Arc, Beam, and now Ray: The family of Sonos soundbars is growing in 2022, and with it the manufacturer’s desire to address a wider audience. The American audio brand is already taking a more voluntary step toward tightening budgets (launch price €299, versus €499 for the Beam) with rudimentary speakers, but it doesn’t forget its roots.
Like all Sonos products, Ray clearly fits into the brand’s connected audio ecosystem, with all the features included, but is still comfortable with any possibility of direct interaction with the voice assistant, of any ability to reproduce a surround signal on its own (stereo or broadcast 3.0, no virtualization, no support for 3D audio streams) and a second possibility of wired connection (one optical input). Despite this, is Rai doing his job honorably? That is exactly what we will try to find out with this test…
We tested Sonos Ray in version 220.127.116.11 using the Sonos S2 app in version 14.6.2
One might be inclined to think that the beam is a simplified version of the beam in terms of manufacture, but the two sisters are not exactly alike on this point. The Sonos aesthetic claw is clearly present in this model, always allied to a less successful, minimalist “unibody” design with very rounded lines. However, the factory amplifiers choose a slightly different plastic case, both in terms of its shape (a kind of acoustic horn) and its size.
The Little Sister will easily find her place in small spaces with dimensions of 7.2 x 56 x 9.6 cm (H x W x D). Be careful, however, about its height when placing it on a piece of furniture in front of the TV: depending on the rule of the latter, it is possible that the bar under the screen slightly hides.
The quality of the finishes here are very honest without being flashy: the speaker is protected for the most part by its hard plastic casing, covered in a completely matte finish (white or black depending on the version), and a strong mesh on the front. Ray also has two screw threads for wall mounting, the mounting system is not supplied with it.
Ray’s simple approach, and nearly all Sonos products for that matter, is well reflected in his use. Getting the amplifier up and running is just as fast and easy to set up. Admittedly, network connectivity and a mobile app are mandatory for this – prerequisites for entering the world of Sonos – but the guidance provided is as intuitive as it is complete, even for beginners.
Without a dedicated remote control, daily interaction with the tape is mainly via the TV remote control, mainly for volume control, but once infrared signals are recognized; Processing is suggested during the first configuration, and can be accessed at any time in the Sonos S2 app. Some basic controls (sound management, playback, track navigation) are also available directly on the top surface of the bar via its touch surface.
The Sonos S2 application is the third way to control Ray, as well as to configure the system in a more accurate way and access all its connected functions. As with other recent Sonos products we have been able to test, we are always pleased with the responsiveness and intuitive aspect of this app, despite the fact that sometimes it is necessary to dig a little deeper into the sub-menus to access certain settings.
Like all Sonos products, Ray is designed to fit perfectly into the American brand’s connected audio ecosystem: a system that remains enclosed and durable, compensated by its many qualities.
Thus, the user benefits from a feature-rich and reliable system that could not be more flexible and straightforward. The Ray can interact with all Sonos-compatible speakers for “traditional” multiple rooms, but also with certain models to create a home cinema set (set two Sonos One as rear satellites, for example). On the side of the number of music streaming services available and natively supported, there is still something to complain about on this point, the Sonos ecosystem is still at a benchmark and this is also one of its great strengths.
The manufacturer also pushed luxury some time ago to offer its users its own web radio, Sonos Radio. If it can’t receive voice commands directly, Ray can still be controlled by voice either through a “smart” Sonos speaker, or via Alexa, the Google Assistant, and soon thanks to a local “Sonos Voice Control.” And if you connect other audio devices outside Sonos, it’s also possible to communicate with Ray directly via AirPlay 2.
Ray is the gateway to the Sonos soundbar catalog. Therefore she is more modest than her older sister, the beam. It offers a 3.0 configuration consisting of two mid-range reproduction speakers in the centre, 2 Amplifiers With waveguide and two bass reflex holes placed on each end of the bar, always on top. Without being typical of the accuracy and power touted by the manufacturer, this little bar still manages to deliver decent audio performance, especially with the help of TruePlay calibration.
Without this calibration, Ray does his job, but it doesn’t really show his best lighting. The Sonos mini speaker offers a fairly rich sound reproduction, good clarity of dialogue and, above all, a very correct extension in the low frequencies, despite its low volume and the lack of a dedicated subwoofer. However, there is something to be said about the balance and accuracy of sound reproduction: the bass is not too detailed and somewhat intrusive, and the treble also lacks subtlety and has a piercing/metallic feel. As for the medium units, they are rather “tight” due to the pronounced focus of 1 to 2 kHz. These weaknesses will be more or less strong depending on the situation, and are often more noticeable when listening to music (ugly echoes on the attacks of already strong bass drums, a little “screaming” side on saturated vocals and electric guitars, offsetting a bit piercing, “stinging”, From Charleston, splashes, tambourines or hissing sound), but also in movies (glass breaking, explosions, sound design effect like very low “drones”, hissing sound again…).
As is often the case with Sonos’ built-in speakers, TruePlay calibration has a definite interest in the overall performance of the bar. Unfortunately, this will not be able to work on a general lack of accuracy. On the other hand, it makes it possible to frankly erase the acoustic colors of the tape itself, and to a lesser extent certain defects of the piece – even if the manufacturer declares this, we still strongly advise you not to put the tape in a piece of furniture, which runs the risk of waking up from the unsightly ringing in the bass and depressions. The bass is quieter – so much so that it can be accentuated quite a bit afterwards with the app’s EQ if you like the bass a bit – and thus less prone to flooding, mids gain definition and natural timbre, sound reproduction is clearer, slightly airy, and the metallic side of the treble is more reservation. Thus, the overall experience is more enjoyable, allowing the bar to earn its fourth star at this level.
As we told you above, Sonos Ray is cut above all for small spaces, which is especially emphasized in terms of sound stage reproduction. This is really not very wide – it doesn’t go beyond the physical limits of the container, at best – and remains minimal if you don’t retract too much (less than 2.5 metres). Beyond that, it looks particularly compact and hard to perceive a real idea of the show, even in the most straightforward sound effects. Too bad, especially when you know that some equivalent volume amplifiers are able to do a better job on this point, and even deliver a 3D virtualization that holds up.
The usable power reserve – before it reaches about 75% of the volume – of the Sonos Ray is just enough for a comfortable level of listening in a small living room or bedroom. The subwoofers have the ability to gradually spare the bass and treble when pushed to their limits. The width of the bass is coarser and the sound reproduction is strengthened, for an unpleasant result at a very high volume.
Rich, balanced sound reproduction, especially after TruePlay calibration.
Nice stretch in the bass considering the size of the bar.
Sonos’ connected ecosystem, it’s still complete and fun to use.
Simple and intuitive use.
Good quality workmanship and finish.
Perfect sound fidelity, metallic/hot side of the treble.
The acoustic stage is particularly narrow.
TruePlay automatic audio calibration for iOS users only.
The connectors are very primitive (only one optical input).
How does grading work?
The Ray speakers’ approach is very streamlined when it comes to setup and connectivity, sometimes a little too much, which is partially offset by the power of Sonos’ highly connected audio ecosystem. In terms of audio performance, Ray really needs to calibrate TruePlay to express its full potential, allowing him to go from the stage of decent speakers to the stage of interesting speakers. Having said that, there are a bit more talented competitors on this last point, some of which even offer a more immersive cinematic experience, with good virtual sound simulation. Hence, choosing the Sonos Ray as a compact speaker will depend on your expectations.
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