With the latest release from Sonos, the brand is entering the budget-friendly soundbar market with a truly compact TV option.
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SONOS RAY SOUNDBAR REVIEW
Sonos has long been the industry leader in home audio, offering a range of sleek, high-quality speakers for those seeking the best possible sound experience. However, the premium nature of its products is always reflected in the prices.
With the release of its latest soundbar, the Sonos Ray, the brand is finally bringing its home theater audio to a more compact and affordable model.
Participate in both the Ray and the Archery bow in Sonos’ soundbar range, the Sonos Ray is designed for those looking to upgrade their TV audio or enhance their gaming experience in smaller spaces.
However, to reach its impressive $399 price tag, the brand has had to make quite a few concessions – including the omission of HDMI and voice control – that won’t be popular with everyone.
MOST IMPORTANT FEATURES
- Easy installation
- Adjustable EQ via the Sonos app
- Four Class-D Digital Amplifiers
- Two full-range midwoofers
- Two tweeters
DESIGN AND BUILD
The Sonos Ray is otherwise quite similar to its already compact older sibling, the Sonos Beam, by design. Like the Beam, the Ray has an understated, tapered build and can be purchased in two sleek color options from: black or whitemaking it fit fairly seamlessly into a standard home entertainment setup.
Where the Beam has a curved grille that wraps around the edge of the soundbar, the Ray instead has a flat grille and forward-facing acoustics. While this means you won’t get the same wide soundstage as the Beam, you can place the Ray on a TV cabinet shelf without losing sound dispersion, which is a first for the brand.
Measuring 559 x 71 x 95 mm and weighing only 1.95 kg, the Ray is made for TVs up to 55 inches – so perfect for those with limited space. Its small size also allows it to be placed in front of most TVs without obstructing your view.
Like the Beam, the Ray can also be wall mounted (wall mount sold separately), and features LEDs and touch-sensitive buttons.
At the back of the Ray you will find the socket, join, ethernet and optical ports. As we mentioned before, there’s no eARC HDMI connectivity here, so you’ll need to connect it to your TV via the optical port, which is thankfully included. Sonos claims this makes the Ray easier to set up and ensures it works with as many TVs as possible. However, the lack of HDMI also means there’s no support for Dolby Atmos, which can be a point of contention among users.
Instead, Ray format support is limited to Stereo PCM, DTS Digital Surround and Dolby Digital 5.1. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t get immersive sound. Like other soundbars in the Sonos range, the Ray can be amplified by wirelessly syncing it with other Sonos products. For example, you can expand your sound system by adding sub and back surrounds and essentially give yourself a complete home theater system – just know that you’ll probably end up paying for it.
While this probably doesn’t make sense to those turning to the Ray for its affordable price tag, it’s nice to know you can expand your set up later if you feel like it.
Sonos also claims that the Ray uses custom waveguides to “project sound from wall to wall”, giving the soundbar surprisingly spacious sound for such a small box. Like all Sonos speakers, the audio output on the Ray can be calibrated via the Trueplay function in the Sonos app. However, Trueplay is currently not available on Android devices and on iOS betas, which is incredibly restrictive for users.
The lack of HDMI ARC does mean that there is some extra hassle involved when it comes to letting your existing TV remote control the sound. Where the Beam worked with your TV remote right out of the box, the Ray requires you to set it up via the Sonos app. Granted, this isn’t difficult – just point your remote at the soundbar and hit the volume buttons – but it’s still an extra step in the setup process.
As soon as the Sonos Ray is activated, is fairly easy to use and has some useful features like Night Sound, which reduces the intensity of loud noises so you don’t disturb others with your late Netflix binge. We tried while watching Obi-Wan Kenobi and found that it reduced the intensity of loud sounds, such as lightsabers and vehicles, while increasing soft dialogue, preventing us from having to turn up the volume.
There’s also speech enhancement to clarify dialogue when watching TV shows or movies, Wi-Fi for streaming music and support for Apple Airplay 2 and Spotify Connect.
Unlike the Beam and the Arc, no voice support is included with the Ray, so you can’t control it with Amazon Alexa or the Google Assistant. In fact, there’s no microphone array at all, which is actually a bonus if you’re mainly concerned about privacy.
The Sonos Ray houses four class-D digital amplifiers, two full-range midwoofers and two high-performance tweeters, bringing a decent amount of power to such a compact speaker.
If you’re used to standard TV audio, you’ll notice the difference in sound depth and quality from the moment the Ray is plugged in. The sound is rich, but nowhere more detailed than the Beam, which we expected for this price.
The bass is solid too, although it took some fiddling with the treble to get the sound right – even after the soundbar was run through Trueplay. There was also a bit of distortion in the dialogue while watching Weird stuffbut after a little extra tweaking and enabling the Speech Enhancement feature, it was a lot less noticeable.
Because of the forward-facing acoustics, you do have to sit in front of the Ray to fully experience the range. That said, if you have a smaller apartment, the soundbar is more than capable of amplifying your movie night or enhancing your next gaming marathon without sparking the ire of your neighbors.
When it comes to music playback, the Ray is arguably even better, offering clear highs and well-balanced mids. The bass isn’t life-changing, but it’s still seriously decent for this price range. It also doesn’t get shaky or distorted during bass-heavy tracks, which is another plus.
Again, you can group the Ray with other compatible speakers if desired for a synchronized multi-room audio experience. You can also stream just about any major music service over Wi-Fi, including Spotify, Spotify Connect, Apple AirPlay 2, Amazon Music, Apple Music, and BBC Sounds.
SHOULD YOU BUY IT?
The Ray may not be nearly as powerful as the Beam or the Arc, but it’s not meant to be. While the lack of Dolby Atmos, HDMI and voice support will certainly lose true audiophiles, this isn’t a soundbar made for those looking for premium audio or those with a premium OLED TV.
Instead, it caters to those looking to upgrade their TV audio in rooms that would be overwhelmed by a more advanced sound system, those looking to improve their gaming audio, and those looking to dip their toes into the Sonos ecosystem on a budget. .
So if you’re wondering if it’s worth upgrading your Arc or Beam, the answer is no. But it’s remarkably better than most all-in-one soundbars available in this price range.
Given the addition of Trueplay and the ability to add other Sonos speakers to your setup as well, the Ray is a worthwhile purchase that will suit those looking for a no-nonsense soundbar with solid audio performance.
Overall rating: 4.5/5
Where to buy: The Sonos Ray will officially launch in Australia on June 7, 2022. Which can pre order it now from the usual Sonos dealers such as The good guests† Sonos Online† Harvey Norman and JB Hifi†
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Lauren is the author of Best Of Consumer Technology at news.com.au. She previously worked at comparison site Finder as a senior retail writer, covering everything from tech gadgets to the latest home products. Before breaking her teeth as a journalist, she completed a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of South Australia and worked as a media consultant for JB Hi-Fi, selling the products she now writes about.
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