The second portable speaker from the American manufacturer the Sonos Roam offers a much more compact and therefore more easily transportable solution than the Sonos Move. Like its predecessor, the Sonos Roam offers dual Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity with the integration of the many features of other Sonos speakers: multi-room connectivity, online music services, DLNA playback, AirPlay 2, voice assistants, etc. With both USB and battery power and a 10-hour battery life, is this €179 Sonos speaker the best solution for combining portable and home listening in a single device?
Sonos Roam: the brand
American manufacturer Sonos is a pioneer and leader of multi-room audio. With its wireless speakers and amplifiers, it allows music lovers to easily stream any song in their home and in any room of the house. The major advantage of Sonos systems lies in the use of an ultra-comprehensive control app that has been perfected over the years to offer intuitive management, as well as access to numerous online music services such as Deezer, Spotify, Qobuz, Tidal, Google Play Music, but also to several thousand Internet radio stations. After being confined to the four walls of the home for many years, Sonos broke free in 2019 by releasing its first WiFi and Bluetooth compatible portable speaker: the Sonos Move (read our review of the Sonos Move). The Sonos Roam incorporates this versatility, but in a more compact format than ever, primarily designed for portable use.
Sonos Roam: packaging & accessories
The Sonos Roam portable Bluetooth speaker comes in a rather small recycled cardboard box: about 21cm high, 9cm wide and 10cm deep. This means it fits easily into any mailbox. After removing the two tabs sealing the packaging, the top part of the box is removed to reveal the speaker, wrapped in a microfiber cloth, similar to the one used to wrap the other speakers of the brand. Accessories are tucked underneath the Sonos Roam and consist of an angled USB-A to USB-C cable and a quick start guide.
Sonos Roam: presentation
Design & ergonomics
In late 2019, Sonos made its first move outside the home, with the Sonos Move Bluetooth and WiFi speaker that could be used both connected to the mains and with battery power. As we pointed out in the review, the Move was actually designed to be carried from room to room in the house or onto the patio. For transport over longer distances, its weight of 3kg quickly made it cumbersome, unless you used a backpack. The new Sonos Roam solves this problem by offering an undeniably more compact and lighter format: 17cm long for a height and width of about 6cm, and a weight of 430g. This format is therefore much more coherent with portable use outside the home.
With its streamlined design, the Sonos Roam looks a lot like the emblematic Sony SRS-XB33, Sony SRS-XB43, Cabasse Swell and JBL Flip 5 speakers. However, the Sonos Roam has a triangular shape with rounded corners for a better grip. It fits perfectly in the palm of your hand and stays put thanks to its non-slip polymer coating. Even with small hands and while running, the Sonos Roam won’t drop out of your hand or feel uncomfortable.
The chassis of the Sonos Roam portable speaker is made entirely of a variety of polymer materials. The front is covered with an acoustic grille that extends to the edges of the top and bottom of the speaker. The sides are covered with thick rubber to protect the speaker in case it is dropped. The different materials are precisely assembled and give the speaker a nice robustness. As a result, we didn’t notice any signs of weakness during our test.
The robustness of the Sonos Roam speaker is confirmed by its IP67 certification, which guarantees that the speaker is waterproof and dustproof. The Sonos Roam can withstand 30 minutes of immersion under 1 meter of water. It can be used safely in a bathroom or by the pool and follow you to the beach or on a hike where its compact and light format is very useful.
10h battery life
The Sonos Roam Bluetooth speaker features an 18W rechargeable battery for up to 10 hours of Bluetooth use. Sonos’ obsession with making its speakers easy to use extends to the Roam’s charging system. The Sonos Roam can be easily recharged by standing it on a QI-certified wireless charger like the Anker PowerCore Wireless 10K or the dedicated Sonos charger (not included). It doesn’t get any faster or more intuitive than this! In the absence of a wireless charger, the Sonos Roam’s battery can be powered by the included USB-A to USB-C cable. Just plug it into any AC adapter, computer USB port, or even a portable battery, as long as it’s capable of supplying 3A. It is therefore possible to easily extend its autonomy, even in the wilderness or in the garden.
For the second time, Sonos designed a speaker capable of working in both Bluetooth and WiFi modes. This makes it possible to play music from a smartphone, tablet or DAP without being limited to the area covered by the home WiFi network. Bluetooth pairing is done by pressing the power button for a few seconds. However, you have to be careful not to press the button too quickly, otherwise the speaker goes into standby mode, or for too long, which may turn it off. After a few tries, we manage to activate the pairing mode, which is confirmed by a sound and the flashing blue LED on the front. You then have to pair the speaker via the Bluetooth settings of the smartphone.
Unlike the Sonos Move, which favors WiFi, the Sonos Roam doesn’t have a preference. This means that you no longer have to manually switch the speaker to Bluetooth mode every time you want to take advantage of this connection mode. It’s much more intuitive and you can switch from WiFi to Bluetooth in seconds, without having to turn the speaker off.
WiFi & streaming
When the Sonos Roam speaker is connected to the home WiFi network, it has the same functionality as other Sonos speakers. It can play all the music shared on the local network, as well as tracks on the user’s smartphone or tablet. Thousands of Internet radio stations are also accessible from the TuneIn interface integrated into the Sonos app, as well as many online music services such as Deezer, Spotify Connect, Qobuz, Tidal and Amazon Prime Music, for example.
The Sonos Roam speaker’s WiFi connection also means it can be paired with multiple Sonos or AirPlay 2 compatible devices. It is thus possible to enjoy the same music in different rooms of the house or to create a stereo pair with a second Sonos Roam speaker. During this test, we tried a multi-room listening session with a Sonos One placed in another room. Playback was immediate and no lag was noticeable from one room to the next.
Multi-room connectivity is managed in the excellent Sonos app from which you can set up speaker groups, pair or unpair multiple devices, and adjust the volume of each speaker independently. We also tested AirPlay 2 multi-room with the Sonos One, a Marantz AV receiver and two LG TVs. Once again, streaming is instantaneous and without lag. The management is done directly from the audio settings of the iPhone or Mac.
Finally, another advantage of this Sonos Roam speaker is the ability to use its Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity simultaneously. It is therefore possible to stream across the Sonos multi-room network (WiFi) from a source paired to the Roam via Bluetooth. A small feat that the Sonos Move and competing models are unable to do!
Still with the aim of simplifying its use, the Sonos Roam portable wireless speaker can be controlled easily thanks to the integration of Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. Using this Sonos speaker becomes incredibly simple. All you have to do is ask it to start a playlist, change tracks, adjust the volume, etc., and the speaker will respond. It is also possible to control the various connected objects in the house.
During our various tests using Google Assistant, the Sonos Roam wireless speaker always heard and executed our requests to play the music, even when placed at the other end of the room. During playback, it also heard our requests to change the track or adjust the volume, as long as the sound was not excessively loud. However, as soon as the volume exceeds 25%, it becomes necessary to raise your voice for the assistant to be activated. A tone then sounds to indicate that the assistant is waiting to hear your request. Fortunately, activating the assistant mutes the music, thus avoiding the need to raise your voice any longer.
Acoustic design and calibration
Underneath its sturdy exterior, the Sonos Roam incorporates two Class H digital amplifiers to drive a midrange/low frequency driver and a tweeter. To optimize driver performance, the Sonos Roam wireless speaker features the Auto TruePlay calibration system pioneered in the Sonos Play:5 and refined in the Sonos Move. It uses the speaker’s microphone to take measurements and adjust the Roam’s playback according to the acoustic characteristics of the environment in which it is located. This calibration works in perfect tandem with an accelerometer to detect when the Sonos Roam is being moved and automatically adjust playback, without any intervention from the user. For more custom adjustments, you can manually change the bass and treble levels from the Sonos app. However, this is only accessible when the speaker is used in WiFi mode, even if the assigned settings have been saved.
Sonos Roam: key specs
- WiFi 802.11b/g/n/ac Dual Band (2.4 GHz/5 GHz)
- Bluetooth 5.0
- AirPlay 2
- Control interface on the speaker (buttons): volume +/-, play/pause, next/previous track
- Control app for smartphone and tablet
- Voice control via Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa (microphone can be deactivated)
- Compatible with the Sonos multi-room system
- Ability to pair two Sonos Roam speakers to stream sound in stereo (WiFi only)
- Dimensions (HxWxD): 168 x 62 x 60mm
- Weight: 430g
Sonos Roam: setup
As with all the American brand’s systems, setting up the Sonos Roam speaker is very simple. However, despite the fact that the speaker is also Bluetooth-enabled, a WiFi connection is still required for the initial setup. This is done in a few minutes via the Sonos application for iOS and Android, which guides us step by step. After creating a Sonos account and turning on the Sonos Roam, the app automatically detects the speaker and the configuration begins. This can be done in two ways. The quickest way is to press the smartphone against the bottom of the speaker so that the WiFi network data is transmitted. The second, a little longer but just as simple, allows you to manually define the WiFi network to use and its password. Finally, it may be necessary to update the speaker before continuing.
Once the Sonos Roam speaker is connected to WiFi and updated, you’ll be taken to the Sonos Controller app interface. From here, you can customize the speaker’s playback, associate your different online music services, and also activate voice assistants if you want to benefit from these features. In our case, we activated Google Assistant. The latter is configured automatically, provided you have a Google Assistant account already set up on your smartphone. If this is not the case, you must install the Google Home application to finalize the configuration. Of course, you can disable the microphones of the voice assistant at any time to preserve your privacy.
Sonos Roam: listening impressions
The Sonos Roam portable speaker offered a pleasant and engaging listening experience. Like the other models of the brand, the Sonos Roam has a tendency to highlight the lows, with a restitution that was a little more centered on this frequency range. The bass was dynamic, generous and surprisingly hefty for a speaker of this size. Naturally, the lows weren’t abyssal, but they were punchy enough to give the music some substance and impact. This bass was further accentuated when the loudness mode was activated and the Sonos Roam was only a few meters away from us. The horizontal positioning of the speaker also had the effect of reinforcing this frequency range by exploiting the stand as a sound box. The Sonos Roam is therefore well suited to being placed at the end of the dining table or on the coffee table in the living room.
Whether indoors or out in the garden, the Sonos Roam has enough power reserve to set the mood for dinner with friends or a day by the pool. The diffusion was quite uniform and the soundstage widened when the speaker was placed horizontally. Of course, when the Sonos Roam is used alone, its spatialization can’t compete with a traditional system composed of two separate speakers. But that isn’t what this speaker was designed for. Consequently, the result was monophonic and the different effects were concentrated at the center of the speaker. However, the overall sound remained coherent and the voices stood out clearly from the instruments.
Despite its monophonic performance, the Sonos Roam speaker is moderately directive and one can enjoy a pleasant listening experience without being exactly in front of it. This quality is maintained for about 180° around the front of the speaker. This is the position that allows the Sonos Roam to offer the most balanced and convincing performance. Beyond that, some information is lost in the highs and mids. This is not a huge problem for ambient sound, if you have no choice but to seat a few friends behind the speaker, but it becomes more annoying when you want to fully appreciate the music.
Sonos Roam vs Sonos One
With both these Sonos speakers, the soundstage features emphasized bass. The lows are deeper and even more powerful with the Sonos One, whose greater internal volume gives this frequency range more space to freely express itself. The Sonos One also benefits from a little more information in the lower midrange, a register that can sometimes be obscured by the bass with the Sonos Roam. On the other hand, the Sonos One is less versatile, as it is limited by its exclusively WiFi transmission and its mains power supply. This makes it impossible to carry it from room to room in the house or out into the garden without access to a power outlet. However, for home use over a WiFi network, it offers the exact same functionalities and can be controlled from the same Sonos app or vocally with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. The microphones are more sensitive than those of the Sonos Roam, however, and you don’t have to raise your voice excessively for the assistant to pick up your request when music is playing.
Sonos Roam vs Sonos Move
Unquestionably the most imposing speaker, the Sonos Move wins when it comes to bass depth and generosity. The sound is physiological and the lows pack a punch. Power handling is a little better on the Move, which makes it easier to adapt to a very large living room or to liven up even the most eventful parties. This larger format, which benefits the sound reproduction, becomes more restrictive when the speaker has to be transported. Despite the built-in ergonomic handle, its three-kilogram weight quickly proves cumbersome for occasional trips outside the home. It is more suited to being carried from room to room in the house or into the garden, while the Sonos Roam can be taken anywhere you go. Other than that, the functions are strictly the same, with Bluetooth and WiFi streaming, as well as control via the Sonos app or vocally through Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.
Sonos Roam: who is it for?
The Sonos Roam speaker is for adventurers looking for a compact, lightweight speaker they can take on any journey. The rugged chassis and IP67 rating ensure long-lasting use and allow you to enjoy your music on the beach, by the river or by the pool. Bluetooth connectivity makes it easy to stream music outdoors from any device, while WiFi expands the possibilities of the Sonos Roam speaker when at home. This makes it the perfect all-in-one solution for a user who wants both a wireless speaker that’s full of features for the home and a portable Bluetooth speaker for enjoying music with friends outdoors.
Sonos Roam: conclusion
For its second portable speaker, the American manufacturer offers a model that is truly tailored for mobile use. With its small size and ergonomic grip, the Sonos Roam is a pleasure to carry from one room to another inside the house and on all our outdoor trips. Using the speaker is just as pleasant and intuitive, especially when it is used in WiFi mode and controlled by the excellent Sonos application or, even better, vocally. Bluetooth is also useful for entertaining in the garden or at a friend’s house. These are all arguments in favor of the Sonos Roam that have convinced us to name it the best all-round speaker for home and mobile use.
- The compact and ergonomic format
- The dual WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity
- The ease of use
- The fully functional Sonos app
- The powerful lows
We would have liked
- A functional app in Bluetooth mode