Sonos and Ikea are kicking off what has the makings of a long-term partnership in August. You can now purchase the Symfonisk table lamp speaker ($179) or Symfonisk bookshelf speaker ($99) from your local Ikea or from the home furnishing store’s website; these devices aren’t available from third-party retailers like Best Buy or even directly from Sonos. They look Ikea on the outside, but both are very much Sonos speakers on the inside and seamlessly integrate with other products in the company’s lineup like the Sonos One, Beam, Play:5, Play:1, and more.
The goal of the Symfonisk series is to put speakers in places (such as the bedroom) where you might not ordinarily want something that screams gadget. If you’ve got a partner who prefers to keep tech — even speakers — out of there, they might be more amenable to the idea of an Ikea-designed lamp that also happens to pull double duty as a great-sounding speaker.
As for the bookshelf speaker, well, it very much resembles a speaker. But right out of the gate, it becomes the most inexpensive Sonos speaker you can get. That’s a big deal in its own right. Does the newfound tag-team of Ikea and Sonos meet its potential? They’re off to a good start, with two debut products that are easily worth the money if they appeal to your design sense.
They also fully integrate with Ikea’s Tradfri smart home platform and Home Smart app. When Ikea’s smart blinds finally ship in October, you’ll be able to set up automated scenes that include the Symfonisk speakers. So in the morning, you can have the blinds go up, lights turn on, and music start playing automatically.
The Symfonisk table lamp speaker
It’s a lamp with a Play:1 inside. That’s really the best way of summarizing the Sonos / Ikea table lamp speaker. The internal components aren’t an exact match for the Play:1 or Sonos One, but those are the speakers that Sonos modeled the lamp’s audio performance after, and you can definitely hear it. The Symfonisk lamp will be available in both white and black, but the latter is delayed a bit and won’t be ready at launch.
Seeing as there’s fabric around the entire thing, you might think that the lamp speaker outputs 360-degree sound a la Apple’s HomePod. Not so! Its drivers are front-firing, and Ikea and Sonos have tried to make sure you position it correctly by putting the music controls front and center. And when the power cord is plugged in, it runs out underneath the back of the lamp. If you place it in the wrong orientation, it’ll be pretty apparent.
I find the trio of physical buttons to be more foolproof than Sonos’ flat, touch-sensitive control areas on its own speakers. Neither of the Symfonisk products has a built-in microphone, so you’ll need a Google Home or Amazon Echo if you want to start a playlist with your voice hands-free. Thankfully, it’s easy to set an alarm in the Sonos app if you want the lamp to wake you up. Both speakers do include Apple’s AirPlay 2, so if you use an iPhone or iPad, you can play music using Siri and have even more options for music sources beyond the many services that Sonos already supports. Since the lamp will likely find its way to many bedrooms, the white LED indicator light above the play button can be disabled in the Sonos app if you find it distracting at night.
On the right side of the lamp’s body is an on / off knob for controlling the light bulb. There’s no bulb in the box — this is an Ikea product, remember — so you’ll need an E12 bulb (7W max) to shine a light on things. Ikea would obviously prefer that you use its own smart bulbs with the lamp speaker, but Philips Hue also makes bulbs that fit this socket, and dumb bulbs work perfectly fine, too. If you’ve got standard household bulbs, you can try using an adapter, but I didn’t have time to test whether an adapter and bulb would fit underneath the bulbous, opaque glass lampshade. (The shade locks into place and never rattles or makes noise even when you crank up the volume.) Regardless, don’t expect the Symfonisk table lamp speaker to illuminate an entire room. It’s more geared toward accent lighting, but it also makes for a nice reading or bedside lamp.
As I said earlier, the table lamp speaker sounds fairly close to a Sonos One or Play:1, though it’s not a direct match. For the best sound quality, you should use Sonos’ TruePlay feature, which will tune and calibrate the speaker for optimal performance by taking a room’s ambient characteristics into account. Pacing around with your phone as a speaker emits loud noises still feels a little strange, but the end result is worth any awkwardness. The table lamp can definitely fill a living room or bedroom with sound, and it’s capable of getting plenty loud.
You set up either Symfonisk speaker using the Sonos app, and the process is a snap (especially if you’ve already got other Sonos devices). It also brings me immense joy that the Sonos app made a suggestion — with no reason to think I’d purchased a duo of Symfonisk lamps — that I should pair two of them as the rear surround speakers for my Sonos Beam soundbar. Lamps as surround speakers. What a world.
The Symfonisk bookshelf speaker
The bookshelf speaker, also available in white or black, is styled in a way where it’s also clearly meant to blend in with a room and not call much attention to itself. You can lay it flat or stand it up; rubberized feet and the audio controls make it obvious which way is right side up. Unfortunately, there’s no aux input on the bookshelf speaker. I can forgive that with a lamp, but it would’ve been nice here.
Ikea designed the bookshelf speaker so that it could be mounted to a wall and actually serve as a small shelf. You’ve got to be sensible in terms of what you put on top of it, as it’s only certified to hold 6.6 pounds of weight. A few books and you’re done. If you mount the speaker near your bed, Ikea also sells a placemat that will prevent your phone from vibrating off of the top.
By itself, and owing to its size, the bookshelf speaker isn’t going to blow your socks off. Sonos tells me that the lamp and bookshelf speakers each have two class-D digital amplifiers, one tweeter, and one mid-woofer inside. But the difference in form factor gives the lamp a definite leg up in bass and overall sound quality.
Putting two of them together as a stereo pair can really open up the sound on the bookshelf speakers, though. You’ll have to spend $200 to get there, but that’s still less than some Sonos speakers and the same price as a single Sonos One. And like the table lamp, they can be set up as rear speakers for a Sonos Beam, Playbar, or Playbase. These would look a little more appropriate in that role than a lamp. The usual Sonos stereo pair rules apply: you can only link two of the same product, not mix and match.
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.
The Ikea and Sonos collaboration is only just beginning with these two products. The companies tell me that they’re already at work on what’s next. I’d sure love a wireless charger as part of the lamp speaker, and hopefully, future models will be able to provide more light than the current one.
It’s easy to understand why this joint effort makes so much sense: Ikea’s expertise is in creating furniture and other things that belong in the home, but it’s got no clue about sound. Sonos, meanwhile, continues to best even tech’s giants in that category, but it needed help reaching more places and new rooms. Now, its technology is trickling down into a product that’s under $100.
We still don’t have a Sonos speaker for everything: both of these require a hard wire for power, so we’re left without a wireless option for the patio or backyard — assuming your Wi-Fi can reach there. And while the bookshelf speaker will be safe in a bathroom, it’s not fully water-resistant. But between the Ikea effort and a renewed push into custom home audio, Sonos is already reaching places that Amazon, Apple, and Google simply aren’t. And it’s doing so at every price level.
Photography by Chris Welch / The Verge
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