With its superb, flexible design, the Ikea Symfonisk Bookshelf Speaker is built to fit into your life: standing up, laying flat, acting as a bookshelf or hanging out from the kitchen utensil rack. Full Sonos compatibility gives it proper multi-room credentials and it's also the lowest-priced Sonos speaker ever. Add in the excellent audio quality and the Ikea Symfonisk Bookshelf Speaker is a real winner. Some more the more expensive speakers have slightly better range and a wider soundstage, but for the price, this speaker is hard to beat.
- Flexible design
- Sounds great
- Has full Sonos compatibility
- Lacks a bit of range
- Review Price: £99
- Trueplay room calibration
- Sonos multiroom audio
- Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant control
Ikea has been making a bit of splash with its tech products, starting with the excellent Tradfri smart lighting system that has given Philips Hue a run for its money. This time, it’s something a bit different – the Symfonisk Bookshelf Speaker: a Sonos collaboration that brings you proper multi-room audio for just £99.
Not only is the price good but the Bookshelf Speaker is also extremely versatile – you can even use wall brackets to turn it into a shelf. Excellent sound quality and full compatibility with the Sonos system make this a great buy.
The Ikea Symfonisk Bookshelf Speaker is crazily flexible and you can hang it on the wall
The Ikea Symfonisk Bookshelf Speaker is a true collaboration between Sonos and Ikea: the internals and sound engineering are all Sonos, but the exterior and flexibility are all Ikea. As a result, the Bookshelf Speaker is the most flexible wireless speaker that I’ve tested.
Out of the box, you can stand the tall and thin speaker (310 x 100 x 150mm) upright like a book, or you can lay it flat, more like the centre speaker in a home cinema setup. There are also wall brackets available, so you can use the Ikea Symfonisk Bookshelf Speaker as an actual bookcase, holding up to 3kg of weight. Cutouts in the back of the case make sure that the power cable doesn’t get in the way and the speaker sits flush to the wall.
Related: Best Bluetooth speaker 2019
Alternatively, you can use the brackets and hang the speaker off of the kitchen utensil hanging rail. That’s a huge amount of flexibility and more than I’ve seen from any competition. If you’re after a speaker that can better integrate into your home, you’d be hard-pressed to find better. Fortunately, the Symfonisk Bookshelf Speaker looks great, too. Available in black or white, the simple casing and material speaker cover will fit in with any decor.
With full Sonos compatibility, there are no limitations buying the Ikea Symfonisk Bookshelf Speaker
Third-party collaborations often end up with some features missing, but not so with the Ikea Symfonisk Bookshelf Speaker, which is a full Sonos speaker. In fact, the installation process is exactly the same as for any other speaker in the range, via the Sonos app. It took me a couple of minutes, plus a firmware update, to have my test speaker working and connecting wirelessly. There’s also an Ethernet port in the back if you’d prefer to hardwire your speaker.
Once in the Sonos app, you can do everything that you’d expect, including playing music from all of your favourite sources and grouping multiple speakers together. It’s worth reiterating one of the main advantages of Sonos – you can play different tracks on different speakers from the same streaming account, such as Spotify or Apple Music. With the Amazon Echo smart speakers, for example, as soon as you start playing from Spotify on one speaker, you can’t use your account to play a different track on a different Echo device.
To complete that Sonos look, even the controls on the front of the Ikea Symfonisk Bookshelf Speaker are the same as for the own-brand players (play/pause and volume buttons). All the shortcuts work, too: double-tap play/pause to skip, or hold this button to join the most recent group.
Further to that, the Ikea Symfonisk Bookshelf Speaker has all of the expansion options as the Sonos-branded ones. Want to have two in a stereo pair? You can do. Want to add a Sonos SUB for improved bass? Go ahead. Fancy using a pair of Symfonisk Bookshelf Speakers for the rear channels with a Sonos Beam? You can do that, too. The latter is particularly appealing, as the Ikea Symfonisk Bookshelf Speaker is the cheapest Sonos speaker in the line-up, reducing the price of a surround-sound system.
While the Symfonisk Bookshelf Speaker doesn’t have a microphone for a built-in voice assistant, as with the Sonos One or Sonos Beam, you can still control this speaker using Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, provided you have a smart speaker in your home.
There’s also support for AirPlay 2, so you can stream music from your phone or tablet, and Ikea will have the Symfonisk remote control: a hockey-puck-like controller that will let you play/pause, skip tracks and control the volume of the paired speaker. You need a Tradfri gateway and app to configure the controller, but it’s a neat add-on.
Related: What is AirPlay 2?
Sound quality from the Ikea Symfonisk Bookshelf Speaker is excellent, particularly for the price
Any time that you say a product sounds good for the price, it sounds like faint praise. In the case of the Ikea Symfonisk Bookshelf Speaker, to avoid that trap, it’s better to just say that it sounds excellent and it just so happens to be cheap.
To get the best out of the Symfonisk Bookshelf Speaker, you’re best off tuning it using Trueplay via the Sonos app. In fact, when you add the speaker into your system, you’re prompted to do this. Trueplay sends a series of beeps and tones from the speaker and uses your phone’s microphone to listen to how these sound as you walk around your room; Sonos can then recalibrate the speaker to tune it for its location.
It’s a brilliant system that’s worth going through the effort for, but we wish that the feature could be built in automatically, as with the Apple Homepod, which uses its own microphones to retune its audio whenever you move it.
Ikea and Sonos haven’t revealed many specs about the Symfonisk Bookshelf Speaker but we do know that it has two class-D digital amplifiers, one tweeter, one mid-woofer and a ported enclosure.
Related: What is Sonos Trueplay?
Unknown specs aside, the Symfonisk Bookshelf Speaker sounds great. To test, I put mine into a group with a Sonos One. With both playing at the same time, the differences are hard to hear and the Symfonisk blended in well, despite the Sonos One selling for £100 more, at £199.
What the Symfonisk Bookshelf Speaker has is balance – producing clean and detailed sound without the bass or high-end overwhelming. There’s a good degree of warmth and excitement to the speaker, whether it’s delivering the underlying menace of The Empire Strikes Back’s Imperial March or the energy of Rage Against the Machine’s Bomb Track.
Play a bass-heavy track, such as OK Go’s This Too Shall Pass and the Symfonisk Bookshelf Speaker acquits itself well, managing the thump of the opening without turning to distortion. There’s subtly, too. Play Jonny Cash’s Hurt, and you get the twang and squeak of the hand-plucked strings, overlaid with the richness of Cash’s voice.
Compare the Symfonisk Bookshelf Speaker to the Sonos One, and you get some subtle differences. The Sonos One has more attack and presence, delivering bass with a little more energy. The One also has a slightly wider soundscape, letting tracks breathe a little more and bring out the nuances and small touches in more detail.
Should I buy the Ikea Symfonisk Bookshelf Speaker?
If you’d told me that the Ikea Symfonisk Bookshelf Speaker cost more, I’d have believed you. This really is a speaker that punches above its price, making it a bargain. True, the Sonos One does sound a bit better and has a built-in microphone letting you run your choice of Amazon Alexa or the Google Assistant. It’s a touch smaller overall, too.
However, the Ikea Symfonisk Bookshelf Speaker could easily find itself at home in most Sonos systems. Its flexibility, from free-standing to wall-hanging, makes it the easiest smart speaker to place. It’s a great choice if you need a set of rear speakers, too. For music, particularly in smaller rooms, this speaker sounds fantastic. There’s really very little not to like.