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Sonos Arc vs Sonos Beam: Which is right for you?

Sonos Arc vs Sonos Beam: If you’re a Sonos user and are in the market for something to give your home cinema set-up a boost, then the Arc and Boost are two excellent choices. 

The Sonos Arc is the latest product from the Californian company, and it brings Dolby Atmos to Sonos’ range of products for the first time. The Sonos Beam was released in 2018, and while it also boosts your TV’s audio – it executes this in a different manner.

Each has their qualities, but in the Sonos Arc vs Sonos Beam, which is the right purchase for you?

Related: Best soundbars

Sonos Arc vs Beam – Price

When it went on sale the Sonos Beam was £399, less than the Playbar (£699) and the Playbase (£699).

The Sonos Arc supersedes them all with its £799 RRP, twice as much as the Beam. In terms of saving pennies, the Beam is the more attractive proposition; but the Arc and the Beam serve a different purpose, as we’ll go into.

Related: Best Dolby Atmos soundbar

Sonos Arc vs Sonos Beam – Design

Both adhere to Sonos’ sleeker approach to design of recent years. The rounded edges of the Beam contrast with the Arc’s more cylindrical shape, but aesthetically they’re cut from the cloth with their discreet look.

Measuring 65 x 6.5 x 10cm (WHD), the Beam is just under half the Arc’s width (114 x 9 x 11.5cm). That makes the Beam better for smaller spaces.

It’s a unit that’s more suited to smaller TVs (around 49-inches or so), while the Arc suits bigger TVs (55-inches and more). Neither is too tall, though the Arc requires a wider surface to plant it on. The Arc also has rubberised feet if you’re fearful of causing any marks.

Both can be wall-mounted (the Arc’s bespoke wall-mount is available for pre-order), and both can only be used in their horizontal orientation. At 2.8kg compared to the Arc’s 6.25kg, the Arc is obviously the heavier of the two should that be a concern for slinging it up on a wall.

Is there a winner here? They’re both sufficiently different enough to not intrude on each other’s space. If you need a soundbar for a smaller space, the Beam is better. For those with bigger rooms, the Arc is better.

Related: Sonos Arc vs Sonos Playbar

Sonos Arc vs Sonos Beam – Features

There’s not much of a difference in terms of feature support. However, one key difference is the type of connections. The Beam has a single HDMI ARC input, while Arc has a single HDMI eARC input.

Here’s where it gets slightly tricky. If you have a TV with an eARC connection then things should be fine. While eARC is backward compatible with ARC, that doesn’t mean you’ll get Atmos sound if you play Atmos content. That’ll depend on whether the Atmos signal is contained within the lossy Dolby Digital+ (which the Arc supports), or lossless Dolby TrueHD (which the Arc does not).

Neither features an optical connection, but an optical adapter is included. HDMI CEC on both allows for control over power and volume.

Both are compatible with Sonos’ new S2 app (you can find out which other devices are compatible here). With the Sonos app you can use both soundbars in a multi-room set-up alongside other Sonos speakers. Spotify, Tidal and Apple Music streaming services can be streamed (along with dozens of others) from within the app. There’s also access to Sonos Radio, which brings with its 60,000 plus radio stations.

Both Alexa and Google Assistant are built-in and use the integrated far-field microphones to pick up your voice. Updates on the weather can be asked for, alarms set etc, etc.

While Sonos waded into the Bluetooth waters with the Move, neither the Beam nor Arc have Bluetooth. Instead they make do with AirPlay 2, which also brings Siri into the equation for voice control. With AirPlay 2, it opens up the Sonos ecosystem to play nice with any non-Sonos AirPlay 2-speakers in a multi-room setup.

Both have Sonos’ TruePlay technology (iOS), which tweaks the audio to suit the acoustic properties of the environment.

Both the Arc and the Beam have a similar feature-set. The question you need to answer is whether you need Atmos or not? If so, then it’s the Arc – though tread carefully with eARC compatibility. If you don’t need Atmos and are space limited, the Beam would be our pick.

Related: What is Sonos Trueplay?

Arc vs Beam – Performance

Tucked inside the Beam is a tweeter, four elliptical full-range woofers and three passive radiators. Two of the woofers are positioned at the edge of the unit and angled out at about 45 degrees to disperse sound. The Sonos Arc follows a similar principle with its three silk dome tweeters and eight elliptical mid/bass drivers. Two of the mid-bass drivers fire upwards for height, while another two sit at the ends to push audio out with three titled upwards at the front of the unit to fire sound into the room.

Both speakers sound very good and consistent with movie/music. There’s a good amount weight behind the Beam’s sound; vocal clarity is good, and the accuracy and spread of effects is excellent. While it can’t produce a 5.1 soundtrack, the width of the stereo image is good enough that it can place effects within the room.

Of course with more drivers and more power – plus those height channels – the Arc produces a convincingly wider and taller soundstage. Like the Beam it can’t replicate a 5.1 system, but the placement of sounds within the soundfield is more robust.

It’s a similar case with music. Both have good presence in the low-end regions; midrange is textured, voices are rendered intelligible and treble reproduction finely done (though the Arc may require toning down for some).

We noted with the Arc that the transition between midrange and bass is not wholly unified, while the Beam’s bass output, while solid, is not the most strenuous. The Beam is more equipped for smaller rooms too, and as such it’ll struggle to fill big rooms.

Fancy more bass or surround sound? Both speakers can be used with a Sonos Sub for even deeper low end, and two One SL speakers for rear channels.

In the end both are fine-sounding speakers. If power and impact are what you need, the Arc trumps the Beam. It is, ultimately, the better-sounding unit of the two. However, if we’re talking in terms of value (and smaller rooms), the Beam holds its own.

Sonos Arc vs Sonos Beam – Verdict

The Beam is Sonos’ cheapest soundbar. In terms of value, that makes it a very good proposition against the Arc, which is double the price.

If you have a big living room and a need for Dolby Atmos, the Sonos Arc is the best choice. But in terms of value, the Sonos Beam is an excellent performance-per-pound option. Those without a need for Atmos and with smaller rooms should consider it.

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