Please note: If you buy through the links in this article, we may earn a small share of the profits.
It’s almost impossible to watch a television show or a movie at home without someone in the group turning to another person and whispering, “What did they say?” It’s a statement you hear way too often and it probably happens because you don’t have a good sound system. Back in the day we had CRT televisions that were the size of a small tank, and they had built-in speakers that emitted a decent sound. But televisions got slimmer and something had to give, so the speakers took a hit, which is why you’ve probably noticed almost every brand now making soundbars — to easily improve upon that tinny sound we’ve grown all too accustomed to.
A soundbar doesn’t provide the same immersive experience as a surround sound system, but what you do get is convenience. Prior to installing my first soundbar from Sonos, my audio experience was often accompanied by subtitles, and I would have to raise and lower the sound based on the action happening in a particular movie scene. I distinctly remember having a hard time hearing whatever the hell was being said in Christopher Nolan’s Tenet. Dialogue seemed to blend in with the sound effects and the score to create a train wreck of an audio experience.
After testing multiple soundbars, the two that stood out the most were from Sonos. There are still great options from Bose, Sony and VIZIO, but I found that Sonos provided a perfect balance between ease of use and sound quality. I’ve had the chance to test both the Sonos Beam and Sonos Arc in multiple settings, and I’ve decided to pit the two against each other in a head-to-head battle. I’ve watched multiple films, TV shows, NBA games, listened to podcasts and listened to a variety of music genres to see how both stack up and which one might be the right choice for you.
What we tested for
Set-up: Both the Sonos Arc and Sonos Beam take less than 10 minutes to set up. Once you download the app you can connect the soundbar to your Wi-Fi so you can seamlessly play music like you would through a traditional Sonos speaker or bluetooth speaker. You also connect the Sonos soundbars to the televisions HDMI port and you’re all good to go. I’ve tried to connect the Sonos on multiple televisions to see if there was any lag in the set-up process but it worked well with a Samsung television, TCL and Amazon Fire TV.
Sound: The Arc is clearly designed for larger rooms and meant to be paired with larger televisions. At 45 inches long, you have to make sure it won’t completely take over your television stand. The Beam is just over half the size at 25 inches but it’s still capable of packing a punch despite its smaller size. Both speakers have upgraded eARC ports which stands for enhanced audio return channel. It has more bandwidth, faster data transfer and it also synchronizes the audio and video signals automatically so you don’t have to worry about awkward audio issues while watching your favorite shows or movies.
Space: I tested the soundbars in both small spaces like my apartment and a larger living room in a house. One of the key things to realize about both speakers is that they can work in both spaces, but the Arc’s true potential is felt in much larger spaces while the Beam manages to work well in smaller areas. If you have a particular space in mind or don’t know which speaker to choose from, having an idea of where you might place the soundbar will greatly influence your decision.
How they performed
- Superior sound
- Connects to other Sonos products
- Dolby atmos
- eARC HDMI port
- Large size
- Doesn’t work well with older televisions
What we liked: The Sonos Arc is a powerhouse and a true display of Sonos progression as one of the top consumer audio manufacturers. You can truly feel the bass pulsating during tense action scenes. The dialogue is also crisp and clear and doesn’t get drowned out by the score or sound effects. The Arc creates an immersive experience and is truly something you should experience and compare to other soundbars to get an idea of how much Sonos put into the design and audio experience. If you’re trying your best to create a home audio theater experience you should shell out the cash for the Arc its a considerable upgrade over its little brother the Beam. You can also use Sonos’ TruePlay tuning feature to set it up for your ideal space. After testing it in a larger living room I found that it really shined and managed to feel more impactful in that huge space. One of the other benefits of using a Sonos speaker is that you can also add on the Sonos One and other Sonos products to create a wireless surround sound system.
What we didn’t: The Arc is obnoxiously long. It’s the limousine of the soundbars. It’s a great speaker with real punch, but you have to make sure you have adequate space for it. Another setback is that the Arc really shines while being connected to new televisions that support eARC HDMI technology. If you have a television that was made four or more years ago, you may not have the necessary HDMI slot to support the full eARC experience.
- Great sound in smaller spaces
- Connects to other Sonos products
- eARC HDMI port
- Sleek design
- Doesn’t work as well in large spaces
- Bass is lacking
What we liked: The Sonos Beam is a great soundbar for the everyman. If you hate your crappy television speakers, the Sonos Beam will have a noticeable impact on your audio experience. It has a rich sound that really shines in a smaller space. It also has the benefit of being half the price of the Sonos Arc. I also love the size of the Beam. It can fit on most television stands with ease, and despite its smaller size it has a lush sound that really can take over a small room. You can also add on other Sonos devices to create a wireless surround sound experience, and the Beam also supports eARC HDMI tech.
What we didn’t: The Beam doesn’t have quite the same sonic impact as the Arc, which is to be expected due to its size. Paying attention to how you’ll use the Beam and the size of the space it’s placed in is where you will achieve the best results. If you need a larger soundbar for a larger space you may be better off looking at something like VIZIO for a decent sound at a lower price point.
Both of these soundbars have been designed for specific audio needs. In a way it felt a disservice to discount one over the other because it truly depends on your use case. For most people with a smaller space we recommend trying the Sonos Beam. If you’re a bit of an audio nerd and need something with a more impactful sound, we recommend getting the Sonos Arc. The great thing about both of these soundbars is that you can pair them with other Sonos speakers for a wireless surround sound system, which can greatly improve the experience.
We've put in the work researching, reviewing and rounding up all the shirts, jackets, shoes and accessories you'll need this season, whether it's for yourself or for gifting purposes. Sign up here for weekly style inspo direct to your inbox.