Sonos Beam vs. Sonos Playbar

Sonos has been around for over a decade, and we expect it to last a little longer. Known for its wireless audio applications and seamless networking of its speakers and other peripherals, the company dove into the home theater market with the launch of the Sonos Playbar in 2013. The Playbar features an array of nine active speakers that they bring a heart-pounding cinematic experience to living rooms and living rooms around the world. of the world. Plus, the intuitive Sonos app for iOS and Android devices lets Playbar stream music, podcasts, radio stations and more.

For those who couldn’t fit the vast space required by the Playbar, Sonos thought of something smaller and released the miniature Sonos Beam 2018. With four powered speakers, a tweeter and three passive radiators, the diminutive system delivers a sonic presence far greater than its size would lead you to believe. believe.

Although Sonos no longer sells the Playbar (it’s been replaced by a new flagship, the Sonos Arc), you can still find it on Amazon and other retailers, which is a good reason to consider it when picking up a new speaker. Here, our goal is to help you choose between the Sonos Playbar and the Sonos Beam. Both soundbars have their pros and cons, but choosing between them can seem like an impossible choice.

If you’re not sure which one is right for you, we’ve compared the two to see what the differences are.


Most of us don’t have the luxury of an unlimited budget, so price certainly matters. As it is, it’s incredibly difficult to buy a new Sonos Playbar, especially from a reputable retailer. Online, you’ll find prices ranging from $550 to close to $900 on sites like Amazon. You can also buy refurbished versions of the Playbar through Sonos directly for $600. Compare that to the price of the Sonos Beam, which can still be bought new for $400. Although Amazon still sells the new Beam, the price ($520) is a bit higher.

Why the big price difference? At 35 inches wide, the Playbar features a total of nine drivers, each with its own dedicated Class-D digital amplifier, and makes no compromises when it comes to room-filling, cinematic sound. The Sonos Beam, on the other hand, takes a more compact approach to the soundbar formula, stretching out to just 25 inches wide and with just four drivers and one amplifier.

Even with the Playbar’s reduced price, the Beam is still the most attractive option for those looking to save money. But keep in mind that you can’t expect it to sound as rich or full as its brother. If your room (and your expectations) fit well with the Sonos Beam, it’s a great choice. But if your room is larger, you may want to take advantage of the Playbar’s lower price and additional size and controllers.

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Winner: Sonos Beam


Sonos Playbar placed under the TV.

You already know that the Playbar is bigger and has more drivers than the Beam, but what does that really mean in terms of sound quality? In practice, the Playbar can deliver a wider range of frequencies, at higher volume levels, and with more effective virtual surround sound. That’s a strong argument in favor of the Playbar for people who prioritize the best sound for movies and TV.

Both the Playbar and Beam have Sonos’s speech enhancement software for clearer on-screen dialogue, but the Beam only has one tweeter to work with, while the Playbar has three. Both can be combined with a Sonos Sub (including the latest Gen 3 Sub) and a Play:1 set, Sonos One, Sonos One SL, or Ikea’s Symfonisk speakers to create 5.1 surround sound, but the Playbar’s wider design and The most efficient center channel drivers make it the clear choice for home theater enthusiasts.

What makes the Playbar better for movies and TV shows also makes it a more complete soundbar for music. Dynamic range and volume are better than the Beam, and thanks to its wider position and additional drivers, the Playbar can produce better stereo separation as long as your room is big enough to sit at a distance to appreciate it.

With all that said, Playbar is not child’s play. If hearing every nuance in a fight scene or high-speed car chase isn’t your main concern, and you’re shopping for a soundbar for a smaller room, the Beam might be a better option. In the right space, he’ll still deliver great TV sound, and he’s certainly no slouch in the music department, either.

Winner: Sonos Playbar

voice control

Controls on the Sonos Beam speaker.Simon Cohen/Digital Trends

This is no competition: The Sonos Beam is one of the company’s growing collection of smart speaker products, with the ability to run Amazon’s Alexa or the Google Assistant right on the speaker. With a built-in remote command microphone that can select “Hey Google” or “Alexa” as the wake word, even in noisy environments, Beam gives you voice control over music playback, as well as a host of smart home options. . If you have other Sonos components, adding the Beam can control those products as well.

These voice commands are not limited to sound. If you connect the Sonos Beam via HDMI-CEC to a compatible TV, it will broadcast instructions like “Alexa, turn on the TV.” The Playbar doesn’t have built-in voice control, though it can be controlled by voice if you have a Sonos smart speaker or another Google assistant or Alexa device in the house.

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Winner: Sonos Beam


HDMI and ethernet ports on the Sonos Beam speaker.Simon Cohen/Digital Trends

Sonos components are notorious for their relative lack of connectivity ports. By default, most Sonos speakers will have Wi-Fi and Ethernet, and nothing else. Soundbar products like the Sonos Playbar and Sonos Beam are a bit different in that they have to be physically connected to the TV. The Playbar uses an optical connection, while the Beam uses an HDMI ARC port – by far the preferred option for most setups – which can be fitted with the included optical adapter if required.

The Sonos Beam also has AirPlay 2 built-in, a feature it shares with other Sonos products like the Sonos One and Sonos Amp. With AirPlay 2, you can play audio directly to the Beam from compatible iOS devices (read more) and Mac computers. More than just music, you can also send audio from a Netflix movie or any other audio source. If you have other Sonos speakers in your home, Beam’s AirPlay 2 can be used as a bridge to send that same sound to any speaker in your multiroom audio setup—well, just about any speaker (more on that below).

With an outdated optical-only connection and no AirPlay, the Sonos Playbar can’t hope to match the Beam here.

Winner: Sonos Beam

style and design

The style and design of the Sonos Beam soundbar.Simon Cohen/Digital Trends

This one is a bit useless. The Beam’s sleek, modern lines make it much more pleasing to the eye than the now-outdated Playbar, and the fact that the Beam is available in black and white compared to the Playbar’s only black and silver finish gives it a distinct advantage. .

The Beam’s rounded edges and slimmer profile mean it’s less likely to distract you while watching movies or TV. At just 25.6 inches long, 2.7 inches high, and 3.9 inches deep, the Beam can fit under most TVs. Its concave top keeps the LED lights for the controls cleverly below the eye line, allowing the Beam to be heard but not seen.

The larger and heavier Playbar (35.4 inches long, 3.3 inches high, and 5.5 inches deep) is much better suited for wall mounting, though its controls are even more invisible and located on the Sonos sound bar end panel. One of the advantages that the Playbar can have is that its angled actuators give it the ability to stand flat or upright, while the Beam can only be in one position.

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However, with its modern design and stealthy profile, it’s hard not to be impressed by the Beam’s good looks.

Winner: Sonos Beam


Putting one or the other aside for a moment, there are a few things to consider before making a decision. With the release of new Sonos devices (the aforementioned Arc and Sub, as well as the new Play Five), Sonos has put a number of its older speakers and devices into “legacy” status, which has caused quite a bit of consternation among owners. from Sonos.

Along with the Sonos product software update to a new version called S2, these older devices, such as the Zone Players, Sonos Bridge, and first-generation Play:5 speakers, will no longer be compatible with newer devices, including the Playbar and Beam. If you have a legacy Sonos device in your current Sonos setup, please note that although it will still run the older S1 software, it will not be able to communicate with your newer Sonos devices. Here is a very helpful guide to upgrading to the Sonos S2.


At first glance, the Sonos Beam seems to be the clear winner over the Sonos Playbar in this review. It costs less, has voice control out of the box, and the connections are more modern.

But, as you know, it’s never that simple. Both products can give people better sound from their TVs. Beam provides the best sound for compact TVs or for listening in smaller or tighter spaces. If you use it in the bedroom, you’ll be able to especially take advantage of the capabilities of Beam’s integrated smart soundbar.

At the other end of the spectrum is the Sonos Playbar, which offers surround sound quality that will fill even the largest home theaters. What the Playbar lacks in high-tech features, it makes up for in increased sound output capabilities.

Sonos units will always be high-quality and reliable options. Both the Beam and the Playbar are nearly flawless audio equipment that you’ll love. If you don’t like it either, we may suggest checking out the Sonos Playbase. Designed to mount your TV on, the Playbase offers powerful bass, incredible stereo styling, and easy-to-use controls.

In addition to Sonos-compatible gear, we have plenty of recommendations for sound bars that don’t meet Sonos’s criteria. For those looking for other high-end audio products, here’s a list of the best soundbars to check out if you’re looking for an alternative non-Sonos sound system.

editor’s recommendations

Categories: GAMING

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