Soundbars make home theater simple. Instead of dealing with multiple surround sound speakers and running cables around your room, these sleek accessories offer accessible, upgraded sound to the usually cruddy speakers built-in to your TV. Two of the most popular soundbars are the Roku Streambar Pro and the second-generation Sonos Beam, and each has its own approach to improving home theater sound. Best known for its streaming technology, Roku makes this a top priority at a super-affordable price, while Sonos sticks to its more expensive, high-end audio roots, focusing on sound quality and premium features like Atmos.
Looking to up your TV watching game? Here’s a breakdown of both products to help you make an educated decision.
At a glance: Who are these soundbars for?
Design: Similar yet different
Though their innards are significantly different, the Roku Streambar Pro and Sonos Beam look much the same. The 32-inch Streambar Pro is wider than the 25-inch Beam, but neither is extraordinarily large by soundbar standards. In fact, both will fit in smaller spaces, though they may look overmatched when paired with a 65-inch or larger TV.
Some design differences that might matter to you:
- The Sonos Beam comes in black or white, but the Streambar Pro is available only in black.
- The Streambar Pro doesn’t have any buttons, while the Beam has touch-sensitive controls to adjust the volume and play music.
- The Streambar Pro comes with a nifty voice remote, while the Beam leans on its app for control, though it also lets you pair your TV remote.
Price: How much do you want to spend?
But, when it comes down to it, a decision between the two may have more to do with budget. At $449, the Beam costs significantly more than the $180 Streambar Pro, though it is fairly affordable compared to other Sonos devices — especially the well-reviewed $899 Sonos Arc. Roku makes an even less expensive soundbar, the $129.99 Streambar. It’s much smaller — just 14 inches wide — but shares many of the features of the Streambar Pro.
Sound quality: How much does it matter to you?
For a streaming device company, Roku makes a surprisingly good speaker. The Streambar Pro produces some bass and does a decent job of creating virtual surround sound. Voices in particular are easy to hear, so you can finally switch off those closed captions.
But the Beam just delivers better audio. Not only do you get a wider sound, considering its dimensions, but it also nicely balances treble and bass. No, the floor won’t rattle, but it still delivers more low-end without a subwoofer than the Streambar Pro. The latest model improves on its virtual surround sound with the support of Dolby Atmos technology. And with Sonos’ focus on music, the Beam also makes a capable speaker for listening to tunes.
Features: Streaming vs. voice assistants
What else do you need to know beyond quality and price?
As advertised, the Streambar Pro comes with a 4K Roku streaming unit inside. That means you get access to all the many apps and streaming services that Roku offers. And because it’s integrated into the soundbar, that’s one fewer device (and remote) to clutter up your room.
The Sonos Beam’s special talent is voice control. The Beam comes with both Alexa and Google Assistant inside, which allows it to stand alone as a voice assistant, unlike the Streambar, which comes with a voice-controlled remote to navigate the Roku software. The Beam lets you use your voice to do everything from control your smart home to play music to tell you the weather.
Thankfully, both devices offer future-proofing with the option to add more speakers for a more robust sound system. The Beam integrates into the Sonos multi-room ecosystem, allowing you to add an array of Sonos surround speakers and a (very expensive) subwoofer to create a true 5.1 system. Roku also offers a wireless sub, and you can add Roku Wireless Speakers for true surround sound.
Hopefully the differences in the Streambar Pro and the Beam make the decision on which to buy easy for you. Whichever you pick, you’ll be happy as long as it meets your needs.