With the Ray, network sound expert Sonos is launching its cheapest 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 thumping of the jet can be felt above you before it shoots into the sky: what used to be reserved for the big cinema halls has long been the case thanks to modern home cinema technology also possible in your own living room – if you invest the appropriate change. The new Sonos Ray is said to bring cinema sound home for just 300 euros. Here you can find out whether this works.
When first unpacking, the first impression is good. “But she’s pretty,” I get to hear immediately from my wife. No wonder: In contrast to the Playbase, which is usually placed in front of the television, the new Ray is considerably more compact, the slightly slanted sides make it look more like a design object than a dreary soundbar. After the simple setup that is typical for Sonos, the more relevant question arises: how good is the sound?
Sonos Ray in the test: How good is the sound?
The answer: it depends. In TV mode, to be honest, the sound surprised me a bit. Despite the low price and the small housing, the Ray definitely brings a lot of power to home cinema. Especially in connection with my small rear speakers (two older Sonos Play:1), the small soundbar gives films and TV series a very strong sound for the size. Of course, it doesn’t create the thick bass that the Playbase or the successor Sonos Arc are capable of with their large body. Especially for first-time owners of a soundbar, the upgrade compared to the TV boxes is clearly noticeable.
However, the weaknesses become more apparent when listening to music. While the Playbase, in addition to its main function as a soundbar, is also suitable for providing rich music enjoyment as a system replacement, the Ray cuts a slimmer figure here. It can still cope with highs and mids, but the lack of bass is audible and, above all, noticeable. This clearly spoils the enjoyment, so the Ray is more suitable for background sound. Retrofitting the bass is silly: the thick Sonos Sub bass box costs more than twice as much as the Ray even on special offer – then you can also grab the large Arc soundbar right away.
The compromises can also be found in the other equipment of the Ray. While the large Sonos Arc can also be connected to the TV via HDMI, the Ray can only be connected via an optical cable. This has two major consequences. On the one hand, the soundbar unfortunately does not support the modern Dolby Atmos standard, so it cannot offer full surround sound. Much more serious, however, is that the volume control cannot be done directly via the television. Instead, the Ray offers an infrared receiver that can be connected to the TV remote control. However, if the television uses Bluetooth – as is often the case with newer models in particular – customers face a problem: volume control is then only available via an app. This makes using the Ray extremely unattractive.
The app is otherwise one of the strengths of the Sonos system. Not only can the boxes and soundbars be easily set up and connected together in any room or sound area, it also offers numerous options for adjusting the sound. This is also particularly practical with the Ray in relation to the TV sound: With a night mode, the extreme swings in volume, which today’s films tend to be, can be compensated for. A speech mode highlights the voices if desired. So you can understand something without shaking the children – or the neighbors – out of bed in the evening from too loud sequences.
A form of control that was only introduced a few years ago is probably also being omitted for reasons of economy: Unlike the manufacturer’s cheapest soundbar to date, the Sonos Beam, the Ray does not support voice commands via Alexa or the Google Assistant. However, if you don’t want to do without it, you have the option of bringing an additional speaker that can be used with voice commands, such as the Sonos One, into the system – and then use it to control the Ray.
Conclusion: entry-level savings with compromises
The Sonos Ray is the most affordable soundbar in the Sonos lineup, and it feels that way to use. The workmanship and the look appear to be of high quality, but the compromises compared to the more expensive boxes are clearly present and noticeable. The package of a chic look, the well-known simple Sonos operation and a decent sound are all right in view of the relatively low price.
Anyone who already owns a Sonos system and is 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, one should consider expanding the Ray with two additional speakers such as the Sonos One or the compatible Ikea Symfonisk system, it offers real added value. If you also want to listen to music via the soundbar, you should consider buying a Beam or the Sonos Arc. However, they are also quite a bit more expensive.