. Sonos is also jumping on board, with high-resolution audio and Dolby Atmos music streaming. The company says it will support both of those features for Amazon Music in the coming months; No word on Apple Music, however.

Aside from its minor design refinements, a faster processor, and the inclusion of Atmos, the second-gen Beam otherwise sticks to what the first model did: it’s compact and a good match for apartment renters or anyone who wants to. Who wants to step up their TV and movie sound quality for far less money than the bigger, more powerful Arc. Of course, you also get a Sonos speaker from the deal and all the multi-room audio system perks that come with buying.

The main question is how well Sonos can make Atmos work on a soundbar that doesn’t have high-end speakers. The new Beam was never going to measure up to the level of the company $800 $900 flagship Arc soundbar, but I’m curious to see if Sonos can really help convince my brain that the second-gen Beam is more than meets the eye.

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