In 2019 Sonos released its first ever ‘portable’ speaker. It was great, but suffered from being too big and heavy to actually take anywhere. That has all changed with the new Sonos Roam – a speaker with incredible sound for such a smol boi.
WHAT IS IT?
Sonos new portable speaker
Super light and small, great sound, some nice upgrades
A little pricey, the battery is still the same
The Sonos Roam is actually light and rugged!
My biggest issue with the Sonos Move was quite literal – the size.
While you could technically take it out to enjoy your tunes in the great outdoors, I’ve never taken it further than the car park out back.
While it was rugged enough to handle a hike or beach day, at 3kg it was too impractical to actually want to do any of that.
But the Sonos Roam has changed the game entirely.
The Roam comes in at 6.6 x 2.4 x 2.4 inches and weighs just 438g. It has also retained the same IP67 water and dust resistance rating as the Move.
This time around it feels like a speaker that was genuinely designed to be used away from the house. It’s easy to throw it into a backpack or into a picnic basket and take it out on the trail with you.
In terms of functionality you’ll find a USB-C charging port and power button on the back, as well as the microphone button, play/pause and volumes buttons on the side.
Overall it’s incredibly slick looking, and I like that it can sit vertically and horizontally. And while it can be prone to scuffing, you can buff that out easily enough.
The sound on the Sonos Roam is great…
For such a small lad, the sound quality is surprisingly great. I shouldn’t be that shocked, it’s Sonos after all. But I supposed I did lower my expectations somewhat due to the size, which was a mistake.
Sonos has managed to squeeze a tweeter, mid-woofer and two class-H amplifiers into this bad boy.
I found it to be naturally bassy without venturing into obnoxious levels. And while it perhaps wasn’t quite as warm and rich in sound as the Move, this was perhaps all down to the sheer reduction in size.
I genuinely thought the Roam did a great job overall with sound quality, even if you ignored the EQ customisation in the S2 app.
My testing go-to, Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepsen, blasted confidently through the speaker and retained an impressive amount of complexity.
While it was not the same experience listening through a pair of XM4’s, you could still distinguish individual instruments and the kick drum remained brutal.
The vocals on Caroline Polachek’s So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings were similarly impressive, remaining complex and sharp through the Roam.
While the electronic beat sat somewhere in the middle, her haunting calls at the start of the track could still send a shiver up the spine.
It also translated the grit and distortion on the track well.
In a final test before publication the sound gods also blessed us with a classic from The Simpsons — Kirk Van Houten’s Can I Borrow A Feeling, courtesy of Triple J’s Requestival.
I can assure you that the Roam was powerful enough to really showcase the literal notes of quiet desperation that flows through the melody of the tune.
The volume could use some work
The only thing I’m a little disappointing is that you don’t get the 360 degree audio of the Move.
This is for a practical reason, the Roam can now lay down. But still, I would have like if it could be hung from a tree or similar for them real chill outdoor music vibes.
This form factor change also means that it simply isn’t as loud as other Sonos speakers in the range. Even with the addition of TruePlay (which adapts the sound to the environment) it struggled to get above a certain noise level.
While this is fine for chill outdoor sessions like camping or even a picnic, it might pose a problem for parties. I just can’t see this being loud enough. So if you’re looking for a booming outdoor speaker, you might want to look elsewhere.
It has meaningful upgrades that aren’t seamless yet
There are a couple of new features that come with the Roam that are great in theory but need a little work in practice.
The first is Sound Swap, which lets you throw whatever you’re listening to to another Sonos speaker on your network.
You do this simply by holding down the play/pause button. You can then swap it back by doing another long pause.
But it has some limitations. Firstly, you can only initiate this feature with the Roam. It doesn’t work natively on other Sonos speakers yet.
I also found that you need to be running your podcasts or tunes through the Sonos S2 app for this functionality to actually work.
Still, it’s quite cool when it works and is a great inclusion for a household full of Sonos.
Another cool ability the Roam has is automatically connecting to a known Wi-Fi network when its in range. If you then go outside of that range it will re-pair with your phone.
Unfortunately it’s just not that seamless and I found myself having to manually pair to bluetooth after dropping off the Wi-Fi.
Alternatively, long-pressing the power button while leaving Wi-Fi territory so it would throw to my phone for connectivity would work. But it’s not particularly intuitive or the automatic swap that I was expecting.
To be fair, you may never notice this issue – especially if you don’t really go from Wi-Fi to mobile connectivity in the middle of a track or podcast.
If you’re starting your music or show while you’re already outside, it probably won’t be a problem.
The battery hasn’t been upgraded
The Roam has the same battery life as its predecessor — 1o hours of continuous playback and five days on stand by.
I wasn’t overly impressed by this then and I’m still not now. While it’s not bad, it’s certainly not best in market. And when you’re spending $279 I would hope for things to have improved two years later.
Still, I admittedly did not run out of juice during my testing as I simply plugged in of a night. So unless you want a LOT of music for say an overnight trip, this might not be a problem.
It’s also worth noting that you need a 10W charger or higher to charge this thing. A regular phone charger will not do the job here.
It’s a bit pricey, but not for a Sonos
The Roam costs $279, which is not a cheap portable speaker.
However, it’s a hell of a discount compared to the Move which was $649 two years ago.
And when you put it in context, it doesn’t seem quite so unreasonable. Sonos is not a cheap brand overall, for a reason.
It’s products are high quality and connect to one another seamlessly most of the time.
So when you take quality and convenience into account (particularly if you have a Sonos ecosystem already) it’s not bad – especially with the upgrades the Roam has been injected with.
Overall I’m super impressed with the Roam. It’s a thoughtful and desperately needed upgrade on the Move.
It’s not only smaller but has some great upgrades to back up the banger sound. And with a significant price decrease to boot, it’s difficult to pass up.