The latest device from Ikea’s novel partnership with the wifi-speaker maker Sonos is a bit different: a speaker hidden in a picture frame.
The Symfonisk picture frame costs £179 ($199) and joins Ikea’s other unusual speakers – one is in a shelf while another is a table lamp – which are all fully compatible with Sonos’s whole-home wireless audio system.
The idea is to make speakers that blend into the background by being more like furniture than standing out as a piece of technology. The frame can be hung on the wall or simply lent against it on the floor in either landscape or portrait orientation. It comes in black or white and has a line and dot pattern printed on the front, which may not be everyone’s idea of art but would not look out of place in a modern hotel room.
Unfortunately, you can’t put your favourite piece of art in the frame yet, although you may be able to get custom prints from third parties at a later date if the speakers prove popular.
The speaker has a white fabric-wrapped power cable that hangs down the wall, and felt pads to protect your decor. Movable silicone feet and a fabric strap keep it stable when leaning instead of hanging, too.
For wall-mounting it comes with a metal bracket that you have to screw into the wall and on to which the speaker slides a bit like a picture hook. But be warned, at about 3.8kg the speaker is fairly heavy for a wall-mounted thing, so you will need to properly secure the bracket, requiring the use of a drill, rawl plugs (if into brick) and screws, none of which are supplied.
Dimensions: 41 x 57 x 6cm
Connectivity: Wifi, ethernet, AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect
Cord length: 350cm
A simple five-minute process using the Sonos S2 app on an iPhone, iPad or Android had the speaker up and running: plug it in, open the app, tap the phone on the speaker where the LED flashes and the app will automatically configure wifi settings, updates and other bits.
The speaker can be used on its own or in a stereo pair. You can even daisy-chain two with an optional £2 connection cord so that only one of the speakers needs to be plugged into a socket.
The frame operates like any other Sonos speaker streaming music over wifi, not Bluetooth, and can be grouped with any other Ikea or Sonos speakers you might have to play music simultaneously all over the house.
The Sonos system supports practically every streaming music service, including Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music and BBC radio, which can all be controlled via the Sonos app. Alternatively, you can use AirPlay 2 to stream straight from an iPhone, iPad or Mac, or Spotify Connect.
The frame has a similar sound to the Symfonisk table lamp and Sonos One, which, given its depth dimension, is really impressive.
It sounds wide, well balanced and rounded, easily filling a room and getting very loud indeed. It has clarity a cut above many simpler wifi or Bluetooth speakers, with punchy treble, sharp highs and a reasonable amount of bass.
Those looking for really pounding low notes might be a bit disappointed but the frame sounds great with most music genres. The Sonos One still sounds a little better all-round but it is very close.
Those with an iPhone or iPad can perform the automatic “Truplay” tuning to help the speaker sound its best but it sounded spot-on straight out of the box. You can manually tweak the bass, treble and “loudness” and set a volume limit in the Sonos app, too.
The product is not currently repairable by Ikea, although replacement cords and other parts are available. It does not contain any recycled material nor does Ikea publish individual environmental impact assessments. But the offers a recycling scheme for its products and publishes an annual sustainability report.
Sonos commits to supporting feature updates through software on its own products for at least five years after it stops selling a product but has a track record of much longer, including bug and security fixes for its legacy products. The Symfonisk range will receive similar levels of support.
The body vibrates slightly when the volume is pushed beyond 80%.
There is an ethernet port in the back if you don’t want to use wifi.
The frame doesn’t have any microphones, so while it can be controlled via Amazon’s Alexa or Google’s Assistant on another device or phone, it is not a smart speaker.
For comparison, the Symfonisk bookshelf speaker costs £89, the Symfonisk table lamp costs £150, the Sonos One SL costs £179, the Sonos One costs £199 and Sonos’s In-Wall speakers cost £599 for a pair but need to be built into the wall and connected to the separate £599 Amp.
Ikea isn’t the first company to try to blend a speaker with wall art but it might be the most successful, thanks in no small part to Sonos’s audio and software magic and a comparatively low price.
It is easy to set up, simple to use, supports a wide range of music services and will be supported by the Sonos system for years to come. It sounds really good for the money and a unique shape, too.
I can certainly see the appeal of having a speaker hung out the way on a wall but whether you think it is art is another thing. While it doesn’t look like a speaker, it is more obvious than either Sonos’s small One bookshelf speaker or Ikea’s other wifi speakers, so it will have to fit in with your decor.
Pros: good sound, well designed, can be hung or stood against a wall in portrait or landscape, easy setup, Sonos control, wide support for music services, can be paired up, optional ethernet, new front plates available at later date.
Cons: art may not be everyone’s taste, can’t have your own art prints, more obvious than a small bookshelf speaker, no smart speaker mics, no Bluetooth or line in, still needs a dangling power cord if hung.