Ikea’s budget-minded Symfonisk Wi-Fi speakers hide Sonos audio in plain sight

After months of teaser photos and videos, it’s official. Ikea and Sonos have launched their Symfonisk audio partnership with two new Wi-Fi speakers: A $179 model that doubles as a table lamp, and a bookshelf model that is priced at a remarkably low $99, making it the least-expensive Sonos speaker to date. Both models are expected to go on sale exclusively at Ikea stores and online on August 1.

Available in dark charcoal, or white, the Symfonisk speakers will be controlled by the existing Sonos app, and they’re fully compatible with the entire Sonos ecosystem. They can be tuned via Sonos’s TruePlay custom tuning function, and you can set them up as bonded stereo pairs or individual mono speakers. Both have Apple’s AirPlay 2 built-in, which gives iOS and MacOS users the ability to stream any audio content directly to the speakers without using the Sonos app.

Like every Sonos speaker, Symfonisk models will have a single Ethernet jack, but no other ports. Unlike Sonos’s most recent products — the Sonos Beam, and Sonos One — these are not smart speakers. There’s no microphone array, so they can’t listen for voice commands, but if you own a Sonos One or a compatible Amazon Alexa device, you’ll still be able to instruct Sonos to play music through these speakers.

IKEA Symfonisk book-shelf with Wi-Fi speaker

When Ikea calls the rectangular Symfonisk model a bookshelf speaker, the Swedish furniture company means it literally. The official name is “Symfonisk book-shelf with Wi-Fi speaker,” and when used with an optional horizontal wall-mount bracket, the speaker can support up to 3 kg (6.6 pounds) of weight. You won’t be able to put much more than a phone, or a watch on its tiny 12 x 5.9-inch surface, but it’s still a viable bedside table replacement for tight spaces. It can also be hung vertically from a kitchen rail, again with an optional bracket. As its low price suggests, the bookshelf speaker occupies a new level in the Sonos lineup sound-wise, sitting somewhere below the Play:1.

In an interview with Digital Trends, Sonos product manager Sara Morris was quick to point out that the speaker’s low price is partially due to Ikea’s scale and reach — an acknowledgment that there are economies of scale when dealing with a retail juggernaut like Ikea. As to whether the bookshelf speaker will sound like a cheaper Sonos product, Morris described it as “a little less refined” than a Sonos Play:5, particularly when listening to sources like vinyl. However, the same could be said of the Play:3, Play:1, and Sonos One speakers.

Internally, the bookshelf speaker has all the right ingredients on paper, with two class-D digital amplifiers, one tweeter, and one mid-woofer. In our experience, Sonos speakers always sound better than their size and price suggests, so we expect the Symfonisk bookshelf speaker will likely outclass other Wi-Fi speakers in its price range, even if it doesn’t quite live up to more-expensive Sonos speakers.

IKEA Symfonisk table lamp with Wi-Fi speaker

The “Symfonisk table lamp with Wi-Fi speaker,” was the surprise of the announcement. Looking a little like Sackboy from Little Big Planet, it puts the equivalent of a Sonos Play:1 into the base of a table lamp, which can accommodate any standard E26 LED lightbulb, and has an independent power knob for the lightbulb socket. At only 15-inches tall, it’s shorter than the photos suggest. Price-wise, the Symfonisk table lamp represents about a $50 premium over the regular Sonos Play: 1.

Though the fabric-wrapped base containing the speaker is perfectly symmetrical, it isn’t a 360-degree design. “It is the same sound profile as the Sonos Play:1,” Morris said, and has to be positioned with the electrical cord at the rear of the space in order to disperse sound correctly. The base of the table lamp acts as both a stable platform to prevent tipping, and the location of the controls.

Sonos has chosen physical buttons over its newer, touch-based controls, but the volume up/down rocker from its earlier products has now been split into two separate buttons. The lamp’s completely enclosed shade is made of mouth-blown glass and is “black toned” on the charcoal version, and white on the other version. Because of the fully enclosed design, you’re limited to a 7-watt maximum LED bulb — incandescents or CFLs are not supported.

The design of the Symfonisk table lamp (and to a certain extent the bookshelf speaker) is the result of research conducted by both Sonos and Ikea, which suggests that most homeowners end up trying to hide or otherwise minimize the presence of their speakers. With counter and shelf space at a premium, combining a table lamp and a speaker into a single product achieves both the space savings and the invisibility factor.

Unlike the bookshelf speaker, which boasts practicality and price, the table lamp model is risky: No one knows better than Ikea how quickly interior design trends can shift, and even if customers love the current design — far from a sure thing — they may avoid buying it for fear that it won’t be as appealing to them in the future. If and when that happens, it will be upsetting to know you’re discarding a lamp and a Sonos speaker. One way Ikea could forestall this inevitable scenario would be to sell a continually updated set of compatible shades. A different shade shape could change the look and feel entirely, as could the introduction of additional colors.

Another potential drawback to the table lamp design is that Sonos restricts stereo-pairing to identical speaker types. This means that if you buy the table lamp, and you want stereo in the same room, you’ll need to buy a second table lamp. Despite the fact that the table lamp is an acoustic match for the Play:1, you cannot mix and match the two within a stereo configuration. The same pairing restriction applies to the bookshelf speaker.

Sonos is on something of a home design roll. At one end of the price spectrum is Ikea’s Symfonisk speakers — an inexpensive way to disguise your speakers by giving them a secondary function. At the other end of that spectrum is Sonos’ line of architectural speakers, which it launched earlier this year. With available ceiling and wall speakers, they let custom installers, or confident DIYers, hide the source of the audio within the home’s structure.

We’re looking forward to putting these new speakers to the test, which we will do as soon as review units become available. Check back with us in the weeks leading up to the August 1 retail launch date to get our first impressions.

Home Theater

LG’s 2019 TVs slide Alexa next to Google Assistant, with Siri on the way

LG announced that Alexa will be coming to its 2019 lineup of ThinQ A.I. TVs, joining Google Assistant. Users will be able to control their TVs and smart home devices with their remote, no extra speaker required.
Home Theater

FCC filing leaks smaller Samsung Galaxy Home before the first one even launches

Samsung's promised entry into the A.I.-powered smart speaker race, the Galaxy Home, is still nowhere to be seen. But that isn't stopping the company from planning a follow-up device, which will be smaller, and likely cheaper.

Walmart cuts prices on this Bose wireless speaker and Samsung Soundbar

Don't settle for a cheap soundbar or wireless speaker: Walmart has great sales on the Samsung HW-N550 Soundbar System and Bose SoundTouch 20 Series III wireless speaker this week. Both are great options if you're looking to upgrade the…
Home Theater

From home theater to home studio, these are the best speakers you can buy

Whether you’re looking for a spiffy surround sound setup or a small system to listen to Spotify, a great pair of speakers can make all the difference. These are the best speakers in all shapes and sizes.

Dell slashes price on this JBL Harman Kardon Allure smart speaker

Dell has knocked $135 off the Harman Kardon Allure, but there's a catch: There's a limited amount of stock available, so those wanting to scoop up one on the cheap will need to act fast.
Home Theater

What is Android TV? Google’s smart TV software fully explained

Google's Android TV might not be a household name yet, but with growing support from brands like Sony, it will be soon. But what exactly is Android TV, how do you get it, and what are the benefits? We explain it all.

The Best 4K TV deals for Memorial Day: Vizio, Samsung, and LG get discounts

Credit cards at the ready — there's a massive sale on 4K TVs to celebrate Memorial Day, and with pricing starting as low as $230 for a 40-inch and $330 for a 55-inch, there's bound to be something for everyone.
Movies & TV

The best movies on Netflix in March, from Buster Scruggs to Roma

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, witty humor, or anything else.
Home Theater

Here’s how to watch The Big Bang Theory online — including season 12

We've rounded up all the best places to watch The Big Bang Theory online (and triple-checked to ensure that the entire article is free of spoilers, so there's no need to read with one eye closed).
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix right now (May 2019)

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.

Take a gander at the best 4K smart TV deals for May 2019

A good 4K smart TV is the only way to enjoy all your favorite shows, movies, and games in glorious Ultra HD. We've got the best 4K TV deals, including a few Memorial Day weekend offers, right here.
Home Theater

With tvOS 12.3, Apple’s TV app begins its platform-conquering journey

Apple's redesigned TV app experience is here, and it's on Apple TV, iOS, and even some smart TVs. But what exactly is this new experience and how is it different than Roku, Amazon, and others? We've got the answers.

Walmart Memorial Day sale: 4K TVs, laptops, and Apple iPads get price cuts

The Walmart Memorial Day sale has begun. With some pretty nice savings on Apple iPads, Samsung and Vizio 4K TVs, laptops, and Google Home devices, now is a great time to snag some electronics for cheap.
Movies & TV

From Ted to John Wick, these are Keanu Reeves’ best roles

From assassins to computer hackers, football players, and metalhead teens, here's a ranking of Keanu Reeves' best film roles throughout his illustrious, decades-long career in Hollywood.