Testing the New Sonos Ray AirPlay 2-Enabled Soundbar

Depends on what you mean by “this product”. You’re responding to someone talking about an unspecified collection of Sonos speakers. The article is about Sonos’ lowest-end soundbar – a product specifically designed for connecting to a TV, over digital optical cable (“Toslink”). They have two other soundbars, the Beam, and Arc, both of which normally connect to the TV using HDMI eARC (those two will also do digital optical using a special digital-optical-to-HDMI converter cable suppled with the Beam and Arc) . To be clear, all of these are designed to connect to a television, not to the Apple TV in particular (Apple dropped the digital optical connection that earlier versions of the Apple TV had). The current Apple TV has no provision for separate audio output other than AirPlay. All modern Sonos speakers can do AirPlay, but only their soundbars are designed to connect to a TV (using HDMI ARC/eARC or digital optical) – running them over AirPlay from an Apple TV is bound to have some hiccups. From the way the comment was phrased, I expect the commenter you replied to is using, say, a stereo pair of Sonos Ones over AirPlay to the Apple TV.

I have an Arc (with the associated surround speakers and Sub), and they sound wonderful, and the set is 100% reliable in the connection to the TV – the Apple TV plugs into the TV, the Arc plugs into the TV (via the TV’s HDMI eARC port), and it Just Works™️. Turn on the TV, sound is automatically routed from the TV’s tuner, or the Apple TV, or the PS5, to the Arc (and from the Arc to the surrounds and Sub). When I hit the volume buttons on the Apple TV’s remote, it sends volume commands to the Apple TV over bluetooth, the Apple TV transmits them to the TV over HDMI CEC, and the TV forwards these to the Arc – it’s all completely seamless from the user’s perspective – TV sound always comes out of the Arc, and the Apple TV’s remote controls the volume.

With the Ray, the digital optical standard has no provision for sending volume control information, so the TV sends the audio to the Ray “full strength”, and you’d program the Apple TV’s remote (which can send IR commands for volume) to send volume up/down commands directly to the Ray. The only limitation of this is that you need more-or-less direct line of sight from the remote to the Ray. (I’ve found with the Apple TV remote transmitting over bluetooth, I’ll often walk into the kitchen for a moment, remote in hand, and raise the volume a bit along the way to be able to follow what’s being said – obviously more useful if you’re watching something news-like, where you’re mostly listening – for a movie, I’ll just pause.)

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