is one of the biggest upgrades to audio in many years, and while the immersive format works OK with music, it really shines with movies. are capable of room-filling sound, come in compact designs and are more affordable than ever.
The Sonos Beam Gen 2 ($449) and the Bose Smart Soundbar 600 ($499) are two of the best Atmos soundbars for the money, but with very similar sizes, features and prices, how do you choose between them? Let’s break it down.
With the addition of Dolby Atmos, the Sonos Beam Gen 2 is an even better smart soundbar than the original. You may be missing out on deep bass without a sub, but the speaker makes your movies sound huge anyway with its virtual surround capabilities.
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The Bose Smart Soundbar 600 is a compact Dolby Atmos speaker with dedicated height speakers, and its sound quality is top-notch, especially for dialogue-heavy movies and TV shows. The soundbar also adds multiroom music and the Alexa voice assistant.
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One of the major additions to the new Sonos Beam Gen 2 was Dolby Atmos support, but it didn’t involve any hardware changes — only software. Despite its lack of dedicated height speakers, the Beam is actually really good at simulating height effects — better than anything else that’s comparable at this price or below.
As proficient as the Sonos Beam is, it still can’t challenge the physical height speakers of the Bose. For example, during the stark opening of Mad Max: Fury Road, the Bose had the edge on the Sonos with better steering of the ghostly Atmos voices and they were clearer at that. The Bose is able to marry convincing heights effects with crystal-clear dialogue making it a winner for film fans.
Sonos has always had rock and roll at its heart and the Beam is the better system if you like your music loud and dynamic. The Bose is a little more mannered and favors jazz over metal, but this should also win it some fans.
Ecosystem and optional upgrades
Sonos offers dozens of speakers from portable units to large subwoofers, and if you want to make a whole-house system it’s the best option. The company’s Made for Sonos program also enables cheaper surround speakers like the Ikea Symfonisk to be used with the Beam. The only “problem” is that the subwoofer seems made for the Beam — the— doesn’t sound all that good with it.
On the other hand, the Bose 600 mates very well with the Bose Bass Module and the two together make a better sub-$1,000 pairing. On the downside, the Bose Music ecosystem is a lot smaller than Sonos and doesn’t have a way to connect legacy systems.
Sonos has had the one system since it started in the early 2000s, and users can still use these components to stream their music collections. Things were made a little more complicated with the(thus making older components S1) as only the newer components could now get the latest feature updates and services. On the plus side both S1 and S2 feature dozens of streaming services via a single app and a universal search as well.
When it comes to music streaming, Bose has had a checked history. Its first multiroom system, SoundTouch, was quite good, but it was replaced by the Bose Music system only a couple of years ago, and the two systems aren’t compatible. That said, Bose Music does support all the major services and has Bluetooth as well, which Sonos does not.
Both speakers offer responsive microphones that can hear you over loud music or soundtracks, but the Sonos gives you a choice of three different voice assistants — Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and the surprisingly useful Sonos Voice. It wins this round due to the fact that Bose can only offer Amazon Alexa (though it can still be controlled by a separate Google speaker).
Which one wins?
The Sonos Beam Gen 2 and the Bose Smart Soundbar 600 are both excellent TV speakers, and ultimately you would be happy buying either one. The Sonos Beam wins out by a margin due to its excellent ecosystem and by offering a choice of voice assistants. But if you want a TV speaker that canthen opt for the Bose.