Sonos Beam vs. Sonos Playbar: Which should you buy?

Sonos Playbar and home theater setup
Sonos Playbar and home theater setup (Image credit: iMore)

Sonos is well known for delivering great audio products to the average consumer. But when it comes to the Sonos Beam vs. Playbar, the better option for most people is definitely the Beam. That's because the Sonos Beam is smaller but still packs in amazing sound quality, has built-in Alexa support, integrates with Apple AirPlay 2, and it's the cheaper option. But if your TV is in a large room, and you need to fill it up with theatrical sound without any possible distortion, then the mountable Playbar is probably the better call.

Sonos Beam vs. Playbar: Breaking it down

Sonos Beam

Sonos Beam (Image credit: iMore)

For most people, the Sonos Beam is going to be the better option when it comes down to the Sonos Beam vs. Playbar. The Beam is small and compact, making it easy to move around if necessary, and it should not take up much space with your current setup. Despite the Beam's smaller size, it still delivers rich audio throughout the room and works best for small and medium-sized spaces.

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Header Cell - Column 0 Sonos BeamSonos Playbar
Size25.6 x 2.7 x 3.9 inches35.5 x 5.6 x 3.4 inches
Weight6.35 lbs.11.90 lbs.
Optimized forSmall to medium roomsLarge rooms
Amazon AlexaBuilt-inRequires Echo or Echo Dot with Sonos skill
AirPlay 2YesOnly if another speaker that has it is grouped with Playbar
Pairs with other Sonos speakersYesYes
Third-party streaming servicesYesYes

The Sonos Playbar is bigger and heavier, which may require some additional setup on your part, such as having a dedicated shelf or getting mounted to the wall. However, it can give you a full theater-like audio experience since it produces higher quality sound due to the drivers and woofers inside. The angled drivers also make sure that no noise ever gets distorted and it is evenly dispersed in a wider area, no matter how you set it up.

Setting up the Beam is also much easier because it connects through HDMI-ARC and HDMI-CEC, allowing you to control the TV and soundbar together as a single unit. The Playbar only uses an optical cable, so you would need to control it separately. If you need to, the Beam can also be mounted so it's even more out of the way and less intrusive, but you'll need to separately purchase one of the best TV mounts for Sonos Beam.

Built-in Alexa integration in Beam also makes it a better choice for those who want to simplify things. The Playbar also works with Alexa, but only if you have separate Echo or Echo Dots around the house. You also have to use the Sonos skill through the Amazon Alexa app, requiring some extra steps. The Beam also supports Siri voice commands through AirPlay 2, which is missing from the Playbar. A workaround for the Playbar is grouping it with other speakers that do support AirPlay 2, allowing the audio to play anywhere.

Sonos Beam vs. Playbar: Which should you buy?

Again, for most people, the Beam is the better buy due to the features and price. Plus, the audio quality is still great for what it's worth. It's built around simplicity, making it easy to set up, store away, and use Alexa and your TV without any extra devices. However, if you want the best sound that's capable of making the room shake, then Playbar is the way to go. Just remember that a new unit costs almost twice as much as the Beam, although the sound quality justifies the price.

Since the Sonos Playbar is an older product by this point, it can be a little harder to find. I think a better comparison nowadays would be Sonos Beam vs. Sonos One if you want to stay in the Sonos ecosystem.

Christine Chan

Christine Romero-Chan was formerly a Senior Editor for iMore. She has been writing about technology, specifically Apple, for over a decade at a variety of websites. She is currently part of the Digital Trends team, and has been using Apple’s smartphone since the original iPhone back in 2007. While her main speciality is the iPhone, she also covers Apple Watch, iPad, and Mac when needed. When she isn’t writing about Apple, Christine can often be found at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, as she is a passholder and obsessed with all things Disney, especially Star Wars. Christine also enjoys coffee, food, photography, mechanical keyboards, and spending as much time with her new daughter as possible.