Sonos Ray is the most affordable soundbar to date to carry the Sonos logo.
Who’s it for?
Before we go into what we think of it so far, we need to think about who it’s meant for.
“This soundbar is designed to improve TV sound for the many people who don’t care about the latest and greatest for TV and home theater. Everyone should be able to use it, even if they have a fifteen year old flatscreen TV,” said Sonos’ representative.
“The soundbar must also be affordable, and also take up little space. This is for anyone who thinks the flagship Arc is too big.”
Sonos Ray is therefore compact, and it has optical digital input, since this is the standard for older flat-TVs. But where the Beam solves this with an adapter from HDMI to optical digital cable, the Ray doesn’t have an HDMI input at all! Optical is all you get.
Only Dolby Digital
Without HDMI, the soundbar does not need to support Dolby Atmos, which is incompatible with optical input. Dolby Digital is what you get for surround sound, not even DTS is supported. You can, however, upgrade with surround speakers (e.g. Sonos One SL) and a subwoofer, if you wish. Something tells us that those interested in this will get the Beam or the Arc instead.
Sonos Ray: The smallest so far
The soundbar is slightly smaller than the Beam, the smallest soundbar to date, and Sonos could tell us that there has been a battle between the industrial design department and the acoustics department, with one crew wanting a smaller footprint and the other demanding more volume for a fuller sound. A compromise has been reached that everyone is happy with.
Ok, so we now know whom Sonos defines as the customer base for the Ray sound bar. What do we at L&B Tech Reviews think?
Why remove HDMI?
Well. We do, of course, understand that people with older equipment do not want to be left behind. But to exclude the features of newer TVs, is a bigger issue. It is not only Dolby Atmos and high definition sound that take advantage of HDMI, but also the fact that you can control to a greater extent that sound and picture are synchronised (lip sync)
If, for example, the sound lags behind the picture, which is particularly noticeable when the sound of the dialogue does not match the lips, this cannot be corrected when using an optical cable. HDMI, on the other hand, gives greater flexibility to delay the picture in relation to the sound.
Cannot be used as a rear speaker
When rumours of the Ray sound bar first came to our attention (under the codename Fury), it was speculated that two units could be used as rear speakers, for example with the larger Arc soundbar. Placing two vertically positioned Rays behind the listener would give even bigger sound than when using the Sonos Ones or even the Fives, and also make better use of the 3D Dolby Atmos format.
Today this was debunked: Ray cannot be used as rear speakers at all, this is a pure sound bar.
The representative could tell that Sonos has worked hard with the acoustics of the new soundbar. Among other things, it must leak minimal sound backwards, so that it has minimal impact whether the Ray is hung on the wall or placed on the TV bench. In particular, carefully calculated waveguides have been used to control the dispersion.
Then, of course, there’s the software work. For example, the TruePlay room correction system removes colorations and adapts the sound to the room. Dialog Enhancer, when activated, ensures a crisper and clearer dialogue. Then there’s night mode, which reduces dynamics and allows for slightly louder sound in the evening without waking sleeping family members.
When we peel away all the chatter, it’s the sound quality that counts. And what we heard was quite ok. The sound from both music and film clips was clear, with distinct singing voices and dialogue, and you got a certain impression of surround sound on film. The sound is balanced and nice, but in now way the last word in dynamics.
The sound quality reminds us a of that we remember from Beam. If you connect a subwoofer, the sound will undoubtedly be even richer and more explosive. But so far Sonos has just one subwoofer on the menu, and it costs far too much for anyone to seriously consider pairing it with the Ray.
Therefore, more or less credible rumours that a smaller subwoofer is on the way have flourished, without Sonos wanting to comment on this.
Based on the demonstration of the Sonos Ray, it seems to deliver good sound for the money. The price tag of EUR 300 seems fair, all things considered. Especially if you have Sonos products already, and want the soundbar to be incorporated into the same system.
However. It is not much smaller than the Beam, and it seems downright strange to launch a soundbar without HDMI input in 2022. All competitors in the same price range are guaranteed to feature HDMI.
Beam (Gen 2) costs around 500 EUR, which of course is more. But there are probably a good number of second-hand first-generation Beam soundbars out there, that sell for the same price or less than you have to pay for Ray. And it’s hard to think of any good reason to choose Ray over these, other than insisting on the joy of being the first one to open the box.
Which, by the way, is the most eco-friendly packaging Sonos has made so far. So there’s that..
Review to come
This was a first impression made by yours truly. A unit is on its way to us for a more thorough review, and a full test of the Sonos Ray will be coming soon.
More info: sonos.com