It's Also a Great Gift Idea

Review: Sonos’s $99 Speaker Is A No-Brainer Buy for Most People


August 5, 2019 Reviews By Photo by Chandler Bondurant

Sonos doesn’t make furniture and Ikea doesn’t make speakers. Well, at least that used to be true. The two companies have partnered on the Symfonisk collection — which means “symphony” in Swedish – consisting of two Wi-Fi speakers: the Symfonisk Bookshelf Speaker ($99) and the Symfonisk Table Lamp ($179).

Both speakers work exactly like any other Sonos speaker. You set them up using the Sonos app, group them with other Sonos speakers or have them as standalone speakers and accurately tune them for the room they’re in using Trueplay. Neither of the Symfonisk speakers is “smart,” meaning they don’t have microphones and aren’t integrated with Alexa or Google Assistant (like a Sonos One or Sonos Beam). Since the Bookshelf Speaker is only $99, it’s technically the cheapest Sonos speaker you can buy.

Ikea will exclusively sell both Symfonisk speakers. You can purchase on Ikea’s website or at an Ikea store. Sonos does not sell them, nor will any third-party sellers like Amazon.

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The Good: If you’re familiar with any Sonos speaker, then you should have no problem setting up or using either Symfonisk speaker – they work exactly the same. As far as how to compare them with other Sonos speakers, you should think of each Symfonisk speaker as a Play:1; neither has a built-in voice assistant, and you can configure two together in a stereo pair or as rear channel speakers in a home theater setup with any of Sonos’s soundbars.

The Table Lamp is basically a Play:1 speaker with a lamp on top. It has the same guts (mid-woofer, tweeter and dual Class-D digital amplifiers) as the Play:1 and it sounds basically identical. The Bookshelf Speaker doesn’t quite live up to the sound quality — the midrange and highs are slightly more blurred – but Sonos is also open about this fact; a huge chunk of why the Bookshelf Speaker is the cheapest speaker that Sonos has ever made is because it’s not quite as good of a speaker. That said, the Bookshelf Speaker is really meant to be played in stereo pair with another Bookshelf Speaker – like a pair of actual bookshelf speakers – and if you buy a pair it comes out to be pretty much the same price as a Sonos One ($199).

While Sonos brought the sound, Ikea brought the design (and the manufacturing capabilities to keep the price low). 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.

Both Symfonisk speakers have old-school mechanical buttons on them, just like the original Play:1 or Play:5, so you can play/pause or change the volume without having to touch your smartphone or speaker to a virtual assistant (if you’ve configured the Symfonisk speaker with a Google Home, Echo or Sonos One smart speaker.

Who It’s For: The Bookshelf Speaker is designed for anybody who loves Sonos speakers and wants to build out their existing system for cheap, or somebody that wants the most affordable entry point into Sonos. The Table Lamp is for people who want a speaker that blends right into their home, meaning it doesn’t specifically look like a speaker.

Watch Out For: With the Symfonisk Table Lamp, the design won’t be for everybody and even though the base looks like a HomePod ($299), it’s nowhere near the build quality; it’s basically a “sock” that’s been slipped on the base, and if you manhandle it too much, its woven patterns can be easily manipulated and will look frustratingly uneven. Also, the Table Lamp does not come with a light bulb – you have to purchase your own. The light is only 7-watts and isn’t actually very bright.

The Symfonisk Bookshelf speaker doesn’t come with proper brackets and screws to mount it. That all has to be purchased separately, but it’s not that expensive: the wall brackets ($20) enable you to horizontally mount the speaker and turn it into a nightstand or shelf; that purchase also includes a silicone pad to help hold things still (like books). You can also purchase a speaker hook ($10) to hang the speaker on a rail.

Lastly, both Symfonisk speakers are front-firing, not 360-degree (omni-directional) like a HomePod or an Amazon Echo, so they’re designed to be placed near a wall or corner (as opposed to the middle of the room). The Table Lamp specifically looks like a 360-degree speaker, but it is not.

Alternatives: It’s easiest to compare the Symfonisk speakers to other Sonos speakers…because that’s essentailly what they are. The Table Lamp is the exact same speaker as Sonos’s Play:1 ($149), but the addition of the lamp adds $20 to the MSRP. The Bookshelf speaker is most similar to the Play:1, too, although most people will probably buy two so they can turn it into a stereo pair for less than $200.

Verdict: The Symfonisk collaboration between Ikea and Sonos is super interesting because, well, it’s a no-brainer for both parties. For Ikea, who has never had an audio product, it makes sense because sound in the home is becoming more and more important. And it makes sense for Sonos because they can explore that “low-end” market in a way they’ve been able to before. The resulting speakers are a slam dunk.

The Bookshelf Speaker is the perfect gateway into Sonos, and will undoubtedly make a great gift this holiday (or even for returning students). The Table Lamp is a bit more niche; it’s designed for people who want their speaker to disappear into their home, but they also have to like the look of the Table Lamp, which might look strange placed in less contemporary homes. As far as sound quality and ease of use, though, you really can’t go wrong with a Sonos speaker at these low prices.

What Others Are Saying:

• “The Ikea Symfonisk speakers are, at their core, Sonos speakers. But they’re also less expensive than other Sonos speakers, and they are designed to function as both speakers and sleek-looking home furnishings (even if the latter isn’t really achieved—the lamp isn’t my style). But I can tell you I would immediately go buy two of the Symfonisk bookshelf speakers if I didn’t already have a few Sonos speakers in my home. And they would take up even less space than the Sonos speakers that I do already have..” — Lauren Goode, Wired

• “But the biggest upside to the bookshelf is its $99 price. This is a product that could very well introduce a generation of college students to Sonos and the convenience of wireless, multiroom audio. At the price, I think you’re getting satisfactory sound. The challenge here is finding a direct comparison for the bookshelf speaker. A $100 Bluetooth speaker? The standard Amazon Echo? I think it out-performs both of those options..” — Chris Welch, The Verge

• “For the biggest sound nerds out there, who have outfitted their home with the $400 Sonos soundbar and several Play:1s, these are going to be a little lower quality. But, comparing one Symfonisk to a Play:1 shows just how good the Symfonisk sound is. The volume is easily enough to fill a room, even a small apartment. Pair a few together, and you have a pretty solid stereo system.” — Hadley Keller, House Beautiful

Key Specs

Symfonisk Bookshelf Speaker

Drivers: one tweeter, mid-woofer, two class-D digital amplifiers
Works With: Spotify Connect, AirPlay 2, Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa
Colors: charcoal or white

Symfonisk Table Lamp

Drivers: one tweeter, mid-woofer, two class-D digital amplifiers
Works With: Spotify Connect, AirPlay 2, Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa
Colors: charcoal or white

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Sonos and Ikea provided this product for review.

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