SONOS RAY Review | Small but fine soundbar?

 Soundbars are actually only known in two formats: normal or the size of a medium-sized battering ram. But there are also small, compact models that fit comfortably in a shelf. The Sonos Ray is one of them and is already available for 299 euros - almost cheap by Sonos standards. It should be clear that a Sonos soundbar is basically not that bad. Nevertheless, you have to be prepared for some compromises with Ray.


In times of smaller apartments and shared rooms, mostly due to horrendous rents, compact and reasonably affordable sound solutions are quite interesting. One or the other manufacturer already has something like this in their range, Sonos is now following suit with the Ray, a compact soundbar for the price of 299 euros. The thunder bar, which is only 559 x 95 x 71 mm, should cover small to medium-sized rooms and make you forget the squeaking sound of typical TV speakers - also for gamers. Apparently, this is not possible without sacrifice, more on that later.


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As usual, the Sonos Ray is available in matt black or white. Fortunately, the packaging largely does without plastic, and sustainability has also arrived at Sonos. In addition to the soundbar, the scope of delivery includes a power cable, an optical cable, and instructions. Installation and set-up are virtually foolproof. The Sonos app, available free of charge for iOS and Android, guides you through the entire process, which takes just a few minutes to complete with almost no action on your part.


SONOS RAY Review

Perhaps the biggest shortcoming of the Sonos Ray is immediately apparent. There is nothing besides a LAN and an optical connection. No Aux-Line-In, no HDMI, and of course no return channels. That's enough for connecting a PC or a TV with an optical output. However, if you want to connect your PS5 or Xbox Series X/S directly, you will have to look into the tube or use an adapter. At the same time, this also means that there are cutbacks in operation, because when connecting via optical cable, operation, eg volume control, has to be carried out using a mobile phone instead of remote control. In principle, pairing a TV remote control is possible, but only if it is an infrared solution.


WLAN is of course supported as a wireless option - it would be bad if not, especially with regard to the numerous streaming services. However, BlueTooth is not offered either, which makes the connection options look pretty meager overall, especially in comparison with similar devices such as the Teufel Cinebar One, which is even a bit cheaper but offers significantly more connectivity. The positive thing about the Ray is, of course, that it can be integrated into your smart home system just as easily as all other Sonos devices and can be easily expanded with rear speakers or subwoofers.


This also includes the adaptation of the soundbar to the spatial conditions using the Trueplay function in the Sonos app, which can actually improve the sound – unfortunately still only in the iOS version of the app. This is also quite simple. Trueplay sends you across your room, emits test tones, and adjusts the sound based on them. What is missing this time is voice control, because Ray has no microphones. Accordingly, the physical controls on the top are significantly reduced and are limited to volume control and media control.


As usual, the soundbar is elegant and of high quality. Thanks to an aluminum grille, the speakers are also well protected. The Ray is equipped with four speakers, each with its own Class D amplifier. Two tweeters and two mid-range drivers are supported by a bass reflex system. This time, all acoustic elements are aligned to the front, which means that the soundbar can also be accommodated in a shelf compartment without sound distortions.


SONOS RAY Review

The disadvantage of this, of course, is that surround effects fall a bit short in terms of their impact, or - as in the case of Dolby Atmos - are not supported at all. Accordingly, the Ray is limited to Stereo PCM, Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS Digital Surround. In any case, the focus is more on the stereo sound and, above all, clear voice reproduction, as you can quickly see when testing different sound sources.


This also works excellently, especially if you switch on the integrated speech enhancement. The downside is that the vocals in pieces of music sometimes sound a bit overdone. Despite the compact dimensions, the basses are amazingly powerful, without being able to keep up with a subwoofer. We liked the sound very well for films, good for music, good to very good for games, depending on the genre, and adjustments via EQ were rarely really necessary. As mentioned, you have to do without massive surround sound – unless you treat the Ray to some amplification, for example with two rear speakers.


In practical operation, the Sonos Ray is appealing thanks to its appearance, ease of use, and overall strong sound for its compact dimensions. However, the shortcomings caused by the missing HDMI connection and CEC/ARC make us less happy and limit the range of functions quite a bit. In our opinion, Sonos was saved in the wrong place here.


CONCLUSION

Small and inexpensive, but with drawbacks

It is actually commendable that Sonos also thinks about the small wallet and smaller rooms with the Ray. Workmanship, setup, and usability are at the usual high level, and the simple look of the compact soundbar is also pleasing to the eye. In terms of sound, the Ray is particularly well suited for films thanks to the good speech intelligibility during the mix. Bass and spatial effect are not outstanding given the dimensions, but they are still remarkable for their size.


For gamers, the lack of an HDMI port is probably the biggest weakness, especially since the newer consoles no longer have an optical connection. So the optical output of the television would have to be used, if available. At least, thanks to its small dimensions, the Ray can be used as a soundbar for a PC. The fact that BlueTooth is not supported also spoils the overall impression.


You have to be aware of these disadvantages if you make a purchase. The slightly cheaper Teufel Cinebar One could therefore be the more exciting alternative for gamers - although it lacks the smart features, BT and HDMI ARC/CEC are available. However, the Sonos Ray is well suited as a sound enhancer for telly with an optical output or a desktop PC with the option of adding additional speakers.


Pros

  • easy setup
  • very compact
  • high-quality processed
  • Very good sound, especially in the stereo and speech range, given the small dimensions
  • Trueplay room customization (iOS only)
  • many streaming services can be used without any problems
  • very suitable for smaller rooms
  • expandable to a full surround system

Cons

  • no HDMI port
  • no bluetooth
  • Slight weaknesses in bass and surround due to size
  • not compatible with all TV models (infrared remote control)

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