After numerous leaks, hints and rumours, Sonos has announced it's adding a new member to its lauded soundbar family. The Sonos Ray is more compact and more affordable than any Sonos soundbar before it, but it does without the immersive format support of its siblings.
Ever since it launched the Sonos Arc with upward firing drivers and Dolby Atmos in 2020, Sonos has, unlike its rivals, eschewed the push of bigger and showier and has instead focused on going smaller, more practical and more affordable, and that's an area that the company has had plenty of success in with the original Sonos Beam.
The Sonos Beam was released in 2018, offering 3.0 channels of clear, exceptional sound in a compact design. Key to the Beam's success was a simplicity of design that, remarkably for its size, was able to overcome two of the usual limitations of compact speakers: scale and weight.
With the arrival of the Sonos Beam Gen 2 in 2021, Sonos proved it could convincingly deliver expansive Dolby Atmos audio on a smaller scale, but the company evidently believes there's room for a soundbar that's even more affordable and even more simple. Here's how we think the Sonos Beam Gen 2 will stack up against the new Sonos Ray.
So what features and functionality does the Ray have? Will it be compatible with older models? And just how cheap is it? Read on to find out...
When is the Sonos Ray release date?
The Sonos Ray will launch in Europe, North America, Australia and the Middle East on 7th June 2022, with availability in China, Japan and India to follow.
How much does the Sonos Ray cost?
Launching at £279 / $279 / AU$399, the Sonos Ray is firmly in budget soundbar territory. It's a fair chunk cheaper than the Sonos Beam Gen 2 (£449 / $449 / AU$699, for example, and significantly more affordable than the Arc, which currently costs £899 / $899 / AU$1499.
What audio technology does the Sonos Ray have?
The Ray is the first Sonos soundbar to have a completely perpendicular front face, with all the drivers facing forwards. Measuring 7 x 56 x 10 cm (hwd), it's comparable size-wise to the Beam Gen 2 but shortened width-wise by around 9cm.
At first glance it looks a bit like a Sonos Beam Gen 2 that's fallen over. It's actually slightly tapered, with the rear smaller than the front and, as all the drivers in the Ray are front-facing, it can be placed on a shelf within a TV cabinet without any of the sound projection being impeded.
Inside are four class D drivers powering two centrally positioned high-efficiency elliptical mid-woofers. On either side of these sit a pair of angled tweeters. Split waveguides with apertures are used to separate and project high frequencies forwards and outwards for a sense of spaciousness that, used in conjunction with audio processing, will apparently create extension from wall to wall. Sonos has also confirmed that, as with its other soundbars, the Ray will use boundary reflections to help create a more immersive soundstage for listeners.
The Ray doesn't have an in-built woofer; instead, low frequencies are handled by propriety low-velocity bass reflex ports that Sonos says deliver a weighty low end without any distortion.
What connectivity does the Sonos Ray have?
Unlike its bigger siblings, the Sonos Ray does not have eARC connectivity. At the rear you'll find an optical input for connection to your TV (cable included) as well as an ethernet port for hardwired network access.
Some might be disappointed to see there’s no HDMI, but Sonos' reasoning behind its omission is that Ray doesn't decode high bitrate formats such as Dolby Atmo, DTS:X, Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio, so there's no need to include connectivity for cabling that supports them.
Of course, ARC/eARC is also handy because it means you can use your regular remote to control a soundbar's functions, but the Sonos Ray has an infra-red receiver that will allow the soundbar to sync with your TV remote for better-unified control.
As well as hardwired ethernet there is, of course, 2.4 GHz wireless connectivity. You add the Ray into a Sonos multiroom system and stream music using the S2 app, and there's also Airplay 2 onboard too.
Which audio formats are supported?
With only an optical input the format support for the Ray is more limited than with other Sonos soundbars. It can decode Stereo PCM, Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS Digital Surround with confirmation of the codec type displayed on the app's 'Now Playing' page. This makes it the only non-Dolby Atmos soundbar in the Sonos range.
Is the Ray compatible with other Sonos speakers?
Interoperability is Sonos' middle name so you won't surprised to discover that, as well as multi-room streaming, the Ray offers the flexibility to create a multi-channel surround system that can be added to over time. Options to expand the Sonos Ray include the addition of two One SL rear speakers (£358 / $358 / AU$538) and the Sonos Sub (£699 / $699 / AU$999), as well as models from Sonos' more affordable Symphonisk IKEA rage, such as the Symphonisk Bookshelf speaker (£99 / $99 / around AU$176) and Symphonisk lamp, starting at £159 ($140 / AU$269)
Contrary to early leaked reports, which suggested that the Ray itself could be rotated and used as a wall-mounted surround, Sonos has confirmed that this functionality is not present.
What other features does the Sonos Ray have on board?
The Ray doesn't have in-built microphones so, unlike the Sonos Beam Gen 2, it doesn't have support for voice control assistants. That said, it does have most of the functions you'd expect of a Sonos soundbar, including capacitive playback controls on the top surface and in-app settings.
Using the S2 app allows access to an adjustable two-band EQ, a speech enhancement mode to help clarify dialogue and a night mode that compresses the soundbar's dynamic range for listening at quieter volumes.
Perhaps the most helpful app-supported feature is Trueplay, Sonos' room calibration software that uses the mic on a supported iOS device to measure the acoustics of your room and optimise the soundbar's response accordingly. Trueplay is available across the entire Sonos ecosystem and is a decidedly high-end feature to find in a product at this price.
Sonos says that all of its speakers, including the Ray, are tuned with input from the 'Sonos Soundboard', which includes audio professionals from film and music, but Trueplay means you can tailor its sound to whatever space you put it in.
Read our Sonos Beam Gen 2 review