Sonos Wants To Change The Face Of Home Cinema With This $400 Soundbar

Although rumors of a new Sonos soundbar have been circulating online for a week or two, it wasn’t until today that the high-end audio company confirmed every detail surrounding its latest kit. The most impressive feature? Price. The Sonos Ray is now the most affordable high-end soundbar on the market at an Australian RRP of $400, sitting below the now mid-range Sonos Beam and top-end Sonos Arc, which cost $700 and $1 respectively. $400.

Having a budget Sonos soundbar as part of such a high-end lineup will be invaluable to anyone looking to build a home theater without incurring the extra costs of buying all the auxiliary speakers like the Sonos Sub and these quintessential Sonos One speakers. It’s no exaggeration to say that this new budget soundbar will be a quick hit in the market when it starts shipping to Australia on Wednesday 8th June.

Sonos Ray – Australian prices, release date and specs

Sonos clearly places a lot of emphasis on this announcement, which makes sense given that only around 10% of TV owners actually use a soundbar. That leaves a lot of consumers hesitant to enter the market, and the Sonos Ray should go a long way in encouraging people to take a leap without putting them at risk of wasting their money on something like it.

Considering that the Sonos Ray costs just over half the price of a Sonos Beam (Gen 2), there is now a compelling reason to enter the Sonos ecosystem which is widely celebrated by audiophiles and musicians alike. based on audio quality, aesthetics and ease of use.

The Sonos Ray is slightly different from the Arc and Beam (Gen 2) and Sonos had to make very specific adjustments in order to achieve the compact size. For starters, the speaker grille is all the way up front, compared to more expensive soundbars where the fabric grille wraps to the rear.

All of the acoustic elements beneath the sleek exterior are forward-firing, unlike most high-end soundbars that feature side-firing drivers and/or upward-firing drivers to try and recreate the spatial sound compatible with Dolby Atmos.

The ray has two very unique tweeters which both feed their own custom split wave guards, essentially helping to push the sound into the room to help build that Dolby Digital sound without featuring the typical architecture to do so.

This clever way of getting wall-to-wall sound should ideally be complemented by two flanking Sonos One speakers and a Sonos Sub, but even without the full setup the Sonos Ray does a great job of elevating the cinematic experience way beyond that. of those tiny, unclear internal speakers that have plagued TV makers for years.

How can I know? I had a Sonos Ray briefing yesterday. While BH will post a full review of the device closer to the release date, I left the room genuinely surprised at how big and spacious the sound was from such a small device.

Let’s go over the specs for a second so you have a nice little overview. Sonos Ray Features:

  • Two tweeters, each with a split wave guard
  • Two full-range woofers
  • Four Class-D digital amplifiers
  • Bass-reflex system software to give more detail to low frequencies
  • Up to Dolby Digital 5.1
  • EQ adjustable via Sonos app
  • Sonos TruePlay setup (which allows the speaker to calibrate itself to its environment)
  • Sonos Night Sound (which keeps the volume constant between loud and quiet events)
  • Speech Enhancement (proprietary software to move dialogue forward in the mix)
  • Connection via optical output
  • Compatibility with any TV remote
  • Color white or black

My limited experience with the Sonos Ray was impressive, to say the least. The smaller form factor is certainly suitable for anyone looking to store their soundbar in a TV stand or smaller box rather than wall mounted above the TV – the best orientation with a Sonos Arc. The flat grille and front-facing acoustics mean there’s no interference from nearby surfaces, so there’s no problem placing it just about anywhere around your TV.

Of course, there are compromises. You won’t be able to get anything Dolby Atmos from the Sonos Ray, much like the immense spatial performance you’d get from the Sonos Arc. You also don’t have access to a voice assistant, as there are no mics. That means you won’t get access to the Sonos voice assistant, which was also announced today and will launch later this year as a beta for the US market.

The voice assistant problem can easily be solved by adding a Sonos One to the mix anyway.

I guess the biggest benefit is why most people buy a soundbar in the first place. Dialogue. The Sonos Ray is absolutely amazing at helping to elevate dialogue with clarity without sounding too high-pitched and tinny. During the briefing I got to watch a bunch of different clips from shows like Suit and movies like Ford versus Ferrari. If I were to rely solely on certain TV speakers, I might have trouble understanding everything that was being said and would mostly need to turn on the subtitles. That problem doesn’t exist with a soundbar, and the Sonos Ray is a nice, budget-friendly way to solve that problem.

While the purpose-built low-speed port design on the Sonos Ray minimizes distortion and helps give the bottom end body, I found there was a bit of confusion on songs where the bass was. more difficult to distinguish. Something like ‘Mr. Clipse’s Me Too’ wouldn’t be voiced as well because the production has so many different bass lines layered in at once.

As mentioned above, I’ll post a full Sonos Ray review once I’ve had a good use of the kit before its release date.

Australian pricing: $400
Australian release date: Wednesday, June 8

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Sonos voice assistant

As mentioned above, the Sonos Ray is the title of a bunch of Sonos-related announcements circulating online today, one that confirms rumors that hi-fi experts are launching their own voice assistant – Sonos Voice Control – and another that brings some color to the Sonos Roam with three new shades for the portable WiFi and Bluetooth hybrid speaker.

The first, Sonos Voice Control, is also an intriguing prospect for the company, which launched its own streaming radio station a few years ago. Obviously, Sonos is steadily building its own canned ecosystem, and having its own voice assistant that moves away from Alexa and Google Assistant should theoretically improve some of the pain points people have with these attentive robots.

You have privacy concerns of course, which shouldn’t be an issue here as Sonos uses machine learning to ensure that voice commands are handled and processed entirely on the speaker without the need to send any data between another server. This should theoretically make any interaction with the voice assistant not only faster but clearer and more intelligible compared to standards like Alexa and Google Assistant.

And it’s a voice assistant you’ll want to use. Instead of using a generic bot to help you out, Sonos tapped Giancarlo Esposito to be the voice behind its signature assistant. That would be Gus Fring from Breaking Bad, so obviously plenty of customers will have plenty of meth and fried chicken jokes to throw at their speakers when the Sonos Voice Assistant launches later this year.

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