Sonos Ray review: a compact and accessible soundbar that holds up

Sonos Ray review: a compact and accessible soundbar that holds up

Arc, Beam and now Ray: the family of Sonos soundbars is growing in 2022, and with it the manufacturer’s desire to address an ever wider audience. The American audio brand is indeed taking a more voluntary step towards tighter budgets (launch price of €299, against €499 for the Beam) with a more rudimentary soundbar, but which does not forget its roots.

Like all Sonos products, the Ray obviously fits into the brand’s connected audio ecosystem, with all the features included, but is still relieved of any possibility of direct interaction with a voice assistant, of any ability to reproduce a surround signal on its own (stereo or 3.0 broadcast, no virtualization, no support for 3D audio streams) and a second possibility of wired connection (a single optical input). Despite this, does the Ray fulfill its mission with honour? This is precisely what we are going to try to discover through this test…

We tested the Sonos Ray in version 1.36.1.8 with a Sonos S2 application in version 14.6.2

Editor's Rating: 4 out of 5

Manufacturing

One would be inclined to think that the Ray is a simplified version of the Beam in terms of manufacturing, but the two sisters are not quite similar on this point. The aesthetic paw of Sonos is obviously found in this model, with always the alliance for the less successful of a design “unibody”, minimalist, with very rounded lines. However, the manufacturer’s entry-level soundbar opts for a slightly different plastic box, both in terms of its shape (a sort of acoustic horn) and its size.

The Sonos Ray looks tiny in front of a 65-inch screen.

The Sonos Ray looks tiny in front of a 65-inch screen.

The little sister will indeed find its place even more easily in small spaces with its dimensions of 7.2 x 56 x 9.6 cm (h x w x d). Be careful, however, of its height when it is placed on a piece of furniture in front of a television: depending on the foot of the latter, it is possible that the bar slightly masks the bottom of the screen.

Without being breathtaking, the quality of the finishes here is very honest: the speaker is protected for the most part by its rigid plastic shell, covered with a perfectly matte coating (white or black depending on the version), and a robust grille on the front part. The Ray also has two screw threads for wall mounting, the fixing system not being supplied with it.

Editor's Rating: 4 out of 5

User experience

The minimalist approach of the Ray, and almost all Sonos products for that matter, is reflected well in its use. Getting the soundbar up and running is almost as quick and easy as setting it up. Admittedly, a connection to the network and a mobile application are mandatory for this – essential conditions to enter the Sonos universe – but the guidance offered has the advantage of being as intuitive as it is complete, even for neophytes.

Without a dedicated remote control, day-to-day interaction with the bar is mainly done via the television remote control, in particular for volume control, but only once the infrared signals have been learned; the manipulation is proposed during the first configuration, and accessible at any time in the Sonos S2 application. Some fundamental controls (volume management, playback, navigation between tracks) are also available directly on the upper surface of the bar via its touch surface.

The Sonos S2 application is the third way to control the Ray, and also to configure the system in a much more precise way and to access all its connected functionalities. As with other recent Sonos products we’ve been able to test, we’re always pleased with the aspect of this app’s responsiveness and intuitiveness, despite the fact that sometimes it’s necessary to dive a little deep into the sub -menus to access certain settings.

Editor's Rating: 5 out of 5

Connected functions

Like all Sonos products, the Ray is designed to fit perfectly into the connected audio ecosystem of the American brand: a system still and always closed, compensated by its many qualities.

The user thus benefits from a system that is both feature-rich, reliable and could not be more fluid and clear. The Ray can interact with all Sonos compatible speakers for “conventional” multiroom, but also with certain models to create a home cinema set (assign two Sonos One as rear satellites, for example). As for the number of music streaming services available and natively supported, still nothing to complain about on this point, the Sonos ecosystem is still positioned as a reference, and this is also one of its great strengths.

The manufacturer has also paid the luxury some time ago to offer its users its own web radio, Sonos Radio. If it cannot directly receive voice commands, the Ray can still be controlled by voice either through a “smart” Sonos speaker, or via Alexa, Google Assistant, and soon locally thanks to the “Sonos Voice Control”. And in case you have other audio devices connected outside Sonos, it is also possible to communicate with the Ray directly via AirPlay 2.

Editor's Rating: 4 out of 5

Audio

The Ray is the gateway to the Sonos soundbar catalog. It is therefore more modest than its big sister, the Beam. It offers a 3.0 configuration consisting of 2 speakers for the reproduction of midrange in the center, 2 tweeters with waveguide and two bass-reflex vents placed on each end of the bar, always on the front. Without being the paragon of precision and power touted by the manufacturer, this little bar still manages to deliver decent sound performance, especially with the help of TruePlay calibration.

Ray frequency response: without any correction (black), with manual correction via EQ (bass and treble level at minimum, in pink)

Ray frequency response: without any correction (black), with manual correction via EQ (bass and treble level at minimum, in pink)

Without this calibration, the Ray performs its task, but does not really show its best light. The small Sonos soundbar offers a fairly rich sound reproduction, good dialogue intelligibility, and above all a very correct extension in the lowest frequencies, despite its reduced volume and the absence of a dedicated subwoofer. There is nevertheless something to say about the balance and precision of the sound reproduction: the bass is not very detailed and somewhat intrusive, the treble also lacks finesse and has a piercing/metallic appearance. As for the mids, they are a little too “narrow” because of the pronounced accentuation around 1 to 2 kHz. These weaknesses will be more or less strong depending on the case, often more noticeable when listening to music (unsightly resonances on the attacks of already very strong bass drums, a little “screaming” aspect on the saturated voices and on the electric guitars, restitution a little piercing, “pungent”, of the Charleston, splashes, tambourines or voice hisses), but also in films (breakage of glass, explosions, sound design effect such as very low “drones”, the hisses of the voice once again…).

Frequency response measurement: without calibration (black), TruePlay calibration example (green)

Frequency response measurement: without calibration (black), TruePlay calibration example (green)

As is often the case with Sonos compact speakers, the TruePlay calibration has a definite interest in the general performance of the bar. Unfortunately, this will not be able to act on the general lack of precision. On the other hand, it makes it possible to frankly erase the sound coloring of the bar itself, and to a lesser extent certain defects of the part — even if the manufacturer advertises it, we still strongly advise you not to place the bar in a piece of furniture, at the risk of waking up ugly resonances in the bass and low-mids. The basses are calmer — so much so that it is even possible to accentuate them very slightly afterwards with the EQ of the application if you like the basses a little round — and are therefore much less subject to overflows, the mids gain in definition and natural timbres, the sound reproduction is a little clearer, a bit more airy, and the metallic aspect of the treble is more discreet. The overall experience is thus more pleasant, which allows the bar to earn its fourth star at this level.

As we told you above, the Sonos Ray is above all cut out for small spaces, which is confirmed in particular in terms of reproduction of the sound stage. This is really not very wide – it does not exceed the physical limits of the enclosure, at best – and remains a minimum coherent if you do not step back too much (less than 2.5 m). Beyond that, it seems particularly compact and it is difficult to perceive a real notion of width, even on the most explicit sound effects. Too bad, especially when you know that some sound bars of equivalent size are able to do better on this point, and even to offer 3D virtualization that holds up.

Measurement of Harmonic Distortion Rate: normalization at 79 dB SPL (red), at 85 dB SPL (purple)

Measurement of Harmonic Distortion Rate: normalization at 79 dB SPL (red), at 85 dB SPL (purple)

The usable power reserve – before reaching around 75% of the volume – of the Sonos Ray is quite sufficient to enjoy a comfortable listening level in a small living room or in a bedroom. The soundbar has power to spare, however, the bass and treble gradually sag when pushed to its limits. The bass rendering is rougher and the sound reproduction hardens, for an unpleasant result at very high volume.

Frequency response measurement: uncorrected at 79 dB SPL (black), uncorrected at 85 dB SPL (purple)

Frequency response measurement: uncorrected at 79 dB SPL (black), uncorrected at 85 dB SPL (purple)

Strong points

  • Rich and well-balanced sound reproduction, especially after TruePlay calibration.

  • Nice extension in the bass given the volume of the bar.

  • Sonos connected ecosystem, still as complete and pleasant to use.

  • Simple, intuitive use.

  • Good quality workmanship and finish.

Weak points

  • Perfectible sound precision, metallic/spicy aspect of the treble.

  • Particularly narrow soundstage.

  • TruePlay automatic acoustic calibration for iOS users only.

  • Connectors far too rudimentary (only one optical input).

Conclusion

we tested we liked
Global mark

Editor's Rating: 4 out of 5

How does grading work?

The Ray soundbar’s approach is very simplistic when it comes to setup and connection, sometimes a little too much, which is partly offset by the power of Sonos’ very mature and superior connected audio ecosystem. of its direct competitors. In terms of sound performance, the Ray really needs TruePlay calibration to express its full potential, which allows it to go from the stage of a simply decent soundbar to that of an interesting soundbar. That said, there are rivals a little more gifted on this last point, some even offering a more immersive cinematic experience, with good sound virtualization. The choice of the Sonos Ray as a compact soundbar will therefore depend on your expectations.

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