IKEA and Sonos have teamed-up on a third smart speaker for their SYMFONISK brand
While smart audio firm Sonos and flatpack furniture maestros IKEA might sound like chalk and cheese, these two companies have enjoyed an incredibly successful partnership. Under the SYMFONISK brand, the two firms have already launched a speaker designed to blend-in on your bookshelf as well as one hidden inside the base of a table lamp.
And now, with their latest collaboration, IKEA and Sonos have managed to sneak the smarts of a Wi-Fi speaker inside a picture frame. Yes, really.
As you might expect, the SYMFONISK version is a little chunkier than the average picture frame, however, it can still be affixed to the wall without issue. The clever design includes material to cushion the contact between the frame and your wall — so you won’t need to worry about any scuffing when hanging this tech-filled artwork.
If you don’t fancy hanging the frame, don’t worry. IKEA has also designed its SYMFONISK frame to lean against a wall or be propped up on a shelf. A small set of rubber feet are included in the box to help stop the picture frame from slipping on an uncarpeted floor.
It’s all very well thought-through.
For our taste, the chunkier frame looked a little odd on the wall. This is only really because it was affixed in a place where it was tough to hide that extra depth. When you’re passing the picture all the time …it can ruin the illusion that this is nothing more than a standard artwork.
However, during the last month or so testing the SYMFONISK picture frame, Express.co.uk found a spot where it looks incredibly stylish leaning against the wall. Of course, choosing to lean the speaker rather than affix to the wall solves the one headache with this gadget — the power cable.
If you decide to hang the SYMFONISK frame on your wall, you’re going to have to deal with the power cable. The included wall plug is not colour-matched to the frame, which is available in either black or white. Instead, you’ll always get a white cable, which is more likely to blend into the wall, rather than jet-black, IKEA says.
That’s definitely true, but we’d be lying if we said this cable ever truly vanishes into the paintwork. Thankfully, if you decide to hang two SYMFONISK frames side-by-side on the wall — to use the speakers as a discreet pair of surround sound speakers behind your sofa, for example — the frames can be daisy-chained together, so only one power cable needs to reach a plug. That’s an ingenious touch and shows the teams at IKEA and Sonos have really considered how this unusual form-factor will work in a real home.
If you’re refurbishing your home, it wouldn’t be difficult to hide away the cable inside a wall or wire a new plug high on the wall to avoid a trailing cable in plain sight. But if you haven’t bought a SYMFONISK as part of a bigger project, you’re going to have to deal with a pretty unsightly cable hanging from your new picture frame.
Hidden behind the border of the Picture Frame are volume buttons
IKEA includes small rubber feet to stop the frame slipping when it’s leaning against the wall
Of course, this isn’t a niggle specific to the SYMFONISK. Anyone with a wall-mounted telly will know about the headache of trying to tidy the cables trailing to your Sky+ box, DVD player, or soundbar below.
Samsung has solved this problem with its clever One Connect cable, which is translucent to the point of almost being invisible. This smart cable has enough bandwidth to beam data from a multitude of HDMI inputs, so everything can be hidden away in a piece of furniture below with no visible cable running to the back of the TV. However, given that the One Connect cable alone costs more than the SYMFONISK picture frame …we don’t imagine that technology was a viable option for IKEA and Sonos at this price point.
If you’re looking to place the SYMFONISK picture frame behind a sofa, or close to a bookshelf, it’s possible to squirrel away the cable without any major DIY work. But there will inevitably be places in your home that will have to be ruled out because of that unsightly wire. It’s just something you’ll need to keep in mind and not something you don’t need to consider when buying the lamp and bookshelf speaker in the same range, that’s all.
Unfortunately, there’s no hiding the white power cable that trails down from the frame
During the launch event, IKEA and Sonos revealed a slew of gorgeous artwork for its new picture frame, including a delicate line drawing of a face as well as abstract pieces.
Unfortunately, the full selection of artwork isn’t currently available on the shelves of IKEA. Instead, these will be rolled out slowly over the coming months. At time of writing, there are only four options available for the SYMFONISK picture frame: the standard black and white artwork that arrives bundled with the frame of the same colour, and two additional pieces sold separately.
If none of these pieces suits your tastes, you’re out of luck.
If the picture frame proves as successful as the other SYMFONISK devices from IKEA and Sonos, we’ve no doubt that a wide selection of artwork will arrive in the coming months to customise the picture frame. But it’s a shame it’s so limited close to its launch. It’s worth noting that it’s very easy to pop-out the artwork, which is pretty on a mesh-like material to allow the soundwaves to pass through, and swap it out with another. This means you can keep rotating the artwork in the frame to freshen-up your décor every few months.
Still, it would also be nice if IKEA provided a way to add your own pictures and artwork into the frame. After all, it is called a picture frame.
But what about sound quality? Well, despite the unconventional form-factor of this speaker, you can rest assured that it still sounds great.
While the SYMFONISK is chunky compared to other picture frames, it’s mind-bogglingly thin compared to other smart speakers. Despite this, the sound from the picture frame has surprising depth.
It’s easy to pop-out the artwork and mix-and-match between pictures
The sound remains clear and crisp, even at high volumes – something you won’t find in a lot of Bluetooth speakers at the same price point. And make no mistake, the SYMFONISK can reach an impressive volume. A single picture frame can easily fill a bedroom with sound, with a solid amount of bass and punchy treble, so unless you’re planning a surround sound set-up with these speakers, start by buying a single frame for your room – that’s sure to provide enough volume for your next house party.
For our money, the regular Sonos One and One SL still sound a little better than the SYMFONISK devices, despite teardowns revealing an almost identical array of components inside both gadgets. However, the slight edge from the Sonos One is likely explained by its shape.
But the difference is pretty marginal. And if you’re not keen on dotting rounded cubes around your house to fill each room with sound, then the SYMFONISK line-up is a great way to bring the same sound throughout your home… without it looking like a branch of Currys PC World.
The SYMFONISK picture frame is managed by the S2 app. For those who don’t know, Sonos recently divided its line-up into two categories, with a handful of its oldest gadgets now relegated to the S1 controller app, which will no longer benefit from new functionality.
The most recent smart speakers are controlled by the S2 app, which is available on iOS, Android, macOS and Windows, and will benefit from all of the shiny new tricks devised by the teams at Sonos. With the Sonos app, you’ll be able to stream lossless tracks to speakers across your home, or play a different album or radio station in each.
IKEA has previewed an array of gorgeous artwork for the frame, but not all are available to buy yet
Sonos supports every music service that you can think of …as well as a fair few you’ve never heard of before. An iTunes library, Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer, TuneIn radio stations, Sonos radio, and many more can all be blended together into a single playlist of tracks.
The SYMFONISK picture frame also supports AirPlay 2 out-of-the-box, so iPhone, iPad and Mac owners on your Wi-Fi network can beam lossless music with the touch of a button, which is incredibly handy.
For those on Android, you’ll need to dive into the Sonos app, or link the speaker with another smart speaker in your home and use either Alexa or Google Assistant to use your voice.
One of the benefits of Sonos-branded speakers is the ability to slowly build-out your set-up over time. For example, you can start with a single SYMFONISK picture frame, before later deciding to double-up on the artwork and throwing in a Sonos Beam to make a 5.0 surround sound system for your next movie night. Or throw-in a SYMFONISK bookshelf speaker to add another room into your connected sound system.
And unlike sinking your funds into Amazon Echo, Apple HomePod or Google Nest speakers, Sonos will work regardless of the phone in your pocket – thanks to its support for both Alexa and Google Assistant smart assistants – or the streaming service you’ve decided to subscribe to. That means you won’t be tied to any one brand of smartphone, or won’t be forced to continue subscribing to a music service to keep listening on your latest smart home gadget.
Despite boasting the same components as the Sonos One, the IKEA variant is significantly cheaper
Sonos IKEA SYMFONISK Picture Frame Review: Final Verdict
- Pros: Brilliant Sound Quality, Blends Into The Background Unlike Any Other Smart Speaker, Artwork Is Easy To Swap In A Few Seconds, Good Price
- Cons: Full Selection Of Artwork Not Yet Available, Can Look A Little Chunky On The Wall, No Way To Add Your Own Photos Into The Frame
The picture frame is an ingenious new addition to Sonos and IKEA’s expanding SYMFONISK portfolio. Like its predecessors, it will allow you to bring music to the rooms around your house without the eyesore of white and black speakers balanced on every shelf or table.
While the SYMFONISK is certainly chunkier than your average picture frame, in the right position, it can blend into the decor better than almost any other Sonos speaker on the market.
The audio quality is great – music sounds crisp, with plenty of bass to rumble the walls. There’s no doubt that this is the best sounding picture frame we’ve ever heard, but more impressive than that, it also gives a lot of Bluetooth and wireless speakers in its price range a run for their money too.
Controlled by the same S2 app as the Sonos One, Sonos Arc, and other recent speakers, there’s endless flexibility when it comes to chatty AI assistants, music streaming services, radio stations, and more. And you can pair your new picture frame with any existing Sonos speakers at home for a home cinema surround sound or whole-home disco.
We only wish we could add our own family photos or favourite artwork into the frame for some extra customisation. And that there was a way of disguising that unsightly power cable when displayed on the wall.
At £179, the SYMFONISK picture frame costs less than a standard Sonos One. At that price, the small niggles are easy to overlook. If you want to add one of the smartest speaker systems around to your house – without the eyesore of speakers everywhere – the SYMFONISK is a brilliant option.