Recently, I changed my desktop set up at home, and it’s been really great, except for one thing. The speakers that I’ve been using for a few years now can’t reach my tower because I moved it to a new place. Bit of a bummer, but I’ve been looking at new speakers to use, and I’ve actually started testing some soundbars. Well, I had the luck to try out the new Sonos Beam Gen 2 for a while before embargo lifts, and all I can say is wow.
If you’re thinking that the Beam Gen 2 looks like the Gen 1, you’re absolutely right. It really does. From afar, it does look identical. But then you’ll notice that the fabric covered area on the Gen 1 has been replaced with a polycarbonate grill on the Gen 2, which is more similar to the design of the Sonos Arc soundbar. Personally, I think this is a great choice. Cleaning the plastic grill is much easier than having to be careful with the fabric.
Aside from that, if you choose the white option this time around, you’ll notice that the back of the speaker where the ports are is finally white! The cables provided are also white now, which makes it a lot sleeker than the Gen 1.
The soundbar is also the same size as the Gen 1, which means it’s actually really compact and able to fit into most places. For example, it fits perfectly on my desk right under my monitors. Despite the same size though, there are five speaker arrays inside compared to the Gen 1’s three. On top, you get four buttons. Play/pause, volume up and down, as well as a microphone button. Now, the microphone button doesn’t actually do anything if you don’t have a voice assistant set up. Personally, I’m not big on voice assistants, so I didn’t set it up in the Sonos app and yeah, the microphone button does nothing on this unit since the microphones aren’t even activated.
On the rear, you get the power port, a Join button, an Ethernet port as well as a single HDMI port. Now, one huge change to the Beam Gen 2 is that it now supports eARC, which is fantastic for people who want to use it with their TVs. Because of that, you also get Dolby Atmos, which honestly, is just stunning. Before I got my hands on this review unit, I had a demo session in the showroom with comparisons between the Gen 1 and Gen 2 models. It was very clear the difference between the two. The Beam Gen 2 had a lot more space height-wise and the separation and overall spaciousness were definitely improved.
I didn’t use the soundbar with a TV because, well, I watch all my shows on my desktop and I spend most of my time in my room anyway, so yeah. Something to take note of though is that no matter what you want to hook this soundbar up to, you’ll need to start the setup through the mobile app. I wasn’t really planning on using my phone for music, so I initially just plugged in the soundbar through the HDMI port, with the HDMI to optical adapter and into my desktop, but it just wouldn’t show up. I was at a loss for a while, but this really is my fault because I don’t read user manuals or setup manuals first. The setup manual tells you that you have to set up via the app first, so yeah. Once that’s done, you’ll have to set up the soundbar for a physical connection, and if you’re going the optical route like me, you’ll have to jump through a few screens to say you don’t have an HDMI port on your TV (even though I was using this with a computer), and then it’ll let you use the optical output.
Unfortunately, my computer only had two HDMI ports, and I have dual monitors with no DisplayPort cable, so I stuck to optical for most of the testing, BUT I did do some movie watching with a single monitor and the speaker connected via HDMI to try and get a bit of listening time with Dolby Atmos in my room. Bird Box on Netflix with Atmos is… unsettling, to say the least.
Overall though, sound quality is A+. I’m sure you’d get better results in a larger room with a TV and subwoofer setup, but I’m super satisfied with the Beam Gen 2 hooked up to my computer. Even for music, it works really great. And of course, since you have to set up the soundbar with your phone at the start, you can use your phone for music if you rather. As always, Sonos allows you to connect your account with a lot of music services: Apple Music, Spotify, Tidal, KKBox, radio stations, SoundCloud and more. I mostly stuck to Apple Music and KKBox, but yeah, you can take your pick here for sure.
Sonos products are always great, and yeah, I’ve pretty much come to expect a certain standard from them. The sound quality is great, you get really impactful lows with rumble, clear mids and vocals are actually really detailed with a good amount of pop. Higher pitched vocals are also fantastic, one that I’ve been listening to a lot recently is Brendon Urie.
Something that you’ll want to take note of though, is that Dolby Atmos music support is going to be limited to just Amazon Music for a while. It’s a huge bummer, especially for me, because Amazon Music isn’t available in Singapore. People who subscribe to Amazon Music can get Ultra High Definition audio up to 24-bit/48kHz and of course, Dolby Atmos music.
I did ask if Apple Music support would be added but… Yeah, I got a pretty noncommittal answer. Regardless, the soundbar sounds pretty darn good on its own. Sure, some complicated tracks do get a bit crowded, but there’s a general sense of musicality regardless of whatever music I throw at it and it’s just a great soundbar to have in my room for music listening while I’m working. Something that you might want to consider if you’re using it at a desk like me, is to find something that will elevate the soundbar at an angle so it’s at least kind of tilted up towards your face/ears for a better listening experience. Trust me, there’s a difference.
Sonos has raised their prices across the board though, probably because of the semiconductor shortage, so you might find their products a bit pricier than before. The Beam Gen 2 retails at S$799 or US$449, which isn’t too bad I think. But if you’re looking to use this for your TV, you might want to consider adding a sub. Preorders have already started and general availability here in Singapore starts from 6 October, although I think that’s probably around the same time as in the States, so yeah.
Aside from that though, I’m super impressed with the Beam Gen 2. I’m honestly considering forking out the cash for this because music sounds so good on it! If I can’t find a soundbar that impresses me more, I guess I know what I’m coming back to in the end.
Content by Cheryl Tan