Sonos has just announced a new Bluetooth portable speaker. The Roam is only the firm’s second-ever, following the 2019-launched Sonos Move and marking another break away from its traditional at-home Sonos system. It’s smaller and consequently more portable than Move – cheaper, too. And it’s shaping up to be a real challenger to the best Bluetooth speakers around.
But what does it bring to the already crowded Bluetooth speaker market? And how does it compare to its larger, pricier sibling?
Sonos Roam vs Sonos Move: price
The Sonos Roam is essentially a smaller, more portable Move and so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that it’s more affordable. The Roam costs £159 ($169, AU$279, €179), making it the cheapest Sonos speaker ever (apart from those made in collaboration with IKEA), sitting below the slightly pricier Sonos One SL. That’s also in the ballpark of many of the best Bluetooth speakers around, although for its size (albeit not feature set) there are plenty around asking half that price.
The six-times-the-size Move costs more than twice that at £399 ($399, AU$649), so yes, there’s quite a difference in cost. This might rule the Move out for people’s some budgets, but it’s still worth knowing what you’re getting (or not getting) if you choose either one.
Sonos Roam vs Sonos Move: design
As soon as you clap eyes on it, you’ll see the Roam is a very different beast to the Move. It’s triangular, for a start, like a Toblerone. And it’s a lot smaller – six times smaller in fact, measuring just 16.8 x 6.2 x 6cm. That’s smaller than a water bottle. Naturally, it’s lighter, too, tipping the scales at 430g.
The comparative specs for the Move are dimensions of 24 x 16 x 12.6cm and a weight of 3kg.
One of the biggest criticisms of the Move is that its bulk and heft pushes the definitions of portability. Whereas the majority of Bluetooth speakers are designed to be tossed in a bag and taken to the park, picnic, pool or beach (just as the Roam is), the Move is more of a home speaker that can be moved from room to room or into the garden.
In light of its ultra-portable, outdoor-friendly design, the Roam also more resistant to the elements than the Move. It’s IP67-rated, meaning it can be completely submerged in three feet of water for up to 30 minutes. It’s completely impervious to dust, too. The Move is only IP56-rated, which means it’s only protected from ‘harmful dust’ and ‘strong water jets from all directions’.
The names of both devices are quite apt, then: the Move is intended to be moved from room to room, and the Roam to be taken with you on your wider travels.
Sonos Roam vs Sonos Move: features
While the Roam is a very different proposition to the Move, it does share some of the same traits. For example, it also has both Bluetooth and wi-fi connectivity, so you can stream tunes to it offline from a phone or tablet, or over the internet using a service like Spotify or Tidal, like the rest of the Sonos speaker range. Wi-fi also means it can work as part of a Sonos multi-room system (as the Move can too); it’s as much a member of the family as every other speaker, also controlled by the Sonos S2 app.
Like the Move, the Roam has a rechargeable battery, and despite its much smaller size, it manages to match the Move’s 10-hour run time. In that context it’s impressive, although note that (not-so-fruitfully-featured) Bluetooth speakers do often offer longer battery lives.
To juice it up, the Roam comes with a USB-C cable (but not a power adaptor). Sonos has also launched a $49 dedicated wireless charging base that the Roam clips onto using magnets, although Roam is compatible with any Qi wireless charger.
The Move also has a USB-C cable, with a charging base that comes in the box. Its battery is also swappable, should you need to replace it (it will be a lot cheaper than buying a whole new speaker). Sonos hasn’t yet mentioned such functionality with the Roam, but as the consumer tech world is moving towards more sustainability, we wouldn’t be surprised if it was an option for Roam – if its design even allows for it.
Also like the Move, the Roam has voice control via Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, as well as Apple’s AirPlay 2. Neither the Move nor Roam can work as a home cinema surround with the Sonos Arc, Playbar, Playbase, Beam or Sub – that remains the job of the One SL and IKEA speakers.
Right, so that’s enough similarities; let us tell you how the two devices differ.
The first new feature the Roam offers is the automatic switching between wi-fi and Bluetooth connectivity and connected devices. That means when you leave the house it can connect to a Bluetooth device without you having to initiate pairing. You don’t have to do anything, in fact. Just grab it and go.
‘Sonos Swap’ is also new and exclusive to the Roam. This lets you ‘hand off’ whatever music the Roam is playing to another Sonos speaker (the nearest to it) by long-pressing its play/pause button. So if you come home from a long afternoon’s picnicking you can seamlessly swap what’s playing to your home system. Neat. (It’s also a feature we’re expecting to work with the highly anticipated Sonos wireless headphones, due later this year.)
Auto TruePlay is on board, too – and introduces improvements over the version that launched with the Move. For the uninitiated, this is automatic calibration technology that uses the speaker’s microphones to measure the frequency response of its surroundings and adjust sound accordingly, whenever it detects being placed in a new location. Move the speaker from a bookshelf to a coffee table, say, and it’ll recalibrate its sound to its new surroundings to give you the best audio possible. This tech was first seen in the Move, but the Roam moves it along by letting it work in a Bluetooth domain as well as a network one. This feature is coming to the Move via a firmware update.
Ultimately, while there’s plenty familiar about the Roam, there’s plenty new too. And it could be the smartest Bluetooth speaker of its size ever made.
Sonos Roam vs Sonos Move: sound
Of course, for all the bells and whistles, a speaker sinks or swims by its sound quality. The Sonos Move managed to impress us in this area, with a sonic profile similar to the excellent Sonos One: think weighty, full-bodied audio, with a tonality that’s nicely even-handed and not bereft of solid, deep bass.
The Move’s ample size gives it plenty of scale and space – put it at the centre of your garden party, and you won’t be disappointed. But volume never comes at the expense of quality – the audio stays composed even when pushed to the limit of what’s socially acceptable. You can expect similar sonic satisfaction from Bluetooth playback too.
But while we’ve pored over the features and design of the Sonos Roam, we haven’t given it a through going over in our test rooms yet – watch. this. space – so we can’t comment on its sound quality. Sonos speakers are renowned for their sonic competitiveness – the company’s reputation is not only built on seamless integration and user experience but also performance – so we’re expecting big things, even from a relatively small package.
While we don’t expect the Roam to match the much bigger Move’s scale of sound, our expectations regarding pound-per-performance value are high. If we get the same Sonos sonic character but just smaller in scale and lighter on bass, the Roam shouldn’t have anything to worry about.
Not that the Roam will have an easy time of it; competition is fierce where the Roam is positioned. To make its mark, it’ll have to compare to the likes of the JBL Flip 5 (currently number one in our list of best Bluetooth speakers), Bang & Olufsen Beosound A1 (2nd Gen), Audio Pro Addon C3, and UE Megablast. No mean feat, although the Roam’s extra and Sonos-centric features will have to be accounted for.
All of these best-in-class portable Bluetooth speakers are superb options from established players in the market, and each of these manufacturers has a lot of experience of making such devices. Sonos is a big name in multi-room audio, but portable products are a different kettle of fish.
We’ll have a full review for you as soon as we can.
Sonos Roam vs Sonos Move: early verdict
On paper, the Roam looks like a great device, addressing the criticisms of the Move by being more portable and cheaper. It shouldn’t exactly undermine the Move, though, as the two are quite different propositions: the Roam is a proper portable for taking out with you and by design will have its sonic limitations, while the Move is a Sonos speaker you can take to the garden or another room and get a decent scale of excellent sound from.
The great thing about the Sonos ecosystem is that consumers, and especially Sonos loyals, may well have valid reason to choose both.
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