The Sonos Ray review: a compact and accessible soundbar grip

Arc, Beam and now Ray: the Sonos family of soundbars is growing in 2022, and with it the manufacturer’s desire to cater to a wider audience. The American audio brand is actually taking a more voluntary step towards tighter budgets (launch price € 299, versus € 499 for the Beam) with a more basic soundbar, but don’t forget in its veins.

Like all Sonos products, the Ray apparently fits into the brand’s connected audio ecosystem, with all the features included, but still accommodates any possibility of direct interaction with a voice assistant, with 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 (an optical input). Despite this, did Ray fulfill his mission with honor? This is exactly what we are trying to find out through this test …

We tested the Sonos Ray in version 1.36.1.8 using the Sonos S2 application in version 14.6.2

Editor's Rating: 4 out of 5

Manufacturing

One would be inclined to think that Ray is a simplified version of Beam in terms of manufacture, but the two brothers are not the same at this point. The aesthetic paw of Sonos is clearly visible in this model, which has always been the alliance for the less successful in a “unibody”, minimalist design, with round lines. However, the entry-level soundbar the manufacturer opted for a slightly different plastic box, both in terms of its shape (a kind of acoustic horn) and its size.

The Sonos Ray will look small in front of a 65-inch screen.

The Sonos Ray will look small in front of a 65-inch screen.

The younger sister was more likely to find her place in small areas with dimensions of 7.2 x 56 x 9.6 cm (hxwxd). Be careful, however, of its length when placing it on a piece of furniture in front of a television: depending on the foot of the latter, it is possible that the bar is slightly masked under the screen.

If not surprisingly, the quality of the finishes here is very honest: the speaker is mostly protected by its tough plastic shell, covered with a perfectly matte coating (white or black depending on the version), and a solid -on grille on top. front side. The Ray also has two screw threads for wall mounting, the fixing system does not provide it.

Editor's Rating: 4 out of 5

User experience

Ray’s minimalist approach, and almost all Sonos products for that matter, have been shown to work well in its use. Activating and operating the soundbar is almost as quick and easy as setting it up. Granted, a network connection and a mobile application are required for this – essential conditions to enter the Sonos universe – but the guide offered has the advantage of being as intuitive as it is complete, even to neophytes.

Without a dedicated remote control, daily interaction with the bar is best done through the remote control of the television, especially for volume control, but once the infrared is detected signal; the manipulation is suggested during the initial configuration, and is accessible at any time in the Sonos S2 application. Some basic controls (volume management, playback, navigation between tracks) are also located directly at the top 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 more precisely and access all its connected devices. As with other new Sonos products we’ve tested, we’ve always enjoyed the responsiveness and intuitiveness aspect of this app, despite the fact that sometimes you have to dive a bit into the sub-menu to access some settings. .

Editor's Rating: 5 out of 5

Connected functions

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

The user thus benefits from a system that is both feature-rich, reliable and cannot be overly fluid and clear. Ray can work with all Sonos compatible speakers for the “conventional” multiroom, but also with some models to create a home cinema set (assigning two Sonos One as rear satellites, for example). As for the number of music streaming services available and supported by the native, still no one to complain about at this point, the Sonos ecosystem is still positioned as a reference, and this is also one of its major strengths.

The manufacturer also paid the luxury in the past to offer users its own web radio, Sonos Radio. If it can’t directly receive voice commands, Ray can still be controlled by voice via a “smart” Sonos speaker, or via Alexa, Google Assistant, and soon thanks to “Sonos Voice Control”. And if you have other audio devices connected outside of Sonos, it’s also possible to communicate with Ray directly via AirPlay 2.

Editor's Rating: 4 out of 5

Audio

The Ray is the gateway to the Sonos soundbar catalog. So it’s more modest than its older sister, the Beam. It offers a 3.0 suppression consisting of 2 speakers for midrange copying in the center, 2 tweeters with a waveguide and two bass-reflex vents placed at each end of the bar, always in front. Without a paragon of precision and power preferred by the manufacturer, this small bar still manages to deliver decent sound performance, especially with the help of TruePlay calibration.

Ray frequency response: no correction whatsoever (black), with manual correction via EQ (bass and treble levels at minimum, in pink)

Ray frequency response: no correction whatsoever (black), with manual correction via EQ (bass and treble levels at minimum, in pink)

Without this calibration, the Ray does its job, but never shows the best light. The small Sonos soundbar offers a relatively rich sound reproduction, good dialogue intelligibility, and above all a proper extension to the lowest frequency, despite its reduced volume and the loss of a dedicated subwoofer. . However, there is something to be said about the balance and accuracy of the sound amplification: the bass is less detailed and a bit cluttered, the treble also lacks finesse and has a piercing/metallic look. As for the mids, they are relatively “narrow” due to the pronounced accentuation around 1 to 2 kHz. These weaknesses can be more or less strong depending on the case, often more noticeable when listening to music (poor resonances of attacks on very loud bass drums, a slight “scream “aspect of saturated sounds and of electric guitars, restitution small piercing,” pungent “, in Charleston, splashes, tambourine or voice hisses), but also in movies (broken glass, explosions, sound design effects like in the very low “drone”, the voice hisses once more …).

Frequency response measurement: no calibration (black), for example TruePlay calibration (green)

Frequency response measurement: no calibration (black), for example TruePlay calibration (green)

As is often the case with Sonos compact speakers, TruePlay calibration has a definite interest in the overall performance of the bar. Unfortunately, it is unable to operate due to a general lack of accuracy. On the other hand, it is possible to frankly eliminate the sound coloring of the bar itself, and to a small extent some part defects-even if it is announced by the manufacturer, we strongly advise you not to put the bar on a piece of furniture, at the risk of waking up to ugly resonances of bass and low-mids. The basses are calmer – so it’s possible to highlight them a little after the EQ of the application if you want the basses to be a little round – and therefore less affected by the flow, the mids get the sense and natural. timbres, the sound reproduction is a bit clearer, a bit more airy, and the metallic aspect of the treble is smarter. The overall experience is thus more enjoyable, allowing the bar to get a fourth star on this level.

As we told you above, the Sonos Ray is above all cut for small spaces, which is proven especially in terms of sound stage copying. It’s not very wide – it doesn’t exceed the physical limits of the enclosure, at best – and stays a minimum of coherent if you don’t retreat too much (less than 2.5 m). What’s more, it seems much more compact and hard to grasp a real idea of ​​the width, even with the most obvious sound effects. Not great, especially if you know that some sound bars of the same size can do much better at this point, and even offer 3D virtualization going forward.

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

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

The available power reserve – before reaching 75% of volume – on the Sonos Ray is enough to enjoy a comfortable level of listening in a small living room or in a bedroom. The soundbar has the power to save, however, the bass and treble gradually sink when pushed to its limits. Bass rendering is more rugged and sound reproduction is harder, for poor results at very high volumes.

Frequency response measurement: not corrected to 79 dB SPL (black), not corrected to 85 dB SPL (purple)

Frequency response measurement: not corrected to 79 dB SPL (black), not corrected to 85 dB SPL (purple)

Strong points

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

  • Nice bass extension given the volume bar.

  • Sonos connects the ecosystem, as complete and beautiful to use.

  • Simple, intuitive use.

  • Good quality workmanship and finish.

Weak points

  • Perfect sound accuracy, metallic/sharp treble aspect.

  • Particularly narrow soundstage.

  • TruePlay automatic acoustic calibration for iOS users only.

  • The connectors are much simpler (only one optical input).

Conclusion

we tried what we wanted
Global brand

Editor's Rating: 4 out of 5

How does grading work?

The Ray soundbar’s approach is so simplistic when it comes to setup and connection, sometimes a bit too much, which partially offset the power of the Sonos adult and superior connected audio ecosystem. of its direct competitors. In terms of sound performance, Ray really needs to calibrate TruePlay to express its full potential, allowing it to range from the stage of a simple decent soundbar to an interesting soundbar. As such, there are rivals that are much more gifted at the end point, others offer a more in -depth cinematic experience, with good sound virtualization. Choosing the Sonos Ray as a compact soundbar will depend on your expectations.

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