A big-screen TV is essential for a home theater setup, but they don’t deliver high-quality sound. If you want to enhance your movie-watching experience, a soundbar can make you feel like you’re sitting in a movie theater.
Sonos is one of the most well-known manufacturers of audio products, so you can’t go wrong with one of their soundbars. The Sonos Arc and Sonos Beam are the two most popular soundbars, but there are a few notable distinctions between the two, notably in size, price and specs.
The Sonos Arc is a large soundbar that delivers high-quality sound on all fronts and is widely considered the best Sonos soundbar.
However, you’ll have to spend a decent chunk of change to purchase it, as it retails for a whopping $899. It’s expensive, but many audiophile customers and professional tech reviews say it’s worth the steep price.
It’s compared favorably to top-tier soundbars by other manufacturers, so you can rest assured that if you decide to break the bank, you’ll be getting a high-quality soundbar that’s guaranteed to give your home theater a boost.
The Arc offers a sophisticated 3D sound effect that immerses the audience in the movie or TV show in a way few other soundbars can. It has 11 Class D drivers, and with 3D sound, you’ll be able to hear things like footsteps as if they’re approaching you or airplanes as if they’re flying overhead.
Also, the voice audio quality is excellent, as you’ll be able to hear dialogue clear as day. It has a Speech Enhancement feature that amplifies audio when characters are whispering.
It has a stylish design, but it’s one of the larger soundbars around, measuring 4.5 by 4.5 by 3.4 inches. For that reason, it’s ideal for home theater setups and goes best mounted on a wall, as finding a large enough TV stand for it to rest on top of can be challenging.
It can also be controlled in several ways, including your smartphone via the downloadable Sonos App, TV remote, Touch, and Apple AirPlay 2. It also features built-in voice assistants like Google Assistant and Alexa for hands-free voice commands.
It’s an expensive soundbar, so the Sonos Beam can be a solid alternative if you’re unwilling to spend the money. It’s also rather large, so it’s not suitable nor necessary for smaller spaces.
Its setup is simple and one of its key selling points, but it only features one HDMI port, meaning it can only have one wired source at a time. Also, while it’s an excellent speaker for music playback, it doesn’t support Bluetooth streaming.
The Sonos Beam is a compact soundbar, but it still delivers fantastic sound quality and would significantly boost any home entertainment center setup. It offers tremendous high-definition sound and is a customer favorite, often ranking as one of the best soundbars.
It’s worth noting that the original model has seen an upgrade, and there is now an improved version sold as the Sonos Beam Gen 2. The original Sonos Beam is an excellent soundbar, and you can still find it sold at a price point of $400.
However, there are a handful of neat improvements that might make the Sonos Beam Gen 2 more worth it, most notably Dolby Atmos support and a polycarbonate speaker grille.
The Beam is more compact than the Arc, measuring just 25.6 inches long, so it’s more versatile and ideal for small-to-medium-sized spaces. Unlike the Arc, it fits fine on most TV cabinets, so there’s no real need to mount it to a wall, but you can certainly do so if you wish.
Although it has fewer drivers than the Arc, it delivers impressive sound for a compact soundbar and is perfect for smaller TVs ranging 32-50 inches.
Finally, the smart features such as music streaming and Google Assistant and Alexa access make it stand tall next to the Arc. Also, thanks to its HDMI CEC capabilities, it can be controlled by one TV remote.
The Beam might not be what you want if you’re looking to create an authentic home theater experience since it’s less powerful than the Arc and doesn’t have any upward-firing drivers, which is a large part of what creates an immersive sound experience. It delivers crystal-clear speech audio, but it doesn’t offer the same booming bass or intuitive 3D soundstage feature that makes the Arc appealing.
Also, while it’s cheaper than the Arc, it’s still much more expensive than other full-length soundbars, which are more powerful and better suited for home theater setups.
Both soundbars are excellent for streaming and playing music, so you can’t go wrong with either in that aspect. However, the Arc provides a cinematic experience that you wouldn’t quite achieve on the same level with the Beam. It’s hands-down the best for large or open-plan spaces for movie and TV watching since it’s more powerful and has more drivers.
On the other hand, the Beam is more than ample if you want to boost your sound output in a small-to-medium-size room. For a compact soundbar, it’s impressive, and its cheaper price point makes it a more appealing option than the Arc.
Other than that, both soundbars are similar in terms of built-in features. If you don’t mind spending the money and have a large space to work with, go for the Arc. However, if you’re looking for a simple sound boost for a smaller TV in the 32- to 50-inch range, the Beam will suffice.
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Kevin Luna writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.