And now for a little light entertainment. Please welcome to the stage IKEA and Sonos, who will be performing a duet in the form of their Symfonisk lamp speaker. Yep, that’s right: What Hi-Fi? is reviewing a lamp.
The marriage of light and sound is nothing new, of course – God reportedly did it a few billion years ago, of course – but this collaboration between two of the world’s foremost companies in interior design and multi-room audio has been eagerly anticipated since it was mooted what seems like an age ago.
What’s more, alongside the Symfonisk bookshelf speaker – a unit you can wall mount and use as an actual floating bookshelf – this lamp is among the cheapest products Sonos has ever produced, offering a healthy saving on the Sonos One.
You’d be forgiven for assuming the Symfonisk was merely an IKEA lamp with a few drivers tuned by IKEA’s What Hi-Fi? Award-winning partner, but both of the new products slot seamlessly, and completely, into the existing Sonos eco-system.
Using the Sonos control app, you can link the lamp to any other component in the Sonos multi-room family, or pair two of the same speaker to operate in stereo. It's promised these new speakers will receive all future updates, too – barring those associated with voice control, which isn't on the menu here.
Both new Symfonisk speakers can also be grouped with Sonos’s AV products – the Beam, Playbar, Playbase and Sonos Amp – and work as rear channels in a 5.0 or 5.1 home audio setup. A solution that is both cost effective and that will blend stylishly into the room without the need for a host of one-trick boxes, we think this could be a major selling point.
The lamp itself is not entirely unassuming itself – especially if you opt for the white finish of our test sample – resembling something of an Apple Homepod in a hot air balloon, but being half home furnishing the design is by definition something you would have to want to see in your house regardless of its sonic capabilities.
And, though our personal preference would be the darker option, we actually quite like it. In fact, as long as you like the shape, there is little else here to consider. The power lead fits snug into the lamp’s undercarriage, and there is the option of a wired internet connection to what we would assume is its rear, but that’s it but for the light switch and the play/pause and volume controls sitting on the plinth.
In reality, there’s actually no reason for you to have to manhandle the Symfonisk at all: music playback can be controlled via the Sonos app, and the standard bulb fitting means you could even turn it into a smart lamp if you should so desire.
Also in the Sonos app is the company’s TruePlay technology, so you can use the microphone on your smartphone to help fine tune the speaker, or there are the usual EQ and Loudness settings to do so manually. For reference, we took out a little bass on both Symfonisk speakers and left Loudness set to on, the latter offering a little extra punch to the presentation.
You might expect the top end to be quite bright – it’s a lamp; keep up – but the sound emitted from this Symfonisk speaker is actually rather decent, all told. There is plenty of weight to the presentation, as is par for the course with Sonos speakers, and the performance doesn’t lose its focus despite the product's rounded physique.
Our dialling down of the bass helps keep the soundstage from becoming overly cluttered, without making it sound thin or weak, and there is certainly more space here than with the lamp’s bookshelf counterpart.
Perhaps it’s just us, but we think there’s reason to assume a speaker such as this will largely be used for quieter, background listening, given its parallel purpose as a table lamp, and that’s where this Symfonisk tends to flourish. It certainly isn’t a boring performance, or one to ignore, but the speaker is quite happy to play nice, with no hard edges or irritable tendencies.
It can go loud too, of course, but focussing more on its output starts to highlight a few of the reasons those after truly great multi-room sound will unsurprisingly have to forgo the lighting and either spend a bit more on the Sonos One or change eco-systems to something such as Audio Pro.
It isn’t that the Symfonisk is particularly bad in any regard, but its rhythmic sense and organisation isn’t quite the tightest we’ve heard from a wireless speaker at this price. Though there is certainly more space here than with IKEA and Sonos’s bookshelf speaker, it isn’t impossible for the presentation to seem a little busy, particularly with denser arrangements, and clarity can suffer on such occasions too.
It could offer a little more in the way of dynamic expression, too. The basics are there, with definite discrepancy between loud and soft, but subtler inflections are lost a little when compared with solely audio-focused rivals.
But even when you ignore the Symfonisk’s obvious USP, this is a good-sounding speaker – one we certainly wouldn’t mind sitting on our desk or bedside table.
Evidently there is nothing else quite like this on the market, but the real plus is that you aren’t forced wholly to sacrifice sonic prowess to accommodate the quirky design. All in all, we quite like lamp.
- Sound 4
- Features 5
- Build 5