Sonos Ray vs Beam vs Arc: which soundbar should you buy?

A Sonos Beam soundbar on a cabinet underneath a TV

If you want a Sonos soundbar, you’re spoiled for choice. So which soundbar should you buy: Sonos Ray vs Beam vs Arc? Here’s what it all means. 

What is the Sonos Ray?

A white Sonos Ray soundbar sitting under a television, next to a PlayStation 5 controller

The Ray is the latest soundbar from the geniuses at Sonos. We wrote about it when it was first debuted.

Designed for a small to medium-sized room, it’s both the company’s smallest soundbar, and the cheapest. 

The Sonos Ray features four internal speakers.

Set to be released in June 2022, the Ray is designed to maximise the sound in a small room for a small price tag.

At just $399, it won’t break the bank compared to other Sonos soundbars, and it’ll sound great at the same time.

It only supports Optical connectivity with your TV (no HDMI eARC here), and lacks support for Dolby Atmos. But other than that, it’s going to kick your TV’s speakers to the curb with ease. 

A Sonos Ray buyer probably wants to maximise the sound from a smaller TV in an even smaller space. Think bedroom TVs or anywhere a 42- to 55-inch TV makes sense.

What is the Sonos Beam?

A Sonos Beam soundbar on a cabinet underneath a TV

The Sonos Beam is the mid-range master. It does just enough stuff for just enough people and just enough money.

The Sonos Beam (Gen 2) features 5 internal speakers), as well as all the connectivity you could want for a modern home theatre. You get Optical connectivity (same as the Ray), as well as HDMI eARC for full 7.1 surround sound compatibility.

Thanks to HDMI eARC, there’s also the ability to decode high-bandwidth Dolby Atmos audio. That’s great, as the standard becomes more and more ubiquitous on native streaming apps, for example. 

If you’re looking to buy a Sonos Beam, it’s probably because you’ve invested in a hot new 65-inch TV and are looking to get the most out of your audio experience without breaking the bank.

What is the Sonos Arc?

A Sonos Arc soundbar on a cabinet underneath a TV

This is it. The big one. The do-everything cinematic soundbar.

With a total of 11 speakers, the Sonos Arc isn’t messing around. 

Not only do you get all the bells and whistles of your Beam, but you get a soundbar finely tuned for an incredible surround sound experience. Dolby Atmos, HDMI eARC and gorgeous sound all work together to create “3D effect” audio.

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It’s designed to give you a virtual surround sound experience thanks to “height audio”. This basically means it has speakers designed to bounce sound off your ceiling to make you think that it’s happening all around you, using just one speaker. 

If you’re buying an Arc, it won’t be your only home theatre speaker. You’re probably looking at slotting it into a surround sound/Sonos stereo pair. And you’ll probably have a few more Sonos speakers around your house, too.

Sonos Ray vs Beam vs Arc: Which one should you buy?

Essentially, it comes down to both the size of your room, and the size of your budget. 

Think of the range – from the Ray through to the Beam and ultimately the Arc – as good, better and best. Or like a T-shirt: small, medium and large.

The Sonos Ray is for smaller rooms and smaller budgets. It’s still going to sound orders of magnitude better than your TV speakers, but without the bells and whistles.

You only get a handful of speakers, little in the way of “real” surround sound, and no Dolby Atmos support.

The Sonos Beam sits squarely in the middle of the range. The Goldilocks soundbar. Does everything you need, with nothing you don’t. 

If you’ve got a home theatre setup that needs to sound as good as it looks, you’re going to be looking at the Arc.

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