Review: Sonos Roam Bluetooth Wireless Speaker
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Meet The New Sonos Roam
The Sonos Roam is the kind of speaker that makes us excited for warmer weather. It's like Sonos took everything that we loved about the Sonos Move and shrunk it down into something we could comfortably carry with us, throw in a bag, and not have to worry about if the party gets a little "crazy". The Roam is a brand new, portable smart speaker with Bluetooth and WiFi and it weighs less than a pound and is "smaller than a water bottle"... as Sonos themselves put it. It's more rugged than any other Sonos speaker, with a waterproof rating, and still comes through with that rich, Sonos sound. And, like all of Sonos' speakers, it's available in black and in white, though, we're keeping our fingers crossed for some limited-edition colorways in the future.
Sonos introduced it's first portable Bluetooth speaker with the 7 pound, 10-inch Move in 2019, which quickly jumped to one of our best-selling Bluetooth speakers of all time. The Roam is Sonos' first ever compact Bluetooth speaker and is smaller in stature and more rugged, with waterproof durability, than any speaker within the Sonos ecosystem. And, even with this smaller form factor, Sonos still managed to pack in an amazing list of features that we believe fairly justifies the $169 price point for a portable speaker.
Sonos Roam Design and Acoustics
The Roam is elegant, rugged, and made for music-lovers (and Sonos fans) on the go. Its dual-orientation form factor, lets you place it vertically to take up less space on a surface or horizontally, which comes in handy for uneven surfaces you might encounter when outdoors (grass, sand, you get it). Both orientations effectively direct the sound upwards towards the listener. This is a slightly newer form-factor for Sonos, with a slimmer and more pill-shape profile than anything else in their line-up. And, according to Sonos, the Roam's concave end-caps serve three functions; "preventing accidental button presses, providing a stable-base when stood vertically, and increasing drop resistance".
Large, tactile buttons on the top (when vertically oriented) make for easy playback and volume control that you can nicely feel your way through, making it easy to control in the dark. Keep in mind the buttons are there for convenience, as is easy control through the Sonos app or built-in voice assistants if preferred. The battery and status light are on the front and a power button and USB-C port for easy charging are hidden out of sight on the back.
Sonos created some of the most sophisticated and flexible charging options for the Roam that we've seen from a portable speaker. An included 90-degree USB-C cable is designed to support both orientations. In vertical orientation, the depth of the cable is nice and snug, so the speaker can be used tight to a wall or corner. In addition to the USB-C charging, the Roam can be charged wirelessly on any Qi-compatible charger. A third charging option is the wireless charging base (sold separately) that cradles the Roam seamlessly and has three tiny magnets that make for a satisfying connection and ensures the Roam charges in either orientation when placed (vertically or horizontally). A Bluetooth beacon can then identify which charger the Roam is connected to for easy locating within your home. Perhaps Sonos thought their new speaker was so small, it would be easier to lose?
And, while this doesn't impact product performance, we'd like to applaud Sonos' move towards more sustainable packaging and product design. Sonos has removed single-use plastic from their packaging and developed their own unique, sustainably sourced custom paper, among a slew of other eco-conscious improvements throughout. We appreciate the effort and refreshing point of view.
Sonos Roam Features and Control
Like its sibling, the Move, the Sonos Roam is equipped with easy WiFi connectivity while you're home, and a seamless Bluetooth connection when you're on the go or out of reach of WiFi. With both Bluetooth and WiFi, you can wirelessly stream directly from over 100 services using the Sonos App, directly from your iOS device with AirPlay 2, or pair directly to your mobile device. And, it enables you to easily group the Roam with other Sonos products for that true Sonos multi-room experience. (Of note, the Roam cannot be used as surrounds in a Sonos Home Theater setup.)
What's more is that Sonos introduced a brand new feature for the Roam called Sound Swap that lets you "swap" your music to and from the rest of your Sonos system. Sound Swap effectively detects which room you’re in and "moves your music" to the closest speaker at the press of a button. No fiddling with rooms or speakers in the app.
Like all other Sonos speakers, the Roam also brings voice assistant control to the portable speaker experience with three microphones hidden beneath the grille. With Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, you can play music, set alarms, play games, check the news... what have you... all with your voice and hands-free. If you're concerned about privacy, the voice assistant feature can easily be turned off directly from the Roam speaker, which you can confirm when the LED light on the front of the speaker turns off.
Battery life is a critical feature for any portable speaker and the Roam matches the Move with a 10 hour battery life. That's a good full-day's worth of listening on a single charge. When not in use, the Roam "falls asleep" to save power and is ready to play again at the press of a button.
What makes the Roam even more comfortably portable and ready for adventure is its IP67 waterproof rating. Sonos is quite confident in its first ever "fully waterproof" design. According to Sonos, this means you can hold it three feet under water for up to 30 minutes and the speaker will still sound great. We did not test this, nor do we test other "waterproof" speakers because, well, that's just not the point. A waterproof rating means that you can relax if your speaker takes an accidental slip into the pool or if it starts to rain during your hang with friends and you'd like to stay and enjoy the storm for awhile. That being said, a waterproof rating does demonstrate just how "party proof" this little guy really can be.
Ok, But How Does The Sonos Roam Sound?
To put it simply: it sounds pretty darn great... and not just for a Bluetooth speaker. We had the same reaction when we first heard the Move, though the Move is bigger with much larger drivers and considered more of a portable tabletop speaker than a true "portable speaker". The Roam has carbon fiber reinforced cones, and Sonos' "precision-engineered acoustics". According to Sonos, the Roam's "custom designed racetrack woofer maximizes low-end output while minimizing thickness, while high efficiency neodymium motors increase power while reducing weight."
Basically, the Roam has been engineered to deliver rich sound from as small a form possible and Sonos' TruePlay technology reinforces that notion while on the go. Sonos' Auto TruePlay technology adapts the sound dynamically for its environment to ensure the audio is constantly being optimized to its surroundings.
So how did they get such great acoustic performance from such a sleek little speaker? Sonos says it's their 180-degree grille with 7,500 0.8mm individually drilled holes. It really is a pretty cool design when you look at it up close and hold the speaker in your hand. It's sleek and attractive, for sure.
How to Set up The Sonos Roam
Sonos is already known for its easy setup process. We've written articles on how to setup the Sonos One, and how to connect your Sonos speaker to Alexa, but, more often than not, the Sonos app can guide just about anyone effortlessly through the process, step by step, right out of the box. But, because Sonos is relying on the Roam to be the new "accessible" entry point to the Sonos speaker family, they took care to ensure setup was easier than ever. So, to connect your Roam to your Sonos system, you simply turn it on, the Sonos app automatically detects when a new Roam connects to WiFi in seconds, and you're good to go.
Sonos Roam vs. Sonos Move
Aside from shape, the waterproof rating, size and material, the Sonos Move and the Sonos Roam have a very similar feature set. Both come with a wireless charging base, Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa voice control assistants built-in, and both have very similar battery life. Also like the Move, the Roam comes with WiFi, so it can be easily integrated into an existing Sonos multi-room audio system, and it comes with Bluetooth, so you can take the speaker with you, and play your music on the go or simply beyond the borders of your WiFi signal.
Both the Move and the Roam sound freakishly good for portable Bluetooth speakers and both made it on our 2021 Best Bluetooth Speakers Gear Guide list by our gear experts. Both speakers offer space-filling sound, with impressive vocal clarity for portable speakers and both come with TruePlay which takes on-the-go listening to a whole new level of fidelity. Sonos' Auto TruePlay, which uses the speaker's built-in microphones to adjust the audio playback based on the acoustics of its surrounding environment, is an impressive value add for something as compact as the Roam.
The Move is obviously bigger and therefore has better and bigger drivers for bigger sound, which is why it's our first choice for easy backyard listening. It has an IPX56 rating, which essentially means it's splash-resistant and not waterproof. And, while the Move is quite durable, with its shock-resistant outer layer, at 7 pounds and 10- inches, it's not meant for on-the-go adventuring. The Roam is much more compact and rugged, making it the clear winner for those looking for something to toss it in a backpack and take their music on the go. The Move can go camping with you, but the Roam would be the speaker we'd take on the hike.
Honestly, the naming of these two speakers couldn't have been more spot on. The "Move" is basically a portable tabletop speaker that you can move around from place to place, but is not something you're going to throw in a gym bag. The "Roam" pulls that same feature set into a hand-held, under-a-pound speaker that you can literally carry with you and roam comfortably anywhere. And, with a waterproof rating (compared to the Move's splash-resistant rating), we're more inclined to take the Roam where no Move has gone before. You get the point.
Aside from the more compact design, the Sonos Roam is also a more accessible entry point into the Sonos ecosystem with its lower price at $169 versus the Sonos Move price of $399.
Great Music, Wherever You Roam...
Sonos has a solid reputation for audio performance among its best-selling wireless speakers and sound bars. Then, they proved they could extend that reputation into the portable speaker category with the Move. After testing their newest launch, we have no doubt the Roam will very nicely round out the Sonos family and portable category representation with this more affordable and rugged portable speaker.