Tech

Hide a speaker in a table? A very strange idea

Ikea and Sonos persist in their desire to hide a speaker in an interior product. After the lamp and the shelf, you can buy a painting. This proposition is more convincing.

In 2019, Ikea and Sonos announced their collaboration, which is more than legitimate given the positioning of the two companies. On the one hand, we have a recognized player in the audio market, comfortable with providing sound to a house (although portable speakers are now available). On the other, we have the furniture specialist, famous for its huge stores in which we all got lost at least once. After a lamp-enclosure and a shelf-enclosure that could be improved, the duo is launching a frame-enclosure. Or, more concretely, a customizable table capable of reading music.

This Symfonisk brand speaker frame will be available from July 15 in Ikea stores. The price will remain low, with an invoice of less than 180 euros – not counting the interchangeable facades which will cost 30 euros each (the one provided is not very pretty). In short, we remain on the affordable argument of Ikea, while Sonos products are more expensive.

Fortunately, we can change the pattern

The Symfonisk speaker frame is in the form of a rectangle with far from imposing dimensions (41 x 57 centimeters). It consists of a thin frame – white or black – and a detachable part, both responsible for letting sound through and dressing your interior. On this point, we see that the basic pattern is not very elegant. There is no doubt that some owners will not hesitate to go to the cash register to change it. It is, anyway, the idea behind the product: to be able to adapt to the envy, according to the rest of the decoration. Depending on what Ikea will offer in its catalog, there could be a wide choice.

You can also put the product on a desk

The other point that annoys concerns this essential power cord. The Swedish multinational may have opted for a white color, supposed to blend more easily into a light-colored wall, it will be easier to forget if the frame-enclosure is fixed above a piece of furniture (which will then hide a good part of the cable). The other option is to put the product on a desk or dresser – with glides provided so it doesn’t slip.

The power cable of the Symfonisk speaker frame by Ikea and Sonos // Source: Maxime Claudel for Numerama

Ikea obviously provides the wall hook, but not the screws that will fix it to the wall (two are needed). The installation is simple and you don’t have to be a great handyman to get by. Note that the speaker frame comes with an optional safety device preventing it from tipping over if it is simply placed against a wall.

Examples of optional facades:

Simple like Sonos

Once you’ve found the perfect spot for your new speaker frame, you’ve actually done the hard part. Because, as far as configuration is concerned, it is Sonos-like simplicity that takes precedence, from the moment we accept the closed ecosystem articulated around the Sonos S2 application (available on iOS and Android). You must go through this platform to connect the speaker to your Wi-Fi network – the same as your smartphone. When the application is launched, all you have to do is add the product and let yourself be guided – knowing that NFC technology greatly facilitates the process.

Configuration of the Symfonisk speaker frame // Source: Maxime Claudel for Numerama

From the app, where you choose the room in which the frame-speaker is located, you have access to various settings – including an equalizer. You can also deactivate the status light (useful since we are talking about a decorative object) and / or the buttons (which we would not even think of using, frankly).

Sonos product requires, the Symfonisk speaker frame offers all the expected features, in the wake of the multiroom to be able to send music to several speakers at the same time. You can even create a stereo configuration, provided you link two frames. However, the product does not have a microphone, which means that you will not be able to use voice commands.

Like other Sonos speakers dedicated to indoor use only, the Symfonisk frame-speaker does not include Bluetooth. To enjoy your music, you have to go through the application (after having associated your streaming platform, such as Apple Music or Spotify) or rely on AirPlay 2.

The accessories delivered with the Symfonisk speaker frame by Ikea and Sonos // Source: Maxime Claudel for Numerama

(Almost) the Sonos sound

The speaker shelf and, above all, the speaker lamp from Sonos x Ikea had particularly disappointed us on the acoustic performances. We expected a similar observation with the enclosure frame, closer to the decorative object than to a real enclosure. On arrival, we can say that the sound rendering is less disappointing than expected. The design of the object, bringing together two loudspeakers, helps: we benefit from a good reserve of power to animate a small room while the listening amplitude remains appreciable. At least it allows our favorite tracks to flourish a little more than on other Symfonisk products.

The rendering will suit an undemanding audience

However, even if it is a Sonos product, the speaker frame remains acoustically less successful than the brand’s other speakers (which cost more, as a reminder). You just have to listen to the bass register to realize it: they turn out to be less chiseled, for a more messy rendering. This is particularly true for tracks loaded with bass, for which you should not hesitate to go for a walk in the equalizer in order to adjust according to your preferences.

The speaker part of the Symfonisk speaker frame by Ikea and Sonos // Source: Maxime Claudel for Numerama

The speaker frame ensures minimal sound performance, which will suit an undemanding audience. The product is placed between a connected speaker focusing on intelligence (the Google Home) and products that rely more on sound (other Sonos speakers, in the lead). For less than 200 euros, you can hardly ask for more.

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