Sonos Roam review: Portable perfection

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(Pocket-lint) – Sonos Roam is the second portable Bluetooth speaker in the company’s portfolio, but really it’s the first when talking portability – because the Sonos Move isn’t all that portable by comparison.

A Bluetooth speaker by day, Sonos speaker by night, or vice versa, the Sonos Roam is very portable, very smart and has some excellent features on board. It’s more expensive than your average Bluetooth speaker, but then it isn’t your average Bluetooth speaker.

So should you buy the Sonos Roam? Yes. Why? Let us explain.

Design

  • Dimensions: 168 x 62 x 60mm / Weight: 430g
  • Finish options: Shadow Black, Lunar White
  • IP67 water- and dust- resistant
  • Triangular prism design

The Sonos Roam is a triangular prism shape, which is surprisingly great for carrying around. Its curved edges are smooth and comfortable to hold, while the soft-touch finish, super-light weight and rubbered ends make it feel durable and more than capable of withstanding a knock and tumble.

It can also handle a dunk. Falling into the Ultimate Ears Boom 3 and Megaboom 3 category – both of which are waterproof – the Roam is IP67 rated for dust and water. That means you can submerge Roam in up to 3ft of water for 30 minutes. Like Sonos Move, sand and dust are no match for Roam either, and though we didn’t dare try – Roam should also be able to withstand drops too.

The Roam is pretty much the same size as a 500ml water bottle – and significantly more portable and lighter than Move. It’s also smaller than competitors like the UE Boom 3.

As Sonos users would expect, Roam follows similar design traits to the rest of the Sonos portfolio. That means controls up top, very small holes making up the plastic speaker grille for a clean look, and black or white colour options. We had the Lunar White model in for review and while we’d love to see some special edition colours at some point – like Sonos offered with its limited edition Sonos One Hay collection – the off-white option is still lovely looking.

It’s worth mentioning that the Roam does deter slightly from Sonos’ more recent speakers in that it offers raised tactile controls rather than capacitive ones. There’s a play/pause button, volume increase and decrease buttons, and a microphone on/off button as usual – but the symbols are embossed on the rubber finish. It’s also worth noting that this finish – while really lovely to the touch – does seem to dent, so press the buttons with fingers not nails.

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The Sonos Roam can be positioned horizontally or vertically – just like the Sonos Five. There’s one power/Bluetooth button on one edge next to the USB-C port and there are also four small circular, rubber feet to help the Roam sit properly when positioned horizontally.

Features

  • Google Assistant/Amazon Alexa
  • Automatic Trueplay
  • Sound Swap

The Sonos Roam will function as any other Bluetooth speaker when in Bluetooth mode – with a few extras. When connected via Wi-Fi though – which it will switch to automatically – it has all the features that come with other speakers in the Sonos system, which is the main thing that sets it apart from other Bluetooth-only speakers. 

Sonos system features include support for over 100 music services, easy grouping, stereo pairing and control through voice assistants like Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, among plenty of other features like equaliser (EQ) adjustment. Like the Sonos Move, however, the Roam cannot be used as surrounds with the Sonos Arc or Sonos Beam, and it can’t be bonded with the Sonos Sub either.

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The Roam does have an additional feature over other Sonos speakers: Sound Swap. This allows users to bring a Sonos speaker into an existing group by pressing-and-holding the play/pause button on top of the speaker you want to add to the group.

Bring it into a group with other Sonos speakers already playing, or by continuing to hold the button (for around five seconds in total) it will transfer the music on the Roam to your nearest Sonos speaker. This is done using an ultrasonic frequency, with the strongest signal determining the closest speaker. You can read more about Sound Swap in our separate feature. 

It’s an excellent addition – one that’s really useful when you’re bringing Roam in from the garden and want to continue what you’re listening to in your living room, for example.

Other features on Sonos Roam include both Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa support – although you’ll have to choose between them rather than use both at the same time, which is the case for other smart Sonos speakers. We use Google Assistant in our home and Roam delivered as we’d expect, turning our lights off when requested and answering questions and responding efficiently. 

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An LED light on top of the Roam above the microphone icon lets you know when Roam is listening. There’s another LED above the Sonos logo to indicate power, as well as Bluetooth pairing mode. At the bottom of the speaker – when it’s vertically positioned – an orange LED light appears when the battery is low.

Roam also offers Auto Trueplay tuning – just like the Move – to automatically tune its sound to its surroundings. It uses spatial awareness to adjust the sound for the speaker’s orientation, location, and content. Auto Trueplay tuning has been improved to work over both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. You can read more about Auto Trueplay in our separate feature.

Hardware and specs

  • Bluetooth 5.0, Wi-Fi (802.11ac), AirPlay 2
  • 10-hour battery claimed

The Sonos Roam can automatically switch between Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connections – there’s a button to switch between the two modes so the Roam delivers a seamless experience when moving in and out of your home. There’s also AirPlay 2 support.

There’s a rechargeable battery under the Roam’s hood, which is recharged using the USB Type-C port, or via a Qi compatible wireless charging dock. Sonos has its own official wireless charging dock available to purchase separately, which the Roam will magnetically snap onto. Otherwise, a USB-C cable is included in the box – but not the power adapter itself.

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The battery is said to last 10 hours – one hour less than the Move – or 10 days when in sleep mode. This is a slight over estimation in our experience though. We got around eight-and-a-half hours from the battery when the volume was set to 50 per cent, though this is still pretty good going considering the Roam’s size.

When the music stops playing the Roam goes into sleep mode automatically – but it only takes around a second to wake it back up using the multi-functional power button positioned on the back of the device. We have a separate feature on how to put Roam into Bluetooth pairing mode.

Sound quality and performance

  • Two class-H amplifiers
  • Custom racetrack mid-woofer
  • Single tweeter

Under the hood of the Sonos Roam are two amplifiers tuned to the speaker’s acoustic architecture, along with a single tweeter for the high-end, a mid-woofer for everything else, along with a high-efficiency motor to increase power and range.

There’s also a far-field microphone array that uses beamforming and multi-channel echo cancellation in order to best hear your voice-based commands.

Pocket-lintSonos Roam review photo 19

What all this means is the Sonos Roam sounds incredible for its size. As is typically the case with Sonos speakers, it’s on the bassy side, but we love that about it and if you don’t then you can always adjust the EQ in the Sonos app to suit your preference.

Roam has some serious punch for how small it is too – more than filling a decent sized room or smaller garden with sound, even at 50 per cent volume. Of course it doesn’t match the Sonos Move for output clout, but if you’re choosing between the Sonos One and Sonos Roam, the latter gives the former a good run for its money in terms of sound, while also offering smarter features.

We listened to a range of tracks in testing, from The Eagle’s Hotel California and Massive Attack’s Teardrop, to Pink Floyd’s Time and Laura Marling’s Soothing – just some examples – and we were continually impressed with the Roam’s capabilities during testing. 

Vocals and acoustics sound great; the speaker delivers rich bass, while also handling treble well. As far as small Bluetooth speakers go the Roam more than delivers on the sound quality front.

Verdict

The Sonos Roam is a little pricey when compared to other Bluetooth speakers, but in the same breath it does a lot more than most Bluetooth speakers.

Its portable and lightweight design is met with excellent sound performance, plus all the features that come with the Sonos system, a choice of smart assistants, along with extra – and great – features like Sound Swap to seamlessly switch between other Sonos speakers and groups.

For those already invested in Sonos, the Roam is a no-brainer as an addition. It allows you to bring your Sonos system with you wherever you go, without you having to think.

For those considering a Bluetooth speaker and wondering if the Roam is worth the investment over others – it delivers everything a Bluetooth speaker should, plus so much more.

Also consider

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Ultimate Ears Boom 3

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This cylindrical speaker is IP67-rated for water- and dust-resistance just like the Roam, plus it delivers great sound for its size – and through 360 degrees. It’s cheaper than Roam, but it doesn’t offer as many connected features.

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JBL Xtreme 2

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If you want loud and crisp sound, plus impressive bass, the JBL could be for you. Again, however, it doesn’t have as many features as the Roam, but it’s a great party speaker that comes with a practical carry handle too.

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Sonos Move

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The larger Sonos has many of the same features as the Roam but delivers much bigger sound in a not-as-portable design.

Writing by Britta O’Boyle. Editing by Mike Lowe.





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