Sonos Ray vs Beam 2 vs Arc: Which Sonos soundbar is best for my TV?

What's the difference between Sonos Ray, Beam (2nd Gen) and Arc soundbars? Which is best for different TV sizes and connections?

There's a new Sonos soundbar in town: the Sonos Ray. It's the smallest, lightest and cheapest in Sonos' range, but does that make it more appealing for your needs than the company's Beam 2 or Arc soundbar options?

Well, they're all very different products. In this Sonos soundbar comparison we'll compare the price, sizes, suitability, connections, surround sound, and help you deduce whether an Arc, Beam 2 or Ray would be best in your Sonos setup. 

Sonos Ray vs Beam 2 vs Arc: Size

Arc is the biggest of the three, at 1142mm long (45-inches). That makes it best suited for much larger TVs, as most 55-inch TVs are only marginally wider than this – so really 65-inch or above would be the ideal match. It'll dwarf anything under 55-inches.

Beam (Gen 2) is the middle size, at 651mm (circa 26-inches) long. This is roughly the same width as a 32-inch TV, so we would suggest pairing it with 40-, 43-, 48-, 50- and 55-inch TVs for best matching of scale. 

Ray is the smallest of the trio, at 559mm (22-inches) long, so it's not much smaller than Beam. We would suggest pairing this with 32- to 48-inch TV sizes. 

Sonos Ray vs Beam 2 vs Arc: Price

Bigger soundbar means bigger features, which means bigger pricing in the range. Therefore the Arc, at £899/$899/A$1,099, costs the most; the Beam (2nd Gen), at £449/$449/A$599 is the middle child; while the Ray costs the least, at £279/$279/A$399. 

You can see how these prices can fluctuate, of course, with the widget below sourcing the best available live prices of each Sonos soundbar, big to small. But whichever way you look at it, the price almost doubles with each step up the range. 

Sonos Ray vs Beam 2 vs Arc: Connections

Both the Sonos Arc and Sonos Beam (Gen 2) feature one HDMI 2.1 port (with eARC) each, neither offer two ports like some more substantial soundbars with passthrough options. That's a nice and easy way to connect to your TV, though, assuming you've got a spare HDMI socket!

The Sonos Ray is rather different though: it has no HDMI port at all, relying instead of digital optical cable for connection to a TV. 

It's worth noting at this point that all three soundbars offer Wi-Fi connectivity, so you can pair them up as speakers in your Sonos network, just as you would any other Sonos product. None offer Bluetooth, but that's scarce in Sonos land (reserved for its portable speakers really, not its soundbars).

Sonos Ray vs Beam 2 vs Arc: Surround sound

The Sonos Arc features 11 speakers in a 5.0.2 arrangement: meaning there's a front array (split into five: centre, left/right, side left/right), no dedicated sub, and two upfiring speakers for overhead sound. It supports Dolby Atmos object-based sound decoding, but you'll need to connect via HDMI using eARC to a supporting TV for this to be possible. If you want more then you can add a Sonos Sub and rear speakers for  a 5.1.2 arrangement (oddly not 7.1.2 as Sonos hasn't yet offered support in software).

The Sonos Beam 2 features 5 speakers in a 5.0 arrangement: meaning there's a front array (split into five: centre, left/right, side left/right), no dedicated sub, and no upward firing speakers. However, it does support Dolby Atmos, using psychoacoustic sound processing to give the effect of object-based sound. Like with Arc, you can add a Sonos Sub and rear speakers if you wish, but it'll max out as a more immersive 5.1 system.

The Sonos Ray features four speakers and a bass reflex system. It's all contained in one box with no side-positioned speakers, so you can store the soundbar inside a TV unit without bother if you wish. It cleverly uses tweeter positioning at 45-degrees to deliver a more surround sound effect. And optical can decode 5.1, so while you won't get Dolby Atmos or upfiring speakers, you can get a surround effect from this single box solution. It's also possible to add a Sonos Sub and rear speakers, though we doubt many will opt for this (as that'd cost more than the Ray in the first place!).

Sonos Ray vs Beam 2 vs Arc: Design

All three soundbars have touch-enabled controls, or you can use the Sonos app or your synched TV remote to make adjustments (there's no physical remote included for any 'bar in the range). 

In terms of voice, both Arc and Beam 2 have microphones so can be controlled using a smart assistant or the new Sonos Voice system. Ray, however, has no microphone so cannot be controlled this way – although with a paired mic/voice-enabled device it should be feasible. 

In terms of colour options it's black or white finishes for each of the three designs. That's a very Sonos look.

Sonos Ray vs Beam 2 vs Arc: Conclusion

Which Sonos soundbar you want to choose will very much depend on how big your TV is, whether you need an HDMI connection (Sonos Ray is without), and whether you want virtual Dolby Atmos (Sonos Beam 2) or next-level Dolby Atmos thanks to upfiring speakers (Sonos Arc). 

Price will also be a factor, of course, because one Arc is around three times the price of one Ray, with the Beam sitting in that sweet spot in the middle – which is a big part of the reason its stock has been so limited in recent times. 

Mike Lowe
Tech Editor

Mike has been writing about consumer technology for 15 years and is T3's Tech Editor. As a phones expert he's seen hundreds of handsets over the years – swathes of Android devices, a smattering of iPhones, and a batch of Windows Phone products (remember those?). But that's not all, as a tech aficionado his beat for T3 also covers tablets, laptops, gaming, home cinema, TVs, speakers and more – there's barely a stone unturned that he's not had a hand on. Previously the Reviews Editor at Pocket-lint for a full decade, he's also provided work for publications such as Wired, The Guardian, Metro, and more. In addition to his tech knowledge, Mike is also a flights and travel expert, having travelled the globe extensively. You'll likely find him setting up a new mobile phone, critiquing the next MacBook, all while planning his next getaway... or cycling somewhere.