A trip to Ikea is rarely fun, and neither is putting that damn cabinet together (unless you make it into a drinking game, but that comes with its own challenges). But once the lugging and the hammering and the cleanup is done, you have a pretty great EKTORP or HEMNES that will last years — at prices a fraction of what you'd pay at most other furniture stores.
Thankfully, Ikea is no longer just a single-meatball behemoth: it now sells smart stuff, including lights of all kinds, tables with integrated wireless charging and, later this year, smart blinds. And starting on August 1, connected Wi-Fi speakers, too.
The project comes via Sonos, which has been working through its own evolution in the smart speaker space. The collaboration was announced way back in 2017, but we only learned about the products themselves — a bookshelf speaker and a table lamp — in April. Now they're shipping, the first duo in an inevitable long-term partnership that should see the Sonos brand introduced to millions of new people, with prices that have usually been out of reach for potential Sonos buyers but for Black Friday deals.
The good news? They're both fantastic products.
- Excellent sound — from a lamp!
- Simple and warm design will fit most rooms
- Physical controls on the base
- No Alexa or Google Assistant support
- Only uses E12 bulbs which don't get very bright
- A bit big for many bedside tables
- Good sound from such a small enclosure
- Will fit in Ikea's bookshelf line
- Can be hung and used as a small shelf
- Physical controls
- Most affordable Sonos speaker
- No Alexa or Google Assistant support
- Lacks the low-end thump of most Sonos speakers
Ikea Symfonisk A Sonos by any other name
I've been looking forward to the Ikea/Sonos collaboration since its 2017 announcement. I've used every Sonos speaker the company's made over the past decade, and have half a dozen of them speckled throughout my house — a Beam under the TV, a Play:5 in my office, a Sonos One in the bedroom, and an aging Playbar propped up vertically on the wall in the spare room.
Unlike many products, brands and ecosystems that pass through my hands, Sonos speakers are an inextricable part of my daily fabric. I use them practically all day, every day.
So I was curious as to how I would integrate the Ikea Symfonisk speakers — both of which aim to address very different needs — into my life. Because these speakers are essentially Sonos products sold by Ikea; they require the Sonos app for setup and function, and once you run through the initial configuration appear in the app as any other Sonos speaker would.
The table lamp is the odd duck here mainly because its upper portion houses an LED light bulb — any LED light bulb up to 7W, by the way, but it must be LED as the shade is made of tempered glass and will overheat (and shut off the system) if incandescent or halogen is used.
A note on the bulb
The table lamp utilizes a fairly obscure "candle" E12 thread, which is thinner than a traditional E26 — the numbers denote the thickness in millimeters of the base — so you'll likely need to pick one up alongside the lamp itself. Ikea makes a bunch, both smart and dumb, and Philips offers its color bulb in that variety, too.
These bulbs are typically much dimmer than the average E26 bulb — the brighest ones I could find go up to a 40-watt equivalent, which is about 600 lumens. Certainly not bright enough to fill a room, but usable as an accent light.
The actual speaker is covered with a knit fabric in either black or white (with a matching shade texture), which can be removed for cleaning, while the side houses the light knob and the base hosting three buttons (play/pause, volume up, volume down) to control the music. The light doesn't need to be on for the speaker to work.
At $179, the table lamp sounds about as good as the Sonos One, which is to say it provides a surprisingly springy low-end, front-loaded mids that are perfect for vocals, and super-smooth highs that don't become sibilant even on the harshest of recordings. A Sonos spokesperson told me that when the company designed the table lamp it had the Sonos One's sound profile in mind, and allows for the similar price tag by trading the included microphones for lamp functionality.
Being a Sonos product, once the speaker is set up it can be controlled in a number of ways: through the Sonos app itself, which offers access to the more than 100 streaming services the company is known for; through Spotify Connect, from within the Spotify app (this is how I tended to use the speakers); through Apple's AirPlay 2 interface, which was recently added to the entire modern Sonos lineup; or through an Alexa- or Google Assistant-powered speaker.
It sounds complicated, but it boils down to this: whatever app or streaming service you currently use to stream to your headphones, TV, or Bluetooth speaker will almost certainly work here.
You can, like me, use a Sonos speaker as a glorified Spotify player, or you can dip in and out of Apple Music, SoundCloud, Pocket Casts, TuneIn, Amazon Music, and dozens of other services you've likely never heard of.
It's important to note that neither Sonos-powered Ikea speaker contains microphones like the Beam or One; if you want to use your voice to get the table lamp or bookshelf speaker to start playing, you need a nearby Echo or Google Home speaker to get it done. A small but important distinction; these aren't smart speakers, but they are smart-adjacent.
The table lamp spent most of its review period on the table to the right of my living room couch, supporting my late-night reading and early-morning breakfast eating. There it proved a capable and productive addition to the Sonos collection already in my living room, and with Sonos's latency-free grouping feature, paired with my Sonos Beam to create a room-filling soundstage.
For the last couple of days, though, I replaced the aging Ikea bedside lamp I bought while a university student with the Symfonisk table lamp and woke up every morning, using the built-in alarm feature in the Sonos app, to rich sound next to my head. While I think the lamp's a bit too big for some bedside tables, I've kept it on mine and don't think I'll be moving it again anytime soon.
The bookshelf speaker is perhaps the more interesting of the two new products, though it objectively sounds worse than the table lamp. That praise comes from its versatility as well as its price, as this is the first Sonos speaker under $100. It eschews the usual shape of a bookshelf speaker, which tends to be wider and stockier than this one, but there are benefits to its unconventional shape: it fits perfectly in many of Ikea's tall-and-skinny build-it-yourself bookshelves, including the insanely popular Billy line.
It can be used in either vertical or horizontal orientation, and has a removable grill if you'd prefer a more industrial look. While it lacks the thumpy bass of the Sonos One, this is definitely one of the best-sounding $100 speakers you can buy, and thanks to Sonos's bonding feature, a second identical model can form a stereo pair in the same room, or be used as part of an (incredibly expensive) 5.1 system with a Sonos Beam, two Sonos Ones and a Sub (total cost: $1694).
Conversely — and feel free to call me spoiled — a single Symfonisk bookshelf speaker sounded anemic in my average-sized office, largely due to its weak low-end. This is the first Sonos speaker to lack the visceral bass that rounds out a perfect Anderson .Paak or Tycho track. Still, most people will be very happy with it, and at $99 two units cost the same as a single Sonos One, so there's always that option.
But like any good magician, the Symfonisk bookshelf saves its best trick for last: with a $10 hook or $20 wall bracket add-on, the speaker becomes a small shelf of its own, able to take about six pounds of weight when properly installed. The wall bracket even comes with a mat to prevent objects from slipping. I didn't get a chance to install the wall bracket that came with my review unit — I'm still deciding where in my house to put it — but I'm impressed with the holistic and comprehensive approach Ikea's taken to integrating it into a potential buyer's home.
Ikea Symfonisk Should you buy them, and which should you get?
I have no reservations recommending either speaker, especially if the aesthetic fits in your home better than any of Sonos's more modern and stark-looking speakers. I'm not sure I'd take two Symfonisk bookshelf speakers over a single Sonos One, since the latter sounds incredible on its own, but Ikea's design is warm, friendly, and far easier to integrate into the average living or bedroom. And most people won't miss the often-unreliable Alexa or Assistant integration (another article for another time).
The Symfonisk table lamp, on the other hand, is revelatory. At $179, it's cheaper than the Sonos One and sounds just as good while providing a simple lighting solution for any room. It's a product I didn't know I needed until I had the pleasure of using it, and that's the highest praise I can give something I use every day.
Sonos's product release cadence is glacial, so I'm glad to see its brand expand to a company like Ikea, which is ubiquitous, beloved, and prolific. I'd expect these two products to be the beginning of a long and successful partnership, and I look forward to stuffing my house full of more speakers in weird shapes and sizes in the future.
As long as they keep sounding as good as they do, I'll keep buying 'em.
And they're available now.
Daniel Bader was a former Android Central Editor-in-Chief and Executive Editor for iMore and Windows Central.