Review: Symfonisk AirPlay 2 Bookshelf Speaker -- Ikea Price, Sonos Sound

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Ikea teamed with Sonos, and the pairing has produced the $99 Symfonisk Bookshelf Wi-Fi speaker with AirPlay 2. How does it compare to pricier speaker alternatives.

Symfonisk Bookshelf speaker
Symfonisk Bookshelf speaker from IKEA and Sonos


Sonos has come at the home audio industry hard. Not only have they conquered much of the premium market, thanks to a new partnership with Ikea they are looking to take over the more affordable market as well.

The Symfonisk bookshelf speaker is, quite frankly, an outstanding value and pleasantly clever. In short, you get 80 percent of what you get in Apple's $299 HomePod at a third of the price.




Design

The speaker is a mix of familiar Ikea designs. The body is a matte plastic with a "weathered" fabric grille on the front. Towards one end of the speaker is a trio of buttons used to control playback as well as volume, with a LED for status. You won't see Sonos's touch controls here.

Symfonisk Bookshelf works in either orientation
Symfonisk Bookshelf works vertically and horizontally and has cord channels to match


Around back is also clean and simple with the only two ports recessed into the speaker -- one for the power and the other for the (optional) ethernet.

Ikea included two cable channels on the back, 90-degrees from one another. You need these, because the Symfonisk speaker is capable of horizontal or vertical orientations -- and you can wall-mount it too. Arguably the best aspect of the speaker is its ability to be mounted to the wall and used as a legitimate shelf.

A shelf?

The Ikea Symfonisk bookshelf speaker be used as a literal bookshelf. After picking up the additional $20 wall mount (a bar mount is also available for $10), the speaker can be used as a functional structure too.

Symfonisk Bookshelf can be mounted on the wall
Symfonisk Bookshelf can be mounted on the wall with the extra adapter


The mount is hidden when attached and it looks sleek with only the cord escaping. Luckily, the cord is well designed and nylon wrapped to not look as cheap.

A color-matched silicone pad is included with the mount -- so be sure to pick up the appropriate color mount to match your speaker.

Symfonisk Bookshelf can be mounted vertically or horizontally
Symfonisk Bookshelf can be mounted vertically or horizontally


Sonos doesn't recommend placing drinks or candles on the shelf as it could be vibrating from playing music -- but most other knick knacks are fair game. It could be used as a valet for wallets and keys, picture frames, or artificial LED candles.

Setup and playback

Setup is as easy as it gets with the Symfonisk bookshelf speaker. It is all done through the Sonos app, same as any other Sonos product. The Sonos app identifies the speaker, registers it, updates it, and even walks you through the True Tone process that tunes the audio to its location in the room using the microphone on your iPhone.

Symfonisk Bookshelf can play back audio with Siri thanks to AirPlay 2
Symfonisk Bookshelf can play back audio with Siri thanks to AirPlay 2


Since this is an AirPlay speaker, it can also be added to the Home app. By being added to the Home app and HomeKit, it can be used in automations such as a wakeup playlist when your lights come on in the morning with your alarm, or controlled via Siri.

Siri can send music to the speaker or the entire room at once, as well as play/pause and adjust the volume.

To play music, you can do so right from the Sonos app and any source that it supports including Apple Music, Spotify, and so forth. AirPlay 2 also lets you use any app within iOS that supports AirPlay.

An ideal living room setup

One of the best options for this speaker is to be paired with a second to act as remote satellite speakers for a Sonos Beam or other Sonos soundbar.

That's how we used the Symfonisk bookshelf speaker. We mounted two by a couch and chair and used them with the Beam for far more immersive audio. All are connected together and play music as a group and are stellar for movies.

Even better, when mounted to the wall they get a bit of extra bass they were lacking while placed on a table.

Audio quality

As per usual, we tested the speakers with our normal testing playlist, through Apple Music.



These aren't cheap knock-off Sonos speakers. They have true Sonos sound and match well with the rest of the Sonos range.

Compared directly to HomePod, there isn't quite as much bass and we'd give the win to HomePod head-to-head. But, these speakers are less than a third of the price and a stereo pair with mounting brackets still costs less than a single HomePod at retail.

Symfonisk Bookshelf comes in black and white
Symfonisk Bookshelf comes in black and white


These speakers sounded nearly as good as our Sonos Play One set, but are just a hair weaker. They are crisp, articulate, and full sounding without being distorted at high volumes.

These are easily the best sounding $100 Wi-Fi speakers we've tested -- especially with the number of streaming features we've seen. There isn't a Wi-Fi speaker that can compete at this price point.

An Ikea exclusive




The only real downside to these speakers, other than their slightly larger demeanor, is that they are Ikea exclusives. That means if you don't live near an Ikea or able to order them, you are out of luck. They won't be sold on Amazon or through Sonos, and the same goes for the mounting hardware.

If you do manage to get your hands on one or two of these, you likely won't be disappointed.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Where to buy

The Sonos and Ikea Symfonisk Bookshelf speaker is available exclusively through Ikea for $99. If you want to use them in your living room, you can pair them with a Sonos soundbar such as the Beam, which runs $399 on Amazon.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 12
    mike1mike1 Posts: 1,947member
    Love the pic with the lime green iPod Mini. Used to have one of those.
  • Reply 2 of 12
    gisgeekgisgeek Posts: 1unconfirmed, member
    can the speaker be used as an audio output for an Apple TV
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 12
    caskeycaskey Posts: 5member
    gisgeek said:
    can the speaker be used as an audio output for an Apple TV
    Yes, they're airplay 2, and can be selected on the Apple TV as an output. I got one on day 2 of them coming out and It's a really great speaker.
    forgot usernamewatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 12
    gutengelgutengel Posts: 340member
    gisgeek said:
    can the speaker be used as an audio output for an Apple TV
    Yes you can. However, one issues that I always have is that you can Airplay2 whatever audio from a video playing from the Apple TV with no issue, but the moment you try to Airplay something from an iPhone or iPad through Apple TV, the sounds stops and the Apple TV tries to play to whatever audio outlet is has hardwired or Bluetooth. This issues is super annoying and apparently there no fix on new OS's coming this fall...
  • Reply 5 of 12
    Can you set up 2 in stereo pair so one plays left channel and one plays the right channel?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 12
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 5,006administrator
    ZanyApple said:
    Can you set up 2 in stereo pair so one plays left channel and one plays the right channel?
    Yes.
    lolliverwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 12
    gutengel said:
    gisgeek said:
    can the speaker be used as an audio output for an Apple TV
    Yes you can. However, one issues that I always have is that you can Airplay2 whatever audio from a video playing from the Apple TV with no issue, but the moment you try to Airplay something from an iPhone or iPad through Apple TV, the sounds stops and the Apple TV tries to play to whatever audio outlet is has hardwired or Bluetooth. This issues is super annoying and apparently there no fix on new OS's coming this fall...
    I will second that “super annoying” assessment. I constantly choose my stereo HomePods as my output source through my Apple TV, and when I play something from my iPhone using AirPlay, such as a YouTube video, the Apple TV resets the audio output to the Vizio sound bar that is directly connected to my Sony TV. ARRGGGHHH! Why can’t I set the HomePods as my PERMANENT DEFAULT OUTPUT? If the Apple TV absolutely can’t maintain the HomePod audio for a brief tangental interlude, why doesn’t it at least go back to its default output (HomePods) automatically when that interloping stream has concluded?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 12
    polymniapolymnia Posts: 942member
    Very tempting. I’d love to upgrade all my Play:1 speakers to something with AirPlay 2. But I do t want to spend another $200 a pop in the process. 
  • Reply 9 of 12
    chasmchasm Posts: 1,704member
    Sounds like a pretty good value, though "80 percent" of what the HomePod can do is a little high IMO. It's useful to bear in mind that Siri on the HomePod is built-in, and thus doesn't require another iOS device to be around to do its thing. With this, you're using your iPhone as the source for everything -- which may or may not be a big deal to you, but definitely causes some battery drain. That said, I'll give it a +1 affordability and another +1 for easy mixed-platform usage, both of which are definite edges over the HomePod at present.

    I predict people who enjoy really bass-heavy music won't find it worth the savings, but for mixed-device households that need "pretty good" sound, this seems like a very affordable and worthy option. Very glad to see AirPlay 2 really getting out there in third party devices.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 12
    badmonkbadmonk Posts: 838member
    and if you use it as a shelf to put a HomePod on it, it sounds just like a HomePod.
    IreneWwatto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 12
    Based on this review, I picked up two white Symfonisk speakers to replace two HomePods acting as a stereo pair. Initially, I was attracted to the slimmer design, which match my bookcase more, but now that I've set them up and listened for a while, I am convinced that these sound just as good, if not better, than the HomePods, and they also seem more reliable on my network. I had persistent problems with the HomePods, even though they are made by Apple and should work flawlessly with my Mac and iOS devices, but I found myself struggling with the dreaded "No Response" message more than a few times. These speakers seem more reliable based on my first day of usage and they really do sound incredible. It makes me sorry I didn't invest in the Sonos ecosystem earlier.
    larrya
  • Reply 12 of 12
    polymniapolymnia Posts: 942member
    Based on this review, I picked up two white Symfonisk speakers to replace two HomePods acting as a stereo pair. Initially, I was attracted to the slimmer design, which match my bookcase more, but now that I've set them up and listened for a while, I am convinced that these sound just as good, if not better, than the HomePods, and they also seem more reliable on my network. I had persistent problems with the HomePods, even though they are made by Apple and should work flawlessly with my Mac and iOS devices, but I found myself struggling with the dreaded "No Response" message more than a few times. These speakers seem more reliable based on my first day of usage and they really do sound incredible. It makes me sorry I didn't invest in the Sonos ecosystem earlier.
    Jump in! The water is fine here in the Sonos pond :)
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