Sonos makes two of the best soundbars available to enhance your movie and TV show watching experience. The $899 Sonos Arc has been a favorite since it was released in 2020, and is our high-end soundbar pick thanks to superb audio that can hold its own with full home theater systems. But with the recently updated $449 Sonos Beam (Gen 2), which sounds great for the price and has lots of smart features, the choice of which Sonos soundbar to get is harder than ever.
Both of these speakers sound great, support Dolby Atmos — the latest surround sound tech — and feature a choice of voice assistants. Which is right for you? We’ll help you make the decision.
At a glance: Who are these soundbars for?
Design: How much space do you have?
The most obvious difference between the Arc and the Beam is the size: the Arc takes up a good amount of home theater real estate, while the Beam is fairly compact.
At 45 x 4.5 x 3.4 inches, the Arc is longer and taller than many soundbars on the market. So unless you choose to mount it on your wall, you’ll need a long enough media cabinet to place the speaker below your TV.
The Beam is a more manageable 25.6 x 3.9 x 2.7 inches, and easier to add to your set-up. . It’s so small that it may look out of place under a large TV, and is generally a good match for TVs under 50-inches.
Sound quality: Do you have a golden ear?
Both these soundbars will deliver high-quality Sonos sound, but the Arc does have a few advantages –which makes sense considering its price point.
Given its much larger footprint, it should come as no surprise that the Arc houses more drivers than the Beam. In fact, there are 11 total drivers in the Arc — three tweeters and eight woofers — while the Beam crams in five drivers — one tweeter and four woofers. This provides the Arc with a wider sound stage and more bass as well as louder sound.
However, the Beam is no sound slouch. You’ll have a hard time believing what big sound can come from such a small soundbar. And the second generation of the Beam has even more audio detail along with Atmos support.
Speaking of Atmos, which is Dolby’s spatial audio format, and what allows you to hear surround sound coming from just one speaker, there’s a significant difference between how the two soundbars produce it. The Arc features two upfiring drivers to create the height effect in an Atmos soundtrack while the Beam uses software to virtually create those samet sounds. Real upfiring speakers do a better job, so the Atmos experience is obviously better with the Arc.
Price: how much can you afford?
Realistically, cost may be the deciding factor when you choose between the Arc and the Beam. At $899, the Arc’s price may put it out of reach for many. While that may seem expensive, it’s also in line with other premium soundbars, such as the $899 Bose Smart Soundbar 900.
The Beam will cost you a more reasonable $449, which isn’t loose change but is more within most people’s budget. For about that price, you can find several other quality soundbars, such as the $399 JBL Bar MultiBeam. If you need to lower your budget, the $179.99 Roku Streambar Pro is an excellent choice, though these speakers won’t sound as good as the Beam. And if you already own other Sonos speakers, they won’t work with them either.
Features: A consistent Sonos experience across both models
The Beam and Arc offer access to the entire Sonos experience. In addition to being great for watching movies and TV shows, the soundbars are also excellent for listening to music. If you are already a Sonos snob, you know you can take advantage of its multiroom capabilities with more than one Sonos speaker.. And if you want to upgrade your home theater experience, you can add two Sonos One speakers ($219 each) and a pricey Sonos Sub ($719, ouch) to create a true 5.1 system.
Downloading the Sonos app makes it easy to set up the speakers and control what’s playing in each room. The Arc and Beam also support both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant for hands-free playback as well as control of your connected smart devices.
Thankfully, whichever Sonos soundbar you choose, you’ll be able to appreciate all the glorious sound Sonos has to offer.