Sonos has been in the field of speaker systems for years now, but they’ve always been on the pricey side. Now they’re hoping to crack the code with The Sonos Ray Soundbar, a new sub-$300 soundbar that’s more wallet-friendly than ever. After spending a month with it, I’ll take you for an in-depth look at what makes this product special and whether or not it’s worth your money.
When I think of Sonos, I think high-end and expensive. But now they’re adding another word: affordable. Sonos just dropped their brand new soundbar, the Sonos Ray to complement their high-end collection: the Beam and Arc soundbars.
During a time when prices for practically everything is going up, it’s quite refreshing to see this new unit. At only $297, the Sonos Ray is budget-friendly and high quality, a combination we rarely see so when I saw it announced a month ago, I just had to pre-order it immediately, and I have some interesting thoughts to share.
Unboxing & Setup
Straight out of the box, you’ll get:
- The Sonos Ray Soundbar
- A 6 ft (2 m) power cable
- A 4.9 ft (1.5 m) optical cable
- Quickstart Guide and legal/warranty information
I have a lounge room upgrade that has been a long-time coming and I’ll be replacing a dusty old Yamaha ATS-1080 Soundbar that I have used for years.
The setup was extremely simple and even Bob the Builder could manage: I just plugged the Ray into the wall and connected it to my TV with the optical audio cable. Then, I set it all up with the intuitive Sonos app on my phone. Disclaimer though, this process was pretty fast since this isn’t the first Sonos in the home but It’ll take a little longer if it’s your first Sonos.
One of its most exciting features, aside from its amazing price tag, is its simple aesthetic design.
At first glance, it kinda looks a little like Beam’s little brother who doesn’t know how to stand properly. That’s because the Ray is the first Sonos soundbar to have a perpendicular front face with all the acoustic elements facing forward. So far, this is the only Sonos we’re able to tuck within an entertainment console without affecting sound quality.
The Sonos Ray comes in black and white variants, with touch controls that are nice, and clean to the touch. I opted for the unpopular choice, the clean white aesthetic. I think it’s nice in a lounge room setting or at least the setting I am aiming for for the lounge room makeover.
At 22 inches and just a little over 4 pounds, the Ray is smaller than its 25-Inch Beam sibling and half the size of the flagship Sonos Arc.
Overall, the design of the Ray is iconic Sonos – sleek, modern, stylish yet understated. But I find it to be a bit more playful and youthful in its design, particularly in the fresh white variant.
No Dolby Atmos
A key negative here is the lack of Dolby Atmos – which is essentially the creme da la creme surround sound technology that creates height channels so sound can be interpreted as three-dimensional objects. If that sounds confusing, just consider it as a more realistic sound output.
The flagship Arc has upward-firing speakers to bounce sound off the ceiling so you get that signature Atmos “three-dimensional sound” and the Beam gets virtual Atmos but uses acoustic trickery to recreate that ceiling-to-floor sound.
The Ray has zero support for Dolby Atmos, so we don’t get the height effects – we instead get the standard Dolby and DTS audio.
Yes, we could let it slide based on its $279 price tag, however, it’s hard not to compare it with the just as affordable Sony HTX8500 that not only features true Dolby Atmos, but also in-built dual subwoofers.
Another element missing on the Ray is HDMI eArc – which lets you transmit the original full-resolution audio signal through a single HDMI cable to reproduce the best sound.
It’s a pretty standard feature seen in most sound bars these days, but instead, it makes do with an optical input that supports Dolby, DTS, and PCM audio. We miss out on elevated audio formats like Dolby TrueHD, DTS, and Master Audio because of the lack of HDMI.
The Sonos Ray may not be the best part of a TV setup and the lack of HDMI is a big letdown for most people, but it is still a stellar stand-alone speaker fit for vibing in your living spaces.
No Microphones or Bluetooth
The convenience of “Hey Sonos, Google, or Alexa” isn’t gonna work here – a microphone and Bluetooth are also missing from the feature list in this soundbar.
This may not be a negative to you, especially to the privacy-conscious, but what this means is no support for Sonos’ Automatic Trueplay feature – which lets their speakers tune their sound automatically to suit their placement in the room. The Ray still does support Trueplay, I just had to tune it manually but it’s well worth the few minutes.
Wi-Fi connectivity and Apple AirPlay 2 are available to make up for the lack of Bluetooth technology.
Inside the beautifully designed soundbar, we’re getting two angled tweeters, mid-woofers, and four class D drivers.
This probably means very little to most non-tech consumers, but to keep it simple: it equates to some pretty good bang-for-buck sound.
The Ray has a diverse, yet well-balanced soundstage and well-articulated bass, which is especially impressive considering its smaller size.
The Ray makes movies sound better than our LG OLED built-in speakers and noticeably better than the Yamaha ATS-1080 I was using. It does justice to my favorite TV shows like Stranger Things, Ozark, and Peaky Blinders, with solid voice reproduction with the Ray’s broad speaker soundstage. Action movies have a cinematic oomph with its bass reflex system that delivers great low-end performance.
Music sounds just as great, it’s well-balanced through the entire EQ band. As expected with almost all Sonos speakers, the low end is punchy, and mids and highs are clear even at high volumes.
Its sound quality isn’t the best I’ve encountered by any stretch, nor does the volume and power impress, but it certainly punches well above its price tag of $279. Between its sound quality and size, it is perfect for apartment living and has the flexibility to upgrade and co-join other Sonos speakers if you size up later in life.
The other big reason to buy the Ray, or any Sonos device, is the Sonos ecosystem.
If you’re looking for a multi-room speaker setup, Sonos remains king and the competition is still trying to catch up.
Sonos has made multi-room audio systems for longer than anyone, and its experience shows at every level. Once you buy a single Sonos product, you’re going to be hooked and you’ll want to add more. My Sonos Ray is actually a sibling of the more compact Sonos Ray.
I’m not saying Sonos is offering up a plate-load of audio caviar for $279 – they’re not – but with the Ray, it is offering a killer gateway product that may well get you hooked into the ecosystem. And that’s not a bad thing, because this is an ecosystem you’ll want to be in if you remotely appreciate audio.
The lack of Atmos and HDMI may be a turn-off for some, but those who understand the convenience, build and sound quality of a Sonos at $279 are those who the Sonos Ray would be perfect for.