Sonos Ray is a budget soundbar to take you to a house full of music

Sonos Ray is a budget soundbar to take you to a house full of music

Sonos Ray is a budget soundbar to take you to a house full of music

Sonos Ray looks and behaves like a budget TV soundbar. But secretly, or not so secretly, I think Sonos has bigger plans with this new device. On its own, the $279 Sonos Ray is quite modest. It is limited to connecting to a TV using only an optical cable, and it has no microphones for direct voice control. What it does offer is an access point to a whole-home music system.

The larger Sonos ecosystem has a speaker that fits into any room. There’s Sonos Five for impressive party-level sound. There’s also Sonos One for music in the bedroom or office. The Sonos app connects all of its speakers, including soundbars like Ray and Arc, and can play the same song everywhere at the same time. I think the company is pushing more budget-conscious products to get consumers addicted to later selling them to this whole-home music lifestyle.

This is not a nefarious plan to sell loudspeakers. In fact, I think Sonos probably does the best job at controlling speakers in a home. So if someone buys a Ray to improve the sound of their TV and ends up owning a few more Sonos speakers, they can expect a great product experience. But as a standalone basic soundbar, Sonos Ray is just fine. It does its job without much fanfare or fuss.

TL;DR

Pros

  • Small footprint for tight spaces
  • AirPlay 2 and Spotify Connect support

cons

  • Only connect to TV via optical cable

Buy from Sonos.

Sonos Ray Soundbar Specifications

Sonos Ray
Sonos Beam (bottom) is small, but the Sonos Ray on top is even smaller.
TYLER HAYES

The small soundbar houses four class D digital amplifiers, two tweeters and two high-efficiency midwoofers. The speaker supports stereo pulse-code modulation (PCM), Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS Digital Surround audio formats. Again, the speaker itself is a bit dull with no real surprises in general.

The sound quality certainly exceeds its physical size, but this is common for Sonos, who have been building excellent speakers for over a decade. The physical size of the Ray is neat. Looking at pictures doesn’t do it justice: it is small. If there’s one feature of the Ray that makes you consider it over a Vizio or LG soundbar, it’s probably its compact size. It should get as loud as you’ll ever need it, but it can still sit on plenty of small shelves in entertainment centers.

Using the Sonos mobile app, you can adjust Ray’s EQ, enable Speech Enhancement and Night Sound, and match the speaker’s sound to room placement with True Play. (For those unfamiliar, Night Sound reduces the intensity of loud sounds and Speech Enhancement increases voice frequencies.) Plus, you can send audio from an iPhone to Ray with AirPlay 2 support.

The main feature of this product is Sonos Ray’s use of an optical cable to connect to a TV. It’s stuck forever as a decent soundbar and nothing more like audio evolves over HDMI. For now, the Ray should connect to almost all TVs with that one optical cable. It can do 5.1 surround sound, but as TVs and technology advances, it will eventually disappear from universal access. This is another reason why it should be seen primarily as a soundbar for a secondary TV that doesn’t have the latest features.

Sonos Ray Movies and Music

Sonos Ray
The Sonos Ray is a budget soundbar that is compact enough to fit almost anywhere.
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I’ve used every soundbar Sonos has ever released and so far Sonos Beam (Gen 2) with Dolby Atmos support and dynamic sound has been the best choice as an overall recommendation. It can be paired with a Sonos Sub and wireless rear speakers to deliver robust audio performance, but it’s not as expensive or physically large as the Arc.

The Ray soundbar for $279 is probably the right entry point for even more people who just want an enhanced audio experience through a TV’s built-in speakers. Ray can still be paired with the Sub or wireless rear speakers if you want to go down that path later, but it usually excels at bringing fuller sound to movies and enhancing on-screen dialogue.

Watch James Bond Movie no time to die, I was impressed by Ray’s ability to magnify chases and explosions. The overall movie sound was especially delightful below a volume level of about 45 percent. Raising the volume to 75 percent proved the speaker’s limit to balancing the sound. Sure it can get loud, but the mid frequencies were muddier and everything was less clear as the volume turned up.

In several shows and movies, I didn’t notice anything special about Ray’s stereo separation. However, the audio mix was noticeable while watching the movie baby driver, when the sound is dispersed much wider than the short speaker length.

Even if the optical cable isn’t an issue, I still don’t recommend the Ray for large, cavernous living rooms. It works better for bedrooms and smaller living spaces. Using it in that context, you probably won’t need to turn up the volume more than 50 percent, meaning some sound issues aren’t common.

Ray has to my ears a similar sound profile when listening to music as the Symfonisk Picture Frame from Sonos and Ikea. Both products have more bass than expected, but can’t come close to the same lasting resonance as, for example, the Sonos Five. Both speakers eventually feel a bit hollow. The Sonos Ray is again a very suitable music speaker for a bedroom or small living room where the volume does not have to be pushed as hard as in larger rooms.

Sonos Ray
The back of the Ray has an Ethernet port, optical cable and power connections, and a button used for setting up Sonos speakers. The speaker also has two screw adapters to mount the soundbar on a wall.
TYLER HAYES

Should You Buy Sonos Ray?

As long as you go in with clear eyes on what Sonos Ray is and what it’s for, it’s a great choice for an entry-level soundbar. There are cheaper audio bars that sound just as good, but they’re probably a lot bigger and may not have all the WiFi connectivity in tow.

The Sonos Ray is a soundbar that fits almost anywhere. It does a lot in a small space and brings pretty decent sound to movies and TV shows. The Ray’s ability to tap into Sonos’ Wi-Fi music ecosystem is its huge advantage. This allows you to stream audio from dozens of services directly to the speaker when not in use with a TV.

Like Apple, Sonos doesn’t make cheap products – it makes products with stripped-down features for less money. That’s what the Ray is. And as long as that’s what you expect, you should be happy with the experience.

Buy from Sonos for $279.

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