Ikea Symfonisk image frames within the check: the artwork of noise

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Ikea / Sonos Symphonic picture frame speakers

RRP $ 199.00

“A clever concept that is held back by a long power cord and uneven sound quality.”

advantages

  • Interchangeable “art”

  • Wall or surface mounting

  • AirPlay 2

  • Works with the Sonos ecosystem

disadvantage

  • Power cord is ugly and awkward

  • My art or photos cannot be displayed

  • Sound quality is average

When Ikea launched the Symfonisk Picture Frame speaker for $ 199 (its latest wireless audio collaboration with Sonos), two things were immediately clear: The age of affordable, customizable, and decorative home audio was just around the corner, and we still haven’t found a way to get rid of our reliance on power cords.

It’s a bold idea: try to satisfy the needs of music lovers who at the same time hate the look of wireless speakers. Succeeds? We put it to the test.

design

Ikea Symfonisk Picture Frame Speaker hung vertically on a wall.Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

The picture frame enjoys many advantages. It doesn’t look like any speaker you’ve ever seen. Its “art” can be swapped out for several other designs for just $ 20, and you get many placement options: it can be hung vertically or horizontally on a wall, or leaned against almost any flat, vertical surface like you would with an actual Picture Frame.

Everything you need is included: In the fully recyclable box you will find the speaker, a wall mount hook, two rubber feet, a seat belt and a really long power cord.

If you use the picture frame at an angle on a wall, setting it up is a breeze. Insert the supplied rubber feet into the appropriate places in the frame, depending on whether you want to align it horizontally or vertically, attach the power cable and guide it through one of the many grooves and openings in the rear wall and plug the power cable into one Wall socket.

Ikea Symfonisk picture frame speakers leaning against a wall.Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

Oddly enough, Ikea limits you to two of the four possible orientations. Instead of two horizontal and two vertical options, you only get one at a time. This can be a little confusing, especially since there are oval openings on all sides – making it look like the rubber feet could go anywhere, but not. Two sets of these openings are just a little too small to accommodate the feet. Why? I have no idea.

Ikea believes that when using the picture frame in this configuration, using the included wall mount bracket should be the least likely to fall.

There are ways to hide the cord, but none is ideal.

If you put the picture frame on the floor you probably don’t have to worry, but if you place it on a mantelpiece or other raised surface I recommend using it – the speaker isn’t very heavy, but it still could cause all kinds of damage if it falls down.

Hanging the picture frame on a wall takes a little more patience. The supplied wall hook is not like a conventional picture hook. It’s rectangular and shaped to match the two corresponding recesses on the back of the speaker. However, this means that you will not be able to bump the picture frame if it is not level. Therefore it is very important to mount the wall hook correctly.

Back of the Ikea Symfonisk Picture Frame Speaker with control buttons.Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

You can find a number of physical buttons behind the front of the speaker for play / pause and volume up (they also let you skip tracks and join a playing group of speakers). They are easy to use even though they are hidden, but you need to keep an eye on their placement when choosing the height for wall mounting. In landscape mode, the controls end in the upper left corner. If you place the speaker too high, it will be very difficult to access.

Can’t kill the string

View of the power cord on the Ikea Symfonisk Picture Frame Speaker.Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

As expected, the power cord looks pretty bad when hung on a wall. Ikea and Sonos deserve praise for wrapping the string in braided material. This reduces the shiny, plastic feel of power cords that accompany most Sonos speakers, and also leaves the cord snug against the wall fairly flat and kink-free. In short, it looks as good as a dangling white power cord can. But it’s still a dangling white power cord.

There are ways to hide the cord, but none is ideal. You could encase the cable in a paintable plastic tube. You can find loads of them on Amazon. But even the lowest profile cable still leaves a visible vertical line that falls down from the speaker.

You could pay an electrician to install an electrical outlet right behind the speaker. Thanks to a massive cavity in the back wall, which has its own retaining strap, you can hide the entire cable there. But that will likely cost you the same or more than the speaker, and you might face some drywall repairs as well.

You might want to try running the cable behind a piece of furniture, but since picture frames are rarely assembled with no space between them and other objects, you will likely still see a little cable.

Your cable concealment strategy becomes even more important when you take advantage of the photo frame’s ability to daisy chain two speakers together. Each speaker has a power input and power output connector, so you can use both speakers from a single power outlet. The umbilical cord required for this, which Ikea calls “FÖRNIMMA”, is available separately, but has not yet been seen on the Ikea website.

And since we’re talking about cables, if you want to use the photo frame’s built-in ethernet port, now you need to hide another cable.

Easy adjustment

Since it is fully compatible with the Sonos ecosystem and Apple AirPlay 2, it offers incredible flexibility as a sound system. Stream music from any music service imaginable, group the Picture Frame with other Sonos or Symfonisk speakers in your home, and set it up as a stereo pair with a second Picture Frame speaker.

Considering how thin the speaker enclosure is, Sonos was able to pull out a surprising amount of bass.

If you’ve never used the Sonos app, it will walk you through the setup process in minutes. But it’s even easier for existing Sonos users. After you have connected the photo frame to the mains and started the Sonos S2 app, the speaker will be automatically recognized and you will be asked to add it to your system. You don’t even have to press any buttons. Just hold your phone next to the speaker when the app prompts you and it will do the rest. Sonos products have always been incredibly easy to set up, but now it’s completely hassle-free.

Surprisingly good bass

Ikea Symfonisk Picture Frame speaker with removed graphic showing driver.Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

Out of the box, without EQ adjustment or Trueplay tuning from Sonos, the sound is okay, but nothing special. High frequencies seem a bit muffled and the bass lacks punch. But raising the bass and treble sliders in the Sonos app makes a huge difference and the picture frame really comes to life.

For those who are short on space or just hate the look of most speakers, this is an affordable and easy way to get great sound.

Considering how thin the speaker enclosure is, Sonos was able to pull out a surprising amount of bass. But just a word of caution to meet your expectations: high frequency sounds like snares, cymbals, and some voices can sound a bit harsh. Sonos designed the tweeter to be more expansive, but I didn’t find the soundstage particularly wide or deep.

The midrange drivers – always a challenge to find exactly the right one, even with more expensive speakers, can lack details.

I also noticed that the case has a tendency to vibrate when you turn the volume up north of 75%. This was more noticeable when the speaker was mounted on the wall.

If you’re wondering how the Picture Frame sounds compared to other Symfonisk products, it’s a difficult comparison. It offers more punch than the bookshelf speaker, but overall the table lamp delivers a more pleasant sound signature with more warmth and detail.

Our opinion

Being able to put a loudspeaker disguised as art on a wall is a great concept, but the Ikea Symfonisk Picture Frame loudspeaker doesn’t quite fit the bill. The power cord is a thorn in the side and doesn’t sound as good as a regular wireless speaker for a similar price. For those who are short on space or just hate the look of most speakers, it’s an affordable and easy way to get good sound in your chosen room.

Is there a better alternative?

Better alternatives for the sound are those Sonos One, Sonos One SL, and the Symphonic table lamp speaker. But if your goal is to disguise a speaker as an object of art, I have a hard time finding a better way to do it.

How long it will take?

As long as you don’t damage it by careless installation (or trip over the power cord), the Picture Frame Speaker should last for many years. Sonos has a (mostly) good track record of updating its products with new software and I expect the photo frame to remain a useful part of the Sonos ecosystem for years to come.

Should you buy it?

Yes, but only if you consider the unique qualities of the picture frame to be essential to creating your ideal home sound system. Otherwise, I think most people will be happier with any of the other Symfonisk or Sonos products.

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