Review: The Sonos Ray soundbar is a simple upgrade that will make you want more

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Sonos has recently gone even further down the market with Ray, a smaller and cheaper soundbar than the Beam, itself a smaller and cheaper soundbar than the Arc. But while Ray does a good job, it doesn’t quite live up to its premium and leaves the feeling that they should have just gone for something more.

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No one should suffer from the sound that comes from TVs these days, especially when you can get a soundbar for a much better price. Get in the range of $150 to $200 and you can also get a subscription and some extra features like smart assistant, Airplay and so on. But Sonos knows its customers are willing to pay significantly more for seamless integration and advanced features.

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The Ray is priced at $279, which is much higher than other essentially 2.0-channel systems, with the exception of Bose, another brand that tends to enjoy inflated price tags. But the truth is, it doesn’t really compete with standalone soundbars – it competes with other Sonos options.

If a buyer is considering installing Sonos and Ray in particular, they are not looking at Anker and Sony soundbars – they are thinking about joining this exclusive smart speaker club and wondering how best to go without it. spend a fortune.

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Ray is definitely a cheap and practical way to do this, and if you’re watching content with a lot of dialogue in a small room, it’s going to be reliable. But if you’re looking for a sound that’s great anyway, you can open your wallet right now and upgrade to Beam.

Exploded view of Ray.

You can see that he is trying to spread his sound, but the end result is a small soundstage.

Setting up the Ray was very easy for me: it has an optical connection, and my remote (I have a fairly new Vizio TV) worked with its little learning system to get the volume and mute buttons connected in a minute or two. Not everyone is so lucky, but that’s the trouble with “smart” speakers, that they are not always smart in the right way. If you’re looking for HDMI, Bluetooth, or 3.5mm (not to mention RCA or something), you’ll have to move on, it’s just optical or Wi-Fi.

My reference system is an older Yamaha (also optical) with great warm sound and convincing virtual surround sound, but frankly terrible dialogue clarity even with speech enhancement turned on. The Ray is the exact opposite of that: bright sound with direct voice delivery and great clarity in a limited soundstage.

Ray’s sound and music always seem to come from right in front of you, very clear and with some stereo effect, but it doesn’t have that great room-filling atmosphere that I was able to achieve with a Yamaha that costs less than half its price. On the other hand, I didn’t have to hold the remote in my hand to turn it on whenever someone speaks and turn it off again when the battle starts. (Gandalf can speak too softly and carries a large stick.)

But, as I said, the Ray’s real competitor is Beam, its older brother, which costs $449, which is significantly more expensive. I didn’t consider a handful of units as an alternative, although they would probably sound good, because while it would be the same price for two, it’s really a different use case – it’s about consumers looking to upgrade their TV. and are Sonos-curious, not those willing to splurge on a complete home music system.

Ray soundbar built into the entertainment system.

The bar is definitely compact and cute. But the Beam is only two inches or so wider. And what about the turtle?

I’ve interleaved Ray and Beam on the same content and Beam, unsurprisingly, was better in every way (except one – dialogue sync, as I believe I have a delay in the eARC channel, but I can’t fix it on Sonos). Dialogue sounded just as good, but richer, while ambient sounds and music spread much wider and with better bass. The beam also worked better with the music, seeming to radiate it into the room as a whole rather than directing it at you.

I find it hard to believe that if someone wants to pay a premium to get started and is seriously considering buying a Sonos system, then for any reason other than a complete lack of money, they will choose Ray. Unfortunately, while sounding pretty good, the Ray falls into a chasm between cheaper and better (but not as smart) soundbars and more expensive and much better (and not that much bigger) Beams.

It’s not that the Ray is completely bad – it’s compact, attractive, easy to set up and sounds good. But it’s in an awkward position: it doesn’t sound good enough to warrant a premium over half-price ‘regular’ soundbars, and if you consider a system like this an investment, you should absolutely upgrade to the Beam.

Where is Is beam a good option? I’d argue that if you’re already in the Sonos ecosystem, and perhaps already have a few One speakers in your TV room, the Ray essentially serves as an excellent center channel, its shortcomings more than made up for by the surround setup. (Sonos is offering this as a package deal at $677.)

Shipments of Sonos Ray will begin next week.

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