Sonos Ray is the new little soundbar from the audio giant behind brilliant products like Playbar and Five, and it’s seriously compact. Super compact, even. At just 55 centimeters long with a depth of just nine centimeters, it’s actually one of the few soundbars that isn’t actually much bigger than a loaf of bread and, as such, the Ray is very well suited to be placed on your desk or under your computer monitor. That’s not how it’s meant to be used, however, but rather under your TV, with Sonos claiming in its marketing material that the Ray delivers “big Hollywood sound” from its tiny chassis. It’s not true, of course, but as a speaker it’s perfectly fine.
Inside the Ray there are four speakers, two of which are tweeters and two of which are midrange which handle the mids and bass. For being as small as they are, the speakers do a surprisingly good job of building a believable sound profile, particularly at low frequencies, and that, of course, is thanks to Sonos’ intelligent digital signal processing. It must be said, however, that the Ray is not designed to play very loudly as the sound crackles relatively quickly. Instead, it’s at lower volumes and perhaps primarily while watching TV where speech and dialogue are the main aspect of the soundscape that this system really comes into its own. Sonos says the Ray is primarily designed for those who don’t want a big device or full-fledged sound system in their living room, but just a small, invisible mini-bar under the TV to enhance TV sound, which is usually flat and tiny. And yes, of course, they are right.
The Ray’s functionality is, as usual with Sonos, locked to their own app, but as long as you have the stomach for it, it all works just fine. There’s a speech amplification system, a room acoustics system that boosts sound based on room echo, and a night mode that, as usual, limits loud explosions and the like. effects and puts a “cap” on the sound that the Ray can push. There is one problem with all of this, however, and what I consider this bar’s biggest weakness, and that is the complete lack of an HDMI (Arc) port. Sonos only hooked up an optical input, which means your TV doesn’t immediately recognize the device as a soundbar, and your TV remote never understands what’s plugged in. You then have to manually teach this to your TV using the Sonos app and the whole process feels reluctantly old-fashioned in all the wrong ways.
This is an ad:
Of course there should have been an HDMI port on the back of the Ray and of course it should have come with Arc support. There is also no support for Dolby Atmos or Dolby True HD and overall I would even rate this system as obsolete before it hits stores. As a simple, plastic, generic stereo speaker, it’s really, really good. It plays relatively balanced sound with good control, but sound positioning and stereo separation are extremely limited and the lack of HD audio support and an HDMI port means I would never choose it, for example, the Sony HT- G700 or the Samsung HW-Q810A. Both bars sound even better, bigger, have better audio positioning, support all existing HD audio formats, house an HDMI Arc port, and come with an external subbox. And here, unfortunately, Sonos is really dominated by the competition.