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
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.
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.