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Sonos Beam (2nd gen) vs Sonos Beam (1st gen): What's the difference?

, Deputy editor · ·
Analysis Interpretation of the news based on evidence, including data; projecting how events might unfold based on past events or how products and services compare against each other.

(Pocket-lint) - Sonos announced a second generation of its compact soundbar - Beam - in September 2021. The latest model offers a couple of differences compared to the original Beam soundbar that launched in 2018, though not all are surface level.

If you're wondering how the 2021 Sonos Beam compares to the first generation model, and which you should buy, you're in the right place. 

Here are the differences between the Sonos Beam (2nd gen) and the Sonos Beam (1st gen).

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There is plenty that remains the same between the Sonos Beam (2nd gen) and the Sonos Beam (1st gen), including the overall size of the device, the black and white colour options and the acoustic sound architecture.

You'll find five class-D amplifiers, four elliptical midwoofers, three passive radiators and one centre tweeter within both Sonos Beam soundbars, as well as a far-field microphone array.

Both models also feature capacitive touch controls on the top, the same design overall - with one tweak - and many of the same Sonos features, including Trueplay for tuning, the ability to group with other Sonos speakers and compatibility with over 100 music services. 

They both work with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, both have AirPlay 2 support and they both measure 651 x 100 x 69mm and weigh 2.8kg.

While there is plenty that remains the same between the two Sonos Beam soundbars, there are a few key differences too - as you would expect.

The second generation Sonos Beam has a more powerful and faster processor, which enables it to feature various improvements elsewhere.

One of the improvements that comes from the upgraded processor is better speaker arrays on the second generation Beam. 

The new Beam has five speaker arrays instead of the three found on the original Beam. The two new speaker arrays are dedicated to surround and height information, and time and frequency-based psychoacoustic techniques are applied to distinguish between ear and overhead level. 

This enables the second gen Beam to offer virtual Dolby Atmos, despite offering the same acoustic sound architecture as the original Beam, which doesn't support Atmos.

The second generation Sonos Beam has HDMI eARC, while the first generation model only supports HDMI ARC. 

HDMI eARC compatibility should allow for richer, more immersive and a higher definition sound experience, according to Sonos.

The speaker grille on the second generation Sonos Beam is made from polycarbonate, matching that of the larger Sonos Arc. 

The original Sonos Beam has a soft, material finish which is harder to keep clean.

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The second generation Sonos Beam will be available from 5 October and costs £449 in the UK, $449 in the US and €499 in Europe.

The first generation Sonos Beam is a little cheaper, costing £399 in the UK and $399 in the US. You might find it cheaper elsewhere when the second generation model arrives though.

There aren't huge differences between the second generation Sonos Beam and the original Sonos Beam, but there are enough to make the newer model the better option on paper. 

Many of the same features are offered - like music service compatibility, multiroom and Trueplay - and the design is largely the same aside from a new grille, but the second generation Sonos Beam offers support for virtual Dolby Atmos and HDMI eARC support. 

The newer model is slightly more expensive though, so if you're not too worried about Dolby Atmos support, you might find yourself drawn to the older model to save some pennies.

Writing by Britta O'Boyle.