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Sonos Arc vs Beam Soundbar (2020): The Tale of Two Soundbars

The long-awaited arrival of the Sonos Arc has put back the spotlight on Sonos’ line of soundbars. Although its predecessor, the Playbar, was a superb speaker, it lacked the HDMI compatibility needed to deliver Dolby Atmos playback. With the Arc’s release, Sonos is keen on expanding support to surround sound audio formats while also future-proofing its range of soundbars.

Interestingly, the Sonos Beam—the company’s mid-tier device—is being kept in the lineup. Although it’s smaller than the Arc, it comes with built-in voice assistant, together with AirPlay 2 compatibility and Speech Enhancement features. For $399, the Beam is also half the price of the high-end Sonos Arc. Given these two options, which one is the right soundbar for you?

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Sonos Arc

The Sonos Arc soundbar offers an impressive array of custom-designed drivers and HDMI support for Dolby Atmos-playback. If you're after an immersive cinematic sound experience, the Sonos Arc won't disappoint.

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Sonos Arc vs Beam Soundbar Comparison Chart

ModelSonos ArcSonos Beam
 Sonos Arc SoundbarSonos Beam
PriceCheck Price

at Amazon.com

Check Price

at Amazon.com

Dimensions3.4 x 45 x 4.5 inches (87 x 1141.7 x 115.7 mm)2.70 x 25.625 x 3.94 inches (68.5 x 651 x 100 mm)
Weight13.78 lb (6.25 kg)6.2 lbs (2.8 kg)
ColorBlack with matte finish

 

White with matte finish

Black

 

White

Audio11x Class-D Digital amplifiers

 

8x elliptical woofers

3x silk dome tweeters

Built-in mic

5x Class-D Digital amplifiers

 

4x woofers

1x tweeter

Built-in mic

CompatibilitySonos S2, Apple Airplay 2Sonos S2, Apple Airplay 2
Network1x 10/100 Mbps ethernet port;

 

HDMI ARC/eARC input

1x 10/100 Mbps ethernet port;

 

HDMI ARC input

WiFiYesYes
Dolby Atmos SupportYesNo
Voice AssistantsYes, Google Assistant and Amazon AlexaYes, Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa
Infrared ReceiverYesYes
Touch ControlsYesYes
Speech EnhancementYesYes
Automatic Software UpdatesYesYes
Release Date20202018

Design

The Sonos Arc and the Sonos Beam are both carefully-designed soundbars that draw attention to the sound quality by keeping their forms simple and sleek. 

Both the Arc (top) and the Beam (bottom) feature subtle, touch capacitive controls. 

While the Arc’s predecessor came in a squarish form, the new high-end soundbar from Sonos actually takes its cue from the Beam’s design aesthetic: austere and even unassuming. Whether mounted on the wall or set just beneath the TV, the Sonos Arc looks the same with its discreet exterior that underplays the massive audio upgrades it carries.

Size and shape are where the two soundbars are most notably different. The Beam is more compact at two feet long, and three inches tall. Its shape more closely resembles a baguette while the Arc looks more like a minimalist drawing tube.

Despite these pedestrian comparisons, both the Sonos Arc and the Sonos Beam are carefully-designed soundbars, with seamless speaker grilles in simple black or white finishes that allow them to be unobtrusive in any home theatre setup. Although the Sonos Beam can also be mounted, it looks its best when resting under a TV. The Arc, on the other hand, is a sophisticated-looking hardware that should complement larger setups.

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Sonos Beam Smart Soundbar

Tuned by award-winning sound engineers and equipped with Amazon Alexa, the Sonos Beam is the audio giant's most compact and affordable soundbar to date.

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Audio

The Sonos Arc boasts of best-in-class audio drivers that support Dolby Atmos while the Beam packs plenty of punch despite its compact size. 

 

Sonos advertises the Arc (left) as suited for TVs larger than 49″ and the Beam (right) for TVs 49″ and smaller.

They say that with more size comes more power. As we know with Sonos, they always beg to differ. Given its compact body, the Sonos Beam still delivers plenty of punch. But compared to the much larger Arc, the Beam sports a more modest speaker array.

There are four mid-range drivers in the Beam—two front-facing, and one angled at each end of the soundbar—and a single, center-mounted tweeter. For this kind of setup, you get three audio channels with a surprisingly clear stereo separation. The Beam’s full-range woofers are particularly useful for mid-range vocal frequencies, adding warmth to the bass that’s also partly due to the presence of three passive radiators that move air inside the soundbar.

On the other hand, the Sonos Arc builds on the Playbar’s impressive sound output while redesigning how its drivers—eight custom-designed woofers and three silk-dome tweeters—are set up. Two upward-firing speakers help create the height channels for Dolby Atmos, while an additional two drivers on both ends of the Arc deliver an ultra-wide soundstage. Another four are placed on the front, together with precisely angled tweeters for wall-to-wall coverage.

You can pair the Beam with other Sonos speakers, like the One or Play:5, for a surround sound setup but the Arc’s size and Atmos-ready setup will, at the end of the day, have a clearer advantage in presenting an immersive, sonic experience. Nonetheless, Sonos’ mid-tier soundbar is as capable as it gets, considering the price and its compact size.

Features

Both the Sonos Arc and Beam come with built-in voice assistants as well as Apple AirPlay 2 compatibility. 

 

A white Sonos Beam blends seamlessly with furnishings and shelves.

Despite differences in design and sound performance, the Sonos Arc and Beam still share a lot in common. Both come with built-in voice control, Apple AirPlay 2 compatibility, as well as Speech Enhancement.

With Alexa and Google Assistant support, the soundbars also double as standalone smart speakers. This means you can interact with either one of your preferred assistants to stream podcasts, get updates about the weather, set alarms, or get ingredients for a recipe. If you’re worried about privacy issues, then you’ll be reassured there is a Mute for Privacy option that disables this feature in both soundbars.

The Sonos Arc and Beam also work with AirPlay 2, making it easier for you to stream content or access your favorite services from your Apple device or through Siri. Like in the original Playbar, you also get Speech Enhancement, an option you can enable to improve speech clarity in the movie or shows you’re watching.

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Sonos Beam Smart Soundbar

Tuned by award-winning sound engineers and equipped with Amazon Alexa, the Sonos Beam is the audio giant's most compact and affordable soundbar to date.

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Connectivity

Although the two soundbars have an HDMI port, only the Arc supports eARC input for Dolby Atmos-playback. 

 

Here’s a look at the discreetly tucked ports of the Sonos Arc (top) and the Sonos Beam (bottom).

If you’re not keen on using the Sonos App or voice command to manage your speakers, you’ll most likely welcome the fact the Arc and Beam both leverage HDMI ARC. By connecting to your TV’s HDMI ARC input, your television’s remote control will be able to adjust the Sonos soundbars’ volume. You can also opt for the infrared receiver in both speakers as an alternative. In the case of the Arc and the Beam, you get a single HDMI port in addition to the optical audio cable that the Playbar was limited to. The Arc, however, includes eARC support to receive higher resolution audio streams, including Dolby Atmos.

Verdict

The Sonos Arc is for audiophiles looking for a top-of-the-line home theatre while the Sonos Beam is a great entry-point for buyers on a budget wanting to try out the Sonos range of soundbars. 

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Sonos Beam Smart Soundbar

Tuned by award-winning sound engineers and equipped with Amazon Alexa, the Sonos Beam is the audio giant's most compact and affordable soundbar to date.

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Deal Finder
Sonos Arc

The Sonos Arc soundbar offers an impressive array of custom-designed drivers and HDMI support for Dolby Atmos-playback. If you're after an immersive cinematic sound experience, the Sonos Arc won't disappoint.

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By introducing the Arc while still keeping the Beam in its range of soundbars, Sonos is essentially offering consumers more options. With its $799 price tag, the Sonos Arc is clearly the premium model, offering an impressive array of custom-designed drivers as well as HDMI support for Dolby Atmos-playback. Audiophiles who won’t bat an eyelash over the price, and who are looking for the most immersive cinematic sound experience Sonos can offer will be pleased with this model.

If you’re someone looking for a high-quality soundbar at a more reasonable price point, the Sonos Arc is still an excellent option. While you won’t get Dolby Atmos-support, you still get HDMI ARC, AirPlay 2 compatibility, and expanded functionality with its built-in voice assistants. It’s a well-rounded speaker for casual buyers looking for a home theatre that’s more than capable.

FAQs

📌 What’s the difference between the Sonos Arc and Sonos Beam?

Unlike the Sonos Beam, the Sonos Arc comes with a redesigned driver setup as well as support for Dolby Atmos-playback.

📌 Is the Sonos Arc better than the Sonos Beam

The Sonos Arc’s audio features and its larger size gives it an advantage over the Beam in terms of delivering a truly immersive, cinematic sound experience.

📌 Does the Sonos Beam come with Amazon Alexa?

The Sonos Beam supports both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.

📌 Should I buy the Sonos Arc?

The Sonos Arc is one of the best soundbars you can get for audio separation with the added feature of voice assistants built-in.

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Mari Bassig
Mari Bassig

Senior Editor, writer and researcher passionate about gadgets, social media, and music.