About a week ago, Sonos and IKEA announced their new in-home speaker collaboration that features a speaker lamp and “bookshelf” speakers that can be hung up on a wall. I first got to hear them at an event for the launch and was given a pair of the bookshelf speakers to test out. Here is what I found.
Is It Practical?
I start with this because when it comes to something with IKEA, you expect a massive buildout and everything. However, this time you don't have to assemble the speaker wire-by-wire. This speaker has a cheeky instruction manual with just two steps. Take it out of the box and plug it in. The packaging only includes three items: the speaker, an ethernet cord and the cord to plug into an outlet, so there is an emphasis on this being easy to install. The reality is a little more complicated.
I was familiar with the Sonos ecosystem before this speaker, but it was the first actual product in my residence. This adds a few more steps, since you need to actually get the speaker set up to connect to Sonos. You can’t just put the speaker on your table, plug it in and immediately start playing music since it has Sonos built in.
You can’t set up with your computer, so it has to be done on your phone (after downloading the app). The set up is pretty simple (see instructions here), but you may have to wait a little bit for the speaker to get into the game. Then the set up takes a few minutes once they are paired, which includes connecting to wifi, so find that piece of paper with the code.
Then you connect your Spotify, SoundCloud or one of hundreds of music services to Sonos. It is important to note, this is not a standard computer speaker. It is not designed to be switching back and forth between Dropbox, SoundCloud, Spotify and a promo service in quick succession. That is a very niche need, but it is important for someone like me and others in the business.
I set up one speaker in my bedroom and the other in my living room. It is nice to be able to control music in two different rooms with a few clicks on your phone.
The speaker is connected to Wifi, which means it sounds better, but don't have Wifi issues. You don’t have to worry about Bluetooth killing sound quality. The speaker comes with an Ethernet cable in case there is something wrong, but it is pretty important to have Wifi working.
One important note is that if you want to actually mount it to somewhere on your wall, you have to buy separate materials from IKEA.
How Does It Look?
The speaker looks good. In terms of size, it is in between your typical cheap desk speakers and serious studio monitors. It is slim at 12 inches tall (or wide) and four inches wide (or tall) and it can fit onto most spaces. When you put it on its side, it lays pretty flat against whatever surface you have. I got speakers in white, but they also come in black if you want them to look like your soul. It looks clean and feels durable. There are rubberized feet on the bottom that make it pretty clear how the speaker is supposed to be positioned upright or on its side. It is only six pounds so you don’t have to worry about it breaking anything or being a burden to move.
How Does It Sound?
The sound is excellent for something its size and price. It is important to note that you can’t compare this to studio reference monitors that cost 10 or 20 times as much as these. They are $99 speakers for your home. I have them set up in different rooms to test out how they sound in different places, but they do sound best together for a fuller, stereo sound. For the size and price, it is really good. The bass sounds pretty deep and punchy (though it could always use a sub), while the mids sound clear and crisp. There is a loudness setting, which makes things sound even bigger, but some of the quality and clarity can get a bit muddy with this one. Compared to other small desktop speakers, this is among the best.
This is a great speaker for the price and size. It puts Sonos into the market for less affluent buyers, which is appreciated for those who like good music and sound in a connected ecosystem, but can’t afford it. The Sonos ecosystem is designed for causal listeners from one or two sources. It doesn't replace an official computer speaker, but supplements your at home listening experience. It doesn't have built-in voice control, but you can connect it to a voice assistant like Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant or Apple's Siri. However, you can control sound in multiple rooms all from an app. The sound is good and beats just about every other one on the market for its size. It is recommended you get two to give a more stereo sound, but it isn’t an absolute must.
The speaker is now available on the IKEA website.