Sonos Ray Assessment: The beginning of one thing superior

Sonos Ray soundbar

MSRP $279.00

“Sonos units the stage for a a lot cheaper residence theater system with the Ray.”

Professionals

  • Compact for versatile placement
  • Spectacular sound for its measurement
  • Expandable to a full 5.1 system
  • Simple setup and management

Cons

  • Dear for a small soundbar
  • Lacks a little bit of midrange element

Sonos is synonymous with wi-fi multiroom audio. It’s additionally been creating residence theater options for nearly a decade. In that point it has launched two full-size (and high-priced) soundbars (the PlayBar and the Arc). It’s had two midsized soundbars (the first- and second-gen Beam), and a quasi-soundbar/TV stand referred to as the PlayBase. And whereas every was a hit in its personal proper, with costs starting from $399 to $899, they left Sonos and not using a respectable choice for these with smaller rooms and smaller budgets — a niche that firms like Vizio have been greater than completely satisfied to fill.

Now we’ve the $279 Sonos Ray. It’s the corporate’s most inexpensive soundbar by an enormous issue now that the second-gen Beam sells for $449 — and it’s additionally considered one of the cheaper soundbars you may purchase, interval. However can such a small and comparatively cheap speaker nonetheless produce the form of emotional listening expertise that makes a soundbar value shopping for in the primary place? Or in making an attempt to attain a cheaper price, did Sonos go away an excessive amount of on the desk? Let’s test it out.

Design

The Sonos Ray soundbar in white.Simon Cohen / Digital Developments

In typical Sonos style, the Ray — which is available in your alternative of black or white — is an understated affair. The all-plastic building and refined branding will let it mix in with virtually any decor. And that’s greater than aesthetic alternative: The Ray’s drivers are all positioned proper up towards the grille, which suggests you may utterly encompass the speaker’s cupboard with different objects, together with the dividers of your media stand, ought to you’ve gotten one.

Sonos recommends giving the Ray 5 millimeters of clearance on the highest and sides, however that’s successfully nothing in any respect. Including to the location flexibility is an non-compulsory $39 wall-mount bracket — a daft worth for what is essentially a single piece of metallic with a set of 4 screws. However however Sonos all the time has charged a variety of cash for its speaker mounts.

The Ray is a bit narrower than its greater sibling, the Beam (22 inches versus 25.5 inches) however the two audio system are virtually equivalent in peak and depth, and each are ideally fitted to use in smaller rooms, in entrance of smaller TVs (assume 55-inches or smaller).

Front view of a Sonos Ray stacked on top of a Sonos Beam Gen 2.Sony Ray (prime) and Sonos Beam Gen 2. Simon Cohen / Digital Developments

Like all of Sonos’ latest merchandise, you’ll discover a set of discrete contact controls on the highest floor for play/pause, quantity up/down, and skip observe ahead/again. However provided that all the speaker’s capabilities may be managed from a cell app, they’re not important if you wish to make the most of the power to surround it.

On the underside fringe of the speaker sits an infrared (IR) receiver, which the Ray makes use of to interpret quantity up/down and mute instructions out of your TV or common distant. However there’s no IR repeater on the again of the unit, so that you’ll have to pay shut consideration to the place your TV’s IR receiver is situated. Given how quick the Ray stands, it’s unlikely that it’s going to block that sensor, but when it does, you might have hassle controlling your TV.

What you gained’t discover on the Ray are microphones for voice management. This comes as one thing of a shock provided that on the identical day that Sonos introduced the Ray, it additionally introduced its personal voice AI system referred to as Sonos Voice Management, which can debut in June 2022.

Connections

Close up of Sonos Ray rear ports.Simon Cohen / Digital Developments

Across the again of the Ray, you’ll discover considered one of the best units of connections within the soundbar world: A port for the facility twine, an Ethernet port, an optical port, and a button for figuring out the speaker for setup functions (extra on that later).

That sparse set of connections, particularly the dearth of an HDMI ARC/eARC port, was a shock to me when Sonos debuted the Ray, however it really is smart. You wish HDMI ARC/eARC if you wish to do superior encompass codecs like Dolby Atmos, however because the Ray isn’t appropriate with them (it’s solely designed for stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1, and DTS Digital Encompass), ARC/eARC could be of restricted worth.

Plus, on the upside, since Sonos doesn’t embrace HDMI inputs on its different soundbars, it means you don’t have to provide up an HDMI port in your TV simply to hook up an exterior speaker. Sonos contains an identical 4.9-foot white or black optical cable within the field, which ought to provide you with a good diploma of flexibility for placement so long as you’re not attempting to route it by a wall. Fortunately, optical cables are very cheap must you want an extended one.

Setup

Since the Ray is greater than only a TV speaker, establishing isn’t fairly plug-and-play. However you’ll be shocked how easy it’s, particularly if you happen to’ve by no means used a Sonos product earlier than.

It’s all (nonetheless) carried out utilizing the Sonos cell app, which guides you thru the means of establishing a recent system and creating an account (if that is your first Sonos product). Assuming you’ve already plugged the Ray right into a wall outlet, the app will routinely discover it and stroll you thru getting it linked to your TV. Bought three minutes? That’s actually all it takes.

That button on the again of the Ray may be thought-about a fail-safe: Within the occasion that the Sonos app can’t do its magic act, it’s going to instruct you to press that button to assist it discover the speaker.

This little field pumps out a powerful quantity of sound.

Towards the top of the method, you’ll be inspired so as to add any music streaming providers you subscribe to. Sonos helps an enormous assortment of them, so I gained’t even hassle itemizing them right here. In the event you discover one which isn’t supported, let me know!

In the event you personal an iPhone, you’ll even be proven easy methods to tune the Ray utilizing the Trueplay process. Sonos nonetheless doesn’t help this on Android gadgets, however if you happen to know somebody who owns an iPhone, you might even borrow it for just a few minutes and provides it again — Trueplay settings, like most Sonos settings, are saved on the speaker, not within the app.

In my medium-sized TV room, I didn’t discover an enormous distinction between earlier than and after Trueplay, however it has labored wonders on a few of my different Sonos merchandise, so your mileage might fluctuate.

Sound high quality

Close up of Sonos Ray speaker grille.Simon Cohen / Digital Developments

I’ve reviewed virtually each speaker Sonos has made and also you’d assume by now I’d not be shocked by how the corporate’s engineers are capable of extract a lot sound from such small enclosures. And but, I’m regularly amazed. The Ray is likely to be supposed for small-to-medium-size rooms, however I feel that’s Sonos being modest. This little field pumps out a powerful quantity of sound.

However it’s the bass that will get you. Sonos has all the time been capable of produce disproportionately massive, boomy low-end from its audio system, and the Ray continues this custom. Sonos says it developed a wholly recent bass reflex system for the Ray, and it seems to have paid off. I’m not saying it may well substitute for a devoted subwoofer (it may well’t), however for its measurement, it’s astonishingly deep and resonant.

The Ray has a heat to its sound that I discover very satisfying

The upper frequencies, the place dialogue and seems like canine barking, bullets whizzing, or tires screeching dwell, are additionally very clear. The Ray makes use of particular wave guides in entrance of its twin tweeters, which direct the sound each ahead and outward — and you may hear the outcomes. Speech seems like it’s coming immediately from the display screen, and but most of the sounds that make up the remaining of a film or TV present’s soundtrack really feel like they’re spaced farther out.

As a TV companion, it’s very satisfying. And if that is your first soundbar, you’ll marvel why you waited so lengthy.

The Sonos Ray soundbar in white seen below a 32-inch TV.Simon Cohen / Digital Developments

With regards to music, the outcomes are virtually nearly as good. As with all Sonos audio system, the Ray has a heat to its sound that I discover very satisfying. Audiophiles might (and frequently do) desire a so-called impartial stability of frequencies, however let’s face it, the Ray is just not the speaker to purchase if you happen to’re doing important listening. Like many small-format soundbars, if there’s one weak spot, it’s within the midranges.

Sonos asks a variety of the Ray’s two midwoofers, anticipating them to ship on primarily each ingredient besides the best frequencies, and physics finally wins. It’s possible you’ll discover this as a form of “scaling down” of the center tones, the place some particulars turn into tougher to make out. Nonetheless, with just a few tweaks to the treble and bass sliders within the Sonos app, the Ray offers a pleasant stability, and may be used to get pleasure from a wide selection of genres.

When paired with a set of Sonos Ones as surrounds, the outcomes had been spectacular.

If music is your predominant focus, you’ll improve stereo separation and a extra articulate midrange with a $398 pair of One SLs, however that’s an enormous bump in worth, and it gained’t provide you with a sound resolution on your TV.

The Ray helps AirPlay 2 for wi-fi streaming from Apple gadgets. You can even forged on to the speaker from a number of music apps like Spotify and Tidal. It’s useful when you wish to subcontract your iPhone’s, iPad’s, or Mac’s audio to some critical audio system (like when watching Netflix or YouTube), however I discovered that music high quality was nonetheless higher on the Ray once you labored with the Sonos app immediately. Sadly, with no Chromecast Constructed-in or Bluetooth help, there’s no method for Android customers to do ad-hoc listening classes with out the Sonos app put in.

Is the Beam nonetheless higher?

Sonos Ray seen in front of a Sonos Beam Gen 2.Sonos Ray (left) and Sonos Beam Gen 2. Simon Cohen / Digital Developments

Questioning how the Ray stacks up towards the dearer Beam Gen 2? With its help for Dolby Atmos, built-in mics for voice management, HDMI ARC/eARC connectivity, and a higher variety of drivers and amps, the Beam is a extra refined product. In listening to them aspect by aspect for each TV and music use, it’s clear that the Beam provides a extra immersive and full sound expertise.

However it’s equally clear that the Ray manages to nonetheless ship on a major fraction of the Beam’s audio efficiency. So long as you don’t require the Beam’s technical or encompass format benefits, I feel the financial savings supplied by the Ray’s cheaper price make it a worthy different.

Increasing choices

With any unusual $279 soundbar, that’s the place the story ends. However the fantastic thing about the Sonos ecosystem is that it’s expandable, each inside the identical room and to all the different rooms in your private home. For as little as $240, you may add a pair of Sonos-powered Ikea Symfonisk Bookshelf audio system to the Ray for a correct encompass sound system. Not dangerous, contemplating you’re nonetheless solely a bit over the $500 mark at that time.

I made a decision to check the Ray on this configuration, however with a pair of Sonos One audio system as an alternative. The outcomes had been spectacular. The Sonos software program was capable of maximize the already nice bass response of the Ones to fill in what the Ray couldn’t fairly accomplish by itself, whereas concurrently offering the higher-frequency encompass results. When watching a dwell live performance on Blu-ray, like John Mayer’s 2007 The place The Mild Is, these surrounds allow you to hear Mayer’s virtuoso enjoying and the viewers’s response as if you had been standing in the primary row.

The Ray can turn into the start line for a real 5.1 system.

It’s not Dolby Atmos-caliber immersion, however it’s the subsequent neatest thing, and it sounds a lot better than a $449 Sonos Beam by itself for simply $677 — the price of a Ray bundled with two Sonos One SLs (acoustically equivalent to the One, however cheaper as a result of they lack microphones).

Once you configure the Ray with surrounds, the app provides you a wide range of additional choices. You’ll be able to determine how a lot increase these audio system ought to get, with unbiased ranges for TV and music use. You’ll be able to set the space between you and the audio system to assist the system present essentially the most immersive sound.  And when enjoying music, you may make a choice from Ambient mode, which treats the Ray because the predominant sound supply, with the surrounds appearing as a mild audio fill (nice for listening whereas seated) or Full mode, which offers a four-channel stereo expertise that’s good for events or once you’ll be shifting round your house.

With decoding help for each Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS Digital Encompass codecs, the Ray can turn into the start line for a real 5.1 system, however that will require a subwoofer. And in the mean time, the one subwoofer choice within the Sonos panorama is the very expensive $749 Sonos Sub. It’s an amazing subwoofer, to make certain, however it’s overkill for the Ray each in worth and energy. If the rumors that Sonos intends on launching a smaller, cheaper wi-fi sub are true, it might make the proper companion for each the Ray and the Beam.

It’s a Sonos

I feel the Ray’s efficiency is excellent, contemplating its measurement, but when all you wish is a soundbar for higher TV sound, there are many different nice choices from Vizio, Yamaha, Samsung, and others at this worth or much less. The true cause to purchase the Ray over these different techniques is the Sonos platform.

I gained’t get into all of the main points right here, however once you take a look at the numerous advantages, like common seek for music throughout your whole out there sources, superior playlist management, and the power so as to add favorites from throughout providers, in addition to effortlessly handle playback on a number of audio system all through your private home, the Ray’s worth begins to appear like a a lot better worth.

Our take

The Sonos Ray is a perfect soundbar for small-to-medium-sized TV rooms. Although not essentially the most inexpensive when put next to single-purpose soundbars of comparable high quality, its capacity to broaden to a full 5.1 encompass system and its integration with the Sonos wi-fi, whole-home platform makes it a wonderful alternative for many who are searching for a reasonable entry level to Sonos, or Sonos house owners searching for an answer for secondary TVs of their houses.

Is there a greater different?

In the event you’re merely searching for higher audio on your TV, the $250 Polk React provides higher general sound high quality for films, music, and TV, and identical to the Ray, it’s expandable with an non-compulsory subwoofer and wi-fi surrounds. It even has the power to behave as an Alexa good speaker. It will probably’t compete with the Sonos platform for managing multiroom audio and a wide range of sound sources, and its bigger form and design isn’t as versatile for placement.

However if you happen to need a compact, inexpensive, great-sounding soundbar that’s each expandable and capable of be a part of an ecosystem of linked audio system round your private home, the Sonos Ray is with out direct competitors straight away.

How lengthy will it final?

Sonos has an admirable observe document of constructing merchandise that final. I say this although the corporate has stopped issuing upgrades to a few of its oldest merchandise, just because these merchandise can nonetheless be used if you happen to use them on their very own, or grouped with different non-upgradeable legacy merchandise. That’s not dangerous for wi-fi audio system which might be, in some circumstances, virtually 20 years previous. And whereas it’s onerous to foretell how lengthy any software-dependent product will final, Sonos remains to be one of the crucial dependable firms in its trade.

Do you have to purchase it?

Sure. As an entry into the Sonos ecosystem, which grows and will get higher each 12 months, or as an add-on to an current system, the Sonos Ray goes to provide smaller TV rooms an enormous sound improve.

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