Good soundbars are hardly ever low cost, and neither are Sonos audio system. It doesn’t take a genius to determine that Sonos soundbars are likely to set you again a bit – a minimum of till the Ray.
Sonos’s new Ray soundbar isn’t precisely low cost – it is nonetheless $279/£279/€299 – but it surely’s considerably cheaper than the corporate’s different dwelling theatre audio choices. Sonos sees it as an entry-level choice for individuals who’ve been making do with their TV’s built-in sound till now, or for anybody eager to improve the audio on a second TV within the kitchen or bed room.
Nonetheless, the worth drop comes with compromises. That is Sonos’s smallest soundbar, and it received’t match the audio horsepower of the Beam or Arc. There’s no HDMI Arc enter, so that you’ll have to connect with your TV by way of optical, and extra frustratingly there’s no microphone for voice controls.
So the query is: is the sound right here ok to beat these limitations and succeed at a cheap-ish worth, or ought to Sonos have caught to its strengths on the premium finish of the market?
Design and construct
Out there in black or white
Quick however squat
The Ray matches neatly into Sonos’s design language. Out there in both black or white, it is a easy bar in a matt end with minimal controls and a refined Sonos emblem.
It’s not formed fairly like both of Sonos’s greater soundbars. As a substitute it’s barely flared, with the entrance of the speaker longer than the rear facet – a results of the way in which the audio system are angled barely to fireplace sound out to fill the room. The sound all fires out forwards although, that means that is well-suited to preserving inside a media cupboard, or wall-mounting.
The Ray is a compact soundbar, at simply 55.9cm lengthy, although its peak and depth are just like Sonos’s bigger choices. At 7.1cm tall it does go proper as much as the underside fringe of my TV, so relying on the way you’ll be positioning it you could wish to measure how tall your TV stand is simply to ensure it received’t be blocking the underside of your display screen.
On-device controls are easy: three touch-sensitive buttons, one for play/pause and the opposite two principally used for adjusting quantity up or down. You too can swipe throughout them to skip a monitor or return to the earlier tune except you are utilizing radio.
There’s additionally a single standing LED alongside the entrance, although you may flip this off for those who discover it distracting.
With the smaller measurement, Sonos says it envisions the Ray working finest with TVs which might be 55in or smaller, but it surely’s quick sufficient that it ought to sit comfortably inside the sides of virtually any trendy TV.
Optical, Ethernet, and Wi-Fi
No HDMI Arc
No 3.5mm jack or Bluetooth
No Dolby Atmos
For higher or worse, connectivity on the Ray is stored easy: past the ability socket, all you get are optical, Ethernet, and Wi-Fi.
For connecting it as much as your TV, you’ll basically have to make use of optical. That shouldn’t be an issue, because the port is fairly normal and may be discovered on TVs each outdated and new – and even a whole lot of desktop PCs, with Sonos additionally pitching the Ray as an choice for a compact gaming PC soundbar. Sonos helpfully features a cable with the speaker too, so don’t fear for those who don’t have one already.
What you received’t get is the choice of utilizing HDMI Arc/eArc, the newer normal. This isn’t more likely to be a dealbreaker, but it surely does imply that you just received’t get HDMI-CEC advantages like with the ability to energy on the TV by switching on the soundbar, and can be why the Ray is the one Sonos soundbar to not assist Dolby Atmos – although it may possibly deal with Stereo PCM, Dolby Digital, and DTS Digital Encompass.
Eradicating HDMI Arc may also make connecting the Ray to your TV distant just a little trickier. Sonos doesn’t ship the Ray with its personal distant, so that you’ll wish to join it to your TV’s (or else depend on the app or the buttons on the speaker itself to manage quantity).
Most TV remotes will nonetheless work simply over optical, however some newer ones that use Bluetooth or RF could also be a bit trickier – it took me a superb 10 minutes of diving by way of TV settings menus and scouring Sonos assist pages to get the distant for the LG TV I’ve been reviewing to work properly with the Ray, although it did get there finally.
Like all Sonos audio system, the Ray additionally options each Ethernet and Wi-Fi, and that is the way you’ll have to connect with the speaker if you wish to additionally use it to play music on. Fortunately it’ll play properly with Apple AirPlay and Spotify Join, so relying on the way you take heed to your music you need to nonetheless have the ability to take benefit simply sufficient.
Whereas Sonos could have begrudgingly added Bluetooth assist into its transportable Transfer and Roam audio system, there was no such addition right here. There’s additionally no assist for 3.5mm or different analogue audio inputs, so that you received’t have the ability to bodily join a telephone, laptop computer, or document participant to play from.
Sonos app assist
In a quirk of Sonos’s advertising and marketing, the corporate introduced its new Sonos Voice Controls – voiced by none apart from Breaking Unhealthy’s Giancarlo Esposito – on the identical time it introduced the Ray, considered one of its few audio system to not embrace microphones.
Meaning the Ray doesn’t assist the brand new controls, and equally can’t run both Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa.
What sensible assist there’s comes from the free Sonos app, which is a required a part of the setup course of anyway. This consists of an EQ to tune the speaker’s sound profile, entry to some music streaming providers and radio instruments, and settings to group the Ray with different Sonos audio system.
The Ray additionally helps Trueplay, a one-time course of that tunes the speaker for its place within the room. This requires an iPhone or iPad to hold out, so that you’ll have to both be an Apple person your self or know a buddy who’ll allow you to borrow their iPhone to set it up.
Sound high quality
Clear, balanced sound
Respectable however restricted bass output
Spectacular readability and element
So, in spite of everything that, how does the Ray really sound?
It’s about what you would possibly anticipate: Sonos’s glorious readability and cautious tuning shines by way of, however the bodily constraints of the speaker’s measurement maintain again the bass from being its finest.
There are 4 primary drivers right here: two elliptical full-range woofers discovered within the audio system centre, and two tweeters on the ends with cut up waveguides that undertaking audio each straight forward and out at an angle to assist ship room-filling sound. These 4 drivers are mixed with a bass reflex system to finish the sonic profile.
The mids and trebles are undeniably spectacular, and assist the Ray excel for listening to pop and rock music, or driving dialogue-heavy TV and movie.
The bass is the place the Ray can’t maintain with bigger, costlier rivals, and it holds it again just a little for hip hop music or action-heavy scenes. This turns into particularly clear once you crank the amount up: the Ray can get impressively loud, however as the amount will increase the bass will get left behind.
The place the Ray makes up for that is the readability of its soundscape. The speaker does an amazing job of separating sounds, which pays off in additional advanced musical preparations or in movie scenes with audio from throughout. On most cheaper audio system these would all run collectively right into a murky mess, however the Ray retains issues crisp and clear.
The Ray’s pricing makes it a pretty entry level into the Sonos ecosystem, although then the worth rises sharply. You could possibly pair it with a few Sonos One or One SL audio system for a encompass setup for instance, or join the Sonos Sub for additional bass – although this alone prices greater than double the Ray by itself.
In fact, you can too join it to different Sonos audio system round the home for multi-room audio with out spending fairly a lot.
Value and availability
At $279/£279/€299 the Sonos Ray isn’t a cut price bucket speaker – it stills prices greater than double the Roku Streambar, for instance – but it surely’s definitely on the cheaper finish of the soundbar area.
You’ll be able to seize it from Sonos itself, or from the likes of Argos or John Lewis within the UK, or Greatest Purchase and B&H within the US. If you wish to wall-mount it, the official Sonos equipment is an additional $39/£39/€49.
It’s additionally considerably cheaper than the following Sonos choice, the $449/£449/€499 Beam Gen 2, so ought to make a Sonos dwelling theatre accessible to much more individuals than earlier than.
The sound high quality right here is probably going higher than most different choices on the worth, but it surely’s not a transparent lower factor. The Artistic Stage 360 and Panasonic SC-HTB490 each value much less and embrace a subwoofer, so will outclass the Ray on bass.
Each additionally embrace improved connectivity and niceties like Dolby Atmos assist, whereas the Polk React drops the sub however bakes in voice controls with Alexa assist.
Try our rating of the most effective soundbars for extra alternate options, or the most effective Sonos audio system to determine for those who actually wish to decide to the Sonos ecosystem.
The Ray is a formidable inexpensive soundbar, with a pretty and compact design together with an audio profile that excels in readability and scape.
There are limitations although. The dearth of HDMI Arc – and with it Dolby Atmos – bristles just a little, as does the choice to omit microphones and voice controls. And it might be a Sonos staple, however the insistence on leaving out both Bluetooth or analogue audio connections may maintain this again from being the guts of your own home audio.
Nonetheless, if you wish to begin constructing a Sonos setup, or need an inexpensive(ish) TV speaker to affix your different Sonos gear, then it is nice to see a extra inexpensive choice than the Beam and Arc.
Slicing costs requires compromise, and Sonos has chosen to pare off additional options to give attention to sheer sound. I can’t consider anyplace else I’d moderately its priorities lay.
Sonos Ray: Specs
2x full-range woofers
Bass reflex system
4x D-class amplifiers
Optical S/PDIF enter
Non-compulsory wall mount