Review: Sonos Ray Compact Soundbar
Meet The New Kid on The Block
We here at World Wide Stereo are no strangers to the Sonos ecosystem. We’ve reviewed quite a few of their products like the Arc, the Beam, and the Five to name a few. We've also assembled a Sonos Speaker Buying Guide to make it easy for the new adopter of the Sonos ecosystem to find the right speaker for their needs or for the existing Sonos user to expand their system. It’s safe to say we talk about them a fair bit, and for good reason. Sonos consistently puts out fantastic products.
Sonos has become a household name for high quality streaming audio, multi-room audio speakers, and a great array of TV audio solutions. The Ray adds to Sonos’ existing lineup of sound bars:
At the top is the Arc, which delivers a premier Atmos surround sound for larger rooms. Then there’s the Beam GEN 2 which offers Atmos with a smaller footprint and is great for a medium to small space.
Now we meet the Ray, Sonos’ most affordable and compact soundbar to date. We've put together everything you need to know about the Ray and answered some of the most asked questions we've received so far. What exactly does smaller and more affordable mean to a performance brand and what did Sonos have to sacrifice to get there? Let’s find out…
A New Approach to Packaging
Sonos recently did a MAJOR overhaul of their packaging to embrace a more eco-friendly approach. The Ray is in a hassle-free package that's quick to open up but still feels substantial. It still feels like you've bought something of quality, and it arrived safely in a well-packed box. You get a 2-meter (6.5 ft.) power cable, a 1.5-meter (4.9 ft.) Optical cable, and a handy-dandy QuickStart Guide in the package.
Now for something that doesn't come in the box: There's an optional Wall Mount for $39, which is designed to complement the Ray and make it easy to mount on the wall. Two screws connect the mount to the wall, and two screws will connect Ray to the mount. Just make sure it's level, and the Ray will be ready to go.
Fit & Finish
The Ray is available in black or white, is 2.79in H x 22in W x 3.74in D, and weighs 6.95 pounds. The sleek design shows that Sonos cares about how this will look in your room and not just how it sounds (both are incredibly important).
The Ray has an optical input to handle Dolby digital content, an Ethernet port to hardwire to your network (don’t worry it still has WiFi), and of course a slot for the power cable.
There are also controls for volume up and down, buttons for play and pause, and a button on the back to sync with your system.
How Does a Compact Soundbar Create Such a Large Soundstage?
Let’s look at how the Ray is constructed and break down its speaker array. (Get it, array, like a Ray? Just me? Ok).
The Ray utilizes a speaker array that uses four Class-D digital amplifiers, has two tweeters (off center), two elliptical Mid-woofers (centered), and proprietary low-velocity ports as part of Sonos’ bass reflex system to help lower distortion. Sonos also put in two split waveguides at the tweeter locations that expand the soundstage so the tweeter sound spreads wider and encompasses the room. All of the speaker elements are front facing, meaning you can tuck away the Ray in a TV cabinet without interfering with its sound quality (not something you can do with the ARC and probably shouldn’t with the Beam).
Don’t forget, there is also a Voice Enhancement feature to help boost dialogue and if you have a compatible iOS device you can take advantage of Sonos' Trueplay tuning to adapt the sound to the acoustics of your space and ensure that you’re always hearing your content the way it was meant to be heard.
To give yourself the full surround experience, add a matching pair of speakers for rears and a Sub. The Sonos One, One SL, Sonos Five, and the discontinued Play:1, Play:3, and Play:5 (Gen 2) will work as surrounds and the Sonos SUB would be your go-to subwoofer. You can also use the Sonos AMP to power in-wall, in-ceiling, or other passive speakers as surrounds.
Does the Sonos Ray have HDMI?
No, it does not. However, almost all TVs have an optical output for digital audio. This means the Ray can be added to virtually every TV on the market.
You may also ask, "can I use the Sonos HDMI to optical convertor?" and the answer is No. The technology that allows that to work doesn't work in reverse for audio to be converted from HDMI to Optical. It's dedicated to turn Optical into HDMI. A bummer for sure, but again, almost every TV has an optical output, so you're not short-changed.
BUT, Sonos did improve the Optical input with a multi-directional port so it can be plugged in any direction, so it's MUCH easier to make that connection.
Does the Sonos Ray have HDMI-CEC control?
It does not. The Ray has IR control for volume up, down, and mute (like most soundbars on the market and Sonos' original soundbar, the Playbar). You'll teach it your remote's commands, and then you're ready to go.
Does the Sonos Ray have Bluetooth?
No. It does have the Sonos Architecture (capable of HD Audio, unlike Bluetooth), Apple Airplay2, Spotify Connect, and of course, that optical input for your tv sound.
Does the Sonos Ray have Dolby Atmos?
People will say, "Why doesn't the Ray do ATMOS"?
My answer would be, "Why should it?"
ATMOS is an enveloping sound, and you can't get that for $279. Don't sacrifice your audio experience just to say you have something.
Two weeks ago I read that I could use the Sonos Ray as a rear from a VERY reliable insider source. Is this true?
No. The Ray is designed as a 3.0 speaker array, and it is ONLY meant to be a soundbar. The immersive sound stage they made to spread throughout the room on a horizontal plane would not work well as a rear speaker anyway.
To me, these are not deal-breakers. They make ME feel like they're putting more into the speaker and quality sound reproduction.
For the price point, this is a hard speaker to beat. It’s not perfect, (see the Q+A above), but there aren’t any dealbreakers when it comes to the Ray. If you want a fully enveloping Dolby Atmos experience, you’re not going to get that for $279. However, you will get one hell of a deal on a compact soundbar that will outclass a lot of competitors in its price range. Trueplay tuning, voice enhancement, zero-stress setup, and the ability to build a whole sound system over time in the Sonos ecosystem packaged into a compact soundbar designed to fit into any space? Yes please.