Sonos Ray Review: A Punchy, Affordable & Compact TV Audio Upgrade

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It’s small and cheap and might lack some features, but it packs a punch. The Dialogue optimization makes it a great gaming soundbar.

Sonos Ray Review: A Punchy, Affordable & Compact TV Audio Upgrade
Photo: Sonos

The Sonos Ray, Sonos’s latest compact soundbar, delivers top-quality audio for a serious TV sound upgrade. It still offers unrivaled multiroom music, despite cutting unnecessary features for a lower price. 

Its balanced, neutral mids offer decent dialogue clarity for TV shows and podcasts. It has a dialogue enhancement mode and a night mode feature to balance the volume level, making it suitable for watching TV late at night.

It’s Minimalist; Not A Lot of Bass

The Sonos Ray 2.0 setup lacks a discrete center channel to provide a clearer and more realistic representation of dialogue in the soundstage, as found in more premium models.

You can upgrade the setup later with the Sonos Subwoofer and rear speakers.

Options to expand the Sonos Ray include;

If you are looking for something top-tier, a set of two One SL rear speakers and the Sonos Sub (Gen 3) might be a good option. However, these costs nearly four times the ray sonos soundbar price. You can opt for the more affordable Symfonisk bookshelf speaker or the Symfonisk speaker for about $100 – $200 without losing a lot o audio quality.

The Sonos Ray offers users the flexibility to create a standard multi-channel surround system that can be added over time. 

Sonos Ray Overview

The Sonos Ray soundbar has a smaller, flatter design compared to the Sonos Beam (Amazon) and Sonos Arc. Its four speakers face directly out of the front grille, making it easier to fit into TV stands without affecting sound quality.

The Ray is slightly wider than a full-sized keyboard and fairly short, so it won’t block the bottom of the TV screen on a cabinet. On top, it has touch-sensitive buttons for pause/play and volume control. Swiping between the volume buttons allows you to skip tracks.

The Sonos Ray bar is a solid pick for those who want to upgrade their TV speakers with a simple plug-and-play solution, much like the Bose soundbar. Fans of the Sonos ecosystem will appreciate this Sonos soundbar for its pleasant vocal clarity that works well with the music and dialogue-focused TV shows.

Although a dedicated subwoofer and rear speakers are not included, the Ray appeals to those who favor its small, compact design.

What We Like About The Sonos Ray Bar

  • A well-balanced, crisp audio output that surpasses many budget soundbars.
  • It has a sleek, minimalist design that adds to its high-end appeal.
  • The Sonos Ray also features an impressive dialogue enhancement mode that further enhances its sound quality.
  • You can easily expand your sound system to a full 5.1 system.
  • It offers great value for its reasonable price point.
  • The setup process is straightforward and simple.
  • Wi-fi connectivity and Airplay to support wireless multi-room playback.

Cons

  • The bass performance could be improved, although it is acceptable for its price.
  • It lacks graphic equalization for more personalized sound tuning.
  • Bluetooth connectivity is not available.
  • The sound field is narrow, providing limited audio coverage.
  • The soundbar lacks HDMI connectivity.
  • TruePlay tuning feature is only available for iPhone users.
  • Compatibility with TV remote controls may be limited.
  • The soundbar does not support Dolby Atmos surround sound.
  • It lacks a built-in microphone for smart speaker functionality.
  • Experience clearer, more powerful sound than ever before possible by a small standalone soundbar
  • Dynamic sound that enhances the drama and creates a surprisingly wide soundstage
  • Zero-stress setup with only two cables and help from the Sonos app
  • Stream all your content from your favorite services over WiFi using the Sonos app, Apple AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect, and more

Design & Build; Fairly Smooth & Minimalist

The Sonos Ray’s ultra-compact dimensions, tapered build, forward-facing speakers, monochrome finishes, and perforated polycarbonate grille make it part of the rarified Sonos gene pool and a practical choice for small rooms or shared spaces.

It also allows it to form part of a wireless multi-room system using Apple AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect, Tidal Connect, and/or the Sonos S2 app, making it a great entry-level soundbar.

Soundbar To TV Connectivity; No Dolby Atmos

The Ray has a recess containing power and ethernet connections on the back.

Unlike the Sonos Beam Gen 2, the Ray does not have HDMI eARC connectivity, instead sporting only an optical input, limiting audio format support to Stereo PCM, Dolby Digital 5.1, and DTS Digital Surround.

It’s also disappointing that it doesn’t have Bluetooth connectivity and a voice-control microphone like other soundbars within the same price range like the Yamaha ATS 2090 R soundbar.

The back of the Sonos Ray Soundbar. It has a recess where all the connection are placed.
Sonos Ray Soundbar To TV Connection

Fortunately, movies with Dolby Atmos also contain standard Dolby Digital soundtracks, so the Sonos Ray can still play everything.

When connecting the Ray, you should also consider how you will control the volume. Using the optical cable means your television cannot control the soundbar through HDMI-CEC, but standard infrared TV remotes, those of set-top boxes such as Sky Q or an Apple TV, will be able to increase and decrease the volume. The Sonos app will check for you as part of the setup routine.

Performance: Dialogue Optimized Audio

The Sonos Ray soundbar impresses with its sound quality for its size and price, surpassing much bigger and pricier competitors. Dialogue is incredibly clear, even in intense scenes, with punchy energy that remains controlled.

The bass is strong for a compact all-in-one system, easily handling most explosions. With 40% volume, it can fill a reasonable-sized modern living room. It also has a night mode and a dialogue enhancer to keep sound intelligible at a lower volume.

The soundscape and dialogue are clear and distinct, avoiding the boxiness of most mid-price budget soundbars. Speech is crisp without harshness, though Ray’s dimensions mean the imaging isn’t as wide as more premium products.

How Does It Sound?

When watching the comedy-drama O Brother, Where Art Thou? The crisp and clear audio allows you to hear the characters’ southern drawl and understand the script. 

The soundbar performance seems more optimized to dampen competing background effects in favor of vocal presentation, resulting in a flat and one-dimensional performance. However, this prioritization of voices is likely the primary concern of most users. 

Compared to a TV’s in-built speakers, the Ray offers much more subtle nuances, such as the humming of the countryside in the British drama film, The Dig. During a storm scene, Ralph Fiennes and Carey Mulligan’s exchange is audible, and the rain is textured.

Sonos Ray Bar Specifications

  • Dimensions: 55.9 x 9.5 x 7.1cm
  • Weight: 1.95kg
  • Speakers: two tweeters, two mid-woofers
  • Connectivity: wifi b/g/n, Optical, Ethernet, IR, AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect
  • Audio formats: stereo PCM, Dolby Digital, DTS Surround
  • Software: Sonos S2
  • CPU: Quad-core 1.4GHz A-53
  • RAM: 1GB

Verdict: Buy Or NOT?

It’s the perfect budget option for music and sitcoms

Despite some compromises in bass handling in its initial release, the Sonos Ray improved greatly after the 2022 July update making it a worthy 4-star choice for boosting TV sound.

The soundbar prioritizes clarity and intelligibility in dialogue rather than immersive sound experiences like Dolby Atmos. This is not all bad as it makes it a good option for gamers and sitcoms.

It may not have all the bells and whistles, but it delivers a practical and competent sound solution for most TV viewers who want clear, punchy audio.

About the author

Jack Weisman

With a background in audio engineering, Jack has always had an interest in the audio industry and has been writing professionally since he graduated college. He has written for many different publications and websites, focusing on topics such as soundbars, surround sound systems, speaker systems, and audio accessories giving readers an in-depth look at the various products.

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