Is the Sonos-Powered Ikea Symfonisk Picture Frame Speaker Worth Hanging in Your Home?

This wireless speaker is cleverly designed and a solid value, but it has a few surprising shortcomings

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Ikea Symfonisk Picture Frame wireless speaker seen in a home environment Photo: Ikea

Ikea is well known for its flat-packed bookcases and the cute little wrenches and hieroglyphic instructions needed to assemble them. But the company has quietly produced a line of interesting Sonos-compatible speakers that have fared very well in our testing.

The latest comes cleverly disguised as a piece of wall art.

The Ikea Symfonisk Picture Frame speaker is a $199 wireless model that integrates seamlessly into a Sonos-powered multiroom system. Like most Sonos home speakers, it doesn’t support Bluetooth streaming. (It’s WiFi only.) It also lacks physical audio inputs, so there’s no way to plug in an external device.

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The Picture Frame measures 16 by 22 inches and is covered by a lightly patterned cloth grille that comes in your choice of black or white background. It can be hung horizontally or vertically, but whichever way you choose, you do need to secure the 10-pound speaker into a stud or use a sturdy drywall anchor. The light-duty hook you might normally use to mount a picture just won’t cut it.

When deciding where to hang the Symfonisk Picture Frame, you also need to make sure there’s an electrical outlet nearby. Like most WiFi-powered home speakers, the Picture Frame needs a power cord, but in this case, it’s not easy to hide, unless you rest the speaker on top of a dresser, counter, or bookcase instead of hanging it.

Like other Sonos speakers, the Picture Frame is a breeze to set up. It took a couple of clicks on the Sonos mobile app to add it to my existing system, and tuning the speaker to my room was accomplished in just a few minutes through Sonos’ Trueplay feature. A first-time setup will require you to enter your router’s WPA password, but otherwise, it’s quick and easy.

How the Symfonisk Picture Frame Performs

When it comes to sound, our testers find much to like about the Picture Frame. There’s a definite family resemblance with other models from Ikea and Sonos, which are noted for their articulate, detailed sound. The Picture Frame features a robust bass that leans a bit toward the boomy side. The midrange and the trebles are a touch thin and dry compared with the very best speakers we’ve tested, but the overall effect is a clarity that’s quite satisfying. The Picture Frame provides enough volume to fill a medium-sized room, and our testers report that it sounds the same whether it’s positioned horizontally or vertically.

Compared with the Sonos One SL, a similarly priced monitor-style wireless speaker, the Symfonisk Picture Frame has more bass, but the midrange isn’t quite as clean. 

Our testers note that sound quality improves significantly in a stereo pair, with the tiny bit of brittleness in the midrange replaced by a faint echo. That said, a pair of Picture Frames costs $400, and for that money you can buy our top-ranked wireless model, the Edifier S1000MKII, which comes in a matched stereo pair and offers Excellent sound quality.

All in all, the Picture Frame is quite a good speaker. Strangely, however, given its Ikea pedigree, it’s not so great as, well, a frame.

As I mentioned earlier, it can be challenging to hang, and it needs to be placed near an outlet. Since it’s 2 inches deep, it won’t sit as close to the wall as a regular picture frame. And despite its name, the Picture Frame is not really a frame at all, but rather a piece of marginally attractive wall art.

If you’re thinking about putting a print or a poster inside the Picture Frame, forget about it. That impressionistic design on the front is printed on an acoustically transparent grille cloth that hides the speaker’s drivers.

As an experiment, I pulled my old Lamborghini Aventador poster out of a box in my closet and attached it to the Picture Frame with tape. It completely destroyed the sound, leaving it dull and muffled.

Next I tried a piece of matteboard similar to that you’d find supporting a real piece of art like a print or photograph. The Picture Frame now sounded like it was underwater.

So in the end you’re stuck with the black or white grille covers. Or you can pony up an extra $20 for one of Ikea’s replacement grille cloths—currently you can choose between one with Jackson Pollack splatter-art vibe or another with vaguely pop art image of a record on a turntable. Others may be on the way.

Personally, I’m not thrilled with any of the options, but your mileage—and taste in décor—may vary.

This has been a consistent theme from the start with Ikea’s audio products. They sound good and work great, but, strangely, leave something to be desired when it comes to their primary functions. The Symfonisk bookshelf speaker, for example, won’t hold books beyond a couple of very light volumes of poetry. The Symfonisk lamp really doesn’t throw much light and takes up a lot of space for an accent lamp.

Should You Buy the Symfonisk Picture Frame?

As a speaker, the Picture Frame performs very well, although you can get slightly better performance from the company’s bookshelf speaker for half the price. The larger question is how this wireless speaker fits into your living space. Before you buy it, take a long, hard look at where you’ll hang it and whether there are wall studs and outlets nearby. And then decide whether you can live with the look of the Picture Frame long term, knowing that you’re likely to be satisfied with the sound.

Allen St. John

I believe that technology has the power to change our lives—for better or for worse. That's why I’ve spent my life reporting and writing about it for outlets of all sorts, from newspapers (such as the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times) to magazines (Popular Mechanics and Rolling Stone) and even my own books ("Newton’s Football" and "Clapton’s Guitar"). For me, there's no better way to spend a day than talking to a bunch of experts about an important subject and then writing a story that'll help others be smarter and better informed.