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Sonos Ray soundbar review: the cheaper compact TV audio upgrade | Gadgets

Sonos’s latest compact soundbar, the Ray, has achieved a welcome balance for consumers by cutting unnecessary features for a lower price, while still packing top-quality audio for a serious TV sound upgrade and unrivalled multiroom music.

Costing £279 ($279/A$399) it is an all-in-one, which means you don’t need a separate subwoofer or other speakers for full sound. It slots under the excellent £449 Beam and £899 Arc soundbars as Sonos’s entry level unit. The question now is – do you really need to spend more?

With a smaller, flatter design than the larger Beam and Arc, its four speakers face straight out of the front grille, making it easier to slot into TV stands without affecting the sound. In size terms, it is slightly wider than a full-sized keyboard and fairly short, stopping it blocking your view of the bottom of the TV screen on a cabinet, which can be a problem for taller rivals.

The top of the Sonos Ray showing touch-sensitive buttons for control of playback and volume.
It has touch-sensitive buttons on the top for pause/play and volume. Swipe between the volume buttons for track skip. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

Hidden in a recess in the back are connections for power and ethernet, if you don’t want to use wifi. However, there is no HDMI port, instead you must rely on the much older optical cable to connect your TV. Most TVs have an optical port, which makes things simple but limits the sound formats the Ray supports to the older Dolby Digital or DTS, not the newer Dolby Atmos soundtracks.

I think this is a corner worth cutting for a lower price. Since movies with Dolby Atmos also contain standard Dolby Digital soundtracks, the Ray will still be able to play everything.

A series of screenshots from the Sonos app showing the setup procedure for the Ray soundbar.
Setting up the Ray is straightforward: plug it into power, slot the optical cable in the back and into your TV, then follow the instructions in the Sonos app on an Android or iPhone to connect to wifi, check the connections and set up volume control using your remote. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The one notable potential problem with soundbars that lack an HDMI port is how to control volume. Using the optical cable means your television cannot control the soundbar through HDMI-CEC, a connection that allows most TVs to control soundbars and other devices via one remote. TVs with motion or voice-control remotes, such as many in the LG range, may not be able to adjust the Ray’s volume – so you will need to use the phone app or press the buttons on the soundbar. However, a standard infrared TV remote or those of set-top boxes such as Sky Q or an Apple TV will be able to increase and decrease sound no problem.The Sonos app will check for you as part of the setup routine.

Watching TV

The Sonos Ray soundbar viewed from an angle sitting on a TV cabinet in front of a television.
Used with Sky Q and on-demand content through an Apple TV box, everything stayed in perfect sync, which is not always the case with soundbars. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

Simply start watching TV to automatically switch to the audio from your show or movie. The Ray sounds throughly impressive for its size and price, beating much larger, more expensive rivals.

Dialogue is super clear, even when the action is thick and fast. On-screen action has suitable punch and energy, remaining precise and controlled at all times. There is more bass than I expected from a compact all-in-one system, handling all but the very largest explosions with aplomb. Only a system with a separate large subwoofer would be capable of more.

The speaker can get very loud indeed, with 40% volume more than enough for a reasonable-sized British living room. But it also has a dedicated dialogue enhancer and a night mode, which suppresses dynamic range to keep things intelligible at lower volumes. The sound is more direct than more expensive models, however, creating less of a virtual surround effect than the Beam.

Specifications

  • Dimensions: 55.9 x 9.5 x 7.1cm

  • Weigh: 1.95kg

  • Speakers: two tweeters, two midwoofers

  • Connectivity: wifi b/g/n, Optical, Ethernet, IR, AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect

  • Audio formats: stereo PCM, Dolby Digital, DTS Surround

  • Software: Sonos S2

  • CPU: Quad-core 1.4GHz A-53

  • RAM: 1GB

Listening to music

The front of the Ray soundbar showing the Sonos logo in its centre.
The two midwoofers and two tweeters hidden behind the grille produce really excellent music sound quality. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

It is even better with music, producing room-filling sound with good stereo separation from such a narrow bar, clear vocals, crisp highs and plenty of bass for all but the deepest of notes. Most music genres sound brilliant but rock tracks such as AC/DC’s Back in Black blasting out at the start of Iron Man were particularly good.

It streams music over wifi controlled by the Sonos app, supporting practically every major service, including Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music and BBC Sounds, plus Apple’s AirPlay 2 and Spotify Connect.

It can be grouped with other Sonos or Ikea speakers for synchronised multiroom audio or linked with surround speakers and a separate sub for a home cinema set up. The Ray also supports Sonos’s Trueplay automatic tuning system using an iPhone or iPad, if you have one.

Sustainability

The Ray is generally repairable and limited replacement parts are available on its site. The company commits to a minimum of five years of software support for feature updates after it stops selling a product but has a track record of much longer, including bug and security fixes for its legacy products.

The soundbar does not contain recycled material but Sonos has committed to the use of recycled plastics and designs with disassembly in mind for repair, refurbishment and recycling from 2023. It offers trade-in and product recycling, and publishes annual responsibility and sustainability reports.

Price

The Sonos Ray costs £279 ($279/A$399).

For comparison, soundbars start at under £100, with more capable models costing from about £200, such as the Creative Stage 360 or the £270 Bose TV speaker.

Verdict

The Ray is a compact, high-quality sound upgrade for your TV from Sonos. It sounds miles better than most all-in-one soundbar systems at under £300 and still has the simple, minimalist and easy to live-with experience the brand is known for.

A few corners have been cut compared with the more expensive Beam and Arc soundbars, such as removing smart speaker functions, reducing the number of speakers and virtual surround effects, and ditching the HDMI port in favour of the old optical connection.

But I don’t think most will miss them. The Ray stillproduces impactful TV and movie sound and is even better with music, without needing a separate subwoofer. Plus, it has the advantage of Sonos’s excellent multiroom audio platform, which is compatible with a massive range of streaming services and is kept constantly updated with a very long support life.

You can certainly get cheaper soundbars with more features but very few are as compact and sound as good as the Ray.

Pros: compact and attractive, great TV or music sound, super-clear vocals, Night Sound mode, easy setup, wifi, extensive music service support, multiroom audio system, long support life, can be extended with additional speakers.

Cons: no HDMI only optical, some TV remotes won’t control volume, no Dolby Atmos, no Bluetooth, no mics for smart speaker functions, limited surround-sound effect without additional speakers.

The Sonos app on an iPhone pairing with the Sonos Ray during set up.
The Sonos app automatically detects, updates and configures the Ray within a few minutes, making it simple to get set up. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

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Top 10 Florida Cities Dominate The Business Startup Landscape In The U.S.

Top 10 Florida Cities And Business Startup Landscape In The U.S.

The Voice Of EU | Florida emerges as a hub for entrepreneurial endeavors, with its vibrant business landscape and conducive environment for startups. Renowned for its low corporate tax rates and a high concentration of investors, the Sunshine State beckons aspiring entrepreneurs seeking fertile grounds to launch and grow their businesses.

In a recent report by WalletHub, Florida cities dominate the list of the top 10 best destinations for business startups, showcasing their resilience and economic vitality amidst challenging times.

From Orlando’s thriving market to Miami’s dynamic ecosystem, each city offers unique advantages and opportunities for entrepreneurial success. Let’s delve into the chronologically listed cities that exemplify Florida’s prominence in the business startup arena.

1. Orlando Leads the Way: Orlando emerges as the most attractive market in the U.S. for business startups, with a remarkable surge in small business establishments. WalletHub’s latest report highlights Orlando’s robust ecosystem, fostering the survival and growth of startups, buoyed by a high concentration of investors per capita.

2. Tampa Takes Second Place: Securing the second spot among large cities for business startups, Tampa boasts a favorable business environment attributed to its low corporate tax rates. The city’s ample investor presence further fortifies startups, providing essential resources for navigating the initial years of business operations.

3. Charlotte’s Diverse Industries: Claiming the third position, Charlotte stands out for its diverse industrial landscape and exceptionally low corporate taxes, enticing companies to reinvest capital. This conducive environment propels entrepreneurial endeavors, contributing to sustained economic growth.

4. Jacksonville’s Rising Profile: Jacksonville emerges as a promising destination for startups, bolstered by its favorable business climate. The city’s strategic positioning fosters entrepreneurial ventures, attracting aspiring business owners seeking growth opportunities.

5. Miami’s Entrepreneurial Hub: Miami solidifies its position as a thriving entrepreneurial hub, attracting businesses with its dynamic ecosystem and strategic location. The city’s vibrant startup culture and supportive infrastructure make it an appealing destination for ventures of all sizes.

6. Atlanta’s Economic Momentum: Atlanta’s ascent in the business startup landscape underscores its economic momentum and favorable business conditions. The city’s strategic advantages and conducive policies provide a fertile ground for entrepreneurial ventures to flourish.

7. Fort Worth’s Business-Friendly Environment: Fort Worth emerges as a prime destination for startups, offering a business-friendly environment characterized by low corporate taxes. The city’s supportive ecosystem and strategic initiatives facilitate the growth and success of new ventures.

8. Austin’s Innovation Hub: Austin cements its status as an innovation hub, attracting startups with its vibrant entrepreneurial community and progressive policies. The city’s robust infrastructure and access to capital foster a conducive environment for business growth and innovation.

9. Durham’s Emerging Entrepreneurship Scene: Durham’s burgeoning entrepreneurship scene positions it as a promising destination for startups, fueled by its supportive ecosystem and strategic initiatives. The city’s collaborative culture and access to resources contribute to the success of new ventures.

10. St. Petersburg’s Thriving Business Community: St. Petersburg rounds off the top 10 with its thriving business community and supportive ecosystem for startups. The city’s strategic advantages and favorable business climate make it an attractive destination for entrepreneurial endeavors.

Despite unprecedented challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Great Resignation, and high inflation, these top Florida cities remain resilient and well-equipped to overcome obstacles, offering promising opportunities for business owners and entrepreneurs alike.


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European Startup Ecosystems Awash With Gulf Investment – Here Are Some Of The Top Investors

European Startup Ecosystem Getting Flooded With Gulf Investments

The Voice Of EU | In recent years, European entrepreneurs seeking capital infusion have widened their horizons beyond the traditional American investors, increasingly turning their gaze towards the lucrative investment landscape of the Gulf region. With substantial capital reservoirs nestled within sovereign wealth funds and corporate venture capital entities, Gulf nations have emerged as compelling investors for European startups and scaleups.

According to comprehensive data from Dealroom, the influx of investment from Gulf countries into European startups soared to a staggering $3 billion in 2023, marking a remarkable 5x surge from the $627 million recorded in 2018.

This substantial injection of capital, accounting for approximately 5% of the total funding raised in the region, underscores the growing prominence of Gulf investors in European markets.

Particularly noteworthy is the significant support extended to growth-stage companies, with over two-thirds of Gulf investments in 2023 being directed towards funding rounds exceeding $100 million. This influx of capital provides a welcome boost to European companies grappling with the challenge of securing well-capitalized investors locally.

Delving deeper into the landscape, Sifted has identified the most active Gulf investors in European startups over the past two years.

Leading the pack is Aramco Ventures, headquartered in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Bolstered by a substantial commitment, Aramco Ventures boasts a $1.5 billion sustainability fund, alongside an additional $4 billion allocated to its venture capital arm, positioning it as a formidable player with a total investment capacity of $7 billion by 2027. With a notable presence in 17 funding rounds, Aramco Ventures has strategically invested in ventures such as Carbon Clean Solutions and ANYbotics, aligning with its focus on businesses that offer strategic value.

Following closely is Mubadala Capital, headquartered in Abu Dhabi, UAE, with an impressive tally of 13 investments in European startups over the past two years. Backed by the sovereign wealth fund Mubadala Investment Company, Mubadala Capital’s diverse investment portfolio spans private equity, venture capital, and alternative solutions. Notable investments include Klarna, TIER, and Juni, reflecting its global investment strategy across various sectors.

Ventura Capital, based in Dubai, UAE, secured its position as a key player with nine investments in European startups. With a presence in Dubai, London, and Tokyo, Ventura Capital boasts an international network of limited partners and a sector-agnostic investment approach, contributing to its noteworthy investments in companies such as Coursera and Spotify.

Qatar Investment Authority, headquartered in Doha, Qatar, has made significant inroads into the European startup ecosystem with six notable investments. As the sovereign wealth fund of Qatar, QIA’s diversified portfolio spans private and public equity, infrastructure, and real estate, with strategic investments in tech startups across healthcare, consumer, and industrial sectors.

MetaVision Dubai, a newcomer to the scene, has swiftly garnered attention with six investments in European startups. Focusing on seed to Series A startups in the metaverse and Web3 space, MetaVision raised an undisclosed fund in 2022, affirming its commitment to emerging technologies and innovative ventures.

Investcorp, headquartered in Manama, Bahrain, has solidified its presence with six investments in European startups. With a focus on mid-sized B2B businesses, Investcorp’s diverse investment strategies encompass private equity, real estate, infrastructure, and credit management, contributing to its notable investments in companies such as Terra Quantum and TruKKer.

Chimera Capital, based in Abu Dhabi, UAE, rounds off the list with four strategic investments in European startups. As part of a prominent business conglomerate, Chimera Capital leverages its global reach and sector-agnostic approach to drive investments in ventures such as CMR Surgical and Neat Burger.

In conclusion, the burgeoning influx of capital from Gulf investors into European startups underscores the region’s growing appeal as a vibrant hub for innovation and entrepreneurship. With key players such as Aramco Ventures, Mubadala Capital, and Ventura Capital leading the charge, European startups are poised to benefit from the strategic investments and partnerships forged with Gulf investors, propelling them towards sustained growth and success in the global market landscape.


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China Reveals Lunar Mission: Sending ‘Taikonauts’ To The Moon From 2030 Onwards

China Reveals Lunar Mission

The Voice Of EU | In a bold stride towards lunar exploration, the Chinese Space Agency has unveiled its ambitious plans for a moon landing set to unfold in the 2030s. While exact timelines remain uncertain, this endeavor signals a potential resurgence of the historic space race reminiscent of the 1960s rivalry between the United States and the USSR.

China’s recent strides in lunar exploration include the deployment of three devices on the moon’s surface, coupled with the successful launch of the Queqiao-2 satellite. This satellite serves as a crucial communication link, bolstering connectivity between Earth and forthcoming missions to the moon’s far side and south pole.

Unlike the secretive approach of the Soviet Union in the past, China’s strategy leans towards transparency, albeit with a hint of mystery surrounding the finer details. Recent revelations showcase the naming and models of lunar spacecraft, steeped in cultural significance. The Mengzhou, translating to “dream ship,” will ferry three astronauts to and from the moon, while the Lanyue, meaning “embrace the moon,” will descend to the lunar surface.

Drawing inspiration from both Russian and American precedents, China’s lunar endeavor presents a novel approach. Unlike its predecessors, China will employ separate launches for the manned module and lunar lander due to the absence of colossal space shuttles. This modular approach bears semblance to SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, reflecting a contemporary adaptation of past achievements.

Upon reaching lunar orbit, astronauts, known as “taikonauts” in Chinese, will rendezvous with the lunar lander, reminiscent of the Apollo program’s maneuvers. However, distinct engineering choices mark China’s departure from traditional lunar landing methods.

The Chinese lunar lander, while reminiscent of the Apollo Lunar Module, introduces novel features such as a single set of engines and potential reusability and advance technology. Unlike past missions where lunar modules were discarded, China’s design hints at the possibility of refueling and reuse, opening avenues for sustained lunar exploration.

China Reveals Lunar Mission: Sending 'Taikonauts' To The Moon From 2030 Onwards
A re-creation of the two Chinese spacecraft that will put ‘taikonauts’ on the moon.CSM

Despite these advancements, experts have flagged potential weaknesses, particularly regarding engine protection during landing. Nevertheless, China’s lunar aspirations remain steadfast, with plans for extensive testing and site selection underway.

Beyond planting flags and collecting rocks, China envisions establishing a permanent lunar base, the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS), ushering in a new era of international collaboration in space exploration.

While the Artemis agreements spearheaded by NASA have garnered global support, China’s lunar ambitions stand as a formidable contender in shaping the future of space exploration. In conclusion, China’s unveiling of its lunar ambitions not only marks a significant milestone in space exploration but also sets the stage for a new chapter in the ongoing saga of humanity’s quest for the cosmos. As nations vie for supremacy in space, collaboration and innovation emerge as the cornerstones of future lunar endeavors.


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