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Sonos Ray review: Small size, big sound

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
279
inc VAT

The smallest, cheapest Sonos soundbar might lack some features but it packs a punch where it matters most

Pros 
Compact – will fit anywhere
Sounds amazing
TruePlay room tuning
Cons 
Lacks voice control
Remote not included
No microphone
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Think soundbar and something the size and shape of the Sonos Ray is probably not what immediately springs to mind. You’re probably imagining a long, slim bar that runs the full width of your TV, perhaps accompanied by a bulky subwoofer.

Nevertheless, if you’re in the market for a speaker to improve your TV’s audio output and you don’t want to eviscerate your bank account – or clutter your bijou living room – it’s definitely worth considering. For its size, it’s the best soundbar we’ve ever laid ears on.

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Sonos Ray review: What do you get for the money?

The Sonos Ray is the cheapest soundbar in the Sonos range at £279 and it’s also the smallest, measuring a mere 559 x 95 x 71mm (WDH) and weighing just under 2kg. It’s nicely made, too, with Sonos’ signature minimalist design ethos to the fore. The Ray’s diminutive size means there’s no display and controls are limited to three touch buttons on the top panel of the device, but there’s no denying that it looks superb.

Bells and whistles elsewhere are kept to a minimum, too. Audio inputs are limited to a single optical connection, there’s no microphone, so it isn’t possible to control it directly with your voice as you can with other Sonos soundbars, and Sonos doesn’t even supply a remote control.

However, you do get Wi-Fi connectivity so you can stream music to the Ray directly from your smartphone. You can add the speaker to an existing Sonos multi-room setup as well.

The Ray also benefits from Sonos’ TruePlay technology, which allows you to tune the speaker to the room it’s situated in, to avoid room effects like over-boomy bass. Once you’ve connected the Ray to your TV, you simply wander around your living room waving your phone in the air while the Ray plays a series of test tones. Once that’s done, the app sets up the EQ for the most balanced sound.

Just like the more expensive Sonos Beam and Arc soundbars, you can also upgrade the Ray at a later date by adding a couple of Sonos One units as left and right rear speakers (and a Sonos Sub if you’re feeling particularly flush) for a surround sound setup.

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Sonos Ray review: What does it do well?

In terms of hardware, the Ray isn’t quite up to the level of the more expensive Sonos Beam but Sonos has clearly put plenty of thought into the design. Inside are four speaker drivers, each one backed by its own Class D digital amplifier. Two of these are mid-woofers, each one front-ported, and there are vanes inside the ports to reduce the effect of turbulence on the sound quality. There are also twin front-facing tweeters, each of which has a split wave-guide sat in front of it to spread the sound around your room and give it a sense of width.

This setup works superbly well; put simply, for a soundbar of this size, it’s nothing short of phenomenal. There’s more bass than something this tiny has any right to produce, mids are fleshed out and balanced and audio is clear and crisp in the upper registers, too. There’s even good instrument and voice separation, while the soundstage is uncannily wide – no doubt thanks to those two wave-guides.

I did find the odd TV show and movie where I felt the dialogue lacked a little coherence but you can fix that easily enough by enabling Speech mode in the Sonos app. And, most importantly, I never had any issues with lipsync – a problem I have experienced with HDMI-only soundbars like the Sonos Arc in the past.

Even the lack of remote control wasn’t an issue as you can adjust the volume with your TV’s infrared remote, or tweak it using the app. If your TV doesn’t use an infrared remote, you can have the Ray learn the signals from any other IR remote you have lying around. I ended up setting it up to use the volume control on my Apple TV remote as both my Sky Q and Samsung TV zappers are Bluetooth based.

READ NEXT: These are the best soundbars to buy right now

Sonos Ray review: What could it do better?

Clearly, the Ray’s limited physical connectivity isn’t brilliant and the fact that it’s optical-only means there’s no support for higher-end audio formats, such as Dolby Atmos or DTS:X. It’s also a little disappointing that there’s no microphone for voice control or a remote supplied in the box.

However, I’d argue that none of these issues are deal breakers, especially not considering how good the Sonos Ray sounds.

The size of the Ray also means that it isn’t capable of shaking the room with rumbling explosions or throbbing bass. If you want that, there are plenty of products that will serve you better than the Sonos Ray – the Polk Magnifi Mini, for instance, or the Sharp HT-SBW460 (assuming you don't mind tweaking the bass by stuffing the bass port on the subwoofer). 

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Sonos Ray review: Should you buy one?

However, if you’re looking for a neat, one-box solution to your TV audio woes and don’t want a hulking great soundbar and subwoofer to add to your living room setup, there’s a lot to be said for the Sonos Ray.

It’s small and neat, looks elegant and sounds amazingly good for its size, plus it’s upgradeable further down the track if you end up hankering after surround sound. Don’t be put off by its size: at this price, the Sonos Ray is one of the best soundbars around.

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