The Sonos Ray is one of the best entry sound bars I have used recently. At $279, the Ray brings the world of Sonos to your living room, giving you a reprieve from the horrible TV speakers and ushering in streaming audio and ease of setup. There have been some sacrifices to make it as enticing as possible, but for many, the trade-offs will be well worth it.
Having spent a few weeks with the Sonos Ray, I am happy to report, despite the price, and missing features you would find on the Sonos Beam and Arc, it was a great companion for my TV watching and game play experiences. The design and simplicity of how it works makes it the ideal soundbar to fit in tight spaces. Combine that with all the audio quality you expect from Sonos, and it makes for a fantastic replacement for TV speakers.
There have been some cost saving measures with the Ray, that will make it look a bit less exciting compared to its bigger brothers. For a start, the Sonos Ray does not have an HDMI input, relying on the older optical connection to bring in sound from the TV. This means it will not be able to tap into your TV volume through HDMI-CEC, and instead need to go through a setup to have your TV’s remote infrared (IR) to control the volume.
Depending on your TV make and model, this can at times be frustrating. Newer smart TVs don’t always use IR, so you will be forced to rely on the Sonos app to adjust the volume. There is a help section on the Sonos site to guide you through the process, and with a selection of popular brands, but if your TV simply does not have IR, there is little you can do to get around this issue.
Unlike the Sonos Arc and Beam, the Ray does not have a microphone, so though the company’s new voice assistant could solve some issues with volume control, the Ray will not be able to support this feature. Thankfully, if you have or are planning to buy more Sonos speakers, if any of them have a microphone, the voice assistant can control what the Ray does, making it much easier to adjust settings without needing to open an app. The app is very simple to use, so for people forced to use it daily for volume, it should be a simple task, just a minor annoyance considering how easy it is to adjust the other smart speakers from Sonos.
“The Sonos Ray sounds very impressive.”
Looking at the Ray, you will find a minimalistic but stylish soundbar, in line with the look of the most recent Sonos products. The Ray is incredibly small and light, making it easy to carry and ideal for any TV where space is at a premium. Unlike other members of the Sonos soundbar family, it can also slide into cabinets since it only has front firing speakers.
It looks fantastic sitting near any TVs between 32 and 55-inches, with the small size complimenting the look of most modern flat screens, although if you are looking for a companion for your 65-inch or up, I would advise the Arc, or Beam would look better, since the Ray could look a bit small in comparison.
The Sonos Ray sounds very impressive. It can fill a small or medium room with sound with ease. The internal design makes smart choices in how the speaker handles audio, using the internal two centred midwoofers and two tweeters to full effect. The Ray easily sounds better than many mid to low-end sound bars, delivering clean clear audio, with discernible mids, highs and lows.
The Ray is only a stereo offering, but it can be paired with a pair of rear speakers, and a sub to deliver a 5.1 audio experience. With the Ray only having limited bass, for anyone that demands hard hitting lows from action movies or games, a Sub would be a great choice. I only wish Sonos had a lower end sub to compliment buyers looking to start their smart speaker experience.
The Sonos Ray does have some limitations that hold it back compared to the other soundbar offerings. The Ray only supports stereo PCM, Dolby Digital, and DTS, so you will not get the joys of Atmos. It also does not have the extra speakers seen on the larger offerings, so audio does lack the separation and depth that can bring that extra level of immersion to gaming and media.
When listening to music, however, the Ray is very similar to what you would find on a Sonos One or Play:1 if you already have one of their older speakers. It delivers clear audio that, much like its TV playback, lacks the bass but offers great mids and highs to bring rich music to any room in your house. Gaming was also competent with the Ray, bringing a level well above what most TVs offer, and never lost sync with the action while on PS5 or Xbox Series X. The speakers work well for most game types and did especially well with dialog driven experiences.
This brings me to one of the best aspects of the Sonos Ray, the dialog clarity and separation. While most TVs on the market, no matter how expensive, seem to fail when delivering dialog. The Ray does not suffer from this, delivering some of the best dialog separation I have seen south of $400. It was truly night and day compared to what I had seen in other offerings. The Arc and Beam also offer this, but you will have to spend a fair amount more to dive into those options, so for the price, I can’t rave about what the Ray brings to the table enough.
Sonos has made the mid-range soundbar market far more interesting with the introduction of the Sonos Ray. It delivers a lot of value for the $279 price tag, bringing a world of Wi-Fi audio and connected speakers to a market saturated with near disposable audio options. But by trying to hit the sub-$300 price, Sonos has limited the potential of the Ray in many ways, making it a bit harder to recommend.
For people looking at the Ray as an entry point to the world of Sonos, it feels a bit too limited to build on. The lack of HDMI or 3.5 mm inputs is at the heart of the problem, potentially making the Ray obsolete should you ever want to invest in more speakers. But it does bring much more to the table than most soundbars offer, delivering great audio quality, clear dialog, and connection to an app that continues to see new features and audio services as the product matures.
The trade-offs for many make sense, and the Ray is one of the best soundbars that you can buy in this price range. While it is easy to lament missing features, the ones that are present are solid, work well, and have the potential to expand. There is a lot to like with the Ray, especially with gaming or dialog, and with the ecosystem of audio streaming and Sonos radio, it makes a great centre point for music lovers as well. For people looking for an upgrade to their subpar TV speakers and want to enter the world of Sonos, the Ray is an excellent option.