We’ve known that Sonos has been working on a new smart home theater speaker ever since the company’s FCC filings back in March, and today the company did just that: meet the Sonos Beam ($399). It’s a smaller and cheaper soundbar than the Sonos Playbar. It’s also smarter — the Beam includes a five-microphone array that supports Alexa voice commands (like the Sonos One) and will eventually work with Siri when AirPlay 2 support comes this July.
The Sonos Beam is designed as a starter home theater speaker, but it can also be used to play music just like a Sonos One. The soundbar is 60 percent smaller and $300 cheaper than a Playbar, so it’s a better speaker option for those on a budget. And it’s to able to group with other Sonos speakers in a multi-room system. The Sonos Beam is a three-channel system (left, right and center), but for those who want the complete 5.1 surround sound experience, you can pair the Sonos Beam with two Sonos Ones (or two Play:1s) and a Sonos Sub.
Maybe the biggest difference, when compared to the Playbar and Playbase, besides voice control, is that it has an HDMI port rather than an optical port, which allows the Sonos Beam to better control your TV. This enables users to ask Alexa (and eventually Siri and Google Assistant) to turn the TV on and off, as well as adjust the TV’s volume. This makes it possible to adjust volume using the TV’s remote without confusing the Sonos Beam. For older TVs that may not have an HDMI port, or for people who don’t want to use one of their TV’s precious HDMI ports on a soundbar, Sonos will also ship with an optical to HDMI adapter with the speaker.
The Sonos Beam was the star attraction of today’s event, but Sonos also reiterated its committed to working with all voice control assistants. All “new” Sonos speakers — meaning the Sonos One, the second-gen Play:5, the Playbase and the Sonos Beam — already have Alexa support, and they’ll get AirPlay 2 support this July. Google Assistant support is also coming, though Sonos still hasn’t announced a release date. And to demonstrate how they’ll all work together, Sonos’s VP of software, Antoine Leblond, gave a pretty cool demo — he asked Siri to play a song, then asked Alexa what song was playing… and it worked. This cross-platform voice control promises to pertain to the Sonos Beam, as well, so anybody will be able to come into your home and control your music or TV using the voice assistant of their choice.
The thing to remember is that the Sonos Beam’s voice controls are still contingent on your smart devices and what services you subscribe to. For example, if you have an Amazon Fire TV (or Fire TV streaming stick) and a Prime Video subscription, you’ll be able to summon a specific show right to your TV by asking Alexa. Apple TV users might not be able to directly summon specific shows with their voice, especially at launch, since things tend to get complicated when voice assistants try controlling things they aren’t used to controlling. These are the types of things we’re looking to test out when we get our hands on a Sonos Beam.
The Sonos Beam is available for pre-order today and ships July 17.
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