Since 2016, Sonos has been a company in transition. That was the year the audio company finally embraced the future of voice, but 2016 was also the year Sonos and Ikea struck up a partnership for a new range of smart speakers under the name Symfonisk.
Blending Sonosâ audio pedigree with Ikeaâs eye for design (and agreeable prices), we now have the fruits of those labours in the form of a $179.99 table lamp and a $99.95 bookshelf speaker. Both devices are powered by Sonos technology â but youâll only be able to buy them from Ikea.
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This also means the bookshelf is now the cheapest entry point to the Sonos speaker family, but this is just the start of a collaboration which, the companies tell us, will long continue. Weâve been living with both the bookshelf and lamp speakers in our home to see how they fared. Hereâs our verdict.
Ikea Symfonisk: Design and setup
Whereas Sonos speakers are designed unabashedly as speakers (and very good ones) the Symfonisk duo are built to disguise their technology. That's especially the case for the lamp, which, surprise surprise, functions as a regular light, too. Meanwhile, the bookshelf speaker can be slipped onto a bookcase vertically, or placed horizontally.
Ikea is also selling optional mounting brackets, should you want to affix the bookshelf speaker to a wall and use as the Ikea gods intended: as an actual bookshelf. Or perhaps you'd like to pair two of them with the Sonos Beam for a surround sound setup. However you go about it, these speakers are built to blend in.
The bookshelf measures 12 x 6 inches and 4 inches thick, and, like the lamp, it comes in a choice of white or black. We currently have it slipped between books on a case, but we also like how it looks horizontal. Fabric covers the speaker grille, broken only for three physical playback buttons at the bottom. Weâre less keen on the fabric tag hanging off the top that sports both Sonosâ and Ikeaâs logos â but we suppose you could always cut it off.
But while the bookshelf speaker blends in with ease, the lamp is sure to be more divisive. Standing at 16 inches tall, it looks like a giant marshmallow balancing on a HomePod. Or an oversized love toy. We oscillate on whether we like the design, if we're honest.
Naturally, the lamp does have a tougher job of hiding its speaker in plain sight. Fabric wraps around the entire body of the lamp, covering the speaker grille. But while it might look as such, this isn't a 360-degree speaker, so you'll need to place it in such a way that it faces the room (the plug at the back helps to make sense of that placement). The other giveaway is the three-button control panel on the base. Thereâs a switch on the side that you can turn 45 degrees to switch the light on/off, and the lamp takes E12 bulbs if you're in the US and E14 bulbs in the UK, with a maximum wattage of 7W.
Ikea Symfonisk: Smart integrations and sound quality
Both Sonos and Ikea are making moves in the smart home, but Symfonisk is not part of Ikea's TrĂ„dfri line. At least not yet: Ikea is working to unify its smart home ecosystem this year, which will eventually let users integrate the Symfonisk speakers into their smart home scenes and routines. You can however put a TrĂ„dfri or other E12/E14 smart bulb into the table lamp and effectively make it a voice-controlled smart lamp if you like.
Both speakers are set up using the Sonos app, through a simple process that took around five minutes per speaker. Once the app has found a Symfonisk (which it should do, so long as itâs plugged in) youâll need to assign it a room and then youâll be prompted to use Trueplay, Sonosâ room-tuning feature, for which youâll need to walk around the room waving your phone in the air like some sort of exorcist for bad acoustics. Start to finish, it's the same process you go through with any Sonos speaker.
This also means these speakers can be controlled using the Sonos app â but thatâs far from the only option. Spotify Connect and Tidal integrations are on offer, but so is AirPlay 2, a now-staple of Sonos speakers.
Neither of the Symfonisks are true smart speakers. Where Alexa and Google Assistant now live inside the Sonos One and Beam and can be commanded by those speakers' microphones, the Symfonisk speakers are mic-free. Yet both are supported by the Google Assistant and Alexa platforms, and you can direct other Google and Alexa smart speakers in your home to play music on the Ikea Symfonisk speakers.
For example, right now we have the bookshelf in the living room and the lamp in the bedroom, but weâve been directing the Google Nest Hub on our desk to play music on both. These integrations can make the system feel smart, even if the brains of the assistants arenât inside.
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And how do they sound? Both speakers have the same guts: two class-D amplifiers, one tweeter and one mid-woofer (though the size of these obviously varies between the two). Sonos told us to expect sound quality somewhere near the Sonos One. Itâs close, but in testing we found the Sonos One had a fuller sound bolstered with a little more warmth in the bass.
Sadly, the bookshelf speaker doesn't come with a battery option, because it would make for a great portable speaker. And while we haven't been able to test this setup, we imagine pairing two bookshelf speakers would sound even better.
So side by side with the Sonos One, the Symfonisk models are a small step down, yes, but compared to other speakers at their respective price points, they're very good. The fact that you can now buy a Sonos speaker that costs just $100? Yeah, that's pretty fantastic.
- Nice, blend-in design
- AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect, Tidal
- Great sound
- Lamp looks a bit weird
- No 3.5mm input
- No mic control