Sonos Ray soundbar evaluation: The beginning of one thing superior
“Sonos units the stage for a way more inexpensive dwelling theater system with the Ray.”
- Compact for versatile placement
- Spectacular sound for its measurement
- Expandable to a full 5.1 system
- Straightforward setup and management
- 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 dwelling 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 successful in its personal proper, with costs starting from $399 to $899, they left Sonos and not using a respectable possibility for these with smaller rooms and smaller budgets — a spot that firms like Vizio have been very happy to fill.
Now we’ve the $279 Sonos Ray. It’s the corporate’s most inexpensive soundbar by an enormous issue now that thesells for $449 — and it’s additionally one of many extra inexpensive soundbars you should purchase, interval. However can such a small and comparatively cheap speaker nonetheless produce the type of emotional listening expertise that makes a soundbar price shopping for within the first place? Or in making an attempt to attain a lower cost, did Sonos go away an excessive amount of on the desk? Let’s test it out.
In typical Sonos style, the Ray — which is available in your selection of black or white — is an understated affair. The all-plastic building and delicate branding will let it mix in with nearly any decor. And that’s greater than aesthetic selection: The Ray’s drivers are all positioned proper up in opposition to the grille, which suggests you may fully encompass the speaker’s cupboard with different objects, together with the dividers of your media stand, ought to you’ve 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’s principally a single piece of metallic with a set of 4 screws. However then once more Sonos all the time has charged some huge cash for its speaker mounts.
The Ray is a bit narrower than its larger sibling, the Beam (22 inches versus 25.5 inches) however the two audio system are nearly similar in top and depth, and each are ideally fitted to use in smaller rooms, in entrance of smaller TVs (assume 55-inches or smaller).
Like all of Sonos’ current merchandise, you’ll discover a set of discrete contact controls on the highest floor for play/pause, quantity up/down, and skip monitor ahead/again. However provided that the entire speaker’s features will be managed from a cellular 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 must pay shut consideration to the place your TV’s IR receiver is positioned. Given how quick the Ray stands, it’s unlikely that it’ll block that sensor, but when it does, you could have hassle controlling your TV.
What you received’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.
Across the again of the Ray, you’ll discover one of many easiest units of connections within the soundbar world: A port for the facility wire, 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, nevertheless it truly is smart. You want HDMI ARC/eARC if you wish to do superior encompass codecs like Dolby Atmos, however because the Ray isn’t suitable with them (it’s solely designed for stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1, and DTS Digital Encompass), ARC/eARC can 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 surrender an HDMI port in your TV simply to hook up an exterior speaker. Sonos features a matching 4.9-foot white or black optical cable within the field, which ought to offer you a good diploma of flexibility for placement so long as you’re not making an attempt to route it by way of a wall. Fortunately, optical cables are very cheap do you have to want an extended one.
As a result of the Ray is greater than only a TV speaker, organising isn’t fairly plug-and-play. However you’ll be stunned how easy it’s, particularly for those who’ve by no means used a Sonos product earlier than.
It’s all (nonetheless) performed utilizing the Sonos cellular app, which guides you thru the method of organising a brand new 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 mechanically discover it and stroll you thru getting it related to your TV. Bought three minutes? That’s actually all it takes.
That button on the again of the Ray will be thought-about a fail-safe: Within the occasion that the Sonos app can’t do its magic act, it would instruct you to press that button to assist it establish 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 companies you subscribe to. Sonos helps an enormous assortment of them, so I received’t even hassle itemizing them right here. When you discover one which isn’t supported, let me know!
When you personal an iPhone, you’ll even be proven how you can tune the Ray utilizing the Trueplay process. Sonos nonetheless doesn’t help this on Android units, but when you already know somebody who owns an iPhone, you would even borrow it for a couple of 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, nevertheless it has labored wonders on a few of my different Sonos merchandise, so your mileage might fluctuate.
Sound high quality
I’ve reviewed nearly each speaker Sonos has made and also you’d assume by now I’d not be stunned by how the corporate’s engineers are in a position to extract a lot sound from such small enclosures. And but, I’m frequently amazed. The Ray is likely to be meant for small-to-medium-size rooms, however I believe 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 in a position to produce disproportionately large, boomy low-end from its audio system, and the Ray continues this custom. Sonos says it developed a wholly new bass reflex system for the Ray, and it seems to have paid off. I’m not saying it will possibly substitute for a devoted subwoofer (it will possibly’t), however for its measurement, it’s astonishingly deep and resonant.
The Ray has a heat to its sound that I discover very fulfilling
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 sounds prefer it’s coming immediately from the display screen, and but most of the sounds that make up the remainder 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.
In terms of music, the outcomes are nearly pretty much as good. As with all Sonos audio system, the Ray has a heat to its sound that I discover very fulfilling. Audiophiles might (and often do) desire a so-called impartial steadiness of frequencies, however let’s face it, the Ray is just not the speaker to purchase for those who’re doing crucial listening. Like many small-format soundbars, if there’s one weak spot, it’s within the midranges.
Sonos asks quite a lot of the Ray’s two midwoofers, anticipating them to ship on primarily each aspect besides the very best frequencies, and physics ultimately wins. It’s possible you’ll discover this as a type of “scaling down” of the center tones, the place some particulars grow to be more durable to make out. Nonetheless, with just a few tweaks to the treble and bass sliders within the Sonos app, the Ray gives a pleasant steadiness, and can be utilized to get pleasure from all kinds of genres.
When paired with a set of Sonos Ones as surrounds, the outcomes had been spectacular.
If music is your most important focus, you’ll get higher stereo separation and a extra articulate midrange with a $398 pair ofs, however that’s an enormous bump in worth, and it received’t offer you a sound resolution on your TV.
The Ray helps AirPlay 2 for wi-fi streaming from Apple units. It’s also possible to forged on to the speaker from a number of music apps like Spotify and Tidal. It’s useful once you need to subcontract your iPhone’s, iPad’s, or Mac’s audio to some severe 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 approach for Android customers to do ad-hoc listening classes with out the Sonos app put in.
Is the Beam nonetheless higher?
Questioning how the Ray stacks up in opposition to the dearer Beam Gen 2? With its help for Dolby Atmos, built-in mics for voice management, HDMI ARC/eARC connectivity, and a larger variety of drivers and amps, the Beam is a extra refined product. In listening to them facet by facet for each TV and music use, it’s clear that the Beam gives a extra immersive and full sound expertise.
However it’s equally clear that the Ray manages to nonetheless ship on a big fraction of the Beam’s audio efficiency. So long as you don’t require the Beam’s technical or encompass format benefits, I believe the financial savings supplied by the Ray’s lower cost make it a worthy various.
With any peculiar $279 soundbar, that’s the place the story ends. However the great thing about the Sonos ecosystem is that it’s expandable, each throughout the similar room and to the entire different rooms in your house. 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 in a position to 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 within the first row.
The Ray can grow to be the place to begin for a real 5.1 system.
It’s not Dolby Atmos-caliber immersion, nevertheless 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 similar to the One, however cheaper as a result of they lack microphones).
Whenever you configure the Ray with surrounds, the app provides you a wide range of additional choices. You possibly can resolve how a lot enhance these audio system ought to get, with unbiased ranges for TV and music use. You possibly can 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 select between Ambient mode, which treats the Ray as the principle sound supply, with the surrounds appearing as a delicate audio fill (nice for listening whereas seated) or Full mode, which gives a four-channel stereo expertise that’s excellent 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 grow to be the place to begin for a real 5.1 system, however that might require a subwoofer. And in the mean time, the one subwoofer possibility within the Sonos panorama is the very expensive $749 Sonos Sub. It’s an important subwoofer, to make certain, nevertheless 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 believe the Ray’s efficiency is superb, contemplating its measurement, but when all you need 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 actual motive to purchase the Ray over these different techniques is the Sonos platform.
I received’t get into all of the small print right here, however once you take a look at the numerous advantages, like common seek for music throughout your entire out there sources, superior playlist management, and the power so as to add favorites from throughout companies, in addition to effortlessly handle playback on a number of audio system all through your private home, the Ray’s worth begins to seem like a a lot better worth.
The Sonos Ray is a perfect soundbar for small-to-medium-sized TV rooms. Although not essentially the most inexpensive when in comparison with 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 selection for many who are searching for an inexpensive entry level to Sonos, or Sonos homeowners seeking an answer for secondary TVs of their properties.
Is there a greater various?
When you’re merely seeking higher audio on your TV, the $250gives higher general sound high quality for motion pictures, 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 possibly’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 would like a compact, inexpensive, great-sounding soundbar that’s each expandable and in a position to be a part of an ecosystem of related audio system round your private home, the Sonos Ray is with out direct competitors proper now.
How lengthy will it final?
Sonos has an admirable monitor report of constructing merchandise that final. I say this despite the fact that the corporate has stopped issuing upgrades to a few of its oldest merchandise, just because these merchandise can nonetheless be used for those who use them on their very own, or grouped with different non-upgradeable legacy merchandise. That’s not dangerous for wi-fi audio system which are, in some instances, nearly 20 years previous. And whereas it’s laborious to foretell how lengthy any software-dependent product will final, Sonos continues to be one of the dependable firms in its trade.
Must you purchase it?
Sure. As an entry into the Sonos ecosystem, which grows and will get higher yearly, or as an add-on to an current system, thegoes to present smaller TV rooms an enormous sound improve.