Sonos went a bit additional downmarket lately with the Ray, a smaller and cheaper soundbar than the Beam, itself a smaller, cheaper soundbar than the Arc. However whereas the Ray performs properly, 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 as of late, particularly when you can get a soundbar for below a invoice that will be wildly higher. Get into the $150-$200 vary and you can get a sub as properly and a few additional options like good assistant, Airplay, and so forth. However Sonos is aware of that its clients are prepared to pay significantly more for its slick integration and superior options.
At $279, the Ray is priced properly above different primarily 2.0-channel techniques apart from the likes of Bose, one other model that typically will get a move for inflated worth tags. However the reality is it’s probably not competing in opposition to standalone soundbars — it’s competing in opposition to different Sonos choices.
If a purchaser is contemplating a Sonos setup, and the Ray particularly, they’re not Anker and Sony soundbars — they’re occupied with becoming a member of this unique good speaker membership, and questioning what one of the simplest ways is to go about it with out spending a fortune.
The Ray is actually an inexpensive and sensible solution to make that occur, and if you are watching dialogue-heavy content material in a smaller room, it’s going to be strong. But when you’re in search of a sound that is in any manner large, you would possibly as properly open your pockets now and upgrade to the Beam.
Establishing the Ray was very easy for me: it’s bought an optical connection and my distant (I’ve a reasonably latest Vizio TV) labored with its little coaching system to get the quantity and mute buttons on-line in a minute or two. Not everybody has been so fortunate, however that’s the difficulty with “good” audio system, they’re not at all times good in the best methods. If you’re in search of HDMI, Bluetooth, or 3.5mm (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 a terrific 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 vibrant, voice-forward sound with nice readability in a restricted soundstage.
Sound and music from the Ray at all times appear to be coming from proper in entrance of you, very clearly and with some stereo impact, however not one of the exceptional room-filling atmosphere that I used to be capable of obtain with the Yamaha lower than half its worth. However, I didn’t need to hold 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 large sibling and at $449, significantly more costly. I didn’t take into account a handful of Ones as being an different, although they’d in all probability sound good, as a result of although it could be the identical worth for 2, it’s actually a distinct use case — this is about shoppers who wish to enhance their TV and are Sonos-curious, not those that are able to spend go in 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 a lot more, and with a greater low finish. The Beam additionally labored higher with music, seeming to emanate it into the room typically moderately than direct it in the direction of you.
I’ve a tough time believing that if somebody needs to pay a premium to start with, and so they’re considering onerous about shopping for right into a Sonos system, that they’d for any motive 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 good) soundbars and the more costly and significantly better (and never a lot bigger) Beam.
It’s not that the Ray is be dangerous in any respect — it’s compact, engaging, easy to arrange, and sounds good. But it surely’s in an awkward place: it doesn’t sound ok to warrant the premium over “regular” soundbars half the value, and if you take into account a system like this an funding, it’s completely value stepping as much as the Beam.
The place is the Ray a great choice? I’d say if you’re already within the Sonos ecosystem, and maybe have already got some One audio system within the TV room, the Ray primarily fills the function of an wonderful middle channel, its shortcomings more than made up for by the encompass setup. (Sonos provides this as a bundle deal — $677.)
The Sonos Ray begins transport subsequent week.