Sonos Beam vs Ray: A Detailed Comparison

Sonos is one of the most popular brands when it comes to premium smart speakers and soundbars. The Sonos Beam and Sonos Ray are two of their most compact and affordable soundbar options. But with some key differences under the hood, many wonder how they compare and which is the better buy.

In this in-depth guide, we‘ll analyze the Sonos Beam vs Ray across 10 categories to highlight similarities and differences. By the end, you‘ll know exactly which Sonos soundbar is the right choice your living room and budget.

Overview and Background

First, some quick background. Sonos was founded in 2002 in Santa Barbara, California with a focus on delivering innovative speakers driven by software and services. Through continuous innovation, they‘ve cemented themselves as a leader in the wireless multi-room audio market.

The Sonos Beam, first released in 2018, is now in its second generation as of 2021. The Beam 2 builds on the popularity of the original, adding Dolby Atmos support for more immersive audio.

New for 2022 is the Sonos Ray, an ultra-compact soundbar crafted for small to medium rooms at an even more affordable price point than the Beam.

Now let‘s jump into a full comparison across 10 important categories.

Size and Design

The Sonos Beam 2 measures just 2.8 by 25.6 by 3.94 inches (HWD), maintaining the same compact form factor as the original Beam. The grille wraps around the front and sides, with capacitive touch controls up top. The polycarbonate construction keeps it lightweight at just 6.2 pounds.

The Sonos Ray has an even lower profile at just 2.79 by 22 by 3.75 inches, and lighter too at just 4.3 pounds. It‘s crafted from plastic and features the same matte black or white finish options as the Beam. You‘ll find touch sensitive controls up top.

Winner: Tie — Both sport ultra-compact builds perfect for placement in front of TVs without blocking the screen. And they blend nicely into living room decor. The Ray does have an even smaller footprint, but the differences are minor.

Speaker Drivers and Amplification

Here‘s a closer look under the hood:

  • Sonos Beam 2: 5 Class-D digital amplifiers, 1 center tweeter, 4 elliptical mid-woofers
  • Sonos Ray: 4 Class-D digital amplifiers, 2 tweeters, 2 mid-woofers

With one additional tweeter and two more mid-woofers, the Sonos Beam 2 certainly touts more robust speaker hardware. The updated amplifiers also provide more power, resulting in brighter, richer sound across mids and highs. Bass response receives a noticeable boost as well for the Beam 2.

Winner: Sonos Beam 2 — The extra drivers and amplifiers give it an edge not just for audio quality, but also for filling larger rooms.

Audio Technology

A key difference is Dolby Atmos support on the Sonos Beam 2. This audio technology creates immersive 3D sound by adding a height dimension. Special upward-firing drivers reflect sound off your ceiling for overhead effects that surround you.

Of course, the Sonos Ray lacks upward firing speakers. And without Dolby Atmos decoding, sound remains limited to the soundbar itself. Still, it utilizes Trueplay tuning to optimize output based on your room‘s acoustics and layout.

Winner: Sonos Beam 2 — Dolby Atmos support gives it a clear win, providing a much more cinematic listening experience.

Sound Quality

With its extra drivers and Dolby Atmos, the Sonos Beam 2 unsurprisingly sounds better to most ears. The wider soundstage and overhead effects make movies and music feel more enveloping.

That said, the Sonos Ray still impresses mightily for its size. Midrange performance shines with warm, natural reproduction of vocals and instruments. Highs come through crisp and detailed as well. Bass output exceeds expectations too, although it lacks the richer low-end the Beam 2 provides.

Winner: Sonos Beam 2 — Music, movies and TV shows simply sound more spacious and immersive thanks to Dolby Atmos. The Sonos Ray puts up an excellent fight, but comes up shy in direct comparisons.

Smart Features

Here‘s another important category where we see divergence. The Sonos Beam 2 has Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant built right in. That allows full voice control for music playback, volume adjustment, smart home commands and more.

With no integrated microphones, the Sonos Ray solely relies on your television‘s built-in smart platform (if it has one). Alternately, you can use an external Amazon Echo or Google Home speaker for voice functionality.

Winner: Sonos Beam 2 — Hands-free voice control right from the soundbar itself keeps things simple if you want it. Alexa makes the Beam 2 a more versatile smart speaker.


Connectivity is another area where the Beam 2 holds key advantages:

  • Sonos Beam 2 ports: HDMI ARC, optical digital audio, Ethernet, WiFi, Apple AirPlay 2
  • Sonos Ray: Optical digital audio, Ethernet, WiFi, Apple AirPlay 2

With HDMI ARC, you can directly connect the Sonos Beam 2 soundbar to ARC-compatible TVs using a single cable for both video and audio. No need for the optical audio cable the Ray requires.

Both support WiFi and Ethernet if you don‘t want cables running to the TV. And they work great for streaming over AirPlay 2 from Apple devices. Only the Beam 2 has an aux input for wired music sources if desired.

Winner: Sonos Beam 2 — HDMI ARC support vastly simplifies cable connections, while aux input provides another way to listen to wired music players.

Ease of Setup

You‘ll breeze through setup either way thanks to the user-friendly Sonos app (available for iOS and Android). It walks you through connecting to power, to your television, and to WiFi. You can group both soundbars wirelessly with other Sonos speakers throughout your home too.

With HDMI ARC however, the Beam 2 connects more seamlessly to your TV. Otherwise, the Sonos Ray needs an optical audio cable connected from the TV‘s optical output into the Ray‘s input.

Both support Alexa and Google Assistant by pairing the soundbar with an external Echo or Nest device. But getting Alexa built into the Beam 2 running requires just a few more taps in the app.

Winner: Sonos Beam 2 — With fewer cables to connect and built-in Alexa ready to go, the Beam 2 saves a few simple setup steps.

Music Streaming and Multi-Room Audio

You shouldn‘t notice much difference when it comes to music streaming — both soundbars boast excellent compatibility. You can send audio over AirPlay 2 from Apple devices or use the Sonos app for services like Spotify, Tidal, Pandora, Deezer and more.

Better yet, add more Sonos speakers to create a multi-room system with the Beam 2 or Ray. Either one serves terrifically as the central soundbar speaker, allowing you to enjoy music throughout your home. No other soundbar brand offers that kind of scalability and flexibility within a wireless ecosystem.

Winner: Tie — Streaming support leaves little to be desired on both models. And you can build out your system with other Sonos speakers down the road just as easily.

Room Size Suitability

With its expanded driver array and Dolby Atmos decoding, the Sonos Beam 2 can comfortably fill larger spaces up to a cavernous open concept living room. Its wider, more immersive soundstage simply projects farther.

That said, the Sonos Ray also impresses with room-filling capacity despite its ultra-compact size. It‘s best suited for small to medium rooms though — buyers report excellent sound in spaces up to 20 x 15 feet or so. After that, its output starts to strain.

Winner: Sonos Beam 2 — While both play bigger than their size, the Beam 2‘s extra amplification power and drivers give it the nod for filling expansive living rooms.

Price and Value

Here‘s how pricing shakes out:

  • Sonos Beam 2: $449
  • Sonos Ray: $279

Given its smarter features, better connectivity and audio upgrades like Dolby Atmos, the Sonos Beam 2 provides good value at its higher price point. It‘s the better long term investment if budget allows.

That said, you can‘t beat the Sonos Ray if optimizing for price. For just over $250, it sounds awesome in compact living spaces. And you still get reputable Sonos build quality and reliability.

Ultimately for shoppers eyeing a Sonos soundbar under $300, the Ray offers tremendous bang for buck. But those willing to spend around $450 for the Beam 2 reap extra benefits.

Winner: Tie — The Beam 2 justifies its higher price with more robust sound and features. But the Ray packs tremendous value at just $279, albeit with some compromises.

Verdict: Sonos Beam 2 Is Best Overall, Ray Best Budget Pick

In this Sonos Beam vs Ray comparison, we evaluated 10 critical categories ranging from design and performance to connectivity and smart features. While both compact soundbars have merits, overall the Sonos Beam 2 claims more wins thanks to extras like:

  • Bigger, more immersive sound via more speaker drivers
  • Powerful Dolby Atmos processing
  • Built-in Alexa for voice assistance
  • HDMI ARC for simplified TV connectivity

Yet as impressive as the Beam 2 is, the Sonos Ray stands strong as an awesome budget alternative at $100+ less. Compact living spaces with tighter budgets rejoice! You still get awesome Sonos quality for music, TV and movies.

Just be mindful of the trade-offs — no Dolby Atmos, built-in voice control or HDMI. We only recommend the Ray for smaller rooms where its audio capabilities won‘t get stretched thin. Larger spaces are better served by the Sonos Beam 2 or other higher-end Sonos soundbars like the Arc.

But for shoppers prioritizing value above all else, the Sonos Ray delivers in spades. It brings genuine entry into the Sonos ecosystem for under $300 — no other brand can claim that.

Sonos Beam vs Ray: Summary of Key Differences

  • Audio Quality: Sonos Beam 2 due to more speaker drivers and Dolby Atmos
  • Sound Projection: Beam 2 better fills larger rooms
  • Smart Features: Beam 2 has built-in Alexa voice assistant
  • Connectivity: Beam 2 supports HDMI ARC
  • Price: Sonos Ray only $279, Beam 2 $449

No matter your choice between the Beam 2 or Ray, you can rest assured knowing you’re getting Sonos’ hallmark simple setup, appealing design and outstanding streaming support. Both integrate beautifully into Sonos surround sound setups as well if you ever want to add more speakers.

Just keep sizing, use case and budget in mind — the compact Sonos Ray brings almost everything we love to smaller rooms for less cash. For more ambitious home theater aspirations though, the Beam 2 warrants its higher cost.

Hopefully this guide provides the info needed to pick the right addition to your living room! Reach out in the comments with any other questions.

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