Mention the term ‘bookshelf speaker’ in the company of most audiophiles and you’d best be prepared to make a quick escape. Some would say putting your speakers on a bookshelf rather than dedicated speaker stands is the hi-fi equivalent of asking for ketchup in a Michelin star restaurant.
But what if the speaker was actually a bookshelf? That’s what IKEA and Sonos have concocted here: the Sonos IKEA Symfonisk bookshelf speaker can be wall-mounted and hold up to 3kg of books, ornaments or any other clutter you decide to place upon it. But don't worry, you don't have to put it together yourself.
If a singing bookshelf seems all a bit Beauty And The Beast, consider this: the Symfonisk bookshelf speaker is the cheapest Sonos multi-room component on the market, half the price of a Sonos One and two-thirds that of the other IKEA speaker in the new range (the Sonos IKEA Symfonisk lamp speaker).
It’s also fully integrated into the existing eco-system, and will link to any other Sonos kit you have. It is fully controllable within the app, will receive all the same updates as the company’s other products, and you can even pair two together to perform in stereo.
Perhaps our favourite feature is the opportunity to link the Symfonisk bookshelf speaker to a Beam, Playbar, Playbase or the Sonos Amp and use it as a surround channel for a decidedly neat and affordable 5.0 or 5.1 Sonos home cinema system.
When the partnership between IKEA and Sonos was announced a couple of years ago, sceptics could have been forgiven for assuming the What Hi-Fi? Award-winning multi-room brand would simply be fitting a few drivers to the former’s designs; but this is a fully-functioning multi-room speaker with a neat home interior flourish.
Wall mounting isn’t your only option for the Symfonisk bookshelf speaker, of course. It can also be rested vertically or horizontally, and at about the size of a long brick can be easily tucked away in a fashion many other wireless speakers can’t.
You’re barely likely to notice it tucked away, either – especially if you opt for the black finish. It is typically IKEA in its refined yet distinguished design. Connections at the rear run to only power and wired internet, while without the need for any pairing button or such – there is Apple AirPlay 2, though as usual no Bluetooth – the front is clean but for the play/pause and volume controls.
You don’t need much more when you have the Sonos app, which remains our favourite of any multi-room option. You may want to do a little experimentation with EQ-ing, depending on how you have your Symfonisk stationed.
You can use Sonos’s TruePlay feature with your phone or tablet, which should help. For reference, though, we ended up taking out a little bass with the speaker resting on our Atacama hi-fi racks, but kept the Loudness feature on for a little extra punch and vibrancy.
The result is that we can confidently say that this is the best-sounding bookshelf we have tested. Though it was never going to rival the Sonos One for sound quality – and it doesn't – the same character is there. This particular Symfonisk is bold and focused in its delivery, with voices especially, unashamedly belting out the more animated of our tunes with comparable energy.
The balance is generally good as well, though we had tweaked and fine-tuned it to take out some bass. That wasn’t particularly to do with a skewed balance, but that it opened up the sound a little; a speaker of this shape and size, after all, can only offer so much room for every instrument.
It can go quiet as well. It is not meant as a slight when we say this Symfonisk speaker would be ideal for unobtrusive background music. Simply it can handle hanging back just as much as it enjoys throwing the kitchen sink.
Timing and dynamics aren’t bad either – the only thing it lacks is perhaps a little maturity. At times it feels as if the music we’re hearing is being delivered in the exact same brick shape as the Symfonisk speaker itself.
Busy arrangements especially get overcrowded, with the sound often becoming cloudy a little rough around the edges, while rhythmically – though not without punch or drive – it can seem a little pedestrian, and the nuances of dynamic expression are often all but lost.
Strictly speaking, there is no other multi-room option at this price that can offer more in the way of these sonic facets, while still delivering such a bold and weighty presentation. Yet the performance still feels a little too blunt to be worthy of five stars.
On the other hand, you’re not going to get a better-sounding multi-room speaker with Sonos’s sonic signature for less than three figures – not to mention one that you can use as a floating bookshelf. A Sonos x IKEA bookshelf speaker? It’s a thumbs up as far as we’re concerned.
- Sound 4
- Features 5
- Build 5