IKEA's Sonos Speaker Breaks The Mould

Photo: Adam Clark Estes, Gizmodo

In September, people will be able to walk into an Australian IKEA store and buy a Sonos speaker for $149. There’s a more expensive speaker-lamp combo, too, but the idea is simple: IKEA wants to sell you affordable smart home goods that fit into IKEA furniture and work impressively well right out of the box. For a lot of people, this must be an alluring proposition. And I have to admit, the new speakers aren’t bad.

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The new IKEA/Sonos Symfonisk speakers are a meaningful shift for both companies involved. For now, the lineup is very simple with the table lamp (equipped with a Sonos speaker) on sale for $269 and a bookshelf speaker (that can also be installed as an actual bookshelf) for $149.

IKEA has only ever dipped its toes into the consumer electronics business with smart lightbulbs, and Sonos has never been in the furniture business. Yet, the marriage of brands makes sense. IKEA is great at furniture, which lives in the home. Sonos is great at wireless speakers, which also live in the home.

IKEA Symfonisk

WHAT IS IT?

Sonos speakers by IKEA

COST

$149-269

LIKE

Easy-to-use, cheap

NO LIKE

Very furniture-focused

What makes these new speakers more intriguing is the fact that Sonos is essentially offering its previously premium-priced technology at a very appealing price point. Whereas the cheapest Sonos speaker, the Play:1, costs $229, the cheapest new Symfonisk speaker costs $149 at IKEA. And you can also drill it into your wall and make it into a bookshelf. If you own a Sonos Beam soundbar, you can use two Symfonisk bookshelf or table lamp speakers to create a surround sound speaker setup.

It’s also important to emphasise how the new IKEA/Sonos speakers work just like any other Sonos speaker would. You set them up and use them through the Sonos app. You can tune their sound for the room they’re in using Sonos Trueplay and even combine the new Symfonisk speakers with existing Sonos speaker systems. I did this all flawlessly in my tests.

Photo: Adam Clark Estes, Gizmodo

That said, both of the new Symfonisk speakers are gadgets that feel disruptive for the sake of being disruptive. The Sonos-powered table lamp is a goofy idea that suffers from its being goofy. It’s not small or easily stowed away, like the Sonos Play:1 and the Sonos One. The Symfonisk table lamp is also a lamp, which is something that people shopping at IKEA might be looking for, but might not expect to find combined with a speaker.

Sonos says that the Symfonisk table lamp features audio quality that’s similar to a Sonos One, and after testing the thing, I can say that’s roughly true. (The big difference is that the Symfonisk table lamp sends sound straight out the front of the device, while the Sonos One is designed to be a 360-degree speaker.) I’m still not sure how many people want a lamp that’s also a speaker.

The Symfonisk bookshelf speaker is something rather different. Based on my experience — one week — the speaker itself sounds less refined than the cheapest Sonos speaker, but it’s still a decent wireless speaker. It lacks convincing bass response and struggles to produce some sonic details. The Symfonisk speaker is acceptable for people who want quick and easy wireless audio in their homes (or some corner of their home).

Photo: Adam Clark Estes, Gizmodo

Meanwhile, the Symfonisk bookshelf speakers’ rectangular hardware eats up a lot more space in your home than other entry-level Sonos speakers would. You can place the Symfonisk bookshelf speaker upright, and it will feel tall. Or you can lay it flat, which still seems substantial.

Ultimately feels like IKEA broke the mould. Sonos, a previously expensive but also excellent wireless speaker system, is now more affordable and available for purchase at IKEA. The IKEA/Sonos speakers are almost as good as the existing Sonos lineup. If you’re a stickler for sound quality, I’d recommend you stick to the non-IKEA Sonos speakers. But if you’ve got that particular IKEA Kallax shelf unit, you might love the new Symfonisk bookshelf speaker. It will fit neatly into your furniture, and it will become a smarter part of that furniture.

Photo: Adam Clark Estes, Gizmodo

That’s what these companies are trying to do, after all. IKEA and Sonos are trying to change the way connected home gadgets work, and there’s more in the hopper. Next year, the new IKEA/Sonos gadgets will work with the IKEA app that controls the company’s smart lights. The speakers will work with IKEA’s new smart shades soon, too. Bit by bit, IKEA wants the people who buy its furniture to feel like they’re also part of the smart home movement, and that’s very cool — especially if it’s cheap.

READ ME

  • The cheapest way to get a Sonos speaker

  • Not as good as regular Sonos speakers

  • But also cheap

  • Fits into IKEA furniture

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