Updated: May 14th, 2021
A Sonos soundbar is a great way to improve the sound that you get from your TV.
You will get a much better experience when you watch movies – plus, you can easily access a wide range of streaming music services.
If you have already decided that a Sonos soundbar is the best choice for you, then the problem you have is picking the right one.
In this article, I will compare two of your main options – the Sonos Arc vs Beam.
Let’s take a look at many of each soundbar’s important features so you can make your choice much more quickly.
Sonos Arc vs Beam Compared
|Image||Model||Speakers||Home Theater Audio||Dimensions (W X H X D)|
|Sonos Arc||11 Class-D digital amplifiers: 8 full-range woofers + 3 tweeters||Dolby Digital Plus (Dolby Atmos), Dolby TrueHD (Dolby Atmos), Multichannel LPCM, Dolby Digital 5.1, Stereo PCM||45 x 3.4 x 4.5 in (1141.7 x 87 115.7 mm)||Check Price|
|Sonos Beam||5 Class-D digital amplifiers: 4 full-range woofers + 1 tweeter + 3 passive radiators||Dolby Digital 5.1, Stereo PCM||25.625 x 2.7 x 3.94 in (651 x 68.5 x 100 mm)||Check Price|
|Sonos Arc||11 Class-D digital amplifiers: 8 full-range woofers + 3 tweeters|
|Sonos Beam||5 Class-D digital amplifiers: 4 full-range woofers + 1 tweeter + 3 passive radiators|
The Sonos Arc has the most speakers. It has eleven discrete Class-D digital amplifiers that power eight full-range woofers and three tweeters.
The smaller Beam has just 5 Class-D amplifiers. These power four full-range drivers and a single tweeter. The Beam also has three passive radiators, which add extra bass to the sound.
While the speaker’s layout doesn’t match precisely a surround sound layout – it can be said that the Arc is a 5.0.2 system – and the Beam is a 3.0 speaker system.
The Arc soundbar has center, front left, and front right forward-facing speakers (3.0). Then there is a surround speaker on either end (5.0) – and two up-firing speakers for Dolby Atmos (5.0.2).
The Beam is a more straightforward affair with a center, front left, and front right speaker layout (3.0).
Please take a look at my guide to soundbar surround sound speaker layouts for more information on this.
If you want to add more bass to the sound, you can buy a Sonos Sub and pair it with either the Beam or the Arc.
Rear Panel Connections
|Sonos Arc||1 x HDMI ARC, 1 x Optical (with supplied adapter), 1 x 10/100 Mbps Ethernet, Power|
|Sonos Beam||1 x HDMI ARC, 1 x Optical (with supplied adapter), 1 x 10/100 Mbps Ethernet, Power|
Both soundbars have the same rear connections. Although they are laid out differently, there is a connection for the power cable, an Ethernet port, and an HDMI port.
The HDMI connection is for connecting to the HDMI ARC output on your TV. It will send the sound from the TV to your soundbar.
HDMI ARC is the recommended way of connecting the soundbar to your TV.
However, if your TV doesn’t have an HDMI ARC connection, then the supplied adapter will convert HDMI to an optical connector.
Therefore, you can send the sound from your TV via a digital optical output – but still use the HDMI input on the soundbar.
|Sonos Arc||Ethernet, Wi-Fi (802.11b/g – 2.4GHz), Apple AirPlay 2|
|Sonos Beam||Ethernet, Wi-Fi (802.11 b/g – 2.4GHz), Apple AirPlay 2|
Network connections for the Arc and Beam are the same. This connection is used for networking multiple Sonos wireless speakers around your home – and for streaming audio from online services.
The setup manual recommends that you connect to your Wi-Fi network. This will often be the easiest way for most people.
However, if your Wi-Fi is slow or unreliable, it will usually be better to connect the Ethernet port directly to your router with an Ethernet cable.
I always prefer using cable where possible. I find this to be quicker and more reliable.
However, for some people, a Wi-Fi connection is easier to get up and running.
Supported Home Theater Audio Formats
|Sonos Arc||Dolby Digital Plus (Dolby Atmos), Dolby TrueHD (Dolby Atmos), Multichannel LPCM, Dolby Digital 5.1, Stereo PCM|
|Sonos Beam||Dolby Digital 5.1, Stereo PCM|
The Sonos Arc supports the broadest range of home theater audio formats.
Both soundbars support stereo PCM and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. And this is all that you will need for many TV shows and streaming services.
However, the Sonos Arc will play higher bitrate Dolby Digital Plus audio – and even high-resolution Dolby TrueHD and multichannel LPCM audio.
However, for the high-resolution audio, you will need an eARC connection from your TV.
There is support for Dolby Atmos soundtracks with Dolby Digital Plus and Dolby TrueHD audio streams.
Neither the Sonos Arc or Beam support any DTS audio formats.
Top Panel Control Features
|Sonos Arc||Top panel capacitive touch control for volume up/down, previous/next track, play/pause, microphone mute and status LED|
|Sonos Beam||Top panel capacitive touch control for volume up/down, previous/next track, play/pause, microphone mute and status LED|
Both the Arc and Beam have similar top panel control features.
They support swipe, touch, and tap for volume up and down, play/pause, and next/previous.
You can also use Alexa voice control or the Sonos app to perform these functions.
There is also a microphone indicator, which can be used to turn voice control on and off.
Plus, the status light will indicate any issues with the performance of the soundbar.
|Sonos Arc||Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri|
|Sonos Beam||Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri|
The Arc and the Beam both offer support for Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant voice control.
You can use these to play music, set alarms, and answer questions – all without lifting a finger.
Plus, each of the soundbars offers AirPlay 2 support, and so you can also control your Sonos speaker using Siri on your iOS device.
|Sonos Arc||Power cable, HDMI cable, optical audio adapter|
|Sonos Beam||Power cable, HDMI cable, optical audio adapter|
The supplied accessories are the same for the Sonos Arc and Beam.
You will get a power cable for connecting to your mains power supply – plus an HDMI cable and the optical audio adapter.
Therefore, you should have all the cables that you need supplied with the unit.
|Sonos Arc (W x H x D)||45 x 3.4 x 4.5 in (1141.7 x 87 115.7 mm)|
|Sonos Beam (W x H x D)||25.625 x 2.7 x 3.94 in (651 x 68.5 x 100 mm)|
The Arc is larger than the Beam. It is much wider, taller, and deeper.
It would be best if you thought about this when you consider where you will install the soundbar.
Do you have enough space on your TV stand? Will the soundbar block the view of the screen?
If so, you might need to consider wall-mounting the soundbar.
In general, the Arc would work better in a larger room and with a big TV. In contrast, the Beam would be best in a room with a smaller TV.
However, there isn’t a hard and fast rule that you can’t use the larger Arc with a small TV. Or pair the smaller Beam with a big TV.
But, the TV sound may work slightly better if the soundbar’s width is similar to the screen width. It will feel more as if the sound matches the location of the action on the screen.
This is less important if you sit further away from the TV as the sound will spread around the room more.
The Arc will be able to project the sound better if you are further away. It has more speakers and a more powerful sound.
|Sonos Arc||Sonos Arc wall mount kit: 1/8″ / 3 mm bit drill (wood), 5/16″ / 8 mm bit (drywall (no stud), plaster, concrete or brick)|
|Sonos Beam||Sonos Beam wall mount kit: 1/8″ / 3 mm bit drill (wood), 5/16″ / 8 mm bit (drywall (no stud), plaster, concrete or brick)|
Both soundbars can be wall-mounted.
It is recommended to use the dedicated wall mount kit that can be purchased separately from Sonos. There is a different kit for the Arc and the Beam.
However, if you are handy with DIY, you could install a separate shelf and place the soundbar on this instead.
There are also third-party Sonos wall mount kits which can be cheaper.
Most people install soundbars below the TV screen. However, there is nothing to stop you from wall-mounting a soundbar above the TV if that is more convenient.
Just make sure that you can reach the top panel touch controls.
|Sonos Arc (MSRP)||$799|
|Sonos Beam (MSRP)||$399|
As you would expect, because the Sonos Arc is bigger and comes with more features, it is the most expensive model to buy.
The smaller Sonos Beam retails at around half the price of the Arc. So you can save yourself some money if you buy the Beam.
It’s always best to think carefully about both models’ features before deciding which one to buy. It may be that the smaller Beam offers everything that you want.
Also, always keep an eye on the price around holidays and popular retail events like Black Friday. It is common for Sonos products to be reduced, and you might pick up a bargain.
Which One Should You Buy: Sonos Arc or Beam?
Either of these soundbars will do a great job of improving the sound of your TV.
Sonos soundbars offer good sound, are easy to connect to your TV, and integrate with streaming services and multi-room audio.
The Sonos Arc is a better choice for those with a large TV or need to fill a big room with sound.
It also supports Dolby Atmos soundtracks and has built-in up-firing Dolby Atmos speakers.
However, if you have a small TV and want a soundbar that is a little more discrete, then the Sonos Beam would probably be a better choice.
It would also suit a smaller room size – and it’s cheaper, and so might the best choice if you don’t want to spend too much money.
Either way, you won’t be disappointed.
About Home Cinema Guide
Paul started the Home Cinema Guide to help less-experienced users get the most out of today's audio-visual technology. He has worked as a sound, lighting and audio-visual engineer for around 20 years. At home, he has spent more time than is probably healthy installing, configuring, testing, de-rigging, fixing, tweaking, re-installing again (and sometimes using) various pieces of hi-fi and home cinema equipment.