Want to buy a Sonos soundbar, but not sure which one to choose? Between the Sonos Ray, Sonos Beam (Gen 2), and Sonos Arc, there are three options to choose from, all with price points, features, and more.
The Sonos Ray is Sonos’ newest soundbar, as well as the most affordable, but it lacks Dolby Atmos. The Sonos Beam (2nd Gen) is the so-called middleman, billed as a full-featured soundbar suitable for most people. The Sonos Bow is the most premium of the three, with a size and sound quality that justifies the high price.
All three are considered the best soundbars, as well as the foundations for building a Sonos sound system in your home, but only one might be the soundbar for you. Here are the biggest differences between the Sonos Ray, Sonos Beam (Gen 2), and Sonos Arc to consider, from price and design to audio quality and features.
Sonos Ray vs Sonos Beam (Gen 2) vs Sonos Arc: Specs Compared
|Sonos Ray||Sonos Beam (2nd Gen)||Sonos Bow|
|Colors||Black White||Black White||Black White|
|Cut||22 x 3.5 x 2.8 inches||25.6 x 2.3 x 3.9 inches||45 x 4.5 x 3.4 inches|
|lester||4.3 pounds||6.2 pounds||13.8 pounds|
|Ports||Optical digital input; ethernet||HDMIeARC, Ethernet||HDMIeARC, Ethernet|
|smart assistants||None||Alexa, Google Assistant, Sonos Voice Assistant||Alexa, Google Assistant, Sonos Voice Assistant|
|audio formats||Dolby Digital, DTS||Dolby Atmos, Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, DTS||Dolby Atmos, Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, DTS|
Price Sonos Ray vs Sonos Beam (Gen 2) vs Sonos Arc
Perhaps the most obvious difference between the Sonos Ray, Sonos Beam (Gen 2), and Sonos Arc is price. All three soundbars fall into distinct price tiers, though oddly none are considered one of the best cheap soundbarsbecause they all cost over $200.
The Sonos Ray is the more affordable or user-friendly option, while the Sonos Beam (Gen 2) is more expensive, although you get more features. There aren’t many mainstream soundbars that cost as much as the Sonos Arc, though you might want to know that it cost $100 when it debuted. Sonos raised the price in 2021, ahead of the launch of the second-gen Beam.
Design Sonos Ray vs Sonos Beam (Gen 2) vs Sonos Arc
Following a distinct design and language and available in the same two color options (black and white, the staples of Sonos devices), the soundbars all seem linked. The Sonos Ray is the smallest, although slightly smaller than the second-generation Sonos Beam.
What is perhaps different in terms of appearance is that the Sonos Ray grille is flat to accommodate the trapezoidal shape, it does not curve around the top or sides like the Beam or Bow. Since it’s designed for a smaller space, it doesn’t attempt to flood a room with sound. In fact, the Sonos Ray was designed in such a way that it can be placed in a compartment or cabinet under your TV without compromising sound quality.
The same can’t be said for the Sonos Beam (Gen 2), although it’s still a pretty compact option for those who live in apartments or don’t have giant TVs. Although the pill shape is reminiscent of the original Sonos Beam (1st Gen).
The Arc is massive, by comparison. It will eclipse even one of best 65 inch tvs. In terms of placement, your best bet will be placing the soundbar on top of an entertainment center or mounting it under your mounted TV. The Sonos Arc does not fit under most free standing sets.
Audio Quality Sonos Ray vs Sonos Beam (Gen 2) vs Sonos Arc
When you look beyond price and design, audio quality is a key difference between the Sonos Ray, Sonos Beam (Gen 2), and Sonos Arc. That said, price and size can help inform your sonic expectations.
The Sonos Ray features an all-new interior architecture, promising balanced sound, crisp dialogue and powerful bass. To achieve stellar sound in a smaller form, the Ray uses split waveguides for the tweeters and bass-reflex system. This makes for surprisingly punchy bass for a small design, although the soundbar doesn’t get very loud or offer a surround sound effect. For this you will want to sync a Sonos One (or two) behind wherever you normally watch TV.
The Sonos Beam (Gen 2) features a tweeter, three passive radiators, and four elliptical midwoofers, two of them facing forward and the other two angled to either side. It has more sophisticated bass than the Ray, as well as exquisite vocal clarity. Again, it’s not the loudest speaker we’ve ever heard, but it’s more than enough to fill a small house or large apartment with sound.
The Sonos Arc benefits from eleven high-performance speakers (including two upward-firing) and three tweeters (two side and one forward-facing for dialogue). The Arc also offers 8 custom elliptical woofers, with 4 forward-firing, 2 reflecting upwards off the ceilings, and 1 firing sideways at each end. So you’ll enjoy full sound, even in large movie theaters. It’s easily the loudest of the three soundbars, but it still balances the sonic complexities in a way that almost makes us forget the price.
Important note about audio formats: Sonos Beam (Gen 2) and Sonos Arc users will enjoy 3D sound with support for Dolby Atmos, Dolby Digital Plus and most major home theater sound formats. Without an eARC connection, the Sonos Ray doesn’t support high sound formats, meaning it’s far from the ultimate home theater soundbar. But if you’re not an AV enthusiast or buying your first soundbar, no amount of Dolby Atmos might make a difference to you.
Features Sonos Ray vs. Sonos Beam (Gen 2) vs. Sonos Arc
Besides audio performance and format support, there are some Sonos features worth highlighting. All three soundbars have Sonos TruePlay, a tuning process where you use your smartphone to arrange the soundbar’s sound profile to suit your specific space. (Not to be confused with Auto TruePlay on the laptop Sonos Roaming and Move Sonos speakers.)
Likewise, all soundbars work with the Sonos app, where you can link your streaming services for easy playback. You can choose which devices play and at what volume at any time. This comes in handy for creating a whole-home soundtrack or designing a surround sound space with additional Sonos speakers, as we mentioned for the Sonos Ray.
Now for what’s different. Only the Sonos Beam (Gen 2) and Sonos Arc act as best smart speakers, with support for hands-free voice commands via Alexa and Google Assistant. Both of these soundbars also work with the new Sonos Voice Assistant feature. Although it cannot be controlled directly with Sonos voice assistantyou can use another Voice Assistant-enabled Sonos speaker to control the Sonos Ray as a workaround.
Sonos Ray vs. Sonos Beam (Gen 2) vs. Sonos Arc: Which should you get?
We can justify buying these three Sonos soundbars based on our testing and experience with Sonos products. Everyone has a purpose and a target user, but whether you are the target user depends on your needs.
If you’re looking for an entry-level soundbar or an excuse to start a Sonos system, the Sonos Ray is what you need. It is excellent for small spaces, even offering the possibility of storing it in a wardrobe. The Ray can also elevate your old TV, providing a cooler entertainment experience without having to buy a new TV.
As the perfect accessory for a 65-inch TV in a standard-sized living room or bedroom, the Sonos Beam (Gen 2) is probably the most popular option for anyone interested in a Sonos soundbar. It’s got all the features you need and offers signature Sonos sound – plus top-notch voice control – for the best value out of these three soundbars.
Ready to invest in the ultimate home theater experience? The Sonos Arc has everything you could want in a soundbar, from smart features and stellar sound to a simple design and statement size. Just make sure you have one of best 75 inch tvs (or more) to match. Check out our guide to best cheap tv deals for lower-cost widescreen options.
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