The Symfonisk Picture Frame is an impressive speaker – especially for its unusual design – with the usual array of Sonos smart features and connectivity. It’s a shame it’s limited to Ikea’s range of pre-made pictures, which perversely means it can replace the speaker, but not the actual picture frame.
Price upon review
Today’s best prices: Ikea Sonos Symfonisk Picture Frame Speaker
Update: This review has been revised to reflect more of the new artwork designs in the picture frame range.
The picture frame is the third installment of the Symphonisk series, a collaboration between flat-pack furniture giant Ikea and sound specialist Sonos.
Much like the two symphonic speakers that came before it—a One built in light, the other designed Slot neatly on a bookshelf – the picture frame is designed to blend into the home without looking technical.
The name is a touch misleading because it’s not a picture frame by any reasonable measure – but it’s a design speaker that looks like a piece of art hanging on the wall.
Despite that, the sound quality is impressive and compatible with the rest The Sonos ecosystem makes it a good buy as a standalone speaker or as an extension of an existing Sonos setup.
Design and manufacture
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The picture frame speaker is a thin, rectangular block that measures 41 x 57 cm – not quite wall-filling, but clearly designed to take a prominent place in the room. Ikea also includes set-up instructions for leaning the frame against something rather than mounting it provocatively, but I’m not really sure why you’d do that, unless you’re renting and aren’t allowed to drill holes in the walls.
I have already said that it is not, strictly speaking, a picture frame. This is because you cannot mount your artwork, photos, or prints, and are instead limited to Ikea’s pre-existing range of designs.
The two default options are a minimalist design of dots and lines, available in white or black – the body color of the frame matches your choice. Fabric prints are interchangeable, and at the launch Ikea showed a range of fourteen different designs, each available for $22/£30/€30, though not all have gone on sale globally.
Since the launch Ikea has added to the range with three designs based on famous works of art: Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, Van Gogh’s Starry Night, and Gustav Klimt’s The Tree of Life. Each of the three comes with a unique soundtrack by composer Franz Edward Sedrins, inspired by the original film.
The good news is that the picture is easy to replace or replace – it’s as simple as popping the fabric mesh out of the body, as it’s only held in place by light plastic feet. The bad news is that since the cloth image is attached to a plastic frame, there’s no easy way to customize it to include your own artwork—at least not without some serious craftwork or a potential compromise in sound quality.
If the speaker proves popular enough, hopefully Ikea – or a third party – will develop an option to print custom designs onto the fabric mesh panel, at which point the picture frame looks much more appealing. The current ‘tasteful hotel room’ aesthetic isn’t what I want in my own home, but I love the option here to mount a print of your own choice.
Another thing to note is that – at 60mm – the frame is quite thick, so sticks out a bit from the wall. This makes it a bit more obvious that it’s more than it seems, but the illusion still holds – I’ve surprised many visitors when the artwork starts playing music.
Setup and installation
Drills and screws are required
Digital setup is simple
Power two speakers from a single power cord
There are two elements to the setup here: physical and digital.
The physical aspect is easy enough, but will demand some DIY know-how and tools. The frame comes with a metal bracket for wall mounting, but due to its weight – 3.8kg – it will require more than a hammer to the wall.
A drill and screws (not supplied) are required to properly secure the bracket, so you need to be comfortable with that – and not all tenants are allowed to drill holes in the walls. Silicone rubber feet prevent your wall from being scratched while at least reducing vibrations from the speaker.
You might wonder why Ikea only offers the option to prop the frame against the wall with all the drilling, but even for this the company recommends screw-mounting, presumably to prevent the frame from being knocked over with vibrations.
The frame is designed to be placed in either landscape or portrait orientation, and there’s some extensive cable routing to keep the leads tidy – though you’ll still have to deal with a frayed power lead unless you drill an extra hole to route it through your wall, or wall mount it. Follow in the bottom socket and re-plaster. For extra cleaning, a cheap one An additional power cable lets you daisy chain two Symphonic picture frames together, both drawing from the same power socket.
The good news is that if you can get past the slight hurdles of picking things up on the wall, the digital half of the setup is painless. You’ll want to use the Sonos S2 app, and once signed up it only takes a few minutes to get the speaker on your Wi-Fi network. An Ethernet port is also included, if you want, though that’ll give you an extra cable to worry about), with pairing handled by a quick tap of your phone at the speaker’s location where the power LED is visible.
A surprisingly strong voice
A little thin bass
It won’t be one of the best speakers you’ve ever heard, but it doesn’t have to be. The best speakers you’ve ever heard are probably big, bulky, and obviously technical—three things it’s not.
I will be The sound quality provided by Sonos here is remarkable considering the frame’s slim form factor. Can’t keep up with it The Sonos Playbase I have with my TV audio power, and will probably be a little behind Sonos One – but not by much.
The bass is too thin in the default tuning, the propulsive bassline of ‘Out of Sight’ by Run The Jewels lacks the pulsating oomph it demands. The Sonos app’s basic EQ — just treble and bass sliders — compensates for this somewhat, but it has its limits.
The speaker’s strength clearly lies in the higher registers, where the company’s bright, crisp sound shines through the profile. If you mostly stick to pop and rock, you’ll get the most out of this speaker by cutting punchy vocals through an open, balanced soundscape.
Compatible with the Sonos S2 app
Wi-Fi or Ethernet only – no bluetooth or aux
Not a smart speaker
Like most Sonos speakers, the Symphonic uses Wi-Fi (or Ethernet) to connect rather than Bluetooth – and there’s no option for an aux lead. You can play a lot Spotify, YouTube Music, Apple Music, Amazon Music, and streaming services to the speaker through the Sonos app, along with oddities like Plex, meditation app Calm, and various online radio services. Spotify Connect and AirPlay 2 support make it even easier to stream.
iPhone and iPad owners can also use ‘TruPlay’ to tune the speaker to the room for optimized audio, though sadly there’s no similar feature for those of us on the Android side.
It’s worth noting that there are no microphones here, so it’s not technically a smart speaker – although it can be connected to and controlled by other smart speakers and virtual assistants.
Thanks to the Sonos app, you can link it to other Symfonisk and Sonos speakers for multi-room audio, syncing the sound directly throughout your home. You can connect it to another Symphonic picture frame to create a stereo pair in the same room.
The app can also be used to control the basic audio options and speakers mentioned above. If you want, the frame’s rim controls play/pause and physical buttons on the back for volume – although these won’t help much if you mount the speaker high up on the wall.
Price and availability
The picture frame speaker is available exclusively from Ikea – either in-store or online. At £179/€179/$199 it’s the most expensive symphonysk ever – you can buy a pair Bookshelf speakers for the same price, while the lamp is closer to the frame but still Runs a little cheaper.
Of course the closest comparison is that it is right against The £199/$199 Sonos One, the core speaker in the company’s range. It will offer better audio quality than a picture frame, albeit without a discreet form factor.
The Symfonisk picture frame is another worthy success for the collaboration between Ikea and Sonos. It can’t match the sound quality or simplicity of the lamp – still the best product in the range – but what the two companies have pulled off here is undeniably impressive.
The biggest hang-up is Ikea’s restriction to a limited range of pre-made picture designs, which perversely means it can’t really replace a regular picture frame in your home unless you like some of the prints on offer here.
It would be a game-changer if Ikea offered the option to print your own photos – but until then it’s just a nice speaker that suffers from wasted potential.