Triple Beam: The Sonos Beam review
Wednesday, June 27, 2018 at 9:00AM
Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla in Alexa, Amazon Echo, Android, Apple Beat, Apps & Launches, Breaking news, Buyers Guide, Canada, Gadjo Sevilla, Lifestyle, Music, Netflix, Product launch, Public service, Reviews, Sonos beam, Speakers, accessories

By Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla

We live in a time where smart speakers are as common as TVs and smartphones. Powering these smart speakers are intelligent assistants which can respond to queries, set timers, run searches and play back an incredible range of streaming music, news and online content.

Behind each intelligent assistant is a tech company and its ecosystem of products. Amazon has millions of items for sale, Google has a massive advertising model, and Apple wants to shoehorn users into its Neverland of apps, services and devices.

Many of the existing $500 smart speaker releases of late seem to be solutions in search of problems. Apple’s HomePod is a circular single speaker that claims to be able to generate stereo sound. The Google Home Max is a heavy and oversized boombox for the streaming age. Both are expensive and serve one purpose, to play back streaming music and serve as the link for expanded smart home functionality.

The Sonos Beam, now that’s a different story. The second smart speaker from Sonos is also their third soundbar product and it is the hat trick of smart speakers capable of solving many problems at once.

Best of threes

The Sonos Beam, which comes to Canada on July 17,  is a soundbar by design. It connects to your TV and routes audio away from the thin and tinny built-in speakers into a far more capacious four woofer and one tweeter array designed to fill small to medium sized rooms.

Unlike other smart speakers, which are like accent pieces that can be placed anywhere around a home or office. The Sonos Beam will sit under your TV or mounted on a wall. From there, it will add panoramic surround audio playback to your TV or streaming activities.

Being a Sonos speaker means it can be added to existing Sonos speaker setups for playing back music from digital collection, streaming services or from any smartphone, tablet or PC.

Sonos Beam is a full-featured smart speaker. Currently tied to Amazon Alexa (with Google Assistant coming soon), it can fulfill all the wishes other Amazon Echo smart speakers can, but it does sound much, much better.

Setup is straightforward

Setting up Sonos Beam is dead easy. You can connect an HDMI-ARC plug to a compatible TV and this gives you the ability to control sound as well as various voice commands (provided you have a Fire Stick plugged into another HDMI port). Turn TV off and on, search for shows, stream, pause, rewind, forward are all voice commands using this system.

If, like me, you don’t have a Fire TV or an HDMI-port to spare, you can simply run an optical-out connection and set-up Sonos Beam to work with your remote control.

Soundbar Supreme

Sonos Beam can easily turn any TV’s audio into a home theatre worthy experience. With the volume at around 40 per cent you can hear outstanding definition, clarity and depth while watching movies or TV shows.

The way the speakers are laid out allows for surprising bass response and dynamic soundstage effects that can provide a powerful panoramic audio experience. Sonos has managed to add features that enhance voice as well as a night mode that dampens loudness so while maintaining clarity, so you can enjoy what you’re watching without bothering anyone nearby.

It’s convenient to use Alexa to raise and lower volume while watching a show or streaming from Netflix. For owners of existing Sonos speakers, the Beam can form a wireless surround sound setup with other speakers. Combining two Sonos One speakers to serve as rear channels is enough to get an outstanding wireless theatrical surround sound experience.

Sonos Beam also supports Apple’s upcoming AirPlay 2 standard, which will allow users of iPhones and iPad to output music on a nearby Sonos Beam or include it in their speaker sets at home.

Three smart assistants are better than one

My household has slowly but surely gravitated away from Google Home devices to Amazon Echo and Alexa powered speakers, which makes the Sonos Beam and its the Sonos One speakers ideal companions for smart home control.

Unfortunately, pairing the Sonos One speakers as rear surround speakers didn't work out for me. The software was surprisingly buggy and could not seem to successfully connect the separate speakers as a set. Not a good look for wireless surround sound setup aspirations. After some time trying to get it to work, I simply unplugged the Sonos One speakers and used the Beam until it was time to return the review unit.

Being an open system means that Sonos Beam will be able to handle Google Home and possibly even Apple Siri commands in the future. You can't say the same for the competitor's smart speakers.

Because Sonos wants to give its users choice, it has levelled the playing field in terms of which smart assistants it can run; all of them.

Theoretically, you can call Alexa, Hey Google and Hey Siri from one device if you wanted to. The extent of the functionality will, of course, depend on how Google and Apple choose to implement their services on a Sonos device.

Wrap Up

Sonos Beam is a smart, surprisingly powerful, and versatile solution that could be the hardest working speaker in your living room.

This Alexa (and soon Google and Siri) enabled soundbar elevates your TV’s audio, enables surround-sound functionality out of the box, and can even serve as an Apple AirPlay 2 speaker. Too bad that connecting other Sonos speakers is hit or miss.

Being a Sonos product means Sonos Beam will improve with time through software updates to extend its range of features and settings,.

Sonos Beam is one of the best products that launched this year and is the smartest choice for assistant-enabled speaker buyers who have a need for a soundbar for their TVs, as well as a powerful and expandable smart speaker that also manages the highest-fidelity and best quality audio in the $499.99 price range.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

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