The Not-So-Smart Speakers vs. The Sonos System

Sonos Beam

Juan Garzon CNET

Sonos mentioned that they focused on creating the Beam because they felt the living room was a space that was being ignored in the smart speaker category.

We're live (more or less) from San Francisco, USA and Sonos has just announced the Sonos Beam. Sonos seems to have finally listened and has equipped the Beam with HDMI. I've no doubt the $399 Beam speaker sounds great-especially compared to the TVs it'll plug into-but it might be wise to understand the headache factor with the assistants before plunking down the cash.

The Sonos Beam isn't a replacement for the company's soundbar, as previously rumoured, it's something altogether new. While there haven't been any updates on its initial public offering, the company's integration with popular voice assistants such as Amazon Alexa will certainly help it fend off competition from the likes of Apple, Google, and Amazon, all of whom have their own popular smart speaker offerings. The soundbar is 60-percent smaller and $300 cheaper than a Playbar, so it's a better speaker option for those on a budget. It's not as powerful as the Sonos Playbar but it seems to be able to match the Playbase while one day supporting all three major voice assistants. It's also smarter, coming with a five-microphone array that supports Alexa voice commands (like the Sonos One) and will eventually work with Siri when AirPlay 2 support comes this July. Although you can pair it with the Sonos Sub for even more oomph.

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The arrival of AirPlay 2 also means that any speaker from third-party brands that support it - Bang & Olufsen; Bluesound; Bose; Bowers & Wilkins; Definitive Technologies; Denon; Devialet; Dynaudio; Libratone; Marantz; McIntosh; Marshall; Naim; Pioneer; Polk; and, of course, Sonos have all signed up - can now be grouped together to make a whole home system that need no longer be single brand.

On stage, Sonos demonstrated using Siri to prompt the sound system to play a song, and then later it was possible to ask Alexa what song was playing.

Available in Sonos' familiar black and white finishes, the Beam certainly looks every bit like a Sonos product, which is no bad thing.

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