Sonos Beam Gen 2: It’s THAT Good !!

It’s been more than a decade I’ve been having Sonos system in my house. I sprinkle them all around the house with at least one Sonos product in each room including a couple of Sonos Playbars and Sonos Roam for multi-duty as a Bluetooth speaker, portable speaker and sitting-area speaker. I have a total of 10 of varying Sonos products minus the Sonos Arc and Sonos Beam.

The Beam Gen 2 has big shoes to fill in order to impress me as, I wasn’t overly impressed with its original Beam Gen 1. It was good, but there was no sense of envelopment. However, since the first gen was launched in 2018, that 3.0 channel soundbar had a lot of time to improve upon; so I’m hopeful.

Remaining the same, the new Beam‘s layout is much the same as its predecessor’s, but the five of front-facing drivers are configured into five separate arrays rather than grouped into three as the predecessor. Under the polycarbonate fascia, there are four front-facing elliptical mid-woofers and an improved centre tweeter that the company claims will produce crisper and clearer dialogue than the original Beam. The drivers are powered by five Class D amplifiers, while three passive radiators provide low-end frequency reinforcement.

Physically, the Beam Gen 2 is identical to its predecessor. The only outwardly distinguishing feature is the use of a perforated polycarbonate grille instead of the original’s woven fabric finish. While cosmetically I prefer the softer look of the old Beam however in terms of ease of cleaning and rigidity, I’d rather have the new Beam’s fascia.

In terms of audio formats, the Beam Gen 2 supports stereo PCM, Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Atmos (both the Digital+ and TrueHD versions), and multichannel PCM. While still a speculation, decoding for DTS digital surround will be added to this and other Sonos products at a later date although I doubt that DTS:X can be added into the roster formats that can be handled by Sonos Beam Gen 2.

When watching Atmos content, two of these arrays are dedicated to reproducing overhead and surround sounds. With enhanced processor power, the Sonos Beam Gen 2 uses psychoacoustic HRTF (Head-Related Transfer Function) technology to give the impression of height without needing to get vertical.

I have experienced HRTF-based Atmos soundbars before and their rate of success vary with Sennheiser Ambeo being at the top of the heap. But at $3,300 Canadian it better be amazing. Truly not a comparison to Sonos Beam Gen 2 at mere $560 Canadian.

Setting up the Beam 2 is a breeze just like any Sonos products. Simply open the app, plug in the product and wait for the notification to pop up on the app. The app will automatically try to find the product via NFC (if your phone has the feature) or via the phone’s built-in microphone (if Sonos can’t find the NFC). Just follow the on-screen instructions and you’ll be fine. Or if you want, I created a simple video tutorial recorded while I did the set-up process.

When watching various Atmos contents such as Netflix6 Underground, a movie which the first 20 minutes is a powerful workout demo for Atmos sound, the imaging is huge. Gigantic, even. There is clear movements, depth and envelopment. No I don’t get above-head sound or sound coming from behind me. But that is to be expected from a 3.0 soundbar. What not expected is the previously mentioned depth and envelopment. Much better than the original (and discontinued) Playbar that was originally sitting in the same spot where my new Beam 2 is being tested. The improvements are so huge that I completely unplugged and repacked my Sonos Playbar back into its box immediately. It is THAT good!!

Watching Disney+Free Guy was also a blast. The busy soundtrack that sounded more like a cacophony jumbled together in regular setting sounded more breathable and well defined and detailed. The same with the atmospheric-heavy soundtrack of NetlifxMidnight Mass. The imaging was phenomenally huge. There’s a real wide-sweeping sensation of movement and expanse. Again, it is THAT good!!

Just like any Sonos soundbars both in the past and present, you can always add a Sonos Sub (or two!) and a pair of Sonos One SL (or its variants) to create a full surround system. I choose not to have a surround system and subwoofer in my bedroom. While the addition of a subwoofer will be a big improvement of the bass response, the Beam Gen 2 by itself is more than adequate to fill the room with both movie and music (I usually watch music videos on YouTube) without feeling the loss of a subwoofer. This is not to say that a subwoofer is not needed, but it’s adequate enough for a secondary system in the house without feeling like a secondary system. Clear as mud?

In conclusion, the Sonos Beam Gen 2 is a tremendous improvement over its first gen by miles. So much better that it even surpasses, by far, the now-discontinued Sonos Playbar. So do I recommend it? Yea! It is THAT good!