Sonos Beam Gen 2 vs LG Eclair QP5: What's the best compact Atmos bar?
Your living room ain't big enough for the both of 'em. Or is it?
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What do you do when you’ve got two compact, polished, rootin’-tootin’ Dolby Atmos soundbars competing for space on your TV stand? The Sonos Beam Gen 2 and LG Eclair QP5 may be designed to save space, but this living room ain’t big enough for the both of ‘em.
These two soundbars have plenty to differentiate them, but at their cores they both aim to provide workmanlike Atmos performance for your home at prices and sizes that undercut most competitors. Both the Sonos Beam Gen 2 and LG Eclair QP5 manage to successfully deliver a high-quality experience in a smaller form factor, but which one does it best? Let’s find out.
This one is about as straightforward as it gets. The Sonos Beam Gen 2 is the cheaper of the two, launching with a $449 MSRP. The Eclair comes in at just under $600. While the Eclair can sometimes be found on sale as low as $500, it's still $50 more expensive than the Beam at that price. We've started to see the Eclair on sale (and in some cases super sale) which obviously changes the equation, but at MSRP, the Beam is the winner.
Our pick: Sonos Beam Gen 2
Design, and specifically compactness, is a big focus for both bars. At a width/length less than a foot long, the LG Eclair QP5 is the most compact bar we’ve ever tested, roughly the same size as a large portable Bluetooth speaker.
Despite its tiny size, the Eclair does include a fairly large wireless subwoofer: roughly a foot cubed. However, because subs live on the floor, it’s relatively easy to tuck it away beside your couch or TV stand, and its rounded, fabric-covered design helps it match the Eclair’s general aesthetic. It's also designed to dampen vibrations, so you can enjoy some boom without angering the neighbors.
The Beam is also quite small, measuring around 3 inches high, 25 inches wide, and 4 inches deep. Unlike the Eclair the Beam is a standalone bar, with no wireless sub to account for (though you can add one later for a considerable fee). So, while it’s technically larger than the Eclair on its own, it occupies less overall space in your living room.
Both bars are handsome in their own right, available in classic black and white finishes, but the Beam—with its perforated plastic grille, high-quality plastics, and smoothly tapering edges—is especially fetching.
Each bar features onboard controls, with the Beam’s super-simplified touch buttons living on top of the bar and the Eclair’s more expansive set arranged along its backside, over the ports.
While this makes the Eclair’s controls harder to use compared to the Beam, you very likely won’t need to use them at all: unlike the Sonos Beam, the LG Eclair comes equipped with a remote control. Both bars also allow for basic control of volume and power with your TV remote over HDMI ARC/eARC and also feature basic controls in their companion apps—but more on those later.
This category is close, but ultimately we’ve got to give it to the Sonos Beam. The tiny Eclair is a real feat of speaker engineering, but the Beam Gen 2 is just downright elegant.
Our Pick: Sonos Beam Gen 2
This is one area where the Beam and Eclair are quite different, and might even be the category that helps certain buyers decide which one to go for.
The Beam’s wired connection options are fairly minimal—what some might call limited. You’ll find an HDMI ARC/eARC input and an ethernet (LAN) input, and that’s basically it. There’s an AC input for the power cord and a button to sync the Beam with other Sonos products, but you aren’t getting a spare HDMI input or even optical connection (though you can connect that way if you get the optional adapter).
By comparison, the Eclair offers a good bit more. Along with HDMI ARC/eARC connection, you’ll also get a spare HDMI input that passes 4K/HDR video from a source device to the TV. This way, if your TV has a limited number of HDMI inputs, the Eclair doesn’t hog a valuable HDMI input port, and it also allows you to bypass your TV so the soundbar can decode the audio directly.
The Eclair also appeals to audiophiles and music lovers by way of its dedicated USB port, which will (among other things) allow you to play uncompressed audio files, music mastered in Atmos, and even less common file types like OGG and WAV. Finally, the Eclair offers an optical audio input. While you’ll need to connect via HDMI to source Atmos from a TV directly, the Eclair is more versatile overall.
Our pick: LG Eclair QP5
The major differences here are Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Like almost all Sonos products, the Beam doesn’t allow for Bluetooth streaming and executes all of its wireless functions over Wi-Fi via the Sonos app. Once your Beam is connected to your network, you’ll be able to use smart assistants and features like Spotify Connect and Apple AirPlay, not to mention syncing up with other Sonos products on your network for multi-room audio and even the ability to add surround speakers.
The Eclair is pretty much the exact opposite. It has no Wi-Fi connectivity at all, which drops a ton of features, but it is Bluetooth 4.0 compatible. This means anyone with a Bluetooth source device (smartphone, tablet, laptop, etc.) can pair with and play music over the Eclair. It also means you aren’t getting those same Wi-Fi-dependent features you get with the Beam, like Spotify Connect and Apple AirPlay.
This one’s a tough call, depending on how you plan to use the bar. On one hand, the Beam’s Wi-Fi ecosystem is much better fleshed out and expandable, especially thanks to the ability to integrate other Sonos speakers over the same network. On the other, the Eclair is much easier to share between various folks: With Bluetooth, you don’t need to download the Sonos app or be on someone’s Wi-Fi network to play music. While this is better settled below, we’ll call this round a draw.
Our pick: Tie
The Eclair definitely has some good things going for it, but when it comes to features it’s pretty lackluster.
It nets you a few preset sound modes, including Movie, Music, and Night Mode (to quiet things down), and some extra options like TV Sound Mode Share for select LG TVs, but there’s nothing here that particularly stands out for a $600 bar. The best thing it’s got going for it is its extra HDMI input, as well as its ability to decode multiple DTS sound modes like DTS:X, which makes it much more adept at playing all kinds of content—namely your legacy Blu-ray collection.
The Beam does now offer DTS 5.1 surround support (via a firmware update with the S2 app), but its lack of an HDMI input means it could be limited by whatever your TV supports. Apart from that, though, the Beam Gen 2 gets you all of its previously detailed Wi-Fi features, including the ability to add on speakers for a surround sound setup or multi-room audio system, as well as built-in Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa compatibility. It also offers a truly useful feature called “Trueplay” (iOS only) that measures the acoustics of your room to better tune the soundbar’s performance, and particularly useful Speech Enhancement and Night Sound modes.
Unless you’re interested in playing Blu-rays, and particularly those with DTS:X soundtracks, the Beam (gen 2) is the bar with the most to offer.
Our pick: Sonos Beam Gen 2
Last but certainly not least, standard and Dolby Atmos performance might be the most important general factor for both bars. That’s primarily why you’re buying them, after all. I'll start by saying that both of these bars sound excellent in appreciably different ways.
Like the original Beam, the Gen 2 version is a delight to listen to. Sonos has tuned its speaker array with expertise, and the resultant sound—whether for movies, TV shows, or music—is robust and reverberant in a way that outdoes many other standalone bars. Its sound quality has an appealing warmth that almost sounds more analog than digital, with a balanced emphasis across the frequency range.
The tiny Eclair is no slouch either. While it doesn’t have the same warm, reverberant sound quality as the Beam, its soundstage is still balanced. It offers an impactful punch and delivery that belies its super-compact nature. While the subwoofer isn't as powerful as those paired with larger setups, as it's specifically tuned to dampen vibrations for crowded living situations, it's definitely more powerful than what you'll find in a standalone bar.
One of the biggest differences is how each bar goes about Dolby Atmos delivery. The Beam Gen 2 uses virtual Dolby Atmos: it doesn’t have upfiring speakers, and instead employs phase array “psychoacoustics” to create the impression of sound above you, while also expanding the soundstage to the left, right, and even below its profile. While it struggles to convincingly place sounds directly overhead in the same way as bars with dedicated upfiring drivers, the Beam’s general Atmos presentation—especially for its price point—is very solid.
The Eclair takes Atmos performance just a hair further, but with some caveats. Utilizing its pair of upfiring speakers, the Eclair is much better at height channel sounds, and it also does a great job at general separation. However, its tiny size limits its abilities, meaning Atmos is better but not exactly jaw-dropping. For example, a variety of sounds can be presented with crystal clarity within the soundstage, but the sense that they’re “all around you” is something that bigger bars handle more skillfully.
While I personally prefer the Beam’s general sound quality, I also recognize that it’s a subjective preference. At the end of the day, both bars provide good sound performance and give you a solid taste of Atmos, even if they can’t compete with the bigger, heavier hitters in that soundbar space.
Our pick: Draw
And the winner is…
As the categories show, the Sonos Beam Gen 2 is the best pick for most people. The ability to expand over time with Sonos speakers and (admittedly pricey) bass modules is a huge advantage, as are its multi-room audio capabilities and built-in smart features. And its sound quality and overall Atmos performance are very good for its price tag. While you lose out on Bluetooth, you're getting higher quality streaming over Wi-Fi, with lots of versatility there.
However, there’s a case to be made for the Eclair for certain folks. The Eclair’s tiny size and rumble-free wireless subwoofer provide a lot of good sound for such a minimal footprint, and it’s one of the only soundbars we’ve tested that makes such an emphasis on not bothering the neighbors with excessive bass. While not everyone wants to pay more for the convenience of more considerate hardware, there’s certainly a place for the Eclair in some living spaces.
But when it comes to general appeal, the Sonos Beam Gen 2 is the best compact Atmos bar you can get right now.