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The Norwegian producer invents a Vocaloid-inspired feline character and retreats from the spotlit pop of his last album, returning to the introspective hush of his earlier work.
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Ikea Sonos Symfonisk Bookshelf Speaker Review

The Ikea Symfonisk bookshelf is the cheapest Sonos speaker yet - and while the sound is as slim as the design, it's great as an intro Sonos or a shortcut to surround sound

Should I Buy The Ikea Sonos Symfonisk Bookshelf Speaker?
The Ikea Symfonisk bookshelf is the cheapest Sonos speaker yet - and while the sound is as slim as the design, it's great as an intro Sonos or a shortcut to surround sound for anyone already in the Sonos system.


Price When Reviewed
  • $99
Sonos and Ikea might not seem like natural bedfellows at first - one is devoted to high-end audio, the other to affordable furniture - but the Symfonisk partnership seems to have brought out the best in both companies.

We’ve separately reviewed the slightly odd - if brilliant - Symfonisk table lamp speaker, but the bookshelf speaker is something much more traditional, but quietly radical for Sonos: a simple speaker designed to blend in and fit anywhere that undercuts everything else in the Sonos range on price.

Price And Availability
The Symfonisk bookshelf is available now - but only from Ikea. You’ll have to either visit an Ikea store or order online from the Scandinavian giant if you want to get one - even Sonos itself isn’t selling the speaker elsewhere.

You can buy one speaker - available in either black or white - for £99/$99, though as you’ll see there’s a pretty good argument for grabbing two of them for a stereo pair. You can also wall mount them - though you’ll need a separate £10/$20 mounting bracket - or hook it onto kitchen rails - this time with a £5/$10 attachment.

That’s a little cheaper than the other Symfonisk speaker, which is £150/$179, and even undercuts the cheapest speaker in the main Sonos range: the £149/$149 Play:1.

Slimline Sound
With that reduced price it would be fair to expect the Symfonisk bookshelf to include a few compromises - and let’s be up-front: it does.

While the table lamp speaker sounds essentially exactly like the Play:1, the bookshelf’s sound is notably thinner. Setting up the two speakers for multi-room audio and darting between them you can immediately tell that there’s less bass pumped out by the bookshelf, resulting in sound that doesn’t fill a room quite as comfortably.

Like most Sonos speakers the sound profile is pretty neutral, but the simple physics of the thing means that the low end is lighter, so this won’t deliver if you’re looking for floor-filling base, but trebles and mids are crisp and bright. Basically, this will excel at vocal-led or poppier fare, but electronic or hip hop might sound a little weedy.

That said, for £99/$99 the sound quality isn’t to be sniffed at. You can probably find bassier speakers out there at this price point, but there will likely be compromises elsewhere. So if thinner bass doesn’t sound like a problem to you, this will be a great buy at that price.

Using a single bookshelf on its own is also arguably not the way to see the speaker at its best. As with any Sonos speaker the Symfonisk bookshelf is designed to integrate easily with other speakers from the range through the Sonos app for multi-room, stereo, or surround sound.
I didn’t get to test the stereo or surround set-ups beyond a brief demo from Sonos, but it’s easy to see how they’d be compelling. Decent stereo sound for £200/$200 is a good deal, and for anyone with a Sonos soundbar under their TV the option to throw two of these behind the sofa for surround sound has got to be seriously tempting - especially since that’s when the lack of bass response becomes less of an issue.

If you’re not already in the Sonos ecosystem, it’s worth noting some of the limitations though. The speakers connect only through Wi-Fi or ethernet, with no Bluetooth or audio ports, so you’ll need to app installed to use them. The app supports a huge range of music services - including Spotify, Google Play, and Apple Music - but you then need to browse and play through the Sonos app, not your music service’s.

The bookshelf doesn’t feature integrated smart assistant support - that’s only in the Sonos One or Beam - but if you already have one of those speakers, or any Alexa or Google Assistant-enabled device for that matter, then you’ll be able to use it to issue voice commands to the Symfonisk anyway.

Finally, there’s support for Trueplay, which uses an iPhone or iPad’s microphone to calibrate and optimise sound to suit the room it’s in. Unfortunately there’s no Android support yet - thanks to the wider variety in microphone hardware apparently - so you’ll need an Apple-owning friend if you’re not an iOS user yourself.

Shelf Life
If the other Symfonisk speaker seems like a wild novelty with its built-in light bulb socket, the bookshelf version at first seems more straightforward.

The slim, tall speaker has an utterly minimalist aesthetic, and has been designed to fit neatly inside most of the standard Ikea shelving units, blending away into the background. There’s only a single small power LED on the front, along with play/pause and volume buttons.

But that’s where the optional extras come in. The kitchen hooks will let you hang it from any existing Ikea kitchen rails - a handy way to get multi-room audio to extend into the kitchen while hanging the speaker high enough to hopefully keep it safe from spills and splashes.
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More tempting perhaps are the wall-mounting kits. Wall-mounting speakers is nothing new of course, but set these up horizontally and they’re not just speakers- they’ll double as small shelves, holding up to 3kg of weight.

The mounting kit even includes a silicone mat so that you can place books, plants, or anything else on top without worrying about the vibrations shaking them off - or about them impacting the sound too much. It’s worth noting that I haven’t been able to test this myself though.

It’s this sort of versatility that’s likely to really tempt anyone into grabbing a Symfonisk bookshelf or two. Suddenly your speaker isn’t just taking up space at home, it’s actually creating new storage space. I’m already plotting to pick up a pair to give myself surround sound bookshelves behind the sofa, which is as brilliant an idea as it is mad.

Verdict
I can’t pretend that Sonos has managed to perfectly recreate its classic sound in the £99/$99 Symfonisk, but it’s done a decent job if you don’t mind the compromise on the bass.

That really makes the bookshelf appealing for two sets of people. First up, if you’re an Ikea regular looking for a more affordable entry point into the world of Sonos, these are a budget-friendly way to get into the app - though be warned, before long you’ll be eyeing up the pricier models to add on.

The bookshelf will be just as appealing to Sonos regulars looking either for a friendly way to bring that Sonos sound into the kitchen, or for a cheaper way to upgrade to surround sound. This is as close as you can get to a cheap Sonos tweeter to bolster a home cinema setup, and £200/$200 plus some extra for wall mounting will get you a massive audio upgrade - and a couple of extra shelves to boot.

Specs
  • 1x tweeter
  • 1x mid-woofer
  • 10x15x31cm

View my Flipboard Magazine.

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