Sonos Ray vs Sonos Beam: Which TV Soundbar Should You Buy?

Back in 2017, Sonos released one of its best bang for the buck: the Sonos One Smart speaker that offered great sound and an affordable entry into Sonos’ excellent whole-home audio system. If the Sonos Beam sound bar It didn’t appear to be the same type of slam dunk, partly due to its relatively high price. Now, with the arrival of the Sonos Ray Soundbar, the company finally has a One equivalent for its TV speakers.

The ray costs a lot more than the ray, but it gives you Dolby Atmos, bigger sound and integrated voice control. Is it worth the extra money? what are the other differences I compared both side-by-side at CNET’s audio lab to find out. Read on to find out which of these excellent TV soundbars you should choose.

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The Sonos Ray is a basic stereo soundbar that offers big sound in a relatively compact package. It offers a digital optical connection to a TV and Wi-Fi for streaming music. It features a sleek design and promises an easy setup process. It’s perfect for small TVs, but is also suitable for gaming setups or small living rooms.

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The Sonos Beam is more than just a step up, it’s on a whole different level. It shares the same great design and streaming, multi-room capable music system, but adds a number of key features like HDMI and Dolby Atmos playback, making it sound better with movies.


At $450, the Sonos Beam (Gen 2) isn’t cheap sound bar (it’s above my own $300 and $400 sweet spot) but the product has some key advantages. At almost a 40 percent discount, the $280 Sonos Ray is a lot cheaper, but the differences between the two speakers are significant. One thing to consider is that with the money you save on the Ray you could buy some Symfonisk bookshelves which would help add to the sense of movie immersion.

Optical vs. HDMI connections

One of the biggest changes to the Ray is that it now includes a optical connector instead of the HDMI connector included on the last two soundbars. How large is it? If you have an optical connection on your TV, which most TVs have, that’s not a problem at all. Easy associate the cable in the box to your TV and then to Ray and your TV should be able to do the rest.

Using an HDMI cable offers a number of important advantages, including HDMI (CEC), which controls the power supply between devices, as well as advanced formats such as Dolby Atmos. Of course, while the Beam is designed to take advantage of this format, the Ray cannot.


Sonos Beam (2nd generation)

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Dolby Digital vs. Dolby Atmos (faux) Surround

Even if the TV says it’s Dolby Atmos able to, if you’re watching without an audio system, you’ll see it in stereo… and it’s going to be pretty poor quality at that. The best way around Improve intelligibility on your TV is to get a soundbar, and helpfully both the Ray and Beam offer voice enhancement modes.

As compact single speakers, neither the Ray nor the Beam can deliver true surround effects, but both can handle Dolby formats. The Sonos Ray may be a stereo soundbar, but it includes Dolby Digital decoding as well as tweeter waveguides that make the soundbar sound a lot bigger than it really is. The Beam can also use Dolby TrueHD and Dolby Atmos audio formats and sounds even bigger.

Which one sounds better?

There’s a reason I call the Ray the “Sonos One Soundbar” — it’s because they sound similar. The speakers have a tight, slightly closed sound that’s great for rock and pop music. Still, the Ray is able to deliver excellent dialogue reproduction, even if the speech enhancement feature is only subtle.

The Beam sounds a little different, bigger, and that’s thanks to both its beam-forming side speakers and its excellent Dolby Atmos emulation. If you watch the latest blockbusters like Dune or Mad Max: Fury Road. The speaker will literally fill your room with sound, especially in the height dimension. The Ray simply cannot do that as a stereo bar.


The Sonos Ray

Need the built-in Alexa or Google Assistant voice?

The Sonos Beam has a voice assistant on board, but the Sonos Ray doesn’t. That’s not a huge issue for me because buying a soundbar without a voice assistant can save you money, especially if you already have one in the room. There are a plethora of affordable smart speakers out there, such as B. the Amazon Echo Dot ($17 at Amazon)Google Nest Mini or the Lenovo Smart Clock Essential (on sale for $25), and all of these can control Sonos speakers. Sure you’ll miss the new Sonos voice assistantbut its functionality is limited for now.

Which one should you choose?

Aside from the key differences above, the Ray and Beam (Gen 2) have a lot in common. They’re similar in size and design, and both feature the excellent Sonos multi-room system.

If you’re looking to pair something with a smaller TV or head into a game room, the Sonos Ray is an excellent choice, and I’d pick it too if you want something that plays lots of tunes. The Sonos Beam’s bigger, louder sound means it’s suitable for larger rooms and sounds a lot better with movies.

Whichever you choose, both offer excellent value for money and a clear upgrade path should you wish to improve the system later.

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