Ikea’s wireless furniture speakers also happen to sound great
- Good sound
- Room optimisation tech
- Sonos app is great
- Shelf speaker sound a touch coarse
- No 3.5mm input
- No microphone
Speakers used to be simple. They were products primarily of a single function, intended solely for the reproduction of music in a Hi-Fi. Nowadays, though, speakers are everywhere and do everything – you can take them to the park, they can answer your inane questions and they can even help you out with your weekly shop.
Often, however, this all comes at the cost of technological clutter. This is a problem that Ikea’s new range of SYMFONISK smart speakers aims to knock on the head – by hiding the speaker in a series of tastefully designed items of möbel (that’s Swedish for furniture to you).
Ikea Symfonisk review: What you need to know
Initially, there will be two different Symfonisk speakers: the Shelf, which is designed to sit on a shelf (duh), hidden between magazine racks and books; and the table lamp, where the speaker part is hidden in the base.
Both models are available in either white or black and the table lamp, in particular, is a triumph of form melded with function. A quick glance and you wouldn’t know it was a speaker at all, let alone a multiroom, wireless speaker.
Even better than the looks, though, is that the two new speakers also feature technology from high-tech audio specialist, Sonos, and can be added seamlessly to an existing multiroom Sonos setup. They can also be installed as standalone speakers and, additionally, are compatible with Apple AirPlay 2.
Ikea Symfonisk review: Price and competition
It may not surprise you to discover that putting speakers into furniture isn’t exactly a new idea. But there’s nothing quite like Symfonisk. These speakers take the best bits of Sonos and the best bits of Ikea’s design nous and its cost-cutting efficiency, with the result being a spectacularly impressive pair of products.
The Shelf speaker is the cheaper speaker of the two. It costs a mere £99, which makes it the cheapest Sonos speaker to date. The lamp is more expensive at £150 but that’s understandable since, even as a lamp without the speaker, I think many would be happy to pony up this soft cash anyway.
As for rivals, the cheapest Sonos-branded speaker is the Sonos Play:1 at £149 and next up the scale is the Sonos 1 for £195, both of which look more speaker-like than either of the Symfonisk speakers. The latter, however, has microphones and full Alexa and Google Assistant compatibility, which the Symfonisk speakers do not have.
Ikea Symfonisk speakers review: Features
If you’re bought into the Ikea aesthetic, you’ll love the way these speakers look, either in black or white. The shelf speaker is built from minimalist, solid-feeling plastic with a textile grille covering the drivers and all cables hidden at the back.
The table lamp is made from similarly sturdy plastic, with the base covered in what looks like a knitted tea cosy and topped with a lamp shade of frosted glass. It’s quite a big lamp, more suited to the living room than a bedside table and a simple one as well. There’s no facility to dim the bulb – the circular switch on the side merely turns the light on or off. Both speakers have fairly simple controls, too: there are play, pause and pairing buttons on the front of each device.
To get music to play through these lovely looking speakers you need to connect them to your home network, either via Wi-Fi or Ethernet cable. There’s no Bluetooth or 3.5mm audio jack input and nor is there any kind of microphone so you can’t control them via Alexa or Google Assistant with your voice.
You can stream tunes directly via AirPlay 2 but the best way to control the Symfonisk speakers is to use the Sonos app which is, thankfully, brilliant at its job. It gives you access to numerous streaming services, from TuneIn Radio through various high-resolution audio options and also all the big-name services such as Spotify, Google Music, Apple Music and YouTube Music. You can find a full list of Spotify music services here.
Importantly, the app not only supports these services but it also fully integrates them, unlike the apps that accompany most other wireless speakers. For Spotify, in particular, most other apps tend to kick users directly out to the Spotify app instead of going through the bother of integrating it properly.
The benefit of Sonos’ integrated approach is mainly that you can search within the app for music across multiple music services; you can build playlists that span different services, too.
Ikea Symfonisk speakers review: Sound quality
One of the big benefits of Sonos speakers is Trueplay, a tuning feature that optimises the speaker’s EQ to the room the speaker is in. This tuning process is simple: just wander around your room, waving your phone slowly up and down while the speaker outputs a special tone, wait for a few seconds and, hey presto, you’re done.
When I first played music through the Shelf speaker I didn’t like it. It sounded constrained and confined to my ears and rather boxy, with a displeasing lack of low-end grunt that robbed the music I was listening to of warmth and solidity.
After optimisation, the Shelf sounded less narrow and constricted, with considerably improved instrument separation and clarity. The bass was more controlled and less boomy, the mids sounded more open and the treble less swamped. This is still not what you’d call an audiophile speaker, but for £99 it’s pretty great.
The Symfonisk table lamp is an entirely different kettle of fish, with better control, balance, warmth and detail out of the box, plus superior bass and more impressive instrument separation. After carrying out Trueplay tuning, it improved further but not as much as the Shelf.
The lamp is most at home with fairly simple acoustic material. Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car” trips from the drivers in particularly impressive fashion with a bold, crisp guitar lead and Chapman’s vocals cutting cleanly through the backing track. Nils Lofgren’s “Keith Don’t Go” is presented with supreme confidence with all the atmospherics I’ve come to expect of this particular song.
That’s not to say the lamp can’t cope with more complex material – far from it. Feed it Six By Seven’s guitar-dense screamer “The Closer You Get” and the lamp effortlessly copes with the streams of overdriven guitars, coping perfectly when the deep thrum of the bass and drums kick in.
Ikea Symfonisk review: Verdict
For £99 and £150 respectively, Ikea’s Sonos-inspired furniture speakers represent phenomenal value for money. And this is best illustrated by comparing them with other speakers you might be able to swing for about the same amount of money.
You could probably get a better-sounding £99 or £150 Bluetooth speaker, but it won’t have Sonos’ smarts or room optimising tech built-in and it certainly won’t look as good. Alternatively, you could pick up a smart speaker such as the Google Home or the Amazon Echo 2 or Echo Plus (2nd gen) but they won’t sound this good.
In short, Ikea’s Symfonisk speakers represent fantastic value for money. They’re the cheapest, best-looking Sonos speakers you can currently buy and they sound pretty impressive, too.