Sonos unveils its most reasonably priced soundbar but and its personal voice-control characteristic

Confirming earlier rumors, Sonos on Wednesday introduced a brand new soundbar geared toward extra budget-conscious patrons, in addition to a brand new voice-control characteristic for its current audio system.

The previous is known as the Sonos Ray and might be out there on June 7 for $179 (279 kilos, 299 euros). It’s going to slot in beneath the $449 Sonos Beam (Gen 2) and $899 Sonos Arc as the favored related speaker maker’s most reasonably priced and most compact soundbar so far, measuring in at 559×95×71 mm (so, about 22 inches extensive). By comparability, the equally compact Sonos Beam is available in at 651×100×69 mm (about 25.6 inches extensive). As with the Beam, the Ray’s small dimension ought to make it greatest suited with smaller rooms and secondary TVs, although Sonos posits the system might additionally work on a desktop and extra typically positions it as a place to begin for these involved in their first improve from their TV’s built-in audio system.

Paying much less means you may sacrifice some options, although. Not like the Beam and Arc, the Sonos Ray would not help Dolby Atmos digital encompass sound. It additionally lacks an HDMI port, as an alternative choosing a lower-bandwidth optical audio port and an Ethernet jack as its solely connectivity choices, with no further HDMI adapters within the field. The omission of an HDMI ARC port might make the cable scenario a bit messier for these with extra concerned dwelling theater setups, although Sonos says the Ray can nonetheless work in parallel along with your TV distant by way of its IR receiver.

Additionally lacking are any kind of microphones, which suggests there isn’t any native help for voice assistants reminiscent of Amazon’s Alexa or the Google Assistant. Privacy-conscious patrons might even see this as a plus, if something, although the shortage of mics additionally means there isn’t any help for Sonos’ “Automatic Trueplay” characteristic, which permits sure Sonos audio system to tune their sound to greatest swimsuit their placement in a given room (offered you may have an iOS system). The Ray nonetheless helps Trueplay, however you may should undergo the tuning course of manually. Like most Sonos audio system, there’s additionally no help for Bluetooth audio right here.

On the whole, the Ray is a less complicated piece of {hardware} than the Beam or Arc. It is a 3.0-channel soundbar, with all its audio system mentioning of a front-facing perforated hard-plastic grille. Internally, there are 4 amplifiers, two tweeters, and two midwoofers; the Beam, in the meantime, packs 5 amplifiers, a tweeter, 4 midwoofers, and three passive radiators for bass response. Sonos is now positioning the latter as its “high-definition” compact soundbar by comparability.

I used to be capable of briefly take heed to the Ray at a media occasion in New York Metropolis this week, and whereas nothing sounded notably offensive, it is all the time tough to glean significant insights from an audio demo in a manufacturer-controlled surroundings. Sonos says it has personalized the Ray’s drivers to get a better sense of width out of the soundbar’s small dimension, however it’s solely so potential to get round a speaker’s physics, and the marginally bigger Beam already wasn’t the very best at producing thumping, low bass by itself. You may seemingly be sacrificing depth of sound for the comfort of a speaker that is simpler to slot in any room, as with most small soundbars. There are various soundbar programs around this price that help Atmos and include a subwoofer and discrete satellite tv for pc audio system. All that mentioned, most Sonos dwelling audio system have supplied a properly correct and impartial sound prior to now, so we’ll should take heed to the Ray extra extensively to get a greater sense of the way it performs.

Elsewhere, there’s nonetheless a trio of touch-based playback controls on prime of a usually minimalist design, which might be out there in black or white. It’s going to even be mountable, albeit by way of a proprietary mount.

Past that, the core enchantment of most Sonos audio system continues to be right here. The Ray is solely controllable by way of the Sonos app and thus helps a wide range of streaming providers. It really works with Apple’s AirPlay 2 protocol, so you possibly can beam audio to the soundbar instantly from an Apple system. And it will pair neatly with another Sonos audio system you personal or—as Sonos hopes—could need to personal sooner or later, permitting you to make use of all of them in tandem in a wi-fi whole-home setup. If you happen to needed to increase the Ray with a Sonos Sub subwoofer and two Sonos One audio system as rear surrounds, you might achieve this with little friction, although it will be very costly. (There’s additionally nothing to recommend that Sonos might be yanking software updates for these units any time quickly.) Once more, we’ll have to substantiate whether or not or not the Ray lives as much as the corporate’s ordinary customary when it comes to audio high quality. Whereas there are many cheaper soundbars on the market, however for individuals who have needed to improve their TV audio and hop aboard the Sonos prepare, this may very well be probably the most approachable entry level.

Breaking Bad and The Mandalorian.”>The actual voice you hear when using Sonos Voice Control is based on recordings of Giancarlo Esposito, the actor best known for starring roles in <em>Breaking Bad</em> and <em>The Mandalorian</em>.” src=”https://cdn.arstechnica.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/Giancarlo-Esposito-Sonos-Voice-Control-640×427.jpg” width=”640″ height=”427″ srcset=”https://cdn.arstechnica.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/Giancarlo-Esposito-Sonos-Voice-Control-1280×853.jpg 2x”></a><figcaption class=
Enlarge / The precise voice you hear when utilizing Sonos Voice Management relies on recordings of Giancarlo Esposito, the actor greatest recognized for starring roles in Breaking Dangerous and The Mandalorian.
Sonos

Sonos’ new voice helper: Gus Fring

Alongside the brand new {hardware}, Sonos unveiled Sonos Voice Management, a brand new voice-control characteristic explicitly designed for controlling music and playback on Sonos audio system with out having to dive in to the Sonos app. It’s going to launch as a free replace for all “voice-capable” Sonos audio system utilizing the Sonos S2 app—so, not the Ray, since that system lacks built-in mics—on June 1 within the US. Sonos says it will then arrive in France by the tip of 2022, with availability in further markets coming someday later.

Based mostly on a demo Sonos gave on the aforementioned media occasion this week, Sonos Voice Management seems to work very similar to the music-control options of digital assistants like Alexa and the Google Assistant, which Sonos already helps on its voice-enabled audio system. You activate the characteristic by saying “Hey Sonos,” then can request a particular track, playlist, or artist, alter quantity, pause or skip tracks, mark songs as favorites, activate a related TV, and so forth.

If in case you have a number of Sonos audio system, you need to use Voice Management to group completely different units collectively or command it to regulate one speaker group solely. For example, you might say, “Hey Sonos, cease taking part in within the Dwelling Room and play within the Bed room,” when you needed to maneuver your music or podcast from, say, a soundbar below your TV to a Sonos One by your mattress. If you happen to’re nearer to a different voice-enabled speaker with its mic on, you might say “Hey Sonos, play right here as an alternative” to maneuver playback there. The tech may also work over Bluetooth on appropriate moveable audio system just like the Sonos Move and Sonos Roam.

Sonos says you possibly can combine sure requests as properly, permitting you to say one thing like “Hey Sonos, play Daft Punk quietly within the Kitchen” to begin a track from that duo at a decrease quantity on a particular speaker group. In sure conditions, it’s also possible to make fast follow-up requests with out having to say “Hey Sonos” every time: Simply saying “louder” after an preliminary request of “Hey Sonos, flip it up” will work, offered you achieve this inside about six seconds of your preliminary command.

Sonos Voice Management will work with Apple Music, Amazon Music, Pandora, Deezer, and the corporate’s personal Sonos Radio service at launch. Sonos says it would add extra providers over time, although the shortage of Spotify is a major omission (for weirdos like me, YouTube Music is not supported both). In keeping with Sonos, Voice Management instructions will default to whichever service you choose within the Sonos S2 app.

The precise voice of Sonos Voice Management relies on recording classes with Giancarlo Esposito, the actor greatest recognized for his function as Gus Fring in Breaking Dangerous and Higher Name Saul. He has a far hotter tone than that fictional drug kingpin right here and would not sound overly robotic, if my demo was any indication, and like different assistants he’ll typically reply with a “sounds nice” or “glorious” earlier than finishing your request.

As for why you’d use this over a general-purpose voice service like Alexa, Sonos claims its helper might be higher about privateness. The corporate says all Voice Management requests are processed solely in your Sonos system, with no recordings despatched to the cloud, recorded and stored, or accessed by company employees. As a result of every little thing is dealt with on-device, and since the assistant is just designed to deal with a comparatively slender set of use circumstances, Sonos pitches that it will be quicker and extra correct at taking your requests as properly. Every little thing labored and not using a hitch throughout my demo, however once more, we’ll have to make use of the assistant extra extensively over time to see how these claims maintain up (and the most privacy-conscious determination could be to only not have mic-enabled audio system in your house in any respect).

That mentioned, because it’s extra of a characteristic than a full-on platform, Sonos Voice Management is not designed to interchange Alexa and the Google Assistant for individuals who discover these providers helpful. You’ll use Alexa and Sonos’ various concurrently on the identical speaker, if you want, activating both with their respective wake phrases. That will not be potential with the Google Assistant to begin, although Sonos says you possibly can nonetheless have each helpers lively throughout the similar system.

Particulars of the Sonos Ray and a brand new Sonos voice assistant have been first reported by The Verge.

The Sonos Roam portable speaker will be available in a trio of new colors starting May 11.
Enlarge / The Sonos Roam moveable speaker might be out there in a trio of recent colours beginning Might 11.
Jeff Dunn

The brand new characteristic arrives on the heels of bigger tiffs the corporate has had with Google and Amazon. Sonos successfully sued the former for patent infringement, forcing Google earlier this 12 months to make minor downgrades to how its software program handles quantity controls and multi-room audio playback. It has publicly accused Amazon of comparable offenses and accused each corporations of anticompetitive pricing tactics. Now that it is rolling out its personal voice-control tech for music-related duties, Sonos seems to be deemphasizing its ties to its farther-reaching frenemies.

On a extra frivolous word, Sonos additionally introduced on Wednesday that it’s releasing new colorways for its Roam moveable speaker. If you happen to’re involved in shopping for that Wi-Fi/Bluetooth hybrid speaker in a shade apart from black or white, you’ll seize it in a “Wave” gentle blue, “Olive” inexperienced, or “Sundown” orange beginning Wednesday. It’s going to still cost $179.

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Itemizing picture by Jeff Dunn

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