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In the post, I’ll explore the similarities and differences of Amazon Nebula vs Sonos Beam smart soundbars, both of which have Amazon Alexa built-in. Until now, Sonos has had arguably the best and most popular soundbar with Alexa, the Sonos Beam. Will Amazon’s new Nebula soundbar announced last week unseat Sonos?
Here’s the short version:
While the Nebula includes Fire TV as well as Alexa, Sonos Beam also has Alexa built-in, offers more advanced audio hardware, supports Google Assistant and even has limited support for Apple Siri. Sonos also supports Apple Airplay where the Nebula does not.
Nebula vs Beam: Comparison Table
Here’s a comparison table contrasting some of the key features of these two soundbars that include Amazon Alexa onboard.
Amazon Nebula Fire TV Edition, Coming Soon
We won’t really know what the customer response will be until Amazon starts shipping the soundbar in November.
Here’s a look at everything that Amazon announced at IFA 2019, including Nebula Fire TV Edition from The Verge.
In the rest of this post, I’ll take a closer look comparing the features and specifications of these two smart soundbars along with pros and cons.
Amazon Nebula – Fire TV Edition
Cool name, but what is Amazon Nebula exactly? It a soundbar? A media streamer? An Alexa device? Yes. In a nutshell, it is a premium soundbar that bundles in Fire TV and even has Alexa *on board* for voice control. This means that in addition to a high-quality soundbar, you get the equivalent of a Fire TV Stick or Cube for streaming, and Alexa will play your favorite tunes from Amazon Music, Apple Music, Pandora, and more. My understanding is that Spotify is not supported on this device, but I will research further and provide an update here soon.
With the Fire TV built-in, you can: Stream live news, sports, and your favorite show. Plus, you get access to literally thousands of titles leveraging the latest standards for picture quality including 4K Ultra HD, HDR, HDR10+, or Dolby Vision. You also get access to Fire TV’S 500,000 movie and TV episodes library. You can stream content from Netflix, YouTube, Prime Video, STARZ, SHOWTIME, and others as well. As most of you know, subscriptions fees may apply for some of these services.
You can also add the soundbar to your Multi-Room music configuration for outstanding lows and highs especially when paired with other Echo devices.
Sound specifications of the Nebula include powerful 2.1 channel cinematic sound and rich bass. The bass emulates from dual built-in subwoofers and Amazon’s proprietary “BassUp” technology. Amazon touts that this is one of the better low-frequency sound experiences from any soundbar available today.
- Includes Fire TV
- Full Alexa on Board for Voice Control
- Movie, Music, and Voice modes optimize audio for each format
- The soundbar can control some TV functions like power, volume, navigation, and playback
- A total of four speakers (2 speakers and 2 subwoofers deliver 100W of room-filling cinematic sound
- Truly an immersive entertainment experience both streaming media and for music
- 4K Ultra HD streaming at up to 60fps, Dolby Vision, HDR, and HDR10+. A 4K TV is required to access 4K streaming.
- Supports digital optical, HDMI, USB, and AUX connections
- Need to use Alexa voice remote to issue commands
- No support for Google Assistant
- No support for Apple Airplay or Siri
Sonos Beam with Alexa
Beam me up, Sonos! While Sonos Beam has been around for over a year, it is by far one of the most popular soundbars on the market. And with good reason. In addition to delivering excellent quality sound in an affordable compact package, it was the first Smart TV soundbar with Amazon Alexa voice control built-in.
In fact, I like the Alexa support better in this device. Amazon requires that you use the included voice remote to talk with Alexa on the soundbar. I like the hands-free option that you get with Alexa and Son0s Beam. You can use it for announcements, messaging and drop-in calling however; you will need another Alexa device for that.
Also unlike the Nebula, you also have the option to control the soundbar using Google Assistant. But like Amazon’s soundbar and it’s Alexa devices, it does have built-in “far-field” microphones. This helps Alexa or Google to hear you just fine – even while you blaring Tom Petty or your favorite Avengers flick.
Engadget has a nice review of the Sonos Beam here:
You can also say: “Alexa, turn on the TV.”
Until the release of Amazon’s new Nebular, the Sonos Beam remains one of just a few smart speakers in the world that have Alexa built-in. And remains just one of a few that allow Google Assistant and Alexa commands on the same device. The other is the Sonos One.
The Sonos Beam also has AirPlay 2 built-in, a feature it shares with the Sonos One and Sonos Amp. With AirPlay 2, you can play audio directly to the Beam from any iOS device or Mac computer.
- Proven soundbar with thousands of satisfied customers
- You can buy it now
- Both Alexa and Google for Hands-Free Voice Control
- Intense bass with two force canceling speakers for deep cinematic sound
- Play music from Amazon Music, Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, TuneIn and SiriusXM.
- Broadcast audio content from hundreds of other streaming services with the Sonos app
- Multi-room music with additional Sonos speakers
- Supports Apple AirPlay to stream music from compatible iOS devices
- No Fire TV Built-In
- Limited voice control over TV content
- Requires HDMI ARC Port for best experience (not an issue for most new Smart TVs – an optional optical audio adapter is also provided for older TVs). Alexa TV voice commands will not work when connected via the optical adapter.
- Beam and One do not support Alexa’s Drop-In, calling, and messaging features
- Need to purchase streaming media service FireTV, Roku, Apple TV separate
Amazon Nebula vs Sonos Beam: What Do You Think?
So what do you think about this comparison of Amazon Nebula vs Sonos Beam? Was the comparison chart at the top of the post helpful?
Are you considering purchasing one of these devices to bring Alexa to your soundbar?
What do you think of the differences between these two soundbars? Is a support for Alexa your #1 factor in deciding on one these babies? Does Google Assistant support matter to you? How about FireTV or Apple Airplay?
By the way, if you are curious about some additional soundbar options from Bose, check out this article over at DiySmartHomeProducts.com.
Please leave me a comment below and let me know your thoughts. I read and publish all comments, and I’ll update this review as I hear more from you.
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About the Author
Tim Brennan, Technical Writer & Blogger
Tim Brennan [a.k.a. "Tec Timmy"] is a senior technical writer with over 20 years of experience writing for companies and organizations in and around Greater Boston, including GE and MIT. In addition to actively writing for this smart home blog, Tim is also a regular contributor over at UniversalRemoteReviews.com. Tim holds a BA in Journalism from Northeastern University. Brennan is a father to two sons, an active blogger, a Star Wars nut, and loves a good taco🌮. There is a strong chance he is developing a crush on Amazon Alexa. You can learn more about Tim here.