In WIRED’s review of the first Sonos speakers, the futuristically-named ZonePlayer S5, Mark McClusky said that there was “nothing better on the market if you're looking for a multiroom music system.” He also said that he couldn’t “get over the feeling that the cost is just too high for the company to go mainstream.” Most reviews of the $400 speaker echoed his conclusion: it's easy to set up, the multiroom and streaming functionalities work perfectly, it sounds great, but it just seems too expensive.
Sonos seemingly took this to heart and has spent the last decade mostly releasing cheaper entry points into their system (their line of soundbars notwithstanding). The Play:3 and the Play:1 both brought the functionality of Sonos speakers to their lowest ever prices. The $200 Sonos One, released in 2017, added a built-in voice assistant, which gave the company a little wiggle room to drop the price of the Play:1 down to $150. Sure, they all sounded a little worse than the ZonePlayer S5, which was mercifully renamed the Play:5 in 2011, but they still sounded good enough to compete with other speakers in the price range. Each of these speakers offered an excellent value for both someone looking to get into multiroom wireless and someone who needed a great speaker for one room of their house.
Sonos’ latest release, a collaboration with IKEA, attempts to continue this trend. The new SYMFONISK line is meant to offer a slight compromise on sound, but delivered in a high-value cheaper package. If the line only included the quirky table lamp, which costs $180 at the Swedish retailer, it would be the cheapest new Sonos speaker that’s ever been released. Unfortunately for our oblong friend, the line also happens to include the $100 bookshelf speaker, leagues cheaper than any of its predecessors. You can get two for the price of a new Sonos One, but I am not quite sure that you should.
This isn’t because SYMFONISK speakers don’t function as well as previous Sonos speakers. I found that all three speakers I reviewed (one table lamp and a stereo pair of bookshelf speakers) were just as easy to set up as any Sonos speaker I’ve used in the past. Despite the limitations of the painfully slow internet in my corner of the apartment, I had no issue getting these speakers onto my Wi-Fi network, tuning them with Sonos’ TruePlay, connecting them to the Google Assistant and Alexa, and streaming to them through supported apps or using AirPlay 2.
It was when I started listening to what I was streaming through these speakers that I started having doubts. The table lamp speaker, despite being only $20 less than the Sonos One, sounded noticeably worse. The low end on bass-heavy tracks like Kanye West’s “Love Lockdown” sounded a bit washed out on the lamp, where it sounded full and resonant on the Sonos One. Those bass notes were barely perceptible on the bookshelf speaker. More complex, balanced tracks like Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car” sounded a little thin and occasionally harsh on both speakers. It’s not that these new speakers sound awful. I’ve happily tossed music on to both new models for passive listening. But neither offer a compelling sonic argument for buying into the Sonos platform.
This is to the company's credit—every Sonos speaker release up to this point has made a thorough case for its existence. Anytime I've observed someone listening to a Play:5 or Playbar or Sonos One or Sonos Beam for the first time, I've watched their eyes widen. Sure, I've also seen them wince when they hear the price, but that didn't discount the experience they had feeling the music from the speaker for the first time. When I played the sound from the SYMFONISK speakers for my roommate, they elicited a shrug.
As noted before, the table lamp speaker does sound better than the bookshelf speaker, almost as good as a Play:1, but it doesn't emit that much light and is only compatible with (sold separately) E12 bulbs. You can't just use one of the A12 bulbs you might have lying around. Unless you really love it's design and need an accent table light for ambiance, you'd be better off springing the extra $20 for a Sonos One. It'll sound a lot better and you can use it to control your smart lights.
And perhaps, if you already have Sonos speakers and want to build out your setup, the bookshelf speakers will serve you well. They’ll add the Sonos experience to new areas of your space for less than anything else available. With the purchase a separate bracket and nonslip mat, you can mount these speakers to your wall to use as a literal bookshelf.
But if you're not already bought in to the ecosystem and you don't just love the look of the SYMFONISK speakers, these are not the speakers you are looking for.
Originally Appeared on GQ