New Soundbar Sonos Ray
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New Soundbar Sonos Ray in the test: Very small cinema

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With the Ray, network sound expert Sonos launches its most affordable soundbar to date. The test reveals what you can expect for 300 Euros – and what is unfortunately missing.

The bass booms through the room, the explosion makes the room tremble from the left, the roar of the jet can already be felt above you before it enters the field: What used to be reserved for large movie theaters has long been possible in your own living room thanks to modern home theater technology – if you invest the right amount of money. The new Sonos Ray is supposed to bring cinema sound home for as little as 300 euros. Here you can find out whether it succeeds.

New Soundbar Sonos Ray

When first unpacked, the impression is initially good. “But it’s pretty,” I immediately hear from my wife. No wonder: In contrast to the Playbase, which is usually placed in front of the TV, the new Ray is considerably more compact, and the slightly slanted sides make it look more like a design object than a simple soundbar. After the typically easy setup, the more relevant question is: How good is the sound?

Sonos Ray in test: How good is the sound?

The answer: It depends. To be honest, the sound surprised me a bit in TV mode. Despite the low price and the small case, the Ray certainly brings a lot of power to the home theater. Especially in combination with my small rear speakers, the small soundbar gives movies and TV series a very strong sound for their size. Of course, it cannot produce the thick bass that the Playbase or its successor, the Sonos Arc, are capable of with their large bodies. Especially for first-time owners of a soundbar, the upgrade compared to the TV boxes is clearly noticeable.

Compared to the Sonos Playbase (below), the Sonos Ray's soundbar is considerably smaller.
Compared to the Sonos Playbase (below), the Sonos Ray’s soundbar is considerably smaller.

However, the weaknesses are more obvious when listening to music. While the Playbase is not only suitable for its main function as a soundbar, but also for providing rich music enjoyment as a substitute for a stereo system, the Ray does a poorer job here. It still manages highs and mids, but the lack of bass is audible and especially noticeable. This clearly clouds the enjoyment, and the Ray is therefore more suitable for background sound. Retrofitting the bass is silly: The thick Sonos Sub bass speaker costs more than twice as much as the Ray even in special offers – then you might as well go for the big Arc soundbar.

Clear compromises

The compromises are also found in the Ray’s other features. While the big Sonos Arc can also be connected to the TV via HDMI, the Ray can only be connected via optical cable. This has two major consequences. On the one hand, the soundbar unfortunately does not support the modern Dolby Atmos standard, which means it cannot offer a full-fledged surround sound. However, the fact that the volume cannot be controlled directly via the TV is much more serious. Instead, the Ray offers an infrared receiver that can be connected to the TV remote. However, if the TV uses Bluetooth – as is often the case, especially with newer models – customers face a problem: Volume control is then only available via app. That makes using the Ray extremely unattractive.

The app is otherwise one of the strengths of the Sonos system. Not only can the speakers and soundbars be conveniently set up and connected in rooms and sound areas, it also offers numerous options for adjusting the sound. This is particularly practical for the Ray in terms of TV sound: A night mode, for example, can be used to compensate for the extreme swings in volume that today’s movies tend to have. A speech mode emphasizes the voices if desired. This way, you can understand something without shaking the kids – or the neighbors – out of bed in the evening from sequences that are too loud.

The Sonos Ray is sparse when it comes to connections: The button for synchronization is on the left, followed by the power connection, optical connection and network connector. That's it.
The Sonos Ray is sparse when it comes to connections: The button for synchronization is on the left, followed by the power connection, optical connection and network connector. That’s it.

A form of control that was only introduced a few years ago is probably also omitted for reasons of economy: Unlike the manufacturer’s most affordable soundbar to date, the Sonos Beam, the Ray does not support voice commands via Alexa or Google Assistant. However, those who do not want to do without it have the option of adding a voice-command capable additional speaker like the Sonos One to the system – and then also control the Ray via it.

Conclusion: Savings with compromises

The Sonos Ray is the cheapest soundbar in the Sonos lineup, and it also feels that way in use. The build quality and look are high quality, but the compromises to the more expensive speakers are clearly present and noticeable. However, the package of a chic look, the well-known simple Sonos handling and a decent sound are all okay in view of the relatively low price.

Those who already own a Sonos system and are only looking for a simple soundbar will get exactly that with the Ray. Even beginners who want to buy their first soundbar and are considering a Sonos system in the future will get their money’s worth. However, you should consider expanding the Ray with two additional speakers like the Sonos One or the compatible Ikea system Symfonisk, it offers real added value. However, those who also want to listen to music via the soundbar should consider buying a Beam or the Sonos Arc instead. However, they are also quite a bit more expensive.


Andrzej Vilenski
Andrzej Vilenski, the Baltic Review correspondent is a PhD student at the University of Vilnius, studying policy.

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