Personal Tech | July 20, 2022 10:38 am

Review: Sonos Ray Is the Ideal Soundbar for Small Spaces

It’s a compact, minimalist unit that foregoes features for simply great sound

Sonos Ray white soundbar
The new Sonos Ray soundbar is a $279 upgrade for your TV
Sonos

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I’ve owned a Sonos Beam for a few years now, and I paired it with two Sonos One speakers for a simple plug-and-play surround sound experience. My one complaint about this setup is that occasionally dialogue gets lost and volume can be all over the place (which really is more on the streaming service I’m using than the soundbar). Overall, it’s a great, somewhat affordable and very easy-to-use home theater system.

Honestly, I didn’t think I needed an upgrade to the new Sonos Ray — and what I learned testing one of these soundbars out for a few weeks is that it isn’t necessarily an upgrade, but more of an alternative for people like, well, actually me. As in, a New Yorker with not of space who has two TVs in two different rooms (which, in NYC, can sound weirdly fancy. Two rooms? Two TVs? Get out of here, Elon.)

The Ray launched in June, and I went to a pre-launch demo in Manhattan and also tested a unit out at home on the smaller (43”) of two sets in the house. Given that the unit is being touted as “clearer, more powerful audio than you’d ever expect from a small standalone soundbar,” I chose not to pair it with additional Sonos speakers and simply try it as a standalone unit.

The specs:

  • Four Class-D digital amplifiers
  • Two full-range midwoofers
  • Adjustable EQ
  • Two tweeters
  • Speech enhancement and Night Sound settings
  • 22 x 3.74 x. 2.79” (W x D x H)
  • Available in black or white
  • 4.29 lbs.
Sonos Arc, Beam and Ray
A size comparison between the Sonos Arc, Beam and Ray
Sonos

What works:

  • As with any Sonos product we’ve tried, setup was a breeze…with one exception (see below). This is truly an audio company for people who want minimal fuss right out of the box.
  • Given that our slightly older TV in the bedroom has an infrared (IR) remote, I was able to use the TV’s dedicated remote to adjust the volume. 
  • It’s smaller than the Sonos Beam by about 3+ inches in width and two pounds lighter. Seriously, this is quite a compact and lightweight unit. 
  • I was worried about the soundbar’s compact size as it relates to sound — I figured not being front and center would greatly affect the audio quality, or at least TV dialogue (Sonos touts the Ray as having “forward-facing acoustics”). I was surprised at how balanced, full and crisp everything was, both for streaming shows and streaming music (and yes, Sonos Radio does seem to have a better sound quality than other services, even when not using the Sonos HD upgrade).

What kind of works:

  • Trueplay is software that helps your Ray adapt to the contours of the room. It involves waving around your iOS device (iPhone, iPad) in a very slow and deliberate manner for a minute or so throughout the space where your soundbar will live. The good news? I noticed a definite audio improvement after undergoing the process, particularly when I sat in different parts of the bedroom — which, based on the TV setup, has a bit of an unusual layout (it’s not perfectly square and a wall juts out nearby). Bad news? I had to do the process four times to get it to work. 
  • I was pleasantly surprised that I got my old TV remote to control the sound, but others have complained about the lack of RF or Bluetooth remote compatibility

What needs work:

  • My bad, but having also received a demo of Sonos Voice Control the same day I heard Ray for the first time, I assumed it was part of the system. It is not. You’ll be using the Sonos app or the touch controls on top (and maybe your TV remote, as mentioned above). 
  • Is $279 too much for a starter soundbar? That’s still a modest investment, and not much less than a refurbished Sonos Beam.
  • The minimalist Beam lacks a few features of other soundbars, like an HDMI port.
Sonos Ray on this writer's dresser
Putting a Sonos Ray soundbar on our writer’s media console
Kirk Miller

Final thoughts:

Simply put, your TV will sound better and you’ll be able to bring a quality music speaker into your room with the Ray — and you can pair it with other Sonos products if you wish, but it doesn’t seem necessary; I found I didn’t miss the surround sound aspect of our Sonos Beam/One living room setup. Overall, you may pay a little more for soundbar that, on the surface, offers a few less features. But the Ray will fit — literally and figuratively — comfortably in your life for years to come.