Sonos Ray soundbar review: The beginning of something awesome

Sonos Ray soundbar

MSRP $279.00

“Sonos sets the stage for a much cheaper home theater system with the Ray.”


  • Compact for versatile placement
  • Impressive sound for its size
  • Expandable to a full 5.1 system
  • Easy setup and control


  • Pricey for a small soundbar
  • Lacks a little bit of midrange detail

Sonos is synonymous with wireless multiroom audio. It’s also been creating home theater solutions for nearly a decade. In that point it has released 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 called the PlayBase. And while each was a hit in its own right, with prices starting from $399 to $899, they left Sonos with out a decent option for those with smaller rooms and smaller budgets — a niche that firms like Vizio have been greater than joyful to fill.

Now we’ve the $279 Sonos Ray. It’s the corporate’s most inexpensive soundbar by an enormous factor now that the second-gen Beam sells for $449 — and it’s also one in every of the cheaper soundbars you’ll be able to buy, period. But can such a small and comparatively inexpensive speaker still produce the type of emotional listening experience that makes a soundbar value buying in the primary place? Or in trying to realize a cheaper price, did Sonos leave an excessive amount of on the table? Let’s test it out.


The Sonos Ray soundbar in white.Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

In typical Sonos fashion, the Ray — which is available in your alternative of black or white — is an understated affair. The all-plastic construction and subtle branding will let it mix in with almost any decor. And that’s greater than aesthetic alternative: The Ray’s drivers are all positioned right up against the grille, which implies you’ll be able to completely surround the speaker’s cabinet with other objects, including the dividers of your media stand, should you have got one.

Sonos recommends giving the Ray 5 millimeters of clearance on the highest and sides, but that’s effectively nothing in any respect. Adding to the position flexibility is an optional $39 wall-mount bracket — a daft price for what is essentially a single piece of metal with a set of 4 screws. But however Sonos at all times has charged numerous money for its speaker mounts.

The Ray is a bit narrower than its greater sibling, the Beam (22 inches versus 25.5 inches) however the two speakers are almost an identical in height and depth, and each are ideally fitted to use in smaller rooms, in front of smaller TVs (think 55-inches or smaller).

Front view of a Sonos Ray stacked on top of a Sonos Beam Gen 2.Sony Ray (top) and Sonos Beam Gen 2. Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

Like all of Sonos’ recent products, you’ll discover a set of discrete touch controls on the highest surface for play/pause, volume up/down, and skip track forward/back. But provided that the entire speaker’s functions might be controlled from a mobile app, they’re not essential if you ought 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 uses to interpret volume up/down and mute commands out of your TV or universal distant. But there’s no IR repeater on the back of the unit, so that you’ll must pay close attention to where your TV’s IR receiver is situated. Given how short the Ray stands, it’s unlikely that it is going to block that sensor, but when it does, you might have trouble controlling your TV.

What you won’t find on the Ray are microphones for voice control. This comes as something of a surprise provided that on the identical day that Sonos announced the Ray, it also announced its own voice AI system called Sonos Voice Control, which is able to debut in June 2022.


Close up of Sonos Ray rear ports.Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

Across the back of the Ray, you’ll find one in every of the best sets of connections within the soundbar world: A port for the ability cord, an Ethernet port, an optical port, and a button for identifying the speaker for setup purposes (more on that later).

That sparse set of connections, especially the dearth of an HDMI ARC/eARC port, was a surprise to me when Sonos debuted the Ray, however it actually is sensible. You wish HDMI ARC/eARC if you ought to do advanced surround formats like Dolby Atmos, but because the Ray isn’t compatible with them (it’s only designed for stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1, and DTS Digital Surround), ARC/eARC could be of limited value.

Plus, on the upside, since Sonos doesn’t include HDMI inputs on its other soundbars, it means you don’t have to provide up an HDMI port in your TV simply to hook up an external speaker. Sonos includes an identical 4.9-foot white or black optical cable within the box, which should offer you a good degree of flexibility for placement so long as you’re not attempting to route it through a wall. Thankfully, optical cables are very inexpensive must you need an extended one.


Since the Ray is greater than only a TV speaker, organising isn’t quite plug-and-play. But you’ll be surprised how easy it’s, especially should you’ve never used a Sonos product before.

It’s all (still) done using the Sonos mobile app, which guides you thru the technique of organising a recent 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 routinely find it and walk you thru getting it connected to your TV. Got three minutes? That’s really all it takes.

That button on the back of the Ray might be considered a fail-safe: Within the event that the Sonos app can’t do its magic act, it is going to instruct you to press that button to assist it discover the speaker.

This little box pumps out a formidable amount of sound.

Toward the tip of the method, you’ll be encouraged so as to add any music streaming services you subscribe to. Sonos supports an enormous assortment of them, so I won’t even hassle listing them here. If you happen to find one which isn’t supported, let me know!

If you happen to own an iPhone, you’ll even be shown tune the Ray using the Trueplay procedure. Sonos still doesn’t support this on Android devices, but should you know someone who owns an iPhone, you could possibly even borrow it for just a few minutes and provides it back — Trueplay settings, like most Sonos settings, are stored on the speaker, not within the app.

In my medium-sized TV room, I didn’t notice an enormous difference between before and after Trueplay, however it has worked wonders on a few of my other Sonos products, so your mileage may vary.

You’ll even be prompted to configure the Ray to work along with your TV’s distant. Assuming your distant uses infrared commands, this needs to be fairly simple. The Magic Distant which got here with my 2017 LG TV was recognized in a short time. But in case your TV’s distant is Bluetooth-only (a rare but possible scenario), this might be an issue — the Ray doesn’t understand Bluetooth commands.

Sound quality

Close up of Sonos Ray speaker grille.Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

I’ve reviewed almost every speaker Sonos has made and also you’d think by now I’d now not be surprised by how the corporate’s engineers are capable of extract a lot sound from such small enclosures. And yet, I’m continually amazed. The Ray is perhaps intended for small-to-medium-size rooms, but I feel that’s Sonos being modest. This little box pumps out a formidable amount of sound.

However it’s the bass that gets you. Sonos has at all times been capable of produce disproportionately big, boomy low-end from its speakers, and the Ray continues this tradition. Sonos says it developed a completely recent bass reflex system for the Ray, and it appears to have paid off. I’m not saying it may well substitute for a dedicated subwoofer (it may well’t), but for its size, it’s astonishingly deep and resonant.

The Ray has a warmth to its sound that I find very enjoyable

The upper frequencies, where dialogue and appears like dogs barking, bullets whizzing, or tires screeching live, are also very clear. The Ray uses special wave guides in front of its twin tweeters, which direct the sound each forward and outward — and you’ll be able to hear the outcomes. Speech appears like it’s coming directly from the screen, and yet lots of the sounds that make up the remainder of a movie or TV show’s soundtrack feel like they’re spaced farther out.

As a TV companion, it’s very satisfying. And if that is your first soundbar, you’ll wonder why you waited so long.

The Sonos Ray soundbar in white seen below a 32-inch TV.Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

In terms of music, the outcomes are almost pretty much as good. As with all Sonos speakers, the Ray has a warmth to its sound that I find very enjoyable. Audiophiles may (and typically do) prefer a so-called neutral balance of frequencies, but let’s face it, the Ray will not be the speaker to purchase should you’re doing critical listening. Like many small-format soundbars, if there’s one weakness, it’s within the midranges.

Sonos asks numerous the Ray’s two midwoofers, expecting them to deliver on essentially every element except the very best frequencies, and physics eventually wins. You might notice this as a type of “scaling down” of the center tones, where some details change into harder to make out. Still, with just a few tweaks to the treble and bass sliders within the Sonos app, the Ray provides a pleasant balance, and might be used to enjoy a wide range of genres.

When paired with a set of Sonos Ones as surrounds, the outcomes were impressive.

If music is your principal focus, you’ll improve stereo separation and a more articulate midrange with a $398 pair of One SLs, but that’s an enormous bump in price, and it won’t offer you a sound solution to your TV.

The Ray supports AirPlay 2 for wireless streaming from Apple devices. You can too forged on to the speaker from several music apps like Spotify and Tidal. It’s handy when you ought to subcontract your iPhone’s, iPad’s, or Mac’s audio to some serious speakers (like when watching Netflix or YouTube), but I discovered that music quality was still higher on the Ray while you worked with the Sonos app directly. Unfortunately, with no Chromecast Built-in or Bluetooth support, there’s no way for Android users to do ad-hoc listening sessions without the Sonos app installed.

Is the Beam still higher?

Sonos Ray seen in front of a Sonos Beam Gen 2.Sonos Ray (left) and Sonos Beam Gen 2. Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

Wondering how the Ray stacks up against the dearer Beam Gen 2? With its support for Dolby Atmos, built-in mics for voice control, HDMI ARC/eARC connectivity, and a greater variety of drivers and amps, the Beam is a more sophisticated product. In listening to them side by side for each TV and music use, it’s clear that the Beam offers a more immersive and complete sound experience.

However it’s equally clear that the Ray manages to nonetheless deliver on a major fraction of the Beam’s audio performance. So long as you don’t require the Beam’s technical or surround format benefits, I feel the savings offered by the Ray’s cheaper price make it a worthy alternative.

Expanding options

With any abnormal $279 soundbar, that’s where the story ends. But the great thing about the Sonos ecosystem is that it’s expandable, each throughout the same room and to the entire other rooms in your private home. For as little as $240, you’ll be able to add a pair of Sonos-powered Ikea Symfonisk Bookshelf speakers to the Ray for a correct surround sound system. Not bad, considering you’re still only a bit over the $500 mark at that time.

I made a decision to check the Ray on this configuration, but with a pair of Sonos One speakers as a substitute. The outcomes were impressive. The Sonos software was capable of maximize the already great bass response of the Ones to fill in what the Ray couldn’t quite accomplish by itself, while concurrently providing the higher-frequency surround effects. When watching a live concert on Blu-ray, like John Mayer’s 2007 Where The Light Is, those surrounds allow you to hear Mayer’s virtuoso playing and the audience’s response as if you were standing in the primary row.

The Ray can change into the start line for a real 5.1 system.

It’s not Dolby Atmos-caliber immersion, however it’s the following neatest thing, and it sounds a lot better than a $449 Sonos Beam by itself for just $677 — the fee of a Ray bundled with two Sonos One SLs (acoustically an identical to the One, but cheaper because they lack microphones).

If you configure the Ray with surrounds, the app gives you quite a lot of extra options. You’ll be able to determine how much boost those speakers should get, with independent levels for TV and music use. You’ll be able to set the gap between you and the speakers to assist the system provide probably the most immersive sound.  And when playing music, you’ll be able to choose from Ambient mode, which treats the Ray because the principal sound source, with the surrounds acting as a mild audio fill (great for listening while seated) or Full mode, which provides a four-channel stereo experience that’s perfect for parties or while you’ll be moving around your space.

With decoding support for each Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS Digital Surround formats, the Ray can change into the start line for a real 5.1 system, but that will require a subwoofer. And in the mean time, the one subwoofer option within the Sonos landscape is the very pricey $749 Sonos Sub. It’s a terrific subwoofer, to make certain, however it’s overkill for the Ray each in price and power. If the rumors that Sonos intends on launching a smaller, cheaper wireless sub are true, it could make the proper companion for each the Ray and the Beam.

It’s a Sonos

I feel the Ray’s performance is superb, considering its size, but when all you wish is a soundbar for higher TV sound, there are many other great options from Vizio, Yamaha, Samsung, and others at this price or less. The true reason to purchase the Ray over these other systems is the Sonos platform.

I won’t get into all of the small print here — we’ve an in-depth have a look at your entire Sonos wireless speaker ecosystem, should you’re curious — but while you have a look at the various advantages, like universal seek for music across your whole available sources, advanced playlist control, and the power so as to add favorites from across services, in addition to effortlessly manage playback on multiple speakers throughout your private home, the Ray’s price starts to appear like a a lot better value.

Our take

The Sonos Ray is a perfect soundbar for small-to-medium-sized TV rooms. Though not probably the most inexpensive compared to single-purpose soundbars of comparable quality, its ability to expand to a full 5.1 surround system and its integration with the Sonos wireless, whole-home platform makes it a wonderful alternative for many who are searching for a reasonable entry point to Sonos, or Sonos owners in quest of an answer for secondary TVs of their homes.

Is there a greater alternative?

If you happen to’re simply in quest of higher audio to your TV, the $250 Polk React offers higher overall sound quality for movies, music, and TV, and similar to the Ray, it’s expandable with an optional subwoofer and wireless surrounds. It even has the power to act as an Alexa smart speaker. It may’t compete with the Sonos platform for managing multiroom audio and quite a lot of sound sources, and its larger shape and design isn’t as flexible for placement.

But should you desire a compact, inexpensive, great-sounding soundbar that’s each expandable and capable of join an ecosystem of connected speakers around your private home, the Sonos Ray is without direct competition straight away.

How long will it last?

Sonos has an admirable track record of constructing products that last. I say this although the corporate has stopped issuing upgrades to a few of its oldest products, just because those products can still be used should you use them on their very own, or grouped with other non-upgradeable legacy products. That’s not bad for wireless speakers which might be, in some cases, almost 20 years old. And while it’s hard to predict how long any software-dependent product will last, Sonos remains to be one of the vital reliable firms in its industry.

Do you have to buy it?

Yes. As an entry into the Sonos ecosystem, which grows and gets higher every yr, or as an add-on to an existing system, the Sonos Ray goes to provide smaller TV rooms an enormous sound upgrade.

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