When you hear “new Sonos product” you usually expect to prepare your wallet to take a hit, but the company’s latest sound bar is landing very much in the “affordable tech” column at just $399.
Sonos Ray is a compact sound bar that nicely occupies an entry level position in the market. With a diminutive 55cm size and forward-firing acoustic equipment, Ray is made to fit in any nook and cranny in your house that might hold a TV (think: shelves, cabinets and cubby holes) without firing audio into your furniture.
At this price point, you would have to ask yourself – why use your TV’s built in speakers when you can add a Sonos?
We all know that the sound from our TVs built-in speakers isn’t great, and it’s getting worse over time as TVs get thinner and there’s less space for high quality audio equipment.
It seems many manufacturers just assume customers will add a sound bar or some kind of external audio equipment to their panels, and have just given up on providing quality audio gear (indeed, many will sell you one of their own making). That might be true of a premium 8K TV, but there’s plenty of less capable TVs out there that might not justify the outlay of Sonos’ Beam, Arc or Play Bar equipment — in fact,
Sonos’ research says that 90% of TVs don’t actually have any external audio equipment attached. There’s a market there for a sound bar at the entry level.
As we’ve come to expect from Sonos, Ray’s sound output is impressive, especially considering its price – it casts a wider sound stage than its size would have you believe, and managed to bring some clear voice and music details during our brief demonstration.
It’s made of fairly standard polycarbonate materials (now a Sonos mainstay) and comes packaged in recycled cardboard (another welcome standard we’ve come to expect from the company).
Notably, connectivity to your TV will take place not over HDMI ARC but over an optical cable. This is a distinguishing feature that definitely pushes Ray into the entry level market – HDMI ARC is less widely supported than a simple optical audio output from the TV.
Of course, Ray is also a fully functioning Sonos Wi-fi speaker that you can stream your favourite music services to, which is a big bonus for a sound bar at its price.
Sonos expects to see Ray paired up with smaller TVs – the company says up to about 55 inches, but that seems more a delimiter based on price and expected budget than a size restriction. It can also be paired with additional speakers and a subwoofer to bring its audio output up to a 5.1 standard, although if you’re going that route you’ll probably want to start with at least a Beam.
Ray is designed to handle everyone’s living room, but if you have a higher end audio setup in your living room already you might want to pair it with something else – a secondary TV (perhaps a guest room)? We’ve also heard of it being used with a gaming PC with optical audio output.
Sonos Ray is available globally in black and white colours on June 7. The Australian price for the sound bar is $399.