Sonos launches affordable Ray soundbar, standalone voice control

Sonos has offered speakers that support voice assistants for a few years, such as the Sonos One, Sonos Beam, and portable Sonos Roam. So far, however, the company has been content to leave the actual voice functionality to Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. On Wednesday, Sonos announced its own voice control system, with a familiar and pleasingly robust voice driving it.

Sonos Voice Control is the company’s new standalone voice control system, offering hands-free music search and playback control on compatible Sonos speakers. It can be accessed by saying the wake word “Hey Sonos” and can handle multiple consecutive commands within six seconds of each other without repeating the wake word; for example, you can say “Hey Sonos, turn it on” and follow that with a simple “louder”, if that initial nudge isn’t enough.

The new voice control system is entirely contained locally in a given loudspeaker. No voice commands are processed by the cloud and no recordings are stored on Sonos servers. This is good news for anyone concerned about privacy with other voice assistants. This limited range, however, means that Sonos Voice Control isn’t as powerful as Alexa or Google Assistant; it can play your music and control your Sonos speakers, but don’t expect it to control your smart home or tell you what the weather is like.

The voice of Sonos voice control

What you can expect from Sonos Voice Control is a rich, charismatic voice responding to your commands. The voice of the system is provided by Giancarlo Esposito, better known as Gustavo Fring in breaking Bad and You better call SaulMoff Gideon in The Mandalorianand Lex Luthor in harley quinn. While voice commands are limited to music, the Sonos speakers you talk to will confirm your commands in Esposito’s voice.

Sonos Voice Control will be available on all Sonos speakers that currently support voice assistants on June 1 in the US, and later this year in France. It will work directly with Amazon Music, Apple Music, Deezer, Pandora and Sonos Radio at launch, with more services planned for the future.

The most affordable Sonos soundbar

Sonos also announced a new soundbar, although you can’t talk to it at all. The Sonos Ray (shown at the top of the page) is the company’s newest and smallest home theater soundbar. It’s just 22 inches wide and weighs 4.3 pounds, and features two full-range midrange drivers and two tweeters with split waveguides to expand the sound field.

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The Sonos Ray lacks the Dolby Atmos compatibility and voice assistant functionality (and Sonos Voice Control) of the larger Sonos Beam ($449) and Sonos Arc ($799). But at $279, it’s much cheaper than both and can still be paired with Sonos One speakers to act as rear satellites for a conventional surround sound experience. Like other Sonos soundbars, it supports wireless audio streaming through Sonos’ audio platform and Apple AirPlay 2, and it has an optical audio input for use with TVs.

The Sonos Ray will ship worldwide on June 7. We’ll have one to test soon, so be sure to come back for our review.

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