Sonos Roam review: portable wireless speaker

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Erin Lawrence

sonos roam, speaker, review, what, how, sound, portable, Sonos has been on a tear over the last few years, busy updating speakers, and adding lots of new products. The most recent is Sonos Roam. I recently got a sample unit to test out and review for myself. I’ll tell you how it works, what it’s best for and if I recommend it for you.

Sonos Roam Review

Let’s look at what you’re getting here:

Sonos Roam is a small, wireless, portable speaker option that Sonos wants you to take with you in the yard, camping, RVing and on the go. It can be used either horizontally or vertically and  Roam can be controlled with the Sonos app or using the subtle but easy to locate buttons on the top.

Watch my hands-on review of Sonos Roam

What to know about Sonos Roam

If you’re familiar with the Sonos Move, think of the Roam as a more compact and more properly portable version. If you’re not familiar with Sonos already, the Roam is meant to be a higher fidelity Bluetooth and Wi-Fi speaker that’s designed for bringing with you on adventures—something the Move is really not meant to do, that’s meant to stay more in your yard or close to its charging base.

Roam has a more accessible price tag than the Move, positioning it as an attractive entry point for those looking to get into Sonos or expand their Sonos ecosystem.

The Roam has been designed to be smaller than a water bottle and weighs less than a pound, making it ideal for chucking in a bag and bringing with you. Though it actually looks pretty sleek and chic, Sonos says it’s also rugged.

Sonos Roam is waterproof, but doesn’t float

sonos roam, water, reviewExisting Sonos users will know most of the company’s current speaker lineup are a lot more delicate and designed for indoor use. Roam is IP67 waterproof rated meaning Roam can adapt to almost any outdoor situation, from a hike to a pool party.

Sonos says it can be held three feet under water for 30 minutes without impacting the sound.

I naturally decided to test it… I doused the Roam in my sink multiple times and by the way this speaker does not float, so consider that if you’re wanting to take it on a boat or to the lake. But it never stopped playing and when I fished it out of the drink, it spit the water out and kept right on rocking.

Sonos Roam sound quality

Naturally, the first thing we’re concerned about when it comes to a Bluetooth speaker is the sound and Sonos Roam more than delivers on quality.

Roam is super small but definitely has power. It sounds a lot bigger than it is. Sitting next to it, 50% volume was more than enough. In a bigger open space, it is also surprisingly able to fill the space, even at that same 50% volume level.

sonos roam, speaker, review, what, how, sound, portable,

The quality is quite good… the speaker is well tuned and it’s possible to hear a lot of intricacies in the music. There’s a lot of warmth to the sound, and the vocals sound great. The music sounds very well balanced, which is no surprise. Sonos invests a lot in its speakers, so I’m not at all surprised that I like the sound of this one.

Outdoors you’ll obviously need more volume the further you are away from it, but it seems like it’s able to dial up the right amount of power… here I’ve got it on 50% volume, so I do have lots of room to crank it up louder if I want to.

Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connection

Sonos’s sound systems are known for their more reliable Wi-Fi connectivity, which lets you connect a vast network of speakers around your home and easily control the whole system via your mobile device.

Being a portable speaker Wi-Fi isn’t always an option so the Roam has both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5 connectivity. This means that you can integrate it into an existing network of speakers and control it seamlessly via the Wi-Fi connection when you’re at home as well as connect it to a phone or tablet using Bluetooth when you’re on the move.

To connect a device to the Roam, you can use either the Sonos App, pair it directly via Bluetooth or connect an iOS device using AirPlay 2.

sonos roam, speaker, review, what, how, sound, portable, New Sonos features: Group + Swap & Automatic Switching

Sonos Roam adds some new features to this new portable design, and they make it better for sharing music if you’re gathered with friends. There’s Group + Swap, and Automatic Switching.

Group + Swap allows you to switch your music back and forth between Roam and the rest of your Sonos system by detecting where you are and letting you move your music to the nearest speaker.  I only had the Roam, so I wasn’t able to test this feature out.

Automatic Switching is an awesome feature of the Roam that means it will seamlessly switch from your Wi-Fi network to your Bluetooth phone connection and vice versa when you’re on the go, so you don’t have to do it manually.

This I was able to try this by starting my music on Wi-Fi then walking away from the house and down the street… True to its word Sonos stayed connected and kept right on playing…

Trueplay tuning on Sonos Roam

Sonos Trueplay software is a digital optimization feature that’s able to tune the speaker to the unique acoustics of the room it’s in, or an outdoor space, in this case.

Normally, Trueplay uses your iPhone (and for now this is only available using an Apple iOS device), to listen to the room ’s acoustics and it can fine tune the speaker’s output to make it perfect. With the Roam, because it’s designed to play in a lot of different environments both indoors and outdoors, it happens automatically.

sonos roam, speaker, review, what, how, sound, portable, Did I notice a difference? It’s hard to say, since it happens automatically, I couldn’t see how to shut it off to check how it sounds without Trueplay.

Outdoors, I’d say if there is a difference in that tuning, it’s lost to my ears out here.

Digital Assistant set up on Sonos Roam

Roam also works with voice control and digital assistants, meaning voice control it an option. Roam has three built-in microphones so Alexa, Siri or Google Assistant can hear you and respond.

To get them set up, you’ll follow the specific instructions for whichever assistant you have; in my case I used Amazon Alexa. It’s a bit of a process that’s probably best for another video if you guys want that, but you have to link things in the Sonos app and then enable the Sonos Skill in the Alexa app, and finally ask Alexa to discover devices.

Important to note that if you want to use your speaker as a digital assistant and to play music with your voice, you also need to set up your default music preferences in both the Sonos and Alexa apps.

sonos roam, speaker, review, what, how, sound, portable, Sonos Roam battery life & power

Roam has 10 hours of battery life from one charge but in my tests I got just under 10 hours, playing the music at a barely audible level

Ten hours isn’t a lot for a portable wireless speaker, particularly when other portable models can give you 20 hours or more, so this is a pretty big downside.

When it comes to charging, you can either use the 90-degree USB-C cable that’s included with the speaker or purchase the optional wireless charging base.

Power saving feature not so smart

Sonos claims it has smart power-saving features that mean it will stay in standby mode for up to 10 days. I wasn’t really seeing that. If I forgot to power it down, it died on me in about 2 days. Searching online for a solution I saw others are having this issue too.

Who is Sonos Roam for?

The Sonos Roam is perfect for anyone looking for a compact portable speaker that has amazing sound quality. Its durability, and  lightweight design make it particularly suited for accompanying you on an adventure into the wild, whether it’s a hike, outdoor yoga session or a camping trip. With its shorter battery life and the fact it will sink like a stone, there are some limitations with its use; you’ll want to have a power-up option handy and keep it far from deep water.

sonos roam, speaker, review, what, how, sound, portable, Deciding between Sonos Roam and Move speakers

If you’re trying to decide between the Sonos Roam, Move or One, it’s important to know you’re deciding between three very different products.

While the Roam and the One are more affordable, costing $169USD and $199 respectively, the One is not portable, requiring a dedicated AC connection at all times.

The Move, coming in at around $399, weighs 7lbs compared to the 1lb weight of the Roam, and Move has an IPX56 rating, meaning its splash-proof but not completely water-resistant like Roam. Its larger size also means it’s a more powerful unit.

Basically, the Move is a great portable speaker for moving around the house or garden while Roam is more suited to travels further afield. The One is for staying in the house.

sonos roam, speaker, review, what, how, sound, portable, Overall review: Sonos Roam portable speaker

Overall, it’s nice Sonos has been listening to its customers who’ve been asking for a great sounding portable unit that can safely leave the home, and Sonos has checked many of the boxes for a portable speaker.

While the sound quality is great and it’s super portable and compact –not to mention it’s really waterproof, it does have some significant plusses. But it’s not without its downsides: mainly that it doesn’t float, and the battery life is on the lower side

Bottom line, if you’re insisting on a Sonos speaker, Roam is your best choice for a portable option. If you’re not brand-loyal, you can probably find other great sounding speakers, with longer battery life, that float and may be more durable.

Sonos Roam sells for about $229CAD $169USD and is available from Sonos, Amazon and other retailers.

*A note about Affiliate Links: Occasionally I will include affiliate links in my reviews. I do this partly for convenience of the reader (since I’ll almost always include a link to the company website or similar anyway) in case you want to read more or purchase but I also may get a small commission from the click, which helps me keep the blog running. If you chose to use this link I thank you greatly for supporting the blog. There’s no obligation or cost to you for using this link.

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