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Which Soundbar Should You Buy?

Investing in a premium soundbar for your TV at home can make your setup instantly feel more luxurious. You’ll get crisp, consistent audio that sounds so much better than the audio coming out of your built-in TV speakers. Even the best TVs have subpar speakers compared to soundbars.


Two of the best soundbars you can buy are the second-generation Sonos Beam and the Sonos Arc. Both are fantastic options, just for different reasons. We’ll dive into every difference between the Sonos Beam and the Sonos Arc, and help you figure out which one is a better choice for you.


Price

sonos beam design
Image Credit: Sonos

Because the Beam and the Arc from Sonos are two of the best soundbars for your home media center, your decision may largely come down to price. At $499 retail, the second-generation Beam is a reasonably priced option that offers solid-quality sound.

The Sonos Arc soundbar is nearly double the price at $899 retail. This price puts the Arc in the same price range as the Bose Smart Soundbar 900 and other high-end soundbars. With speakers, you often get what you pay for, and top-tier sound quality is pricey.

Design

black sonos beam design
Image Credit: Sonos

Looking at the Sonos Beam, pictured above, and the Sonos Arc pictured below, it’s clear that the Beam is shorter, wider, and has a more oval shape to it, whereas the Arc is longer and more cylindrical. Both options look fantastic below your TV, but take a look at the measurements of each soundbar before researching further to ensure they’ll both fit.

The Beam measures 25.6 x 3.9 x 2.7 inches, making it a great option for those who have smaller TVs or not a lot of real estate on the TV stand. With the Arc’s dimensions of 45 x 4.5 x 3.4 inches, it looks fantastic under large TVs, filling in the gap below the TV nicely.

Both soundbars can be mounted if you’d rather your soundbar live on the wall than on a TV stand. The Beam weighs in at 6.2 pounds, and the Arc is more than twice as heavy at almost 13.8 pounds.

sonos arc design
Image Credit: Sonos

The Beam and the Arc are both equipped with 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi and an Ethernet port for connectivity, and both feature an HDMI port that supports HDMI eARC. Or, each speaker comes with a built-in IR receiver, so you can sync the soundbar with your TV remote for easy control of your whole home media setup.

Neither the Beam nor the Arc support Bluetooth connectivity. To stream music, you’ll need to do so over your home’s Wi-Fi network.

Whether you go for the Beam or the Arc, you’ll find LED lights on the soundbar to indicate a variety of things, including when the microphone is activated, connection status, and any errors. Both soundbars also feature capacitive touch controls to do everything—play, pause, skip, replay, adjust volume, turn off microphones, and more.

Inside, the Beam and Arc soundbars have identical CPU and Memory specs. Both feature a 1.4 GHz quad-core CPU, 1GB of SDRAM (synchronous dynamic RAM), and 4GB of NVM (non-volatile memory). When it comes to the speaker setup inside, that’s where these two soundbars differ the most.

Sound Quality

When you buy a Sonos product, you’re investing in high-quality sound, no matter which speaker or soundbar you end up going with. However, the Arc has more drivers (tweeters and woofers) than the Beam does, thanks to its larger size. Generally speaking, the more drivers a soundbar has, the better it’ll sound.

sonos arc on tv stand
Image Credit: Sonos

The Sonos Arc is decked out with three silk-dome tweeters, eight elliptical midwoofers, and eleven Class-D digital amplifiers. Meanwhile, the Beam features one center tweeter, four elliptical midwoofers, five Class-D digital amplifiers, and three passive radiators. Despite the second-generation Beam having passive radiators to enhance low frequencies, the Arc provides users with a soundstage that’s wider, fuller, and more immersive.

Both the Arc and the Beam come with Dolby Atmos support for spatial audio, but there’s a big difference. The Arc has two upward-angled speakers that are designed specifically for Dolby Atmos, assisting in creating a fuller, taller soundscape. The Beam also offers Dolby Atmos support, but it attempts to create the same immersive soundscape digitally rather than with physical drivers like the Arc.

You can use the Sonos app with either of these soundbars to fully customize your listening experience. Through the app, you can set up your Arc or Beam, control what’s playing, and easily adjust bass, treble, and loudness.

In the Sonos app, there’s a setting titled Night Sound. This handy feature automatically reduces the harshness of loud sounds, and boosts the level of quieter sounds, like dialogue, so you don’t have to constantly turn the volume up and down as you’re watching an intense movie. Both soundbars have this feature.

sonos beam controls
Image Credit: Sonos

If you have an iOS device, you can take advantage of Trueplay, a software that measures your room’s acoustics by bouncing sound around, and then uses that data to create the optimal sound experience for your room.

Both the Sonos Arc and Beam offer support for Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, so you can give voice commands instead of using manual controls or going through the app. Both soundbars are also compatible with Apple AirPlay 2 and Sonos Voice Control.

Sonos Beam vs. Arc: Making the Best Buying Choice for You

These two soundbars share a lot of features you can find in other Sonos speakers as well, and both offer a high-quality soundstage that’ll add to your home media setup. However, they’re not equals. The biggest deciding factors to help you decide whether you want the second-generation Sonos Beam or the Sonos Arc are price, size, and sound quality.

If you have a larger TV and the space for the Sonos Arc, it’s the objectively better choice. It’s equipped with more drivers inside to form a wide soundstage that fills the room, and it has two speakers designed specifically to work with Dolby Atmos for a more immersive sound experience. At $899, the Sonos Arc isn’t in everyone’s budget.

The Beam is more affordable at $499, and it’s still a great soundbar. It’s smaller and has less drivers inside, but for people on a budget or anyone with a smaller TV or limited space on the TV stand, this could be the perfect soundbar. It still comes equipped with digital Dolby Atmos support and all the other built-in features that make Sonos speakers so great.

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