Sonos went a bit additional downmarket not too long ago with the Ray, a smaller and cheaper soundbar than the Beam, itself a smaller, cheaper soundbar than the Arc. However whereas the Ray performs effectively, it doesn’t fairly earn its premium and leaves one feeling that they need to have simply gone for one thing greater.
Nobody ought to need to undergo the sound that comes out of TVs today, particularly when you will get a soundbar for beneath a invoice that might be wildly higher. Get into the $150-$200 vary and you will get a sub as effectively and a few further options like sensible assistant, Airplay and so forth. However Sonos is aware of that its clients are prepared to pay significantly extra for its slick integration and superior options.
At $279, the Ray is priced effectively above different basically 2.0-channel programs aside from the likes of Bose, one other model that usually will get a cross for inflated value tags. However the fact is it’s not likely competing towards standalone soundbars — it’s competing towards different Sonos choices.
If a purchaser is contemplating a Sonos setup, and the Ray particularly, they’re not taking a look at Anker and Sony soundbars — they’re eager about becoming a member of this unique sensible speaker membership and questioning what one of the simplest ways is to go about it with out spending a fortune.
The Ray is definitely an affordable and sensible method to make that occur, and in case you are watching dialogue-heavy content material in a smaller room, it’s going to be stable. However in the event you’re searching for a sound that’s in any method huge, you may as effectively open your pockets now and improve to the Beam.
Organising the Ray was very straightforward for me: It’s obtained an optical connection and my distant (I’ve a reasonably current Vizio TV) labored with its little coaching system to get the amount and mute buttons on-line in a minute or two. Not everybody has been so fortunate, however that’s the difficulty with “sensible” audio system; they’re not all the time sensible in the precise methods. When you’re searching for HDMI, Bluetooth or 3.5 mm (not to mention RCA or some such) you’ll have to maneuver on, it’s optical or Wi-Fi solely right here.
My reference system is an older Yamaha (additionally optical) with an awesome heat sound and compelling digital encompass however, frankly, terrible dialogue readability even with the speech enhancement factor on. The Ray is the precise reverse of that: A brilliant, voice-forward sound with nice readability in a restricted soundstage.
Sound and music from the Ray all the time appear to be coming from proper in entrance of you, very clearly and with some stereo impact, however not one of the outstanding room-filling atmosphere that I used to be in a position to obtain with the Yamaha lower than half its value. However, I didn’t need to maintain the distant in my hand to show it up at any time when somebody talked and down once more at any time when a battle begins. (Gandalf is the king of talking too softly and carrying an enormous stick.)
However as I mentioned, the Ray’s actual competitors is the Beam, its huge sibling and at $449, significantly dearer. I didn’t take into account a handful of Ones as being an alternate, although they’d in all probability sound good, as a result of although it will be the identical value for 2, it’s actually a unique use case — that is about shoppers who wish to enhance their TV and are Sonos-curious, not those that are able to spend on a full-home music system.
I alternated between the Ray and Beam on the identical content material and the Beam, unsurprisingly, was higher in each respect (besides one — dialogue syncing, since I consider I’ve a delay within the eARC channel, however I can’t pin that on Sonos). Dialogue sounded simply nearly as good, however richer, whereas ambient sounds and music unfold out way more and with a greater low finish. The Beam additionally labored higher with music, seeming to emanate it into the room usually moderately than direct it towards you.
I’ve a tough time believing that if somebody needs to pay a premium to start with, and so they’re considering arduous about shopping for right into a Sonos system, that they might for any cause however an entire lack of cash select the Ray. It’s unlucky, however regardless of sounding fairly good, the Ray falls right into a trough between cheaper and higher (however not as sensible) soundbars and the dearer and a lot better (and never a lot bigger) Beam.
It’s not that the Ray is unhealthy in any respect — it’s compact, engaging, straightforward to arrange and sounds good. Nevertheless it’s in a clumsy place: It doesn’t sound ok to warrant the premium over “regular” soundbars half the value, and in the event you take into account a system like this an funding, it’s completely price stepping as much as the Beam.
The place is the Ray a very good possibility? I might say in the event you’re already within the Sonos ecosystem and maybe have already got some One audio system within the TV room, the Ray basically fills the position of a wonderful heart channel; its shortcomings greater than made up for by the encompass setup. (Sonos gives this as a bundle deal — $677.)
The Sonos Ray begins delivery subsequent week.