Sonos Roam review: The right speaker at the right price

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Until 2019, Sonos solely made audio system that lived on cabinets or tabletops, tethered to an outlet. That modified 18 months in the past with the Move, a loud, rugged and theoretically transportable speaker you possibly can tote round the home or carry out to the yard. It sounds nice, can survive a rainstorm or sub-zero temperatures, and lasts 11 hours earlier than needing to be charged. But a number of issues preserve it from being an easy advice: it prices $400 and is simply too large to only throw in a bag and take with you anyplace.

Enter the Sonos Roam, a slim, gentle, $170 speaker that competes instantly with Bluetooth-enabled gadgets like the Ultimate Ears Boom and Megaboom choices. Despite its small measurement and decrease price tag, although, the Roam has much more options on board than the common Bluetooth speaker. And which may make it attractive — particularly when you already personal different Sonos gadgets.

Pros

  • Great audio high quality
  • Sounds even higher in a stereo pair
  • Extremely transportable
  • Has all the advantages of Sonos’ bigger audio system
  • Durable and waterproof

Cons

  • Battery life is simply common
  • Not the loudest transportable speaker on the market

Gallery: Sonos Roam evaluation images | 12 Photos

Gallery: Sonos Roam evaluation images | 12 Photos

Hardware

Nathan Ingraham / Engadget

I anticipated the Roam to be small, however I used to be nonetheless struck by simply how tiny it feels. The triangular speaker is simply over six and a half inches tall and weighs lower than a pound. If Sonos needed to make one thing that individuals might take anyplace with out occupied with it, they succeeded. I’ve introduced it throughout the home in addition to out (on the few events I’ve been capable of depart the home currently, anyway).

Like most Sonos audio system, the Roam is primarily product of a tough plastic, with an intricately-drilled entrance grille and rubberized caps on the high and backside. The high has buttons for quantity up and down, play / pause and muting the microphone. Unlike different current Sonos audio system, these are bodily buttons fairly than contact surfaces, one thing the company says it did to keep away from unintended presses. They’re clicky and responsive, and I agree that having bodily buttons make sense for one thing you’ll transfer round lots or throw in a bag.

Sonos Roam portable speaker

Nathan Ingraham / Engadget

There aren’t numerous different notable bodily traits other than 4 “nubs” that allow you know the way to put the speaker down if you wish to position it horizontally. I discovered myself principally defaulting to the speaker’s vertical position as a result of it’s simpler to entry the buttons that method. But when you choose horizontal, the speaker is sensible sufficient to regulate its audio output accordingly. The speaker additionally has three LED lights: The high exhibits whether or not the microphone is lively or not, whereas the one close to the Sonos brand is white when linked to WiFi and blue once you’re utilizing Bluetooth. There’s additionally one close to the backside that glows orange once you plug the Roam in to cost, or when the battery is under 10 %.

While the Roam has a USB-C port, it additionally helps wi-fi charging. You can stand it up on any Qi-compatible wi-fi charger or shell out $50 for Sonos’ personal magnetic charging dock. I didn’t get to attempt it, however I positively like the concept of with the ability to simply decide it up and go with out messing with cords. I do want that it was included in the field, like the Move’s wi-fi charging dock, nevertheless it’s not an enormous shock given the Roam’s decrease price level.

The Roam is supposed for use on the go; as such, the speaker is ready to stand up to some abuse. It’s rated IP67, which implies it may be submerged in as much as three ft of water for as much as half-hour. It’s additionally drop- and dust-resistant. When Sonos launched the Move, they made a giant deal displaying off the abuse it might stand up to. We weren’t capable of get an in-person demo this time, however I did stick the speaker in a bucket of water, and saved right on taking part in. I additionally tossed it throughout the room a number of instances — not with full abandon, however with sufficient drive that I didn’t really feel terribly comfy. The Roam saved right on taking part in, making me assured it ought to deal with drops and falls from average heights with out subject.

Setup

Sonos Roam portable speaker

Nathan Ingraham / Engadget

If you’ve ever used a Sonos speaker earlier than, the set-up course of gained’t throw you — simply plug it in, open the cellular app and take it from there. It solely took a couple of minutes to get the Roam hooked as much as my WiFi community and able to stream. After the speaker is linked, you possibly can regulate EQ settings and Auto Trueplay, which lets the Roam use its built-in microphones to regulate sound output each time you progress it. You also can add both Google Assistant or Alexa to the speaker, relying in your desire.

Once the Roam is about up on WiFi, it really works similar to every other Sonos speaker. This means you possibly can group a number of audio system collectively, stream audio from dozens of providers, use AirPlay 2 or Spotify Connect, and use a voice assistant to regulate playback. If you’ve got two Roams, you possibly can pair them collectively in stereo, as properly.

When you wish to take the Roam on the go, holding down the button on the again activates Bluetooth mode. From then on, once you take the Roam away from its WiFi community, it’ll mechanically change to Bluetooth and hook up with your cellphone, making it slightly simpler to get straight to your music.

Sound

Sonos Roam portable speaker

Nathan Ingraham / Engadget

The pitch for the Roam is obvious: it’s a full-fledged Sonos system at house and a conveyable Bluetooth speaker you possibly can toss in your bag at a reasonably inexpensive price. Of course, none of this issues if the Roam doesn’t sound nice. Fortunately, it sounds significantly better than its tiny measurement ought to enable. The Roam consists of each a tweeter and a mid-woofer, fairly than only a single driver, and that helps it produce clear highs and mids in addition to extra of a bass thump than appears believable from a comparatively tiny speaker. It additionally doesn’t distort or get overly boomy at max quantity, a shock for such a small speaker. Audio high quality stays constant all through the quantity vary.

It’s additionally louder than I anticipated, however there are positively different choices that present extra quantity. When I paired two Roam audio system in stereo, they supplied a pleasant large soundstage and very clear playback. I used to be pleasantly shocked at simply how good they sounded when paired. But, the Roam’s sound isn’t practically as immersive as different Sonos audio system and its small measurement makes the audio really feel prefer it’s coming from a really particular level when utilizing one by itself.

It’s additionally not practically as loud as the different audio system in the Sonos lineup, nevertheless it’s greater than sufficient for a medium-sized room. If you wish to energy a bigger outside gathering, although, the a lot louder Move is a better option.

The Auto Trueplay characteristic is fairly refined, however helpful. I observed it most after I used the speaker whereas showering. Obviously the acoustics in a Bathroom are lots completely different than in my office, and after a couple of minutes I might inform the speaker was compensating. When I took the speaker out of the rest room into my bed room, the auto tuning once more rapidly tweaked the sound accordingly. Another cool factor about Auto Trueplay on the Roam is that it really works on Bluetooth mode; the Move required a WiFi connection for Trueplay.

Sonos guarantees ten hours of battery life from the Roam, although that’ll differ relying on issues like quantity and whether or not you’re utilizing a voice assistant. But that 10-hour estimate was right on for me — it lasted virtually precisely that lengthy in a number of assessments. When the speaker isn’t in use, it mechanically goes right into a low-power mode that considerably extends the speaker’s battery life. I’ve had one on standby for a number of days and it nonetheless has 82 % battery left. That mentioned, it’s price noting that Google Assistant actually saps the speaker’s battery life, even on standby. There was at least one time the place I left the Roam unplugged in a single day with the Assistant lively and the battery drained to zero in a single day. Sonos says {that a} software replace will repair this, however for now I turned off the Assistant in favor of higher battery life.

Ten hours needs to be loads of time for most individuals, nevertheless it’s a lot lower than audio system like the Ultimate Ears Megaboom, which is rated for 20 hours of playback. The Megaboom price $30 greater than the Roam, nevertheless it has related audio high quality and is lots louder. The Megaboom is lacking numerous options in comparison with the Roam, but when portability and loudness are your priorities, UE’s speaker hits these marks.

The competitors

Sonos Roam portable speaker

Nathan Ingraham / Engadget

Bluetooth audio system are a dime a dozen, however in order for you one thing providing related high quality to the Roam, the aforementioned Ultimate Ears lineup might be the place to look. UE’s Boom 3 ($150) and Megaboom 3 ($200) are Bluetooth-only audio system. So whereas they don’t have the identical characteristic set, the smaller Boom 3 has sound that’s fairly corresponding to the Roam. The Megaboom 3 is considerably louder than the Roam, which is sensible given it’s lots bigger. But quantity isn’t the solely factor in its favor, because it’s nearly as clear as the Roam with a commanding bass presence that isn’t overwhelming or too boomy. I’ve checked them each out lately, and for most individuals, it’s price spending an additional $50 for the Megaboom 3 over the smaller mannequin. It has as much as 20 hours of battery life and is considerably louder Boom 3.

Like the Roam, each UE audio system are rated IP67 for water and dirt resistance, and so they can float in water. Finally, it’s doable to group a number of UE audio system collectively for extra quantity and immersive sound. It’s not the identical as Sonos’ WiFi multi-room options, nevertheless it’s higher than nothing. If you don’t have already got Sonos gear and simply need a single do-anything speaker, the Megaboom 3 is an excellent possibility.

Wrap-up

Sonos Roam portable speaker

Nathan Ingraham / Engadget

If you have already got Sonos merchandise and need a transportable speaker, the $170 Roam is straightforward to suggest. It has all of the finest Sonos options and is tiny sufficient that I wish to take it with me wherever I’m. If you might be simply searching for a pure Bluetooth speaker and don’t care about the Roam’s particular options like Auto Trueplay or multi-room audio, one thing like the Megaboom may make extra sense. But the Roam gives a singular combo. Its tiny measurement, versatility and powerful audio high quality make it virtually a no brainer for Sonos customers. And for many who haven’t used the company’s audio system earlier than, it’s an incredible and inexpensive entry level.

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