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

Sonos Beam

Juan Garzon CNET

No word if or when Google Assistant will make its way to Sonos speakers but sources say it will happen eventually.

-Simple to set-up. Plug Sonos Beam into power and then connect it to your TV using the HDMI cord.

On Wednesday, Sonos executives said the market has been flooded with smart speakers at throwaway price points.

Sonos' new smart speaker features Amazon's Alexa voice assistant. At around 60% smaller and 20% shorter than the existing Playbar, the Beam loses some of the speakers that were packed inside the Playbar, but it still boasts four full-range tweeters and an individual tweeter. With Alexa, you can set moods and perform smart home tasks like locking doors, turning down the lights and changing the thermostat, and thanks to the Beam's proximity to the TV, it works as a handy voice remote for those of us with Amazon Fire TVs. A little over two-feet long, the speaker comes in black or white and has always-listening speakers.

The Sonos Beam soundbar easily fits on a table or mounted on the wall.

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Sonos has decided not to develop its own voice assistant and the company now wants to be more open.

Sonos' Beam isn't technically a replacement for the Playbar, which still kicks around. Most surprisingly, it's not really a smart speaker in the sense we've come to expect. If your TV doesn't support HDMI-ARC, use the included Optical Audio Adapter to connect Beam to the TV's optical audio port.

Siri support is a bit more obtuse and it comes via AirPlay 2, not direct integration per se. If you prefer to control your music and entertainment the old fashion way, you can always use the Sonos App, which offers direct control on apps like Spotify, Tidal, Pandora, and Audible. Also, since this is a Sonos speaker after all, you can pair the Beam with Sonos' other speakers to create a true surround-sound setup.

Clearly, it's smaller, which if you've ever seen the Playbar is a good thing. AirPlay is a prime example: people have been clamoring for AirPlay support in Sonos for years, but it wasn't until AirPlay 2 introduced a way of fully integrating with Sonos's multiple speaker paradigm that they chose to flip the switch. The company pioneered multiroom sound but systems like Airplay 2 as well as voice assistants are existential threats. It'll retail for $399 and be available on July 17, but pre-orders begin today.

As previously mentioned, the Sonos Beam will be made available for $399, £399, and €399.

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