If you're looking for a soundbar to build your own cinema at home, you could do far worse than the Sonos Beam 2 or one of the other best soundbars on the market.

Advertisement

But if you're strapped for cash, (who isn't these days), then what about the more affordable end of the spectrum? A quick look at Amazon shows there's a whole world of sub-£50 soundbars that, normally, we'd turn a blind eye to. but how bad can it really be?

To see if this is a terrible decision or not, we’ve gone ahead and done it ourselves, purchasing one of the cheapest soundbars on Amazon (the £34 Majority Bowfell) and comparing it to the Sonos Beam – a £449 speaker that we gave a 5 star review. So… what does an extra £415 get you?

Which sounds better?

Okay, you already know the answer to this, but give us a second. Yes… the Sonos Beam wipes the floor with the Bowfell for sound quality, but we were honestly pleasantly surprised by how much a £34 speaker could pump out.

The Bowfell has a built-in subwoofer which, while not exactly mind-blowing, does a surprising job of producing a loud and clear sound. Sound does become distorted at high volumes and you won’t really notice the bass a lot of the time, but compared to the sound of your TV, this is a vast improvement.

More like this

The Sonos Beam on the other hand… well, that handles sound pretty flawlessly. In our full review of the product, we were impressed with its ability across movies, TV, gaming and music.

The bass vibrated across the room, it sounded clear at all volumes and despite its comparatively smaller size, it dealt with pretty much every task we threw at it. The Beam features Dolby Atmos which, while sometimes not entirely noticeable, is a truly impressive feature for this size.

Overall, the Sonos Beam pretty much nailed sound in all different tasks. But does the sound of the Sonos feel like it is roughly 13 times more valuable? We’re not so convinced.

Which offers the better build and design?

Looking at the speakers, it's clear that the Sonos Beam is built to a higher quality (again, no surprises there). The Beam features a polycarbonate grill which makes it tough and durable. The rest of the body is made out of a sturdy, matte black (or white if you get the other colour) plastic. The whole speaker has some surprising weight to it and feels like it could withstand some hits.

The Majority on the other hand does feel quite cheap. The shiny plastic on the top and back is prone to marks and the whole speaker feels relatively delicate.

One of the really noticeable features of the Majority Bowfell is how incredibly light it is. It weighs just 1.5kg and at its size, it could easily be taken on the go. With its size, it can fit into a lot of spaces. Unlike the Beam, that means it can be used easily with small TVs, monitors, or in tight gaps.

What extra features are included?

Unfortunately, £34 does not get you many features in a soundbar. You get a remote with the Majority Bowfell but other than that, things are kept pretty simple – just a speaker and a couple of cables.

The Sonos on the other hand comes with an app where you can control the volume, adjust EQ and play music. The Beam also allows you to connect other Sonos speakers, building a full surround-sound system if you plan on buying more down the line.

For Apple users, the Sonos Beam also includes TruePlay - a feature where you scan your room to allow the speaker to adapt to its surroundings. While the Majority can connect via a headphone jack, Bluetooth or optical, the Sonos Beam can use Bluetooth, HDMI, AirPlay, Spotify Connect, Tidal Connect and support for a host of other streaming platforms to connect directly.

Value for money

There is absolutely no doubt that the Sonos Beam is built better, sounds much better, looks nicer and has far more features, but when it comes to overall value for money, it is a battle that Sonos has lost.

That £34 price tag of the Majority Bowfell is so hard to criticise. Yes, it’s not a large speaker or even the fanciest looking design, but it pumps out a sound that I would expect from something with a much higher price tag.

It's nothing fancy, but you really can't go wrong with the Bowfell.

Verdict

As you would obviously expect, these two soundbars offer very different experiences. If you have the money to shell out on the Sonos Beam Gen 2, it is more than worthwhile, especially if you’re a fan of high-quality audio, Dolby Atmos films or immersing yourself in a good game.

However, if you’re umming and ahhing on whether to get a soundbar, feeling like the Sonos Beam or other similar soundbars are far too expensive, the Majority speaker is a great option for the price.

Whether you just want to get a slightly better sound than your TV can produce, you’re looking to improve your computer set-up, or you want a cheap speaker to play music, the Majority can do all of that on a budget - just don’t expect a mind-blowing audio experience.

Alternatives:

Panasonic SC-HTB600EBK

© Panasonic
© Panasonic

At a similar price point to the Sonos Beam, the Panasonic SC-HTB600EBK (catchy name, right?) is a great alternative. Unlike the Beam, it comes with its own separate subwoofer with an output of 360 watts which means it will have a pretty powerful punch.

Like the Sonos Beam, it comes with Dolby Atmos, a number of connection types, as well as an app where you can stream music, create playlists and connect to the speaker without having to use Bluetooth.

Majority Snowdon II

© Majority
© Majority

Another soundbar from the Majority brand, if you've got slightly more money on your budget to spend on a soundbar, this could be a great alternative. It is much larger, producing a bigger, more powerful sound, and like the Bowfell, this soundbar comes with a remote in the box and a built-in subwoofer.

One key thing to note with this speaker is its size. While it means a more powerful output, it does also take up a fair bit of space in your home.

Read more:

Advertisement

Authors

Alex is a staff writer at BBC Science Focus. He has worked for a number of brands covering technology and science with an interest in consumer tech, robotics, AI and future technology.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement