Sonos Roam review: Take the exceptional Sonos sound anywhere

Sonos Roam review: Take the exceptional Sonos sound anywhere

It’s become de rigueur to call the Sonos Move a luggable speaker rather than a portable one. Tipping the scales at six pounds, the Move delivers big, bold, yet refined sound that you can take to the backyard, the park, or even the beach, but it’s a hefty, bulky smart speaker better suited to the trunk of a car than the confines of a backpack.

With the compact, lightweight Roam, Sonos is aiming for a speaker that you’d cheerfully toss into a purse or a knapsack, but without compromising—well, not too much—on audio quality. Has Sonos delivered on its promise? Let’s give it a listen.

This review is part of TechHive’s coverage of the best smart speakers, where you’ll find reviews of the competition’s offerings, plus a buyer’s guide to the features you should consider when shopping for this type of product.

Design

Measuring 6.1 x 2.4 x 2.4 inches (HxWxD) and weighing a hair less than a pound, the $169 Sonos Roam is about the same size as a 500ml water bottle, making it Sonos’s smallest speaker by far. Available in either shadow black or lunar white flavors (I tested the lunar white version), the Roam was a pleasure to tote around, fitting neatly in my hand and feeling impressively light but not insubstantial. On a recent jaunt to the park, I could barely feel the Roam in my shoulder bag, while the same couldn’t be said of the luggable five-pound Sonos Move.

sonos roam standing vertically Ben Patterson/IDG

Capable of standing vertically as well as resting on its side, the Sonos Roam makes for a great cook’s companion.

Thanks to its rounded triangular design, the Roam can sit in a variety of positions during playback. The speaker has four rubberized feet along one side for when it’s sitting horizontally on a smooth tabletop, but it can also remain stable laying on the other side—and since “Sonos” is a palindrome, the logo never looks upside down. Another option is to place it vertically on its (also rubberized) end cap, which came in handy when using the Roam on a crowded backyard table.

Not only is the Roam versatile in terms of how you can place it, but it’s also tough. Equipped with an IP67-certified shell, the Roam has been designed to withstand being dunked in up to a meter of water for 30 minutes, and it’s also completely resistant to dust ingress. Sonos encouraged me to put the Roam’s ruggedized design to the test, so I went ahead and held it under a faucet and then submerged it in a bowl of water, while the speaker was still playing. As promised, the Roam didn’t skip a beat, although it took a little time for its speaker grille to completely dry.

Buttons and interfaces

While one of the Roam’s rubberized end caps serves as a base, the other holds four buttons: two for volume control, a play/pause button, and a mic mute button. Unlike Sonos’s other speakers, the Roam’s buttons are both tactile and clickable rather than flat and touch-enabled. Sonos said it went the tactile way to prevent accidental button presses when (for instance) the Roam is floating around in a backpack, or in case you decide to toss the Roam on a picnic blanket.

sonos roam top buttons Ben Patterson/IDG

Unlike Sonos’s previous speakers, the buttons on the Roam are both tactile and clickable.

The Roam’s play/pause button can perform a variety of functions. For example, you can double-press the button to skip a track, or triple-press it to go back to the previous tracks. Long-pressing the play/pause button also lets you group the Roam with other Sonos speakers, as well as trigger the new Sound Swap feature, which I’ll cover a little later.

On the back of the Roam are a USB-C charging port (you can also charge the Roam via Qi wireless charging, as I’ll also discuss later) and a power button. Pressing the button once puts the Roam in a power-save mode that helps the battery to keep its charge for up to 10 days, or you can press and hold the button for five seconds to turn the speaker off completely. The Roam will also go into its low-power “sleep” mode after about a half hour or so if it’s not playing music while running on battery power.

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