Sonos Speakers on a Budget
These models from Sonos and the Scandinavian furniture giant Ikea deliver great sound at a very reasonable price
A Sonos speaker for $100? That’s an option this holiday season, courtesy of the esteemed manufacturer and its novel partnership with furniture giant Ikea.
Sonos speakers have a well-earned reputation for impressive sound quality and a flexible-yet-reliable multiroom experience. That prestige has been borne out by our test labs, where the company’s wireless and smart speaker models routinely land near the top of our rankings.
One drawback of Sonos products has been their relatively big price tags. For example, the company’s highly rated Play:5 costs $499 and is rarely discounted.
But that changed this fall, as Sonos bolstered the bottom of its line and partnered with Scandinavian furniture giant Ikea on some inexpensive speakers that still integrate with the company’s other offerings.
So for those who’d like to enter the Sonos ecosystem on the cheap, CR recently tested three new models under $200–one from Sonos and two from Ikea. They can help you build a great-sounding, multiroom audio system without busting your budget.
Ikea Symfonisk Speaker
This $100 bookshelf speaker owns two interesting distinctions: 1) It represents Ikea’s first foray into the world of wireless speakers. 2) It’s also the cheapest way into the Sonos ecosystem.
Look at the Symfonisk, and it’s pretty hard to see the family resemblance to Sonos’ products. The Ikea speaker is tall and narrow in contrast to the shorter, squatter profile of the Sonos One SL (reviewed below).
But while Ikea designed the box—which can serve as a light-duty bookshelf when mounted horizontally on a wall—the internals are pure Sonos.
Our testers report that the Symfonisk sounds a lot like its Sonos brethren, with a clear treble that makes cymbals shimmer, a balanced and detailed midrange that lets you hear the nuance in Beyoncé’s vocals, and bass that’s musical yet not overly deep. The sound-quality ranking fell just a bit below the Sonos One SL, but the gap is so tiny that most casual listeners won’t notice the difference.
Our testers note that a stereo pair of Symfonisk speakers can yield a wider sound stage and a more realistic reproduction of the room ambience on a recording.
The Symfonisk also functions like a Sonos speaker in the company’s multiroom systems. With the easy-to-use app, it’s simple to integrate the Symfonisk into a whole-house system, so you can listen to Kelly Clarkson in the kitchen while the kids blast Ariana Grande in the basement. Keep in mind, however, that like Sonos’ other home speakers, the Symfonisk lacks Bluetooth capability, so it needs WiFi to function.
Ikea Symfonisk Lamp
Are you cramped for space in your living quarters or your office space? If that’s the case, Ikea’s $180 Symfonisk Lamp might just be what you need. The company that made Swedish meatballs cool again squeezed the guts of a Symfonisk wireless speaker inside a lamp that takes up minimal space on a table, counter, or desk.
Our testers report that while the Symfonisk Lamp falls a bit short of its sibling speaker in sound quality, its performance remains in the upper ranks of the home wireless speakers we’ve tested.
The lamp itself wears a hand-blown glass shade. It doesn’t have a dimmer switch and uses a candelabra bulb, which limits it to accent lighting rather than task lighting.
Like the Symfonisk Speaker, the Lamp boasts full functionality in a Sonos-based multiroom system, although stereo pairing requires a second lamp. A pair of Symfonisk lamps could also serve as stealthy surround sound speakers in a video system when paired with a Sonos soundbar.
If you’re tight on space and the lamp functionality is important to you, the Symfonisk Lamp is a slick solution and a good value. If not, the $100 speaker is probably a better bet.
Sonos One SL
The Sonos One SL is the manufacturer’s new entry-level wireless speaker and the least expensive Sonos-branded model in the company’s line.
It replaces the existing Play:1, which was similar in size, shape, and price. The One SL is essentially a Sonos One smart speaker without the microphones that allow the digital assistant to listen for a wakeword.
The One SL is slightly less expensive than the One, with a price of $180, compared with $200 for its smart speaker sibling.
Our testers found that the One SL sounds almost identical to the Sonos One. And that’s a good thing. The sound is clear and detailed, and the bass is impactful, if not super-deep.
The One SL is a monophonic speaker, and our testers found that the sound improved somewhat when the model was stereo-paired with another One SL. The sonic performance was also quite similar to that of the now-discontinued Play:1, whose Overall Score was a single point lower than the new speaker’s.
Which Should You Buy?
All these speakers performed very well in our tests and offer outstanding value for the money. Which one you choose depends a lot on how you plan to use the speaker.
The Symfonisk Lamp is a surprisingly good speaker; the bigger question seems to be how well it performs as a lamp. If you’re happy with the low-wattage mood lighting, it can provide a way to add music to a living space inconspicuously.
The Sonos One SL strips the smarts out of the popular Sonos One smart speaker, so if you feel an affinity with the Sonos name, or just prefer the smaller form factor and traditional Sonos styling, it’s a solid choice.
The bargain of the group seems to be Ikea’s Symfonisk Speaker. At $100, it’s a bit more than half the price of the One SL, but it performs almost as well. More to the point, the SL One is much cheaper than any other home wireless speaker to earn a recommendation or CR Best Buy rating from our testers.