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Beam: General Questions

  • 18 September 2018
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Hi All,

I'm considering switching from my Samsung HW-K550 to the new Sonos Beam. I have some questions before I do though - please feel free to answer any as appropriate! Thanks in advance!

1. My HW-K550 came complete with a wireless sub... will I miss not having one with the Sonos? I live in a terraced house so I do have the bass turned down quite low most of the time anyway!

2. I have listened to the 'Beam' in Currys and it sounds pretty good (I always think it is pretty difficult to judge when stood in a big shop though). Next to the 'PlayBar' the Beam does sound kind of muffled which raises some concerns about speech clarity (the Playbar sounded a lot 'crisper' to me). How have people found this? If anything, the Beam sounded much 'deeper' and 'bassier' than the PlayBar... but I've read the opposite online. Voice clarity is perhaps the most important thing to me.

3. With the above question in mind, would I perhaps be better off buying a second hand PlayBar for the same price as a brand new Beam? (I do have issues with the relatively ugly look and large size of the PlayBar though!)

4.Does the Beam stay permanently turned on like an Amazon Echo would?

5.Is the voice recognition as good as the Amazon Echo - the Beam would be replacing my Echo and I can't be doing with shouting 'Alexa' 50 times at the Beam!

6. I plan to pair the Beam up with two Sonos Play:1s. How does this work in practice? Do the Play:1s stay permanently turned on? Or can I somehow get them to turn on automatically when I turn the TV on?

7. Do the Play:1s sound good when paired with the Beam? I currently have the rear speakers for my HW-K550 and they are pretty rubbish!! Are they worthy of the extra £300 cost?

8. How does the Beam (and paired Play:1s) cope with switching between, for example, the TV and playing a song from Spotify via Alexa?

9. Is it possible to have duplicate sound playing out of two rear Play:1s (as opposed to 'surround sound') to achieve more room filling sound?

Thanks!
Nick
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Best answer by Airgetlam 18 September 2018, 00:53

Answers as I am aware of them, not being an owner of a Beam:

1) Depoends on your ears, honestly. But the nice thing is that if you do miss the sub, you can purchase a SUB later from Sonos and just add it to the "room"

2) No opinion

3) Depends on you. Note that the PLAYBAR does not have the mic built in like the Beam does, nor does it have the HDMI input, but only an optical input. Those may not matter to you.

4) Yes.

5) I find that the voice recognition on my Sonos Ones to be the same as on my Dots, my Echo, my Show.. I'd expect the same from the Beam

6) They're permanently "on", but in low power state until they're woken up by the signal from the Beam/PLAYBAR.

7) They sound great when set up as surrounds with my PLAYBAR, I'd expect the same with a Beam.

😎 Just fine? It's not much that you need to do except change what "input" you're playing from. You don't need to make any "changes" other than choosing what's playing, the software should do everything else for you.

9) Yes, there's a setting in the "advanced settings" area for the room that has the Beam in it, where you can alter the way the surrounds work. You'd want to change it from the default "ambient" setting, where they just support the main speaker to "full" for music, where they would act as a separate pair of stereo speakers.
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15 replies

Answers as I am aware of them, not being an owner of a Beam:

1) Depoends on your ears, honestly. But the nice thing is that if you do miss the sub, you can purchase a SUB later from Sonos and just add it to the "room"

2) No opinion

3) Depends on you. Note that the PLAYBAR does not have the mic built in like the Beam does, nor does it have the HDMI input, but only an optical input. Those may not matter to you.

4) Yes.

5) I find that the voice recognition on my Sonos Ones to be the same as on my Dots, my Echo, my Show.. I'd expect the same from the Beam

6) They're permanently "on", but in low power state until they're woken up by the signal from the Beam/PLAYBAR.

7) They sound great when set up as surrounds with my PLAYBAR, I'd expect the same with a Beam.

😎 Just fine? It's not much that you need to do except change what "input" you're playing from. You don't need to make any "changes" other than choosing what's playing, the software should do everything else for you.

9) Yes, there's a setting in the "advanced settings" area for the room that has the Beam in it, where you can alter the way the surrounds work. You'd want to change it from the default "ambient" setting, where they just support the main speaker to "full" for music, where they would act as a separate pair of stereo speakers.
Thanks for your responses Bruce.

I'm still unsure which to go for! I keep swinging from one to the other.

The size and aesthetics of the Playbar are putting me off it slightly. As is the fact it is quite old now (£700 seems a lot to spend on 6yr old technology... I've evolved through a lot of mobile phones since the Playbar was released!!)

But it's all about the sound isn't it? I've been back into Curry's and the Playbar certainly sounds A LOT crisper than the Beam. The Beam really does sound muffled to my ears. But I'm surprised I can't find any reviews to back up my opinion.... so maybe it is just me?!

The problem is... I haven't been able to throw any significant 'dialogue' at them both to test.

Dialogue is key for me.

I'd be really keen to hear the opinion of someone who owns both... how is the clarity of dialogue between the two? Am I right in thinking the Beam sounds muffled?
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1. Combined mine with 2 Play 1's, bass is surely there, not missing my old sub yet.
2. No issues with dialogue, crisp and clean and very present.
3. Beam has ARC, which is convenient, and a small footprint. It's just nice.
4. Yes
5. Did not try, I still use the Echo.
6. It works automagically, it even switches between surround and stereo for music or movies.
7. They most certainly are. They would not just be 'just' surround speakers.
8. See 6. Works flawlessly.
9. For music yes, for Dolby Digital TV, I don't think so.
Heh. I can understand your reservations. And I do expect/hope that there will be a new version of the PLAYBAR soon. I was kind of hoping the Beam announcement was going to be that case, but was mildly disappointed. Yea, it would be nice if it had a HDMI input, or the ability to handle more codecs. Shoot, I wouldn't really mind (read: I'd spend a bunch more money) if Sonos were to come out with a true separates system for 5.1, so I would need to replace the PLAYBAR with 3 separate speakers. But frankly, the PLAYBAR just works. I never have an issue. I don't see it, but I do hear it.

What I can tell you is that my TV and PLAYBAR sit on a white (IKEA) cabinet...and at this point, I don't "see" the PLAYBAR at all. Sure, it's black, and wide, and just big sitting on the cabinet beneath the TV. But it's faded in the background for me, as I became accustomed to the room. But at the end of the day, it's about what affects you, not what affects me, so if you don't think that would happen to you, that's OK. We're not all the same!

Since I do own two PLAYBARs, I'll admit to not having a Beam, just no need for one, so I can't answer that part of your post. Hopefully someone who owns both can.
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But it's all about the sound isn't it? I've been back into Curry's and the Playbar certainly sounds A LOT crisper than the Beam. The Beam really does sound muffled to my ears. But I'm surprised I can't find any reviews to back up my opinion.... so maybe it is just me?!

To put my response in perspective. I was fed up with all the wires so I replaced my (very nice) Onkyo AVR and SVS sub with a $1500,- Samsung n950 to declutter my living room. On paper it was superior, but I was not happy with the 1.20 meter Soundbar at all. So I decided to send it back and get the Beam to bridge the gap till I found something better (already had the play 1's). But it is a keeper until Sonos comes with a HDMI enabled Playbar ...

So coming from a full 5.1 AVR setup to the Beam + 2x Play 1 I'm not missing my old setup at all. Connection is a breeze, ARC makes is convenient, and the sound coming from it is really impressive for a bar that small. I'm a fan now of the beam, for that price, hard to beat.

You really have to try it in your home, dialogue is crisp, the bass it there, and it just works every time without fiddling with buttons and remotes. I enjoy it very much.
Thanks again for both of your responses... certainly lots of food for thought there.

HvLee
... sorry, hit send there half way through!! I'll carry on...

HvLee, I'm now slightly concerned about your response to #9. I was really hoping to make use of two rear Play:1s when just watching normal TV.

I like to just have more room filling sound as opposed to just that 'surround sound' effect when watching movies.

Is this not possible then?
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I've set mine to full, and the surround is more present than before. What you are looking for is 2x stereo? Not sure about that. But I do know that music is blasting from both sides, and surround is as it is supposed to be, filling, not always on. Does a great job in that, gives great balance in watching movies and conveys the effects well.
There's a setting in the room settings, a little bit buried, but it's there. You can choose (for music playback) to set the "rear surrounds" as either ambient, where they function as just support for the sound bar, or "Full" where they act as a regular pair of stereo speakers. This only applies to when playing music/streaming, and not when sending anything through the TV (including music). In the same area are volume controls for those surround speakers.
That makes sense. Thanks both. Shame it doesn't support 'full' for TV though. I know it sounds daft... but I just like the idea of '2x stereo' as you say HvLee - I like to fill the room with sound. Are there any 'hacks' to make it possible do you think? Not to worry though... it isn't a deal breaker.

I have some more questions now based around the Beam's Alexa integration... (sorry!)

1. I've heard that Alexa has some limitations when compared with a proper Echo... 'drop in' being one of them. What are the others?

2. Is it possible to disable the built in CEC voice control features? For example, 'Alexa, turn the TV on'? I have a Broadlink IR blaster which my Echo currently uses to turn my TV on/off... but also turns my Sky on at the same time. The 'Beam' wouldn't turn my Sky on so would rather still use the Broadlink. Does this make sense... I feel I have made this one sound more complicated than it is!!

3. If I speak to Alexa on the Beam whilst the TV is on... does it mute the sound? Or just make it quieter?

Thanks again!
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Cannot help you with that one, I did not enable it on the beam as I have a dot close by. 🙂 I did not put much effort in it as I'm not in a official supported country for Alexa, so I'm happy with my dot.

[Edit] If you skip the Alexa setup during install, it will not be active. I still use my Harmony HUB, works fine.
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But it's all about the sound isn't it? I've been back into Curry's and the Playbar certainly sounds A LOT crisper than the Beam. The Beam really does sound muffled to my ears. But I'm surprised I can't find any reviews to back up my opinion.... so maybe it is just me?!

To put my response in perspective. I was fed up with all the wires so I replaced my (very nice) Onkyo AVR and SVS sub with a $1500,- Samsung n950 to declutter my living room. On paper it was superior, but I was not happy with the 1.20 meter Soundbar at all. So I decided to send it back and get the Beam to bridge the gap till I found something better (already had the play 1's). But it is a keeper until Sonos comes with a HDMI enabled Playbar ...

So coming from a full 5.1 AVR setup to the Beam + 2x Play 1 I'm not missing my old setup at all. Connection is a breeze, ARC makes is convenient, and the sound coming from it is really impressive for a bar that small. I'm a fan now of the beam, for that price, hard to beat.

You really have to try it in your home, dialogue is crisp, the bass it there, and it just works every time without fiddling with buttons and remotes. I enjoy it very much.

Curious what was it about the Samsung N950 that you didn't like? The specs seem really impressive and lots of codec support.
... just going back to my query on the surround speakers and not being able to output 'full' when watching TV...

I've read a couple of posts on this forum where, apparently, you can ungroup the rear speakers from the 5.1 setup and then regroup them as a stereo pair alongside the Beam (or something like that?!). Does that make sense?

If I could do that... and then turn the rears down slightly.... that would be the ultimate for me. As I say, I just wasn't to achieve more 'room filling' sound as opposed to the classic 5.1 effect. And besides, the majority of the stuff I watch (on Sky) doesn't support 5.1 (or does it badly), so I'd have a set of £300 speakers not doing much a lot of the time!

Any thoughts on this stereo grouping trick?
.... I finally went and purchased my Beam and a pair of Play:1s. I'm over the moon with it!

Also my concern about the surrounds not outputting a lot of sound needn't have been a concern. Even when the input is Dolby 2.0 (which it seems to be most of the time providing the channel is a HD channel)... the surrounds are always busy outputting sound. This is via a Sky Q box so I wonder if it does some sort of emulation... or perhaps the Sonos does this? Not sure... but I like it!

And then on Sky Movies when the input is 5.1... it's awesome!

I've adjusted the level of the surrounds up slightly... about 3/4 of the way up the slider. And I think I'll pretty much always leave night mode and voice enhancement enabled.

Love them!
Great to hear thisoutcome, after all your questions!

Especially as my Beam arrives on Thursday!!
Cant wait.