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The IKEA Symfonisk Picture Frame, does it have a place in the Sonos line up? Let’s find out...
Video Transcript >>
What’s up guys, it’s Jonathan from Smart Home Sounds, a home audio visual retailer in the UK and today marks a very special day as we are going to be reviewing this work of art….(I guess the title gave it away). But would you have believed this is actually a speaker? We’ll talk all things Sonos & IKEA in this video and give you everything you need to know about the new Symfonisk Picture Frame to find out if it has a place in the Sonos speaker line-up and help you decide if it’s worth considering. Now before we get into the review, I’d love for you to take a second just to drop me a like on the video to show me you’re excited about this speaker, and also consider subscribing if you’re a fan of all things audio visual as we’ve got plenty more to come in the future. Now quick disclaimer, this is an IKEA exclusive so can only be bought directly from IKEA, but as Sonos specialists we thought we’d review it to see if it’s worth considering and untimely how it compares to other Sonos speaker such as the Sonos one for example. So if you’re ready, let’s get straight into it.
So IKEA and Sonos have worked together to create this, the Symfonisk Picture Frame. The whole idea behind this collaboration is quite a clever one and that’s to make music fade into the background and get away from the whole aesthetic of having a speaker that looks like a… well speaker in your home. Rather surprisingly, this is not the first time we’ve seen a speaker double up as a picture frame. Panel speakers have been around for a while and our friends over at Monitor Audio had already beaten IKEA to the punch with their SoundFrame models but the difference between those and the IKEA speaker is that you can just plug the IKEA speaker directly into mains power, whereas the Monitor audio, you’ll need to wire it to an amplifier so the price points will be in a completely different league so we’ll save that comparison for another day. For me I think the Symfonisk Picture Frame is definitely making this sort of product more accessible and mainstream. So you’re probably wondering how much one of these will cost you. Well this speaker will set you back £179 which puts it at the same price point as the Sonos One SL. We will 100% give you guys a full comparison with this Picture Frame and the One and One SL in a bit.
Now, as I’m sure you’re aware, this is not the first IKEA & Sonos collaboration. These two, global brands have teamed up previously to create the IKEA Symfonisk Lamp which doubles up as a speaker and a lamp and then an IKEA Symfonisk Shelf which of course, doubles up as a speaker and a… yep you guessed it, a shelf and these were actually released 2 years ago… jees time flies. Of course, IKEA are known for their furniture and Sonos for their audio which, when put together (along with the backing of two huge brands) creates some pretty cool products.
So theoretically, as all these Symfonisk products have Sonos technology in them, you can have a couple of lamps, a couple of shelves and a Frame all working in harmony in a room and playing the same track and everyone will be none the wiser about where the music will be coming from. You can also connect them up to any traditional sonos speakers you have in your home for a full, cohesive ecosystem. Personally, I love this idea. It’s something different and a great way to get great quality music into your home but without the traditional speakery look of a speaker. I’ve had many conversations with customers in the past, complaining that their other half is not letting them install their favourite speakers in their homes because they look too ugly or they take up too much space, well I’d direct their attention to these.
So let’s take a closer look at the new Symfonisk Picture Frame then. In terms of sizing it comes in at 41cm wide, 57cm high and 6cm deep so it’s a fairly standard sort of size for a picture frame. It’s only available in this size so you can’t customise this but you do have the choice between a black and a white frame. IKEA have stated that the front is interchangeable. They’ve launched with this print I have here which is also available in white but I’m guessing down the line there could be other prints available which you could buy and swap out. It would be nice if you could have an option to upload your own image to put in there but that’s currently not an option. This is most likely to keep things simple and to ensure that you’ve got the correct fabric etc over the front to not impact the sound production. I would imagine some clever people on Etsy will come up with some interchangeable designs which you could clip in.
Ok but back to the designs you can choose from currently. Online, I quite liked how this looked. The thinking behind this design is inspired by the structure of music as it fades in and out. Now I’m not an art enthusiast and I do think IKEA had a tough job making a piece of art that everyone will be a fan of. However, after unboxing it, we were all a little bit underwhelmed because this pattern is more grey-ish than appears in photos so it’s quite faint. I think if they went for a black and white contrast, it might have had more effect but I am far from being an artist so I’m happy to hear your guys opinions in the comments! I'm interested to see whether this design has hit the mark or if it’s not something you’d be overly excited to hang in your home. Em what do you think? It’s alright, I definitely don’t hate it. It looks better from a distance I think.
So you can mount this on the wall and the Frame comes with the bits you would need for that or you can leave it free-standing - do what you want with it! You can also position it vertically or horizontally, you just need to be able to run mains power to it. Obviously that means you’re going to have a cable to try and hide, there is a cable management system here on the back but unless you’re going to be running the wiring into the wall you’re probably going to have this cable visible too. So I guess that’s the only downside, is that you might see a dangling wire and your guests might be quizzing you on what on Earth is this in your room. Interestingly the Black Frame we have here came with a white cable which initially I was a bit annoyed about but I think they’ve done this as most people have lighter walls in general so it will be a bit more discrete in this colour.
Now most of the product is made of plastic but the imagery on the front is made out of a polyester fabric. Rather handily, you have play pause buttons behind the left edge of the frame if you happen to be walking past and want quick control. Now what is interesting is that you can daisy chain a second frame that would still only need one power socket. And you can even stereo pair them and use them as surrounds to a Sonos TV speaker like a Beam or Arc if you want to keep things free of clutter in your room. We’ll come back to this in a bit.
We put a Q&A box on our Instagram story this week to see what you guys wanted to know about this speaker - @smarthomesounds if you’re not already following us there and we had some requests to see if the front can be unclipped and if you can see what’s underneath. Now, this is actually an SHS first as it’s pretty tricky to see inside traditional sonos speakers but for this picture frame, all you need to do is lift off this front panel that has the picture… as this is what you would do if you wanted to change over the artwork. I’ll just pop it off and show you what’s underneath. You can see it’s a single tweeter, woofer and bass port. If I get my little ruler out, it looks like its…..
Sonos don't publish info about the sizes of their internals but we noticed that if you put the Sonos One beside it, you can see they are very similar sizes and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s pretty much the same technology, but slimmed down as there’s more depth in the Sonos One.
Now as I’ve mentioned before, this does have Sonos tech inside it, so for those not aware, this will appear in the Sonos app and you’ll name this as a room so you know you’re controlling the Frame at the time. It can group with all of your other Sonos WiFi speakers that you have so there’s not actually any functionality differences to a normal Sonos speaker, except that it does not have microphones built in, so doesn’t have Alexa or Google Assistant but does integrate with those assistants from a separate Echo or Google Home device. You can also TruePlay the frame so for those not familiar with this terminology, it’s where you can acoustically optimise the speaker for the room as long as you have an Apple device. You can toggle this on and off so you can see the difference it’s made. This is also handy once you’ve chosen your preferred orientation to make sure it’s optimised for that. This Picture Frame doesn’t have Bluetooth so you will need to set this up on the Sonos app and then stream from the Sonos app or from Spotify Connect or AirPlay 2. It’s pretty much the same as having any other Sonos speaker.
So I know what you’re thinking? How does the thing sound? So we’re going to go straight in with a sound test of the Frame compared with the One. The One is £20 more expensive but has the same sound performance as the One SL (the SL is cheaper due to not having microphones for voice control) I just don’t have an SL here in the studio. Feel free to pause here and grab some headphones or earphones or anything you’ve got as the differences will be more audible over proper audio hardware.
Well, I’m not sure about you guys but I’d actually put it very close to the Sonos One speaker in terms of sound performance which I guess you would expect if it’s the same price. Yeah, this is going to fill a medium sized space fairly well. In terms of which one I personally prefer for sound quality, I think largely it’s going to come down to what sort of music you listen to because for some music like dance music and stuff that was maybe a little bassier, I found the Frame to offer a slightly better experience as it had a little more powerful bass so a bit more useful for parties, but my colleague preferred the One with more acoustic tracks on most occasions as the vocals tended to be a bit more clear on the One. Ultimately though, I think it’s going to come down to which one is going to work for your room because I wouldn’t just go out and buy the Frame just because you listen to a lot of dance tracks as there isn't much at all between these two speakers. Essentially, these speakers both sound great and if your room allows it and you listen to more bass-heavy tracks, the Frame I’d say has the edge but if you like to actively listen to music and you want to retain as much detail from the track as possible, the One I think would be better, as the bass on it is still incredibly impressive for its little size.
Another question you might have is how they perform as surround speakers to a Sonos TV speaker like a Beam or Arc. Should you go for these over the Ones? They are very similar in terms of sound output because generally surround audio is fairly ambient so you don’t need surrounds to be overly large. Both of these will do just fine as surrounds but I think the decision will be governed by what suits your room. If you’re trying to fade them into the background, then yes, the Frames will work well. If you don’t like the design or 2 of these on the wall aren't going to work for you, there’s plenty of accessories available with the Sonos One like wall mounts, floor stands, shelves etc that might work a little better in your room.
So to give you a verdict on the IKEA Frame speaker, I think this will appeal to those of you who maybe want to keep the amount of boxy speakers in your room to a minimum and want to blend in a speaker to the environment, but still appreciate great sound quality. You obviously do need to be a fan of the artwork, though more designs will be on the way so hopefully there will be one you like that you can always switch it out to. If on the other hand you’re maybe looking to benefit from voice control built in and the most straightforward solution, I think the Sonos One will be the better option. On the whole, I like the concept of this speaker. I think there is a market for this type of design and making both a feature out of your speaker while keeping it discrete in your home. It’s not an obvious tech gadget apart from the cable but you can hide that if you really wanted to.
So that’s it! I hope this video has helped you to find out if the IKEA Symfonisk Picture Frame is the right fit for you. Guys, I’d really like to hear your thoughts on what you think about this product. Let’s get a little conversation going in the comments below, I’ll try to reply to as many of you as I can. If you’ve enjoyed this video then make sure you subscribe to see more from us! Thanks for watching and I’ll see you on the next video. For now, I’ll leave you with this. The IKEA Symfonisk Frame means that now all of your music is a work of art. I actually thought of that myself, I thought it was pretty good but my editors told me I had to leave it until the end (probably so they can cut this out).