March 27, 2023
Sonos Beam vs Bose Smart Soundbar 600: which Dolby Atmos speaker to buy?

Sonos Beam vs Bose Smart Soundbar 600: which Dolby Atmos speaker to buy?

Dolby Atmos is one of the biggest audio improvements in many years, and while the immersive format works well with music, it really shines with movies. Atmos soundbars are room-filling, come in compact designs, and are more affordable than ever.

The Sonos Beam Gen 2 ($449) and Bose Smart Soundbar 600 ($499) are two of the best Atmos soundbars for the price, but with very similar sizes, features, and price points, how do you choose between them? Let’s break it down.

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With the addition of Dolby Atmos, the Sonos Beam Gen 2 is an even better smart soundbar than the original. You might be missing deep bass without the sub, but the speaker still gives your movies huge sound thanks to its virtual surround capabilities.

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The Bose Smart Soundbar 600 is a compact Dolby Atmos speaker with dedicated height speakers, and its sound quality is excellent, especially for dialogue-heavy movies and TV shows. The soundbar also adds multiroom music and voice assistant Alexa.

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One of the main additions to the new Sonos Beam Gen 2 was support for Dolby Atmos, but that didn’t involve any hardware changes – just software. Despite its lack of dedicated height speakers, the Beam is actually very good at simulating height effects – better than anything comparable at this price point or below.

As competent as the Sonos Beam is, it still can’t challenge the Bose’s physical height speakers. For example, in the brutal opener of Mad Max: Fury Road, the Bose had the edge over the Sonos with better direction of the ghostly vocals from Atmos and they were clearer at that. The Bose is able to marry compelling pitch effects with crystal-clear dialogue, making it a winner for movie fans.

Winner: Bose

Bose Smart Soundbar 600 on a TV stand

The Bose 600 smart soundbar

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music playback

Sonos has always had rock and roll at its heart and the Beam is the best system if you like your music loud and dynamic. The Bose is a bit more mannered and favors jazz over metal, but that should win it some fans too.

Winner: Sonos

The Sonos Beam with a pair of Sonos Ones and the Sonos Sub

The Sonos Beam with a pair of Sonos Ones and the Sonos Sub

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Ecosystem and optional upgrades

Sonos offers dozens of speakers, from portable units to large subwoofers, and if you want to create a whole-home system, this is the best option. The company’s Made for Sonos program also allows cheaper surround speakers like the Ikea Symfonisk to be used with the Beam. The only “problem” is that the subwoofer seems to have been designed for the Beam — the Under Mini – it doesn’t sound very good with it.

On the other hand, the Bose 600 pairs very well with the Bose Bass Module and the two together make a better pairing under $1000. In contrast, the Bose Music ecosystem is much smaller than Sonos and has no way to connect legacy systems.

Winner: Tie

The Sonos app and speakers

Sonos app provides control of your system and access to dozens of apps

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Streaming Services

Sonos has had the only system since its inception in the early 2000s, and users can still use these components to stream their music collections. Things got a little complicated with the introduction of S2 (thus making older components S1) as only newer components can now benefit from the latest feature updates and services. On the plus side, S1 and S2 offer dozens of streaming services through a single app and universal search as well.

When it comes to music streaming, Bose has had a checkered history. Its first multiroom system, SoundTouch, was pretty good, but it was replaced by the Bose Music system only a few years ago, and the two systems aren’t compatible. That said, Bose Music supports all major services and also has Bluetooth, which Sonos does not.

Winner: Tie

Google Booth CES 2020

A single soundbar gives you Google Assistant on board

James Martin/CNET

voice assistant

Both speakers offer responsive microphones that can hear you over loud music or soundtracks, but the Sonos gives you the choice of three different voice assistants: Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and the surprisingly helpful Sonos Voice. It wins this round due to the fact that Bose can only offer Amazon Alexa (although it can still be controlled by a separate Google speaker).

Winner: Sonos

Which wins?

Sonos Beam close up

Sonos Beam Gen 2 offers the best mix of voice control, multiroom music and Dolby Atmos support

Both the Sonos Beam Gen 2 and the Bose Smart Soundbar 600 are great TV speakers, and ultimately you’d be happy to buy either of them. The Sonos Beam wins by far thanks to its excellent ecosystem and by offering a choice of voice assistants. But if you want a TV speaker that can improve the sound of your TVthen go for the Bose.

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