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Sonos Ray Review: a Tiny Soundbar That Brightens a Room

This entry-level soundbar from Sonos produces clear, crisp audio, is simple to setup and features a unique set of ports.
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Sonos is known for rich, crisp sound in a smart package that works singularly or in a group. You’ve likely heard of the $449 Beam with high-quality sound and a built-in microphone, the Roam portable speaker, or the classic One smart speaker.

However, Sonos’ latest launch is the $279 Ray soundbar geared for people who simply want better sound for TVs. And I put it through the paces for over a week watching movies and TV shows and listening to music and podcasts. For the price, it delivers bold sound in a compact build, but Sonos made some interesting choices here. 

If you’re already sold, Sonos Ray is up for preorder now and ships on June 7. If not, let’s raise the volume and unpack the Sonos Ray.

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A Tiny Soundbar That’s Easy to Set Up

Once you get the Ray out of the box, its pint-sized build is the whole story. This $279 soundbar is just 22-inches in length, which is sightly shorter than the Beam and feels monstrous when compared to Roku's 14-inch Streambar. It weighs in at just 4.29-pounds and can be easily lifted with just a single hand. You can get the Ray in either black or white in a matte finish.

And here's the big difference between the Ray and most other soundbars, including Sonos Beam or Arc; it only broadcasts sound out the front. Not the top, not the rear, and not even the side. Under the front facing grille are two tweeters, four digital amplifiers, and two mid-range woofers. These all push sound out and generate a wide soundstage for a front-facing only experience.

Another critical difference is with the ports. Unlike most soundbars which feature a power port and an HDMI for connectivity to the TV, the Sonos Ray doesn't. You'll find a power port, ethernet, and optical port. Yes, the more classic audio standard is here. It's a weird decision, but at least Sonos includes an optical cord in the box. You will find three buttons on the top of Ray: play or pause, volume adjustment, and playback control. The physical controls are handy, but you'll mostly end up using the Sonos app for Android or iOS.

You can also box the Ray in since it only pushes sound out the front. It's fine slid into a small shelf, in between art installations, or just on a packed table. It makes the Ray relatively easy to set and forget. This makes it a great fit for a TV in a smaller space like a bedroom or even a kitchen.

Once you're plugged in, you'll be able to set up the Ray within the companion mobile app in just a few minutes. I didn't run into issues with the Ray itself, but it did get finicky when setting up the remote for your TV, as optical isn't as plug and play as HDMI. You'll need to try and connect your TV remote via IF (infrared) to your Ray, but this took several tries. The Sonos app does walk you through this step-by-step though.

Vibrant Sound That is Surprisingly Wide

Let me cut to the chase -- the Sonos Ray sounds good for its sheer size and stature. The array of tweeters, woofers, and amplifiers inside work well together to create strong sound for a number of purposes. A movie or TV show with many vocals over background noise, offers the right amount of clarity while also setting the stage and giving you a sense of the space. You can also improve dialogue by turning on "Speech Enhancement" within the Sonos app.

To solve for spreading the sound in different directions, Sonos created custom vents and dividers, which help to spread the audio in a given space better. You get some coverage on the left and the right, along with dead center. You'll also tune the audio to your space using Sonos TruePlay -- essentially, you'll walk around your room waving your phone as Ray plays some pulsating tunes. It's a vital part of the Sonos ecosystem, and I'm happy it's here.

Ray does an excellent job of spacing out dialogue in a space with Spiderman: No Way Home; allowing for the audio to seemingly match up with what is happening on the screen. It's not as immersive as a Dolby Atmos capable sound system since it doesn't use virtualization to give the effect of sound above, below, and all around you, but it does pull you into the content a bit more.

I'll also call out that the Ray did produce a high-pitched audio return when first starting up content or resuming playback. It only happened once or twice in my testing, but it's still annoying.

And since this isn't an HDMI connection, you'll need to manually adjust in the Sonos app if the audio gets out of sync or if the dialogue doesn't match up.

The Ray cannot get crazy loud and fill a large room, it just doesn't have the hardware to accomplish that. It is, however, ideal for small to medium sized spaces, and it was plenty loud to fill an office nook that had about 100 square feet of space in my testing.

Like any Sonos product, you won't just be using the Ray for movies or TV shows. You'll be spinning some tunes as I did and the Ray really shines here. It's able to showcase all tones (low, medium, and high) quite well in a bevy of genres. "Brutal" by Olivia Rodrigo opens with an electronic synth and heavy bass tones that were smooth and ultimately packed a punch. From looks only, you wouldn't expect the Ray to push out the amount of bass and lower tones that it can. Most importantly, I didn't experience any crackle or distortion while using the Ray. A more packed track like "Born to Run" by Bruce Springsteen wasn't a muddy mess with instruments running over each other, but rather the Ray delivered a clear delightful mix. 

It was also easy to control what was playing via the Sonos app for Android or iOS. You can stream from a laundry list of services like Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora, Sirius XM, and even Sonos Radio.

Bottom Line

After over a week with the Sonos Ray, it’s clear that it's a well-performing entry-level soundbar with a single quirk. After an easy setup, you'll find the Ray produces vibrant sound that works well in small or medium spaces. It's simply designed to be a plug and play solution to improve the sound on your TV and Sonos achieves that here. 

For $280, I wish it had an HDMI port, but there is no dismissing the value you’re getting here and the excellent sound. If you care more about immersion and standards like Dolby Atmos, I’d suggest taking a look at the $449 Beam. But, if you're just after an easy audio upgrade for your TV, the Ray definitely deserves a look and you'll be stoked with how it can also be used for music.

The Sonos Ray is available for preorder now in black or white for $279 and will begin shipping on June 7.

Prices are accurate and items in stock at time of publishing.