Reviews

IKEA Symfonisk Picture Frame reviewed: a picture of great sound

Need a speaker to fit in with the home decor more than a box sitting on a shelf? The IKEA Symfonisk Picture Frame turns sound into decorative art, and it makes a compelling case, at that.

With the world of the smart home coming to more and more homes around the world, more and more people are becoming accustomed to having wireless speakers in their home, as well. It could be a small HomePod Mini, or something made to take with you like a Sonos Roam, and it might even be a smart display like the Google Nest Hub.

Whatever it is, it’s probably going to look like a speaker. The obvious marks and design that are the hallmarks of any speaker are a slightly tubby or long shape, an obvious pin-prick-poked grill of dots covering the speaker dome, and the general obvious logic that yes, you’re looking at a speaker covered in something furry and soft. We can recognise speakers because of their shape, even if they have other bits attached to them.

The IKEA Symfonisk Picture Frame speaker is not your standard speaker. Not by a long shot.

Resembling more art decoration than sound gadget, the Symfonisk Picture Frame WiFi Speaker is IKEA’s latest attempt at bridging the gap between audio product and furniture item, and is also very different from the lamp and bookshelf it released first in 2019’s Symfonisk speakers.

This time, the approach is something made for the wall or the shelf, and yet also is art, blending into the home by providing its sound technology in a largely invisible way. If you didn’t know what you were looking at, you’d have no idea that the Symfonisk Picture Frame was a speaker.

Yet that’s precisely what it is, and it’s not bad at doing that, either.

Design and features

A little bit different from the standard speaker fare we check out, the Symfonisk Picture Frame Speaker doesn’t look like your traditional speaker with a large body and speaker grills… because it’s not.

It’s a somewhat tall and thinner speaker, still with a decent amount of heft, built in the image of a picture frame, though with pictures that don’t offer a tremendous amount of customisation.

On the back is a figure-eight power port for plugging in the included braided cable and even an Ethernet port, because that’s something Sonos has been known for in the past. There are buttons in the design and the artwork can be taken out and replaced (ish), and you even get a standard IKEA manual with the speaker, though there’s no Allen Key, because you’re clearly not building anything.

You can choose to mount the Symfonisk Picture Frame speaker on the wall, mind you, or you can lean it against a wall. Really, it just needs power, and once it has it, you are pretty much good to go.

In-use

Setting up the IKEA Symfonisk Picture Frame speaker is easy enough, thanks in part to it being a part of the Sonos ecosystem. Simply put, you just grab the Sonos app, look for a new device, hold your phone near the bottom of the frame, and bang, it’s done.

Name it, place it in a room in your home in the app, and it’s good to go, controllable from the Sonos app and pair-able with other Sonos speakers, if you happen to have them. If you want to tweak the sound to match your room, you can even use a supported phone with Sonos TruePlay on the Picture Frame, and you’ll get a sound catered for the space you’ve set up the speaker in.

Ideally, you’ll control the Picture Frame Speaker with the app, but there are also physical buttons on the back, in case you wanted to reach behind the frame and control volume directly.

Interestingly, the back of the IKEA Frame speaker also reveals something that could make using and setting up a second speaker easier: an extra figure-eight power port.

With the right cable — ideally, a cable with a figure-eight on either end — you could set up two IKEA Symfonisk Picture Frame speakers and run them from the same main power port on the wall, sharing the connection between both. One plug, two speakers. Yet we’ve not seen the cable listed on the IKEA Australia store, making that easy way of connecting two Frame Speakers a little less easy.

Performance

However, we’re only reviewing the one Picture Frame speaker to begin with, and as usual, we’re putting it to the test with the Pickr Sound Test, which you can hear for yourself.

And that starts with electronic in Tycho and Daft Punk, which renders with a nice balance and a decent amount of bass, more than the thin design of the Symfonisk Picture Frame speaker feels like it should. The sound quality is great, with lovely drums and a really enjoyable sound, though the lows aren’t nearly as complex as you might expect, almost as if there’s not enough airflow to get away with the deep warbling low rumbles in bass drops and such.

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It’s a similar feeling no matter what we heard, with a decent punch amidst balanced audio in Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Cut To The Feeling”, while Charlie Puth’s “Done For Me” read like it distorted slightly, especially at higher volumes. Again, we might be seeing the slight limitations of the design here, which is both for decor and sound, but loses out on some of the space that helps make sound that much better when there’s more thickness and room to move air in.

Despite this, the audio quality is still pretty strong, and provided you don’t need to pump up the bass too much, or even turn the volume past 60 or 70 on the Sonos controller, the Symfonisk Picture Frame plays a great sound.

We missed the guttural bass in FKA Twigs’ “Two Weeks”, but the bass was balanced in crisp across Muse, David Bowie, Paul Simon, and across to the jazz we heard from Miles Davis, Christian McBride, Dave Brubeck, and Ray Brown.

In short, the IKEA Symfonisk Picture Frame Speaker is a nice sounding speaker that offers more than you’d expect, especially given it’s shape and thickness, even if it’s not quite as well-rounded as other Sonos speakers. Comparatively, we reckon the sound is somewhere between a Play 1 and a Play 3, providing a little more warmth than a Play 1, but not quite as much power as the Play 3.

Essentially, it’s a speaker that fits in a rather unusual place, delivering balance and volume in a way that doesn’t have to look like any other speaker in your home.

Setting up the Picture Frame Speaker is fairly easy. You need your phone and an app.

Value

And it does it at a price that’s somewhat workable inside your home.

Available in Australia at $299, IKEA’s latest Sonos speaker isn’t going to best its $149 bookshelf-style Sonos speaker on price, but it does provide something Sonos doesn’t do: a speaker that blends in with the home environment. Kind of.

The $299 price of the IKEA Symfonisk Picture Frame is the same price of the Sonos Roam, $20 less than the cost of the voice assistant-capable Sonos One, and $10 more than the voice assistant-removed Sonos One SL. And it’s similar to the One in sound, similar to the One SL in that it lacks a voice assistant, and yet feels a little different to both.

There’s a touch more warmth and it does something else, being decor for your home, as well. Kinda sorta, given you have to work out a way of hiding that cable, or just do what we did and push that Picture Frame Speaker against the wall.

We think it’s worth it for the price, but it won’t match every home, and there are some good reasons why.

What needs work?

One of which is blindingly obvious: the cord.

When you set up a Sonos speaker, there’s probably going to be a cord. The Sonos Move has one on its charger, and the Roam needs to be plugged in to get charged, but every other Sonos speaker needs to be plugged in to work, and the Symfonisk Picture Frame Speaker is no different.

Except for that it is, because the cable comes right out of the bottom, hanging from the picture frame rather randomly. We’re sure if you have the skills, you could carve a section out of your wall and hide the cable, but we’re not sure anyone will, and so the Symfonisk Frame isn’t as seamless in the home as you might expect, because there’s an obvious cord hanging there.

There is a rather direct solution, and that’s to lean the Symfonisk Frame Speaker against a wall, sitting on a shelf or a floor so you don’t need the cable to hang there. That works. It worked for us, but it won’t be for everyone, clearly.

You also can’t throw in your own art, only the art IKEA makes, and every piece of art that you can buy is an extra $29. In Australia, there’s not a huge amount of selection of panels to choose from, with either paint splats or a record player print, alongside the geometric shapes in either black or white. We wish you could add your own art, but this is one of those pieces of decor that just isn’t made to let you give it your own style.

We left the IKEA Symfonisk Frame speaker leaning against the wall on a shelf.

Final thoughts (TLDR)

Not everyone gets into the idea of having speaker boxes set up around their living room, and while that’s not us, we get it. We like speakers, but not everyone will, because they’re often stumpy little things with grills that don’t always mesh in the space you create.

One of the more obvious ways to get around this is to build speakers into the walls and ceilings, but not everyone has the ability to do that. More importantly, we’d expect most people wouldn’t have the money to do it, either. Custom home theatre work is tricky, and making speakers blend into your decor isn’t going to be cheap.

IKEA’s Symfonisk Picture Frame Speaker gets around this by turning the art into a speaker, and it’s an approach we can dig. While there are still clearly some kinks to iron out, the idea is solid, and the result is a picture of great sound.

There are things we’d love to see, such as a way to hide that cord more easily, plus the ability to print your own artwork for use in the frames. However, if you’re part of the Sonos world and have a Sonos Arc or Beam working as your soundbar and you’ve been itching for a way to get wireless rear speakers looking not so awkward in your home, a couple of Symfonisk Frame speakers could just be the obvious way to sort out both, marrying a simple look with a solid sound.

And even with just the one, the IKEA Symfonisk Picture Frame Speaker could be the compromise of sound and space in your home you’ve been looking for. Recommended.

IKEA Symfonisk Picture Frame WiFi Speaker
Features
Design
Performance
Ease of use
Value
The good
A really creative approach to a different style of speaker
Solid balanced sound
Surprisingly solid bass
Easy to set up
Can technically daisy chain two speakers together
The not-so-good
High volumes can make the sound a little shallow
Deep bass is missing in action from the range
You can't add your own picture to the frame, only IKEA's limited custom art
Cable isn't easy to hide
Good luck finding the daisy chain cable for two speakers in Australia
4.3
Leigh :) Stark

A technology journalist working out of Sydney, Australia, Leigh has written for publications including The Australian Financial Review, Popular Science, APC, and more since 2007, appearing on ABC Radio and TV on Nine. Check out his most recent media appearances.

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Leigh :) Stark

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