2022 – Sonos Ray Soundbar in Test: Cheapest Audio Upgrade for Compact TVs | tricks

sOnos’ latest integrated soundbar, Ray, strikes a welcome balance for consumers by eliminating unnecessary features for a lower price point while still delivering high sound quality for seriously upgrading TV sound and peerless multi-room music.

It costs £279 ($279/AU$399) and is all-in-one, which means you don’t need a separate subwoofer or other speakers to get rich sound. Fits in the premium £449 and £899 Arc soundbars as Sonos entry level units. The question now is – do you really need to spend more?

With a smaller, flatter design than the larger Beam and Arc, the four speakers head straight out of the front grille, making it easy to slot into TV stands without sacrificing sound. Size-wise, it’s a bit wider than a full-size keyboard and somewhat short, which prevents it from blocking your view of the underside of the TV screen on the cabinet, which could be a problem for larger competitors.

At the top are touch-sensitive buttons for pause/play and volume. Swipe between volume buttons to skip tracks. Photo: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

Hidden in a recess on the back are connections for power and Ethernet if you do not want to use WLAN. However, there is no HDMI port, and instead you have to rely on the older optical cable to connect the TV. Most TVs have an optical connection, which simplifies things, but limits the audio formats Ray supports with older Dolby Digital or DTS, and not the newer Dolby Atmos audio tracks.

I think this is an angle worth trimming at a lower price. Since movies with Dolby Atmos also contain standard Dolby Digital audio tracks, Ray will still be able to play everything.

Setting up Ray is easy: Plug in the power, plug the optical cable in the back and into the TV, then follow the instructions in the Sonos app on Android or iPhone to set up a WiFi connection. To connect, check connections and set up volume control using the remote control. Photo: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The only noticeable problem with Soundbars without an HDMI port is the volume control. Using an optical cable means that your TV cannot control its speakers via HDMI-CEC, a connection that allows most TVs to control their speakers and other devices with a remote control. TVs with motion or sound remote controls, like many LG’s, may not be able to adjust the Ray’s volume – so you’ll have to use the phone app or press buttons on the speakers. However, a standard infrared TV remote control or those for set-top boxes such as the Sky Q or Apple TV can easily increase and decrease the volume. The Sonos app will look for you as part of the setup routine.

Television

Sonos Ray speakers viewed from an angle, sitting on a TV stand in front of the TV.
When used with Sky Q and on-demand content via the Apple TV Box, everything stayed perfectly in sync, which isn’t always the case with the speakers. Photo: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

Simply start watching TV to automatically switch to the sound of the show or movie. Ray looks quite impressive due to its size and price, outperforming larger and more expensive competitors.

The dialogues are crystal clear, even when the action is tight and fast. The on-screen action has the punch and power to match, while maintaining precision and control at all times. There’s more bass than I’ve come to expect from a compact all-in-one system that handles all but the biggest blasts with confidence. Only a system with a large separate amplifier will be able to more.

The speaker can actually sound quite loud, with the volume at 40% more than enough for a reasonably sized UK living room. But it also has a dedicated dialogue speaker and a night mode that dampens the dynamic range to keep things understandable at lower volumes. The sound is more direct than the more expensive models, but creates a less virtual surround effect than the Beam.

Determine

  • Dimensions: 55.9 x 9.5 x 7.1 cm

  • weight: 1.95 kg

  • Loudspeaker: Two tweeters, two mid-range drivers

  • Delivery: WiFi b / g / n, Optical, Ethernet, IR, AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect

  • Audio Formats: PCM Stereo, Dolby Digital, DTS Surround

  • Programming: Sonos S2

  • CPU: Quad core 1.4GHz A-53

  • RAM: 1 GB

listen to the music

The front is a Ray speaker with the Sonos logo in the center.
The two midrange and two high frequency tweeters hidden behind the grille produce truly impressive music sound quality. Photo: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

It does even better with music, producing room-filling sound with good stereo separation from such a narrow band, clean vocals, clear highs and plenty of bass for all but the low notes. Most genres of music sound great, but rock tracks like AC/DC’s Back in Black, which started at the beginning of Iron Man, were especially good.

It streams music over WiFi controlled by the Sonos app and supports virtually every major service including Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music and BBC Sounds, as well as Apple’s AirPlay 2 and Spotify Connect.

It can be bundled with other Sonos or Ikea speakers for simultaneous multi-room sound, or linked to separate surround and subwoofers for a home theater setup. Ray also supports Sonos’ Trueplay autofocus system with your iPhone or iPad if you have one.

Sustainability

Ray can generally be repaired and limited replacement parts are available on their website. The company is committed to at least five years of software support for feature updates after it stops selling a product, but it has a much longer track record, including bug and security fixes for its older products.

The soundbar does not contain any recycled materials, but Sonos is committed to using recycled plastic and designs with disassembly for repair, refurbishment, and recycling by 2023. It provides trade in and recycling of products and publishes annual responsibility and sustainability reports.

price

The Sonos Ray costs £279 (US$279/AU$399).

For comparison, the speakers start at less than £100, with more powerful models starting at around £200, such as the Kreativbühne 360 ​​or the Bose TV speaker at £270.

Rule

Ray is a compact, high-quality audio upgrade for your Sonos TV. Mileage sounds better than most £300 near-complete speaker systems and still has the simple, simple and easy-to-live experience for which the brand is known.

There have been a few tradeoffs compared to the more expensive Beam and Arc amplifiers, for example these include removing smart speaker functionality, reducing the number of speakers and virtual surround effects, and ditching the HDMI port in favor of legacy optical connectivity.

But I don’t think most people will miss it. The Ray still makes great sound for TV and movies, and it’s even better with music without the need for a separate subwoofer. In addition, it has the advantage of Sonos’ excellent multi-room audio system, compatible with a wide range of streaming services and constantly updated with a very long support period.

You can certainly get cheaper speakers with more features, but few are as compact and sound as good as the Ray.

Advantages: Compact and attractive, great TV or music sound, crystal clear vocals, night sound mode, easy setup, WiFi, comprehensive music service support, multi-room audio system, long life, can be expanded with additional speakers.

Negatives: No optical HDMI only, some TV remote controls no volume control, no Dolby Atmos, no Bluetooth, no microphones for smart speaker functions, limited surround sound effect without additional speakers.

The Sonos app on iPhone is paired with Sonos Ray during setup.
The Sonos app automatically detects, updates and configures Ray in minutes, simplifying setup. Photo: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

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