Sonos Roam Review: The New Standard for Portable Smart Speakers

Sonos Roam Review: The New Standard for Portable Smart Speakers

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If I could sum up the Sonos Roam in a single sentence it would be: Well worth the wait. I’ve been trying the $169 smart speaker, which is available for pre-order right now and will be released on April 20 for a couple of weeks. After putting the Sonos Roam through its paces I wish all portable speakers worked this well, and sounded this good.

The Roam is a natural next step for Sonos, and fills an important gap in the company’s lineup. While it was focused on making high-end audio hardware for the home, battery-powered Bluetooth speakers became a popular way most of us listen to music. Sonos released its first portable speaker, the Sonos Move late in 2019, but it didn’t have a grab-and-go design. For once, the forward-thinking connected speaker company was falling behind.

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That changes with the Sonos Roam, which takes everything Sonos learned about making smart, connected speakers and shrinks it down into a device that fits comfortably in the hand. If the Sonos Move was designed for the backyard, the Roam is meant to be taken to the beach.

Buy:Sonos Roamat$169.99

The Speaker Has An Understated Look And Is Easy To Set Up

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Sonos’ speakers are known for their distinct, simple design, and the Roam is no different. It’s available in two colors: “Shadow” black or “Lunar” white, with the company’s logo printed on the front. It has an unusual rounded triangular shape, which makes it easy to hold, and keeps it from rocking when placed on its side.

The Roam’s volume, play/pause, and microphone buttons are all located on top; each symbol is embossed, so you can make adjustments without looking at the speaker. In practice, this works very well. The Sonos Roam’s power button is located on one of the speaker’s curves, and is perched above its USB-C charging port. The Roam can also be charged by setting it on top of any Qi wireless charging pad (here’s our recommendation) for added convenience.

Its look may be somewhat Spartan, but these choices make the Roam simple to use and operate. The only tricky part in my experience was switching from the speaker’s Wi-Fi mode to its Bluetooth mode. You need to push the power button until you hear a tone — hold it too long, though, and the speaker will turn off.

Despite this minor annoyance, sonos has streamlined the setup process for its speakers, and the Roam benefits from this immensely.

Once you’ve signed into the Sonos app (iOS and Android), you’ll be walked through how to connect the speaker to your Wi-Fi network, pair it with a smart AI (Amazon’s Alexa or the Google Assistant), and connect it to various streaming services. I was up and running within about five minutes.

The Roam takes longer to set up than a typical Bluetooth speaker, but only because it’s a lot more capable. Plus, you only have to set it up once. From then on, I could press the power button, connect the Roam to my phone, tablet, or computer, and hit play.

How Does The Sonos Roam Sound?

Brandt Ranj / Rolling Stone

It may have taken Sonos a while to release its first truly portable speaker, but the Roam was worth the wait. It’s powered by custom audio hardware, including a pair of Class-H amplifiers, and a two-driver array containing a mid-woofer and tweeter. A Sonos engineer explained that each piece was designed to ensure the best-possible sound from a speaker this small.

It looks good on paper, but what sets the Sonos Roam apart from so many portable speakers is the way it sounds. I was constantly amazed by the level of audio quality coming from such a small speaker. We’re conditioned to expect certain limitations from portable speakers but the Sonos Roam adjusted my expectations.

Although it plays music in mono it feels dynamic and alive. The Bright Eyes-like guitar on Justin Bieber’s Off My Face sounded smooth and full, and I could hear the ache in Lana Del Ray’s vocals on Whie Dress. I felt every beat in the pulsing rhythm of Carly Rae Jepson’s Now That I Found You and the vocal harmony on Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young’s Deja vu-era outtake “Ivory Tower.”

Buy:Sonos Roamat$169.99

The Sonos Roam Plays Nicely With The Latest Technology From Amazon, Google, And Apple

Brandt Ranj / Rolling Stone

It didn’t matter if I put on Miles Davis’ Sketches of Spain shuffled folk rock tracks from The Beau Brummell’s Magic Hollow box set, or the dream-like It’s You off The Millennium’s sole album Begin; I never missed a note or beat. It was easy to put on one track and let an entire album play straight through as I cleaned the dishes or lounged on the couch. The Roam is a portable speaker you’ll want to take with you around the house, never mind outside.

Part of the audio quality difference between the Roam and similar speakers is a Sonos-developed technology called TruePlay. TruePlay analyzes the room a Sonos speaker is in and optimizes its audio performance. Earlier Sonos speakers required you to enter a TruePlay mode in the Sonos App and move around the room while your phone played a tone over and over again.

TruePlay works automatically on the Sonos Roam, so it’ll take care of the optimization for you on the fly. I didn’t notice a difference when taking the speaker from room to room (TruePlay doesn’t work in real-time, but makes an analysis every once in a while), but can tell you it worked great everywhere I listened.

Brandt Ranj / Rolling Stone

One of Sonos’ claims to fame is the fact that it works with both Amazon, Google, and Apple to make sure the latest technology from all three companies is compatible with its speakers. The Roam is no different.

Sonos prompts you to connect the speaker to a smart assistant as you set it up, and shows a pop up for this feature if you decline. I was able to connect the Sonos Roam to my Amazon account and get Alexa up and running in under five minutes. The Sonos app makes the process simple and seamless.

You can’t connect the Sonos Roam directly to Siri, but the Roam does support AirPlay 2, a custom streaming technology Apple developed. I was able to stream music and podcasts to the Roam from my iPhone over Wi-Fi using AirPlay 2 instead of using Sonos’ app.

If you use Apple Music, you can set it as the default music streaming service in the Google Home or Amazon Alexa app. When that setting is checked, those smart assistants can access your Apple Music library, including custom playlists.

Is The Sonos Roam Worth It?

Sonos took its time developing its first ultra-portable speaker, but the Sonos Roam was worth the wait. It’s easy to use, supports useful smart features, and mixes audio hardware and intelligent software to make music sound great. Sonos may have been behind before, but it’s taken the lead in the portable speaker space.

Buy:Sonos Roamat$169.99

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