Rethinking Whole-House Audio: IKEA Symfonisk Wi-Fi Bookshelf Speakers

Posted on January 20, 2020 by Paul Thurrott in Music + Videos, Smart Home, Sonos with 34 Comments

As you may recall, IKEA and Sonos announced a small lineup of Symfonisk-branded smart speakers in April 2019 and then began selling them at its ubiquitous retail locations in late 2019. (IKEA writes this as SYMFONISK because everything IKEA has to be all-caps, but I’ll just pretend otherwise because it’s tedious.) The firms had actually been working together for two years on this partnership—IKEA teased it vaguely in mid-2017—so it’s reasonable to assume that the two Symfonik-branded smart speakers were developed alongside the Sonos One, which first shipped in 2018 and was then revved with slightly improved internals in early 2019.

We own a Sonos One, and have three of its very similar predecessor, the Sonos:1, and so I’m quite familiar with how these small speakers sound: They’re punchy and loud. And while a pair of Sonos Ones that I quietly bought on sale over the Black Friday/holiday period in November/December of last year failed to rise to the quality of our Edifier bookshelf speakers in the sunroom, I always felt like they would perform well in smaller rooms, like our kitchen or living room.

But as you may know, I’d long ago settled on Google—more specifically Chromecast/Googlecast—for whole-house audio. And so the Sonos Ones were packed up and returned.

That this happened barely over a month ago is interesting, because I probably would have kept them now that I know I’ll be moving away from Google for whole-house audio because of various ongoing issues. I purchased the pair on sale for $300, a savings of $100 over the normal price (where each Sonos One is typically $200). Not inexpensive, to be sure. But not crazy-expensive.

But that may work out in the long run, thanks to IKEA and its Symfonik-branded smart speakers.

If you haven’t done so, and you have an IKEA nearby, I recommend visiting the store and experiencing the quality of these speakers—which include a bookshelf speaker and a fun table lamp with WiFi speaker—for yourself. They’re inexpensive—the bookshelf unit is just $100, about half the price of the similarly-sounding Sonos One, while the table lamp is about $180—and they are both available in black or white versions to suit most environments. More to the point, they sound pretty great.

I purchased two white Symfonisk Wi-Fi bookshelf speakers with the goal of testing and then using them in the kitchen if they passed muster. I was particularly interested in the mounting accessories—IKEA sells a $20 wall bracket for mounting the speaker directly to the wall and a $10 pair of hooks for hanging the speaker on a rail—but those won’t work in our kitchen: We have subway tile under the cabinets that I will not be drilling into, and since the bracket only connects to the back of the bookshelf speaker, I can’t mount them to the bottom of the cabinets as I’d hoped.

But that’s OK. The Symfonisk Wi-Fi bookshelf speakers can just stand directly on a surface like our countertops, and because they can be used vertically or horizontally, you should be able to position them in a way that makes sense for whatever room. I simply placed them vertically on the countertop, with one on either side of the room.

Setup is simple enough even for the non-technical, and is indeed identical to setting up any Sonos smart speaker or component. You use the Sonos mobile app, which will find and configure each speaker, the second of which you can use to make a stereo pair, which I did.

(If you’re using Sonos on iPhone, you can also use its unique Trueplay functionality to automatically tune the sound for the room the speakers are in. It’s a bit silly-feeling to do, since you walk around the room waving the phone like a tuning fork while the speakers play pulsating tones. But what the heck. I’m not sure why this isn’t available on Android—I assume it’s due to discrepancies in handset microphones—but you can at least use the EQ settings to configure bass, treble, and balance on either platform.)

After that, the speakers work just like any other speakers in your Sonos environment: You tie them to a particular room, and can them combine them on the fly to play music, podcasts, or audiobooks from all speakers at once or whichever combination of rooms you prefer. (I actually prefer how Google handles this since you can make discrete, named groups of speakers and then just access them that way.)

And as noted, they sound great, with punchy, crisp, and very loud playback. And while it’s possible that the countertop positioning helps a bit with the bass punch, almost anyone should be happy with the sound, given a bit of EQ tweaking.

And if you’re not familiar with Sonos, you can use these speakers through the Sonos app, of course, which connects to a multitude of services, including Apple Music, Google Play Music, Spotify, Audible, PocketCasts, and many more. But you can also use Sonos speakers through compatible apps like Google Play Music and Spotify, which is nice for those who like to stick with their favorite app.

The speakers come with a high-quality power cable and a short (and optional) Ethernet cable

As for the speakers themselves, they also offer on-device controls for Play/Pause, Volume Up, and Volume Down. And they are delightfully free of personal digital assistant integration.

Given the positive experience, I’ll probably purchase another pair of these speakers, this time in black, and place them in the black TV unit that our smart TV sits on (which, yes, is also from IKEA). Longer-term, I will also likely be getting a Sonos Port to bring our Edifier speakers and the sunroom into the system. But given that thing’s price—an obscene $450—it will be a while. And in the meantime, I have some other audio components to experiment with.

More soon.

Join the discussion!


Don't have a login but want to join the conversation? Become a Thurrott Premium or Basic User to participate

Comments (35)

35 responses to “Rethinking Whole-House Audio: IKEA Symfonisk Wi-Fi Bookshelf Speakers”

  1. sherlockholmes

    Jesus Paul, who do you want to kill with all those knifes in the kitchen ;-)

    Anyhow, just looked at the german Ikea site. These things cost 99€ in Germany.


    I like the Symfonisk speakers, mine are wall mounted with the brackets as Surrounds for a Sonos Beam. I don't like the lamp though, it manages to look very ugly in my opinion. Unfortunately my plan of mounting the speakers horizontally and using them as shelves (a supported configuration) was scuppered by insufficient horizontal wall space without pictures on it.

    Still, it is nice to know that I can switch them round later if I rearrange the pictures on the wall.

  3. Luke Miller

    Can these act as rear channels with a Sonos Beam?

  4. datameister

    What are the "ongoing issues" with the Google Home audio system?

  5. ronh

    I bought 5 of these when they came to Canada last year. Very happy with them.

  6. Big_Swifty

    There is a video on YouTube, "IKEA's Sonos Speaker Has a Secret", that has a teardown video about what is inside the speaker.

    I have a whole house system including 3 of the new AMP's running 6 ceiling speakers, 2 of the older Play:1 units, a Play:3 (now discontinued), a SONOS Sub, SONOS Playbar and 2 Connects hooked up to a pre-amp and a Bose CD player using the analog in of the Bose. Some of these are tuned using Truplay, the whole system sounds great. I don't use any voice control and none of my current speakers support it anyway and that is just fine with me. We control all this with 3 of the dedicated CR-200 remotes (now sadly discontinued) and can use the app on Windows desktop or on our Samsung Galaxy 9+ phones. I do have an iPad whose sole functions are to use the Truplay tuning and adjust our Radio Ra Lutron lighting system. And all is hardwired to our Ethernet network where possible, the Play:1's use Wi-Fi.

    Music comes from my NAS where I have over 300gb of music ripped from my CD collection or you can use Sirius XM, Spotify, Plex or any of the other provided services. Everything is ripped as 320 megabit per second mp3's since at the time I started ripping SONOS recommend mp3's to get gapless playback and the sound quality is more than adequate for the use I am putting it to. I have been working with SONOS since they were first announced even before I purchased my system components and their tech support has always been really helpful. And their stuff is pricy but I got the first batch on sale and have added components as I went along to spread out the cost.

    The Symfonisk looks really interesting and if the video is correct it looks like it is just the Play One in a different enclosure so if I need to add another speaker I'll definitely consider one or two of those.

  7. m_p_w_84

    I have one of these too. I have notice the Wifi pickup is not as reliable and more interference sensitive than a regular Sonos.

  8. rbwatson0

    For the price of some of these speakers, I'd think it would be cheaper to just hire the god damn band to come play at your house.

  9. Vladimir Carli

    After their outrageous greedy and anti-consumer behaviour, i don't think i really want to give one more dime to Sonos. I am thinking to go for something like this:

    I wonder if anyone here wants to make a modified version of this and try it out.

  10. Patrick Yore

    Buy a proper set of speakers like ELAC B6.2 and stay away from this rubbish if you really love music (including Sonos)

  11. jchampeau

    There are quite a few Sonos CONNECT units, including some brand new ones, on eBay for much less than what the Port sells for. I'm sure you know this, but the CONNECT is the Port's predecessor.

    • Paul Thurrott

      In reply to jchampeau:

      Yes, thanks. Whenever it comes time for this, I'll look around at all the options.

      • chasmm

        In reply to paul-thurrott:

        Just be aware that the end-of-life on those Connect units is May 2020 according to an e-mail I received from Sonos today.

        Edited to add: MY Connects are EOL...newer ones may not be. It looks like the ones manufactured after 2015 will continue to get updates...until?

        My Connects, along with my Play5s will no longer get software updates after May 2020. What's more, if I leave those connected to my Sonos system, my SYSTEM will also no longer receive updates.

        I've been a loyal Sonos customer and consumer, but this is making me rethink my side of that equation.

  12. cworeo

    I was just at IKEA over the weekend and saw these speakers. Good to know that they sound great. I’m not sure how Sonos works but I do like the digital assistant integration so I can tell Alexa to play music around my house.

  13. Corbey

    As you probably know, Sonos makes a version of the Sonos One that is also “delightfully free of digital assistant integration.” They call it the Sonos One SL, and it’s $20 less than the model with microphones. I got one on sale over Christmas, mainly so I could have a speaker that’s AirPlay 2 compatible.

  14. tsay

    Speakers are made by specialist speaker manufacturers. Not Google, not Amazon, not Sonos.

    If you want the finest balance, true sound reproduction made to go all the way on the dial to the legendary 11 and are officially the world's LOUDEST multi-room smart speakers (Google or Alexa options) at a price that entices and of a quality that's good for your home sound system and will last 10 and more years without hissing, farting, crackling and that can't be blown no matter how hard you push them...there is only one choice.

    • jchampeau

      In reply to tsay:

      You know these Marshall units are manufactured by Zound Industries in China, right?

      • tsay

        In reply to jchampeau:

        Zounds are a Swedish outfit - and everything gets made in China!

        There is joint equity in the companies and yes the Swedish guys were headphones originally...but the speaker range, being an extension of the core Mashall Amps is not left to the mercy of a 3rd party licensing deal. Marshal make amps and speakers, licensing their core brand to domestic amp/speakers and allowing sub-standard, low quality products to be sold bearing their brand with the potential to damage their company is that desperate or mad.

        Cabinet design, bass reflex system, internal chamber specs, etc - Marshall UK R&D

        Drivers, circuitry, on board processing chips - Marshall UK R&D

        Material and Component Quality - to Marshall UK minimum spec

        But Marshall Amplification don't have the business model,setup, infrastructure or even core B2C commercial nous to do a range like this in house - their core distribution via channel; partners is chalk and chees to direct retailing.

        I've got the bad bastard - the Woburn. 110 Watts total Output which delivers a STONKING 112 dB (not actually taken it above 8 on the volume dial in "real" use as all of a sudden I become acutely aware that I live in semi-detached house and my next door neighbour is an octogenarian!).

        As a comparison, go to a mainstream gig and the sysrem PA will be operating at a max of 130 dB.

        "Zound Industries and Marshall sign new agreement

        2018-10-24 08:00

        Zound Industries and Marshall Amplification plc sign a new, long-term agreement. Under the terms of the new deal Stockholm based Zound Industries retains the global license to design, develop, manufacture and market headphone and speaker products under the Marshall brand.

        "After months of speculation, we can confirm that Zound Industries will continue to work with Marshall for many years to come. It's been a long journey to get to this point, but now it's time to focus on the future and build on the huge success Zound and Marshall have already achieved," comments Tommy Jacobson, Chairman of the Board at Zound Industries

        The new agreement will come into force on January 1st, 2019 and run for 15 years until December 31st, 2033.

        To ensure the ongoing success of the partnership, both parties want to build a foundation for long-term cooperation. As part of the contract, Marshall will receive a five percent stake in Zound Industries. Zound Industries will call an extraordinary general meeting to approve the new issue of shares.

        "Over the past eight years, Zound have created outstanding products under the Marshall name, which have opened up our brand for a new generation of consumers. This partnership is very important for us at Marshall and we look forward to continuing to work together, especially as a shareholder in Zound," says Jonathan Ellery, Managing Director of Marshall Amplification.

        UK based Marshall Amplification and Swedish Zound Industries first teamed up in 2010. For nearly a decade the two companies have worked closely together to bring a new era of sound products that stay true to the original DNA of the Marshall brand.

        "Both Zound and Marshall have always been committed to prolonging our successful partnership and it's fantastic that we can continue to create great products together. With the agreement now in place we can really push on with our scaling up agenda and gives us the potential to plan long-term," comments Pernilla Ekman, CEO at Zound Industries.

        Over the past year Zound has released a raft of new products under the Marshall brand, including revamps of its biggest sellers - the Kilburn speaker and the Major headphones - and the company's first ever voice speaker, featuring Amazon Alexa.

        Marshall is one of three brands in Zound Industries' stable. The company also makes headphones and speakers for its inhouse brand Urbanears and is developing headphones for adidas under the Badge of Sport and Originals labels.

        Last week Zound Industries posted its third quarter results showing continued growth. Net sales grew by 44 percent compared to the same period in 2017. Year to date figures per September report a 32 percent growth at 1.15 BN SEK.

        - ENDS -"

  15. Pbike908

    Thanks Paul. I am enjoying your home audio series as I have been contemplating a system myself. Fortunately for me I haven't invested in anything yet, so when I take the plunge it will probably be Sonos. I too like that it's not integrated with a voice assistant, as I find the whole idea of a voice assistant in a speaker in my house creepy.

  16. glenn8878

    All plastic housing like my old PC speakers. You can't beat the price.

  17. JerryH

    Paul, it seems like a quick mod to a bracket from Home Depot / Lowes or the like would allow this speaker to mount to the bottom of your cabinets just fine. Heck, even just a straight piece of flat 1/8th inch mild steel cut to length and bent with a couple of holes drilled in it would do this. You'd be able to put them lengthwise on the bottom of the cabinets to get more space on the counter.

  18. Clintvs

    I've got a. Pair of these also, nice sound quality it's a good entry point for Sonos, I've also got a Ikea volume knob button on the fridge too.

    Thanks for your write up Paul

Leave a Reply