is known for high-quality audio. IKEA is known for…meatballs. (OK, and lots of other things.) What would happen when they teamed up? We found out earlier this month, when the companies released a pair Wi-Fi speakers bearing the Ikea-tastic name “Symfonisk.”
There are 2 from which to choose: a $100 bookshelf speaker and a $180 speaker/table lamp. You can buy them only from IKEA. For Sonos (ticker: SONO), the partnership with IKEA was seen as a way to widen the brand’s appeal and accessibility.
“The goal of the Symfonisk series is to put speakers in places (such as the bedroom) where you might not ordinarily want something that screams gadget,” wrote The Verge’s Chris Welch. “If you’ve got a partner who prefers to keep tech—even speakers—out of there, they might be more amenable to the idea of an Ikea-designed lamp that also happens to pull double duty as a great-sounding speaker.
“As for the bookshelf speaker, well, it very much resembles a speaker. But right out of the gate, it becomes the most inexpensive Sonos speaker you can get. That’s a big deal in its own right,” Welch wrote.
Here is a roundup of reviews of the new products from around the web.
• Nicole Lee, at Engadget, likes the double-duty lamp. “The sound quality is comparable with Sonos’s own Play: 1. On the downside, you’ll need to get a smart bulb in order to dim the lights and control them remotely, and there’s no smart assistant on board. But overall, the lamp’s stylish design, affordable price point and stellar audio, makes this the better of the two.”
• Android Central’s Daniel Bader agreed on the lamp. “At $179, the table lamp sounds about as good as the Sonos One, which is to say it provides a surprisingly springy low-end, front-loaded mids that are perfect for vocals, and super-smooth highs that don’t become sibilant even on the harshest of recordings,” he wrote. “A Sonos spokesperson told me that when the company designed the table lamp it had the Sonos One’s sound profile in mind, and allows for the similar price tag by trading the included microphones for lamp functionality.”
• “While Sonos brought the sound, IKEA brought the design (and the manufacturing capabilities to keep the price low),” Tucker Bowe wrote for Gear Patrol. “Both the Symfonisk speakers are designed to look like home furnishings, not specifically speakers. While the Table Lamp pulls this off more convincingly—it looks like a contemporary-designed lamp and isn’t immediately identifiable as a speaker—the Bookshelf Speaker has a trick up its sleeve: It can be mounted horizontally on the wall and work as an actual bookshelf, meaning it can support the weight of several actual books.”
• The bookshelf speaker got a few lower marks. “It’s a chubby speaker that attaches to your wall, that under duress might support a vase or something similar,” wrote Mark Wilson for Fast Company. “This would be forgivable if the sound was great. After all, it looks perfectly fine sitting there on a table! But our ears agree, it’s tinny, with little midrange and zero bass to balance.”
• A note on interoperability, from Wired’s Lauren Goode. “The IKEA speakers don’t have built-in microphones, so you can’t shout commands directly at them. You can, however, pair them wirelessly with another Sonos voice speaker or even another smart gadget, like an Amazon Echo Dot or Google Nest Hub, and control the playback with voice that way. I have mine paired with the Beam, which is set up with Amazon’s Alexa.”
• Indeed, “this is not a smart speaker and does not contain a microphone activated through voice commands,” wrote Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian. “But it’s also worth noting that Sonos has a long history of actively supporting its products through software updates and improvements, meaning that even older products aren’t left behind as the technology changes. Ikea’s Symfonisk system are Sonos on the inside, which means they will benefit from the long software and services support lifetime too.”
• They’re IKEA—so how do they look? “If you love Ikea’s particular brand of cozy modernism, you’ll probably like the lamp, which comes in black or white,” wrote Hadley Keller for House Beautiful. “If you’re more about downplaying the tech in your home, the shelf may be a better choice. Its minimal design (also available in black and white) and small size allow it to fit easily into a shelf. If you choose to hang it as a shelf on your wall, it’ll be fairly innocuous, too.”
• For many reviewers, the new products are doing exactly what they intended: offer an affordable front door to Sonos-quality sound. “The Bookshelf sounds very similar to the Lamp, though with less bass, and its price makes it a great option for a kid’s system or paired as set of rears for the Sonos Beam, Playbar or Playbase,” wrote Ty Pendlebury for CNET. “It takes the Sonos ecosystem to a place it’s never been before: multiroom music for less than $100.”
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