Sonos is one of those ecosystems that tend to mysteriously replicate throughout your house.
Once you find your way to the first Sonos speaker, it’s such a great experience, in sound performance and functionality, that you want it everywhere. Sonos is renowned for making great sounding audio hardware with loads of technology built-in, combined with a great mobile experience.
After recently learning of their latest offering, a portable speaker called the Sonos Roam, I was keen to get hands-on for a full review.
The Roam features a familiar external styling to their other portable speaker, but while the Move is designed to be moved out to the alfresco for an outdoor party, the Roam is designed to be thrown in your backpack and taken with you wherever you go. If the Move is a portable speaker, the Roam is an ultra-portable, offering a small and light design that still has enough battery (up to 10hrs) to keep you entertained for hours.
The Roam is also the cheapest speaker you can buy from Sonos, a nice gateway drug to introduce you to the Sonos ecosystem, helping you understand why Sonos are so widely loved. For me the software experience is just so well executed, you get to spend a lot less mental energy to go from having the thought to play music on the speaker you’re looking at, to actually making that happen. This has been further accelerated by the speaker offering support for voice assistants Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, making music playback just a few words away.
If you do have Sonos Roam at home, you can add it to the array of Sonos speakers in your home and include it as an output for ‘party mode’ which can play the same audio to all Sonos speakers throughout your house.
After spending a little over a week with the Roam, it’s time to run you through what it’s like to live with.
Small, powerful, simple.
The triangle design of the Roam was strange at first, particularly for anyone who’s dealt with a UE Boom that comes in a cylinder shape. What the triangle form factor does, is allow the device to sit flat on a surface, ensuring it’s not at risk of rolling away. It also focuses the sound in one direction, which can actually be really beneficial if you’d like avoid annoying the neighbours in all directions.
The bottom of the Roam features 4 rubber feed that help avoid rattles as the sound resonates from the speaker. If you’d prefer, you can also stand the speaker When vertically, which gives the Roam a minimal footprint, and if you have a need to place it in the corner of the kitchen bench, the rounded triangular shape helps it tuck neatly away, particularly useful in smaller appartments.
With ultra-portability in mind, it’s important the Roam is able to cope with being transported around the world. Thanks to a IP67 rating, you can be confident that a small drop, or splash from a sprinkler, isn’t going to hurt it. If you happen to live in, or take the Roam to a dusty environment, say your next camping trip, it’s also great to know the Roam is impervious to dust.
Overall the design of the roam is efficient, tucking speakers and technology into a small, elegant package.
How does it perform ?
The Sonos Roam delivers its sound using 2 Class-H digital amplifiers, one tweeter to create crisp high-frequency sounds and one mid-woofer to faithfully reproduce mid-range frequencies. This combination of speakers, housed behind a speaker grill, fires audio primarily in one direction.
While the Sonos Roam stacks up well against similar-sized and priced competitors, there is room for improvements in the low-end. We’ve seen other speakers leverage downward-facing speakers to resonate bass off the surface its sitting on and I’d love to see Sonos add this to version 2 of the Roam.
The far-field microphone array included in the Roam, allows you to easily yell commands at it from across the room, or across the campfire, to change the volume, change tracks or return questions from the web, thanks to Alexa and Google Assistant support. As with most other dual-platform devices, you can only enable one at a time, despite having different wake words, but I was generally impressed by the distance at which you can bark commands at it.
While the Roam is small in size, it doesn’t mean you loose some of the more advanced features like automatic Trueplay tuning. This adapts the sound output to the environment the speaker is placed in.
We don’t often think about the compute capabilities of smart spearkers, but to achieve the experiences that sometimes feel magic, they essentially contain a small computer. In the case of the Sonos Roam, it contains a Quad Core CPU, 1.4 GHz A-53 processor, with 1GB SDRAM. This helps the device respond quickly to any commands you feed it.
Stand out features of this device.
The Roam has a decent set of features, and considering the very limited set of hardware buttons, most of these features come via the Sonos software.
You can use the app to browse and search across all your services, save favourites, set alarms, and discover new music on Sonos Radio.
If you want to leverage the voice assistant, you can get help from Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. A majority of the time, you’ll use this to start playing music or your favourite podcast, but you can also ask it to let you know the weather, the latest news, sports scores or control your smart home devices.
When it comes to playing with other devices, the Sonos ecosystem allows you to send sound directly from your iPhone, iPad, or Mac to Sonos using AirPlay 2. This enables you to use Siri (on your device) to control the Roam for common features like play/pause or adjusting the volume.
If you are in physical proximity to the Roam, you can press the buttons located on one end of the Roam. These allow you to play/pause playback, adjust the volume, skip, replay and for those privacy concerned, even turn off the microphones.
Wireless charging is a must have for phones, but I’ve never expected that of my speakers. Thankfully Sonos is pushing the boundaries here with included Qi support, enabling you to charge on any Qi-certified charger. While you could use a standard USB-C cable, the wireless option really speaks to me. While I wish I could have experienced it in a meaningful way, the only wireless chargers i have are vertical ones for my phone, in my car and on the bedside table.
Sonos have a dedicated accessory for the Roam that matches the triangular shape of the speaker, ,make charging drop and go experience.
Not everything’s perfect
The power button is ridiculous. While Sonos usually does button design exceptionally well, they really have made a strange choice with the power button here. It’s almost flush with the surface of the speaker body, which means finding it really requires your complete focus, rather than reaching into a bag and just feeling for it.
When you want to turn the speaker off, it’s a whole 5 second push to perform that function, something you’ll do hundreds of time during its life. I understand on a portable device like this, you need to avoid accidental inputs, but a whole 5 seconds is seriously excessive. Honestly 1 second press and hold would surely achieve the desired outcome, without inconveniencing the user.
I really hope the duration of the power button could be updated in a new firmware update, but the hardware button is here to stay.
PRICE & AVAILABILITY
How much and when can you get one ?
The Sonos Roam is available now directly from Sonos.com, in both black and white colour options. It costs A$279 which is one of the most affordable ways to get some Sonos hardware in your life.
There is also a Sonos Roam Wireless charger available for A$79 which also comes in black or white to match. This allows you to simply place the Roam on the dock and have it wirelessly recharge, just like your toothbrush, making it super convenient for those using it daily.
The Sonos Roam is the cheapest Sonos product to date and is a great way to dip your toe into the Sonos ecosystem, without going all-in on a Sonos Arc, Sub and surrounds.
I love that the Roam still includes the voice assistant support, but obviously this relies on the internet, so be prepared to setup a hostpot on your phone if you want to use when out and about.
The size and weight are great, making it ultra-portable and still offers very decent audio. It does lack the wow of the home theatre options, but that’s probably unfair to expect in such an efficient body.
Considering the design, features and audio, the Roam is really well priced for what’s on offer. While the UE Boom 3 could be yours for less money, I think those that pony up the extra dollars won’t regret it. The easy at which you can control Sonos speakers through their killer mobile app is worth the stretch.
If you’re like me and have a number of other Sonos speakers, this feels like an incredibly natural extension to your speaker collection and lets you take the Sonos you know and love, with you when you leave the house.