Sonos Ray is a compact soundbar – but it’s missing one key feature

Sonos Ray, the cheapest of Sonos' soundbars, only offers an optical connection – is that a problem?

Sonos Ray touch controls
(Image credit: Sonos)

Say hello to Sonos' smallest soundbar to date: the Sonos Ray. You could almost call it cute. But before you get ahead of yourself there are some critical details about the Ray that you'll want to know before considering whether you should buy one. 

So what's the missing key feature? The Sonos Ray doesn't have an HDMI port. So if you want that connection – and the kind of benefit it brings, such as Dolby Atmos (which is not available in this product) – then you'll want to look elsewhere. Because the Ray only offers an optical connector to handle its audio from a connected TV – whereas the Sonos Beam (2nd Gen) and Sonos Arc do provide HDMI (including eARC).

Not that you have to connect the Sonos Ray up to a TV. Sure, that's its principal point of purpose – bolstering the sound quality of smaller screen TVs – but just like any Sonos product, you can use Ray as a standalone speaker for your favourite audio, whether that's listening to podcasts, news, music or whatever isn't coming from your TV screen.

Sonos Ray: Sound design and 5.1 surround

When T3 was shown the Sonos Ray, courtesy of Paul Peace, Sonos' Distinguished Audio Systems Engineer, via a video link, it was immediately apparent that this smaller box design is differently engineered than other Sonos soundbars. 

First and foremost all the speakers in Sonos Ray are at the front. This means you could put the soundbar into a cabinet if you so wished, without affecting the overall quality of the soundstage, because no speaker emits audio directly out of the sides or top of the product. Not even the bass ports are to the rear – a patent pending design pushes low frequencies through curled ports to create greater frontal impact (as you can't easily make bass in a small enclosure). 

However, this doesn't mean that the Ray can't handle some degree of surround sound quality. It's possible to decode 5.1 surround via optical cable, so if the source is right then this small soundbar uses a clever mixture of 45-degree angled tweeters, with what Sonos calls 'wave guides' and psychoacoustic processing to create the effect of a wider soundstage. It cannot handle Dolby Atmos, of course. However, you can pair the Ray with a couple of other Sonos speakers to create a full-on home theatre system. 

Like with other Sonos products, the Ray uses Sonos TruePlay, which measures the reflective qualities of surrounding surfaces and adapts the processing accordingly so you receive the most appropriate sound delivery – wherever the 'bar is positioned. 

Sonos Ray: Price and release date

Not only is the Sonos Ray the company's smallest soundbar to date, it's also the company's cheapest soundbar to date – and by quite a margin, with its £279/$249/A$399 retail price. That's close to half the price of a Sonos Beam (2nd Gen), which really goes to show Sonos is serious when it comes to boosting the sound of smaller TVs and staying competitive. You can't get ahold of one until 7th June though, so there's a brief wait post this unveiling.

That said, there are of course plenty of options out there – as detailed in T3's best soundbar for small TVs feature. If you think the Ray is going to be too small for your wants and needs, then check out our broader best soundbar feature. Or if you're fixed on a Sonos soundbar solution, in order to fit into your Sonos ecosystem, then you could consider the Beam or Arc instead. 

Mike Lowe
Tech Editor

Mike has been writing about consumer technology for 15 years and is T3's Tech Editor. As a phones expert he's seen hundreds of handsets over the years – swathes of Android devices, a smattering of iPhones, and a batch of Windows Phone products (remember those?). But that's not all, as a tech aficionado his beat for T3 also covers tablets, laptops, gaming, home cinema, TVs, speakers and more – there's barely a stone unturned that he's not had a hand on. Previously the Reviews Editor at Pocket-lint for a full decade, he's also provided work for publications such as Wired, The Guardian, Metro, and more. In addition to his tech knowledge, Mike is also a flights and travel expert, having travelled the globe extensively. You'll likely find him setting up a new mobile phone, critiquing the next MacBook, all while planning his next getaway... or cycling somewhere.