Mis à jour le 10 March 2023.
In recent years, Sonos has become the leader in multi-room connected speakers and soundbars with the Sonos Arc then the Sonos Beam (Gen 2), both of which are Dolby Atmos compatible. Less than a year after the launch of the latter, the Californian manufacturer is back in the spotlight with a more compact and affordable soundbar: the Sonos Ray. For less than €300, it retains all the features of previous models, with AirPlay 2 compatibility, multi-room connectivity and access to streaming services. It can reproduce stereo sound on its own or 4.1 sound when combined with the brand’s connected speakers and wireless subwoofer. Can it become the new reference soundbar in its price range?
Sonos Ray: packaging & accessories
The Sonos Ray soundbar is delivered in a recycled cardboard box inside which it is properly secured and protected by a synthetic fabric cover. It comes with a power cable and an optical cable of about 2 meters long.
Sonos Ray: presentation
The Sonos Ray soundbar is the smallest from the brand. At 55cm long, it is 10cm shorter than the Sonos Beam (Gen 2), allowing it to be installed in front of any television or tucked away in a TV cabinet. However, the Sonos Ray is taller, with a thickness of 7.1cm compared to 6.9cm. We would have preferred the bar to be slimmer, like one of the top 10 slim soundbar models. That said, it is still flat enough to be placed in front of the majority of TVs without hiding the bottom of the screen.
While it is more compact, the Sonos Ray soundbar has a very similar design to the American manufacturer’s previous models. The front panel is entirely covered by a polycarbonate honeycomb grille. A design feature that was borrowed from the Sonos Arc and the Sonos Beam (Gen 2). It ensures perfect consistency with the Sonos One and Sonos One SL, which can be used as wireless surround speakers. Despite being more affordable, the build quality of the Sonos Ray soundbar is still exemplary. The front grille is built into the polymer chassis that covers all the other sides of the Sonos Ray with millimeter precision. This black or white matte chassis has the advantage of reflecting very little light from the image on the TV, therefore limiting light pollution.
Lastly, the Sonos Ray soundbar features a touch sensitive control interface on its upper panel. These controls allow you to turn the bar on or put it in standby mode, start playback and adjust the volume.
Connectors and control
The HDMI eARC port of the Sonos Arc and Sonos Beam (Gen 2) has been replaced by a single optical input. The latter allows you to easily connect the soundbar to any TV, even an older model. However, the lack of an HDMI eARC port eliminates any communication with the TV and, consequently, the possibility of controlling the soundbar’s volume with the remote control of the TV. Nonetheless, it is still possible to use this remote control by learning the infrared codes. The procedure is done in one simple step, that is explained in the Sonos mobile app.
The American manufacturer has announced compatibility with the majority of remote controls from the leading TV brands, such as LG, Sony, Samsung, Panasonic, Philips, etc. However, we had some trouble with an LG OLED television used for this review. We managed to pair the soundbar with the remote control without any difficulty, but we could only use it to adjust the volume of music when the TV was turned off. Remote controls of other LG, Samsung and Philips TVs were fully functional. However, the infrared receiver of the Sonos Ray is very directional. It is necessary to aim precisely at the center of the bar for the commands to be taken into account. Controlling the soundbar with the mobile app proved to be quicker and easier.
While the Sonos Arc and Sonos Beam (Gen 2) soundbars provide immersive Dolby Atmos and DTS:X sound, the new Sonos Ray makes do with stereo. That said, it promises to reproduce these stereo effects in the best possible way and to create the impression of having a real central channel. To do this, the Sonos Ray incorporates two tweeters, positioned on the ends of its front panel. Each tweeter is housed in an acoustic horn with a wave separation system to deliver high frequencies to the sides and to the front of the room, resulting in a wide soundstage. These tweeters work in tandem with two elliptical-shaped midbass drivers. They are loaded in a bass-reflex enclosure with patented low-velocity ports to limit distortion while optimizing bass reproduction.
While the Sonos Ray can read Dolby and DTS tracks up to 5.1 channels, it can only reproduce them in stereo. A virtual spatialization system would have been a nice addition, but the manufacturer probably chose to forgo this option in order to preserve a natural sound. Instead, it is possible to pair the Sonos Ray with Sonos connected speakers, including the Sonos One SL, Sonos One and Sonos Five for the reproduction of surround effects. Similarly, the bass reproduction can be entrusted to the Sonos Sub wireless subwoofer for more intense lows and to create a 4.1 home theater system without any cables.
Streaming and multi-room
Like the brand’s previous soundbars, the Sonos Ray can be connected via WiFi or Ethernet to enjoy the same features as Sonos connected speakers. Music playback is then controlled through the excellent Sonos app, which is a big part of the brand’s success. It allows you to play music shared over the local network, access almost all online music services like Deezer, Spotify, Apple Music, and even services offering Hi-Res music like Qobuz, Amazon Music and Tidal. You can access countless Internet radio stations via TuneIn or from Sonos’ own radio stations. Finally, Apple users can take advantage of the AirPlay 2 protocol to stream sound from any application to the Sonos Ray soundbar.
Sonos is also a major multi-room specialist. The Sonos Ray is AirPlay 2 and Sonos multi-room compatible. It can be integrated into a group of AirPlay 2 or Sonos-compatible speakers and equipment to play music throughout the house, or to play multi-channel movie soundtracks when paired with other Sonos equipment.
Sonos Ray: configuration
Sonos has always been known for the ease of installation and use of its equipment. The Sonos Ray stays true to this with a simple setup. To start, you need to connect the soundbar to your TV. Then, the Sonos mobile app guides you through each step of the installation. First, you are prompted to create a Sonos account if the soundbar is your first piece of Sonos equipment, then to activate Bluetooth on the smartphone to configure a new system. The app then scans the surrounding Bluetooth connections to automatically detect the Sonos Ray. You then simply have to place the phone on top of the soundbar to automatically pair them. It is then possible to rename the bar and designate which room it is in.
The Sonos app provides many settings to customize and refine the sound of the Sonos Ray. For example, it is possible to adjust the bass and treble levels, and activate a loudness mode. For iOS tablet and smartphone users, the settings are even more sophisticated thanks to the TruePlay automatic calibration system. The latter uses the microphone of the iPhone or iPad on which the Sonos app is installed to calibrate the sound of the soundbar according to its environment. This TruePlay calibration is carried out in two steps. The Sonos Ray emits various sounds and frequencies to analyze the sonic behavior of the room and adjust the reproduction accordingly. The result is a more balanced sound, for both music and home theater.
If you want, it is also possible to pair the Sonos Ray soundbar with other Sonos products to create a wireless home theater system. Once again, the installation is very quick and only includes a few steps. For the surround channels, select the speakers you want to use from a drop-down menu and assign a channel to each one (left or right). The subwoofer is just as easy to pair. Finally, you can adjust the volume of each speaker and the subwoofer.
Sonos Ray: listening impressions
Sonos Ray on its own
With the Loudness mode activated, the Sonos Ray soundbar impressed us with its ability to produce powerful and energetic lows despite its compact format. In a room of approximately 20m², the bass was punchy and robust without having to turn the volume up high. While they weren’t abyssal, the lows had substance and were nicely textured. They made the action scenes, which were reproduced with intensity and dynamism, more credible. We could even feel the impact of the loudest explosions in our chest. However, in a room of about 60m², this physical effect was completely absent, with a lot less texture in the lows. The dynamism and intensity was reduced. Consequently, it is best to pair the Sonos Ray with the Sonos Sub in rooms larger than 25/30m² to enjoy deeper bass.
Thanks to its acoustic horns, the Sonos Ray delivered a wide frontal soundstage. The sound effects managed to spread beyond the limits of the TV screen. The stereo spatialization was prominent, with great channel separation. During action scenes, the numerous sound effects moved smoothly from one channel to another. The smallest details and sound elements were clearly audible and contributed to the accuracy of the film soundtrack. Voices stood out effectively and were always legible. They were bright and clear, ensuring optimal dialogue in movies, TV shows and series.
The Sonos Ray soundbar also proved to be competent with music. With Tidal, Spotify Connect and AirPlay, it delivered a balanced, dynamic and transparent sound. With various tracks by Lana Del Rey, the Sonos Ray was highly musical: the singer’s voice was precise and natural. The sound dispersion was wide and ensured that the stereo effects were evenly distributed.
Sonos Ray + Sonos One SL
After this first listening test, we connected the Sonos Ray soundbar to a pair of Sonos One SL speakers in order to reproduce surround sound effects. The system managed to fill the room even more effectively. We enjoyed better immersion, with a wider sound space and a more balanced reproduction. The distribution of the different sound effects was natural and realistic. The surround speakers were able to reproduce the tiniest and most subtle details. Combined with surround speakers, the Sonos Ray immersed us even more effectively in the atmosphere of the film.
Sonos Ray: compared to…
Sonos Beam (Gen 2): available for €499, the Sonos Beam (Gen 2) is the core of the American manufacturer’s range. It provides the same streaming options, with AirPlay 2 and access to online music services and web radios. The Sonos Beam (Gen 2) has a more complex acoustic design that is capable of simulating Dolby Atmos and DTS:X sound. It can retrieve these formats thanks to its HDMI eARC port. Soundwise, the Sonos Beam is clearer and more transparent, with emphasized highs to accentuate the details. Regarding the design, these two Sonos soundbars have a very similar shape, but the Sonos Ray is more compact, making it easier to install in front of a TV or inside a TV cabinet.
Sonos Ray: who is it for?
The Sonos Ray soundbar is designed for anyone looking for a compact and affordable system to improve the sound of their television and enjoy a more realistic experience. Its main advantage is its minimalist format that allows it to be easily tucked away into a TV cabinet or placed in front of a TV without hiding the bottom of the screen. The Sonos Ray soundbar provides a powerful reproduction of soundtracks in rooms smaller than 25/30m². In larger rooms, lovers of deep bass will want to pair the bar with the Sonos Sub wireless subwoofer. The most discerning users can also pair it with wireless surround speakers for an even more immersive experience. This modularity is the real strength of Sonos soundbars, which can easily be optimized to suit your needs.
Sonos Ray: conclusion
With the Sonos Ray, the American manufacturer offers a more affordable soundbar without compromising on design quality or features. The Sonos Ray retains the many streaming options and simplified management from the excellent Sonos app for iOS and Android. However, volume management with the remote control of the associated TV lacks usability and precision due to the directionality of the Sonos Ray’s infrared receiver. Other than that, the Sonos Ray is a real success. It manages to deliver a powerful sound, generous bass and a wide soundstage. The Sonos Ray is ideally designed to accompany a television in a small living room or bedroom that is less than 25/30m². In larger spaces, it is best to pair the bar with the Sonos Sub to enjoy deep bass.
- The compact format
- The powerful bass (in rooms smaller than 25/30m²)
- The control app
- The multi-room connectivity to create a wireless home theater system
We would have liked:
- For the infrared receiver to have been less directional
- An HDMI eARC input
- Virtual surround sound