Full disclosure: I’m not an audio-nerd. I’m the person that streams my Spotify through my AppleTV to play it on my 32-inch non-surround sound TV during parties. I do have my dad’s old component stereo system, but I also find it tiresome to constantly get up and flip the record over. (How did I survive such short plays as a kid?!) I’ve also been known to use a Bluetooth speaker I picked up on points from Shoppers Drug Mart. Take this info as you will.
That said, I was pretty intrigued by the new Sonos and Ikea-designed wifi speaker system, Symfonisk. They clock in at a lower price point than the entry-level Sonos Play:1 (about $199 at Best Buy, vs $149 for Ikea’s bookshelf speaker—though the table lamp speaker will set you back $249). They’re intended to pull double-duty: the bookshelf speaker can convert to a wall-mounted shelf or nightstand, the table lamp is, well, a table lamp. Do you need a speaker to do anything more than sound great? Perhaps not, but it’s a clever concept.
I’ve tested both the bookshelf speaker and the lamp for a couple of weeks now, and as a system, the Sonos concept has grown on me. Wifi speakers operate on your home internet system rather than just Bluetooth-ing off of your phone, and Sonos in particular works off of its proprietary Sonos app. Upside—phone calls can still be answered without disrupting the music. Downside: you’re restricted to using Sonos-approved streaming systems. So you’ll find Spotify, Audible and SiriusXM among their services, but not Amazon Music or Overdrive, for example. You also can’t use these as an extra speaker for boosting Netflix on your iPad.
The steaming interface isn’t perfect, either. You’ll catch your main playlists from Spotify via the Sonos app, but features like Daily Mix don’t show up (though you can work around this by turning those Mixes into a playlist). And if you're using your iPhone to operate the system and you’ve got an Apple TV or other AirPlay-capable non-Sonos devices in your household with AirPlay enabled, you won’t be able to operate the app—pause or skip a song, for example—from a locked phone screen (a mild annoyance, but an irritation nonetheless).
That said, there are some cool features. If you’ve got two speakers in separate rooms—in my case, the Symfonisk bookshelf speaker in my bedroom and the table lamp speaker in my living room—the system allows you to play the same track simultaneously by grouping them together, or you can opt to have different tracks playing on each (a little mood music for the bedroom, something more party-central for the living room). And if you’re on an iOS system, you can also “TruePlay” the speakers: a perhaps gimmicky set up that involves you walking around the room with your iPhone while a series of tones plays from the speaker, allowing it to tune itself to the size and shape of your room.
And I’m enjoying instantly getting music going wherever I am in my apartment—the speakers are always on—as soon as I flip to the app on my phone. The sound is warm and full (yes, I recognize it’s seriously superior to my Shoppers Bluetooth number), and a good gateway into the Sonos system as a whole. Design-wise, the Symfonisk lamp is a nice addition to my reading corner, if a little lo-fi on the design front. The bookshelf speaker feels a little large for a modern speaker, yet a little small for a wall-hung side table—but makes up for it on the sound front.
Quirks to the system aside, I’m a new fan.