After three years of development, today IKEA and Sonos are announcing a collaboration to be released next month: the SYMFONISK WiFi-connected sound system, which includes a bookshelf speaker and a sleekly designed speaker/table lamp hybrid. The speaker collection is also priced with IKEA customers in mind: the table lamp is going for $179 and the bookshelf speaker at an impressive $99.
When initially considering a partnership with Sonos, the IKEA design team knew they wanted to create a product line that would diversify the perception of where a speaker belongs as well as how it looks. IKEA Global Business Leader of the IKEA Home Smart division Björn Block said they asked in the ideation process, "how can we come in [and build a speaker with Sonos] as IKEA with a different perception of home furnishing and not coming in from a tech-y point of view?"
One solution to this idea was the table lamp, which Block notes originated from IKEA's extensive research on home furnishings: "we know many people want to have a lamp next to their bed, they want to have a lamp in the living room, and you want to have a sound element. But if you think of it from an aesthetics point of view, many partners in a relationship don't agree on where you want to have speakers. So by combining it and making it a home furnishing, then it's maybe allowed it a space where it's normally not allowed."
The other design is a sleek, mountable speaker that doubles as a bookshelf for small items or fits snugly in a bookshelf. When designing double-purpose objects like this, materials are often a high concern; the speaker itself is not waterproof, but the outer shell's form is built to help resist spilled liquids from reaching the speaker's hardware. The table lamp's exterior is wrapped with a 3D knitted exterior, which helps improve audio quality and results in a soft, more inviting feel than a traditional speaker.
It was important for the IKEA team to both hit a reasonable price point while also not sacrificing sound quality, as Block mentioned, and this meant giving Sonos full access to IKEA's manufacturing capabilities: "We said if we do this, we have to go all in. If we don't expose ourself and give [Sonos] access to everything we have, we're not going to achieve the price points and we're not going to achieve of the sound of the Sonos. The speakers we create together need to be fully-fledged members of the Sonos family."
The ultimate goal of achieving a well-designed home furnishing and excellent quality speaker required push and pull between the Sonos and IKEA design teams. Sonos helped provide IKEA with material and manufacturing advice on how to create an high-quality audio system, while IKEA tackled creating a hybrid product that didn't lack in either the style or sound department. Block adds that this lies in the subtle, internal details: "Initially we said, well, you can't have glass this close to a speaker because it will rattle, so we had to come up with a bayonet fitting that is super snug so it never comes loose and that will solve it."
In terms of other design details, its worth noting that this low price does come with some trade-offs: while the SYMFONISK collection is compatible with AirPlay with WiFi capabilities, it doesn't allow for voice assistant integration (but perhaps a perk depending on your opinion on Alexa and Google Assistant).
So if you're curious to experience what this involved design development has led to, you don't have to wait long: The SYMFONISK collection will be available in stores starting Thursday, August 1st.
Editors Note: While the SYMFONISK products don't have microphones built in, our assertion of voice assistant not being compatible with the system is technically incorrect; if you have another Wifi-enabled device integrated with voice-activated, it can pair with the speakers in order to play audio via voice command.