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Ikea Sonos Symfonisk picture frame with Wi-Fi speaker review: Sonically superb, aesthetically underwhelming

Andy White
10 Jun 2022
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
179
inc VAT

The Symfonisk picture frame speaker is an intriguing combination of art and audio that sounds better than it looks

Pros 
Sounds great
Easy to set up and control
Multiroom streaming and AirPlay 2 support
Cons 
Can’t display your own pictures
Limited selection of panel designs
No Bluetooth
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I’ve tested a lot of innovative audio tech, but the Ikea Sonos Symfonisk picture frame speaker is right up there with the zaniest products to have arrived on my doorstep.

It’s the third collaboration between iconic Swedish lifestyle brand Ikea and American audio manufacturer Sonos, and it follows in the footsteps of the Symfonisk bookshelf speaker and table lamp released in 2019.

As with both those products, the Symfonisk picture frame speaker provides easy access to the world of wireless streaming audio while blending in beautifully with your living space.

As a wireless speaker, it hits the right notes, delivering impressive sound quality, Apple AirPlay 2 support and the slick in-app experience we’ve come to expect from Sonos products. It looks good, too, although its appeal is hampered by a couple of key factors.

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Ikea Sonos Symfonisk picture frame speaker review: What you need to know

Let me address the elephant in the room – the Symfonisk picture frame with Wi-Fi speaker is not really a picture frame. Not in the traditional sense, at least. It can’t be used to show off treasured family portraits or collages of pre-pandemic adventures abroad.

Instead, the frame is a structure into which you clip artwork panels. The Symfonisk comes with one removable panel pre-installed – in either white or black, depending on the version you buy – and there’s a small selection of alternative panels sold separately.

As far as mounting goes, you can hang the Symfonisk on a wall in portrait or landscape mode, or prop it up on a table, worktop or the floor. Included in the box are a mounting bracket for wall hanging, two rubber feet, a fabric safety tether and a single screw, which is used to attach said tether to the rear of the frame. If you’re planning on wall-mounting the Symfonisk, you’ll need a couple of round head screws and Rawl plugs to hand as Ikea doesn’t include these.

Once you’ve found a suitable home for it and set the speaker up via the Sonos companion app, you can customise your in-app experience by adding streaming services such as Spotify, Apple Music and Tidal. This transforms the app into a neatly laid out, intuitive control hub catering for most, if not all, your streaming needs. iPhone users can also use Apple AirPlay 2 to stream content not accessible via the Sonos app.

There’s really not much more to it than that. Aside from its unusual form, the latest addition to the Ikea/Sonos Symfonisk range is a fairly standard, mains-powered speaker that operates over your home Wi-Fi network.

One quick thing to note, however: there’s no Bluetooth support here and the only sockets on the frame are an Ethernet port for connecting directly to your router, an AC power input and an AC output, used for daisy-chaining two Symfonisk speakers from one power source.

Ikea Sonos Symfonisk picture frame speaker review: Price and competition

The Symfonisk picture frame speaker cost £179 at launch in the summer of 2021 but, like many things, has increased in price and will set you back £220 as of June 2022. It's available exclusively from Ikea and can be picked up in the Swedish brand’s UK stores or ordered online, though the latter is subject to a delivery charge.

As mentioned above, the price includes one pre-installed artwork panel. It’s either black or white depending on which version you buy, but the design itself remains the same. If you’re not sold on that design, other panels can be bought separately for £30 each. Again, these have seen a sharp price hike from the £17 they cost at launch. During the launch event in June 2021, Ikea revealed 12 designs in addition to those that come with the two versions of the product. However, just three Splash, Toronto Cityscape and Vinyl are available on Ikea's UK website.

If you’re looking for a way to display digital pictures while streaming audio wirelessly, Amazon’s Echo Show 8 and Echo Show 10 are also worth considering. They won’t provide a talking point in quite the same way as the Symfonisk, but they do allow you to display whatever pictures you choose, stream video content and make use of the Alexa smart assistant.

If you’re not a fan of Alexa and fancy displaying digital images in a frame powered by Google Assistant, the Google Nest Hub Max is currently our favourite smart screen on the market.

Ikea Sonos Symfonisk picture frame speaker review: Design

The Symfonisk picture frame measures 406 x 60 x 559mm (WDH) and weighs a touch under 4kg. Those dimensions see it take up a reasonable amount of wall or floor real estate without being overbearingly large.

The frame is made of plastic and sturdily constructed and the panel that clips into the frame is constructed from the same material. The artwork, which is designed by artist Jennifer Idrizi, is printed on a thin mesh fabric and, to my eyes, resembles the amalgamation of a spider’s web and a constellation. It has a certain minimalist appeal but is a little mundane for my tastes and lacks the kind of impact or thought-provoking nature I look for in a piece of art.

The three additional panels currently listed on the Ikea website, Splash, Vinyl and Toronto Cityscape, are more interesting but none of them really get the pulse racing. This is a matter of taste and others might love the designs, but with so few to choose from and the inability to display your own pictures, the Symfonisk’s mass appeal is, inevitably, going to be limited. I do have to applaud how easy it is to change the panels, however. By applying pressure through holes on the back of the frame, you can pop the panel out in a matter of seconds.

Update: In June 2022, Ikea launched a trio of new panels featuring three famous pieces of artwork: Leonardo Di Vinci's Mona Lisa, Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night and Gustav Klimt’s The Tree of Life. Accompanying the new panels are three soundtracks designed to change the way we experience the original artwork. All three tracks were developed by Stockholm artist Franz Edvard Cedrin and can be listened to on YouTube via the links below.

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Ikea Sonos Symfonisk picture frame speaker review: Setup

Mercifully, the Symfonisk picture frame speaker doesn’t come with an inch-thick tome of instructions like most of the Ikea flat-pack furniture in my flat. In fact, whether you’re leaning it against a wall or wall-mounting it, the Symfonisk is a breeze to get up and running.

Leaning the speaker on and against a flat surface may not be the most artistic way to display the Symfonisk, but it’s certainly the easiest. Clip the two rubber feet you get in the box into the corresponding slots on the back of the frame and all that’s left to do is fasten it to the wall using the fabric strap and a couple of screws. You can even ignore the strap entirely should you wish; it’s primarily included to prevent the speaker from falling over and hurting small kids or animals.

Wall-mounting the Symfonisk is an equally painless process. Screw the supplied bracket into the wall (you’ll need two of your own round-head screws for this), line up the bracket with either the portrait or landscape slot on the rear of the frame and slip the bracket in. The attachment, although basic, is perfectly secure, so assuming you’ve screwed the bracket in properly, there’s no danger of the speaker being knocked off the wall.

With the manual setup out of the way, all that remains is to download the Sonos companion app, if you don’t already have it, and add the Symfonisk picture frame to your list of active devices.

A quick NFC scan of one of the outer edges of the frame with my iPhone registered the speaker within the app and, once I’d entered my Wi-Fi password, the Symfonisk was fully set up and ready to use.

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Ikea Sonos Symfonisk picture frame speaker review: Sound quality

I had my reservations about how well Sonos’ audio expertise would translate to picture frame form but was impressed by the Symfonisk’s sound quality from the get-go.

Regardless of whether I was streaming content over Apple AirPlay 2 or a Spotify playlist via the Sonos app, the Symfonisk sounded great. The 102mm woofer and 25mm tweeter housed under the printed fabric delivered a well-balanced soundstage characterised by detailed mids and treble. Vocal tracks were the biggest beneficiaries of this detail, and the crispness with which such tracks were articulated proved a real standout during testing.

The tweeter makes use of a waveguide to shape the direction of sound so that the speaker sounds the same wherever you’re standing or sitting, and the Symfonisk certainly possesses plenty of room-filling prowess. It’s loud enough to double up as a party speaker in your living room, doesn’t distort at high volumes and there’s a healthy helping of bass underpinning the soundstage, too.

Despite that punchy low-end delivery, the Symfonisk handled bassy tracks at full whack without vibrating wildly on my wall. My walls are admittedly pretty thick, however; those with thinner partitions may want to avoid positioning the Symfonisk against a surface adjacent to sensitive neighbours.

As with many of Sonos’ speakers, the Symfonisk picture frame is compatible with the company’s Trueplay technology. This tunes the speaker’s EQ based on the acoustic properties of the room it’s in and where it’s positioned within the room.

Unfortunately for Android users, Trueplay requires an iPhone or iPad to set up, so you’ll need to borrow one if you don’t own one yourself. The process involves wandering around waving your phone in the air as its microphone measures how a test sound from the speaker is transmitted and reflected off the surfaces in your room.

I tested the Symfonisk in a couple of different rooms while both mounted on the wall and leant up against it, and found Trueplay had the most noticeable impact when the speaker was placed on the ground in the corner of my office, boosting higher frequencies and enhancing vocal clarity. When positioned elsewhere, however, the difference between the default and Trueplay sound proved negligible.

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There are also bass and treble sliders available in the Sonos app, but those wanting to create and save EQs for different genres are out of luck.

In addition to being a great-sounding standalone speaker, the Symfonisk can be paired with another Symfonisk to create a stereo soundstage. Stereo audio isn’t the only benefit of buying a pair of Symfonisks, either: they can be configured as rear speakers for Sonos soundbars including the Beam and Arc.

I wasn’t able to test these features as I was only sent one Symfonisk, but I could certainly see them doing a decent job as rear speakers if you’re able to position them appropriately on a wall behind your sofa.

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Ikea Sonos Symfonisk picture frame speaker review: Verdict

While I’m sceptical as to how much demand there is for a wireless speaker masquerading as a piece of wall art, it’s hard to find fault with the sonic execution of the Symfonisk picture frame.

Audio is balanced, detailed and impactful, and with a huge number of streaming services at your disposal via the Sonos app, you’ll never find yourself wanting for something to listen to.

I feel the Symfonisk picture frame falls a little short on artistic merit, however. I’m no art critic, but the basic designs aren’t ones I’m desperate to display on my wall. And while the additional panels are more appealing, at present it’s unclear when or if they’ll all be made available in the UK.

If the Symfonisk picture frame allowed you to display your own pictures, I’m certain it would be a massive hit. As it is, it should do well with those who live for Ikea’s Scandi style. If I had a budget of £200, however, and wanted Sonos sound in my living room, I’d go for a Sonos One, the Sonos Roam or Symfonisk bookshelf speaker.

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