Sonos on Tuesday announced its latest portable Bluetooth speaker: the Sonos Roam.
The device will begin shipping on April 20 for $169, with preorders starting on Tuesday. While not inexpensive, that price makes the Roam the most affordable offering in the Sonos lineup.
A smaller Sonos speaker
The Roam is not the first Bluetooth speaker Sonos has created; that would be the Sonos Move, which the company launched in late 2019. At nearly 10 inches tall and 7 pounds, though, the Move was still best-suited in and around the home.
The Roam, by contrast, appears much easier to take on the go. It measures 6.61×2.44×2.36 inches and weighs just under a pound. Its hard front grille, matte finish, and rounded corners resemble those of the Move, but the device comes in an elongated, gently triangular shape. It has an IP67 dust- and water-resistance rating, which means it can be submerged in up to a meter of water for 30 minutes. Raised controls for volume, playback, and mic muting sit on one end of the rod-like design, though the speaker can be used horizontally or vertically. The former orientation naturally angles the speaker upward, directing sound closer to the listener’s ears.
Sonos revealed the Roam in a prerecorded presentation for the press, so we haven’t been able to listen to the device ourselves. Sonos is largely selling the Roam on promises of balanced, better-than-expected audio quality for the size, however, and says the device can supply enough volume to “fill a room.” Given the space constraints, we wouldn’t expect the Roam to sound as full or deeply detailed as a larger speaker like the Move or Sonos One.
That said, like the Move, the Roam can stream audio over both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth (more specifically, 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5.0). The greater bandwidth of the former should give it a noticeable quality advantage at home compared to many small speakers that can only stream over the latter. When you’re outside of Wi-Fi range, Sonos says the Roam will automatically re-pair with a remembered mobile device and switch to Bluetooth streaming.
Features and battery life
Beyond that, the Roam has a similar feature set to other devices in the Sonos lineup. It still works with the dozens of streaming services supported through the Sonos S2 app. It can be grouped with an existing Sonos system and paired with a second Roam speaker, though it’s not designed to be used as a wireless surround for a Sonos Beam or Arc soundbar. (We wouldn’t recommend doing that with such a small device anyway.) The Roam still supports voice commands via Alexa and the Google Assistant—a three-mic array is built into the device—while iOS users can directly beam audio to the Roam through AirPlay 2.
Notably, the Roam makes it possible to stream Bluetooth audio to an existing Sonos system. Because the speaker can connect to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth simultaneously, you could feasibly start Bluetooth content on the Roam, group the Roam with a Sonos system over Wi-Fi, then listen to the same content across all of your speakers. (The Move could only stream over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, not both at once.) To an extent, this lets current Sonos users get around the lack of Bluetooth audio support on most of the company’s devices—albeit for $169 extra.
The Roam also supports the Move’s “Automatic Trueplay” feature, which automatically adjusts the speaker’s EQ whenever the device is moved, calibrating its sound on the fly to better suit the acoustics of its location. This now works over Bluetooth in addition to Wi-Fi streaming, an addition Sonos says will be available on the Move as well. A new feature called “Sound Swap,” meanwhile, lets you hold the Roam’s play/pause button to automatically send whatever’s playing to the nearest speaker in a Sonos system—the idea being that you can move from one room to another without having to open up the app to switch speakers.
Sonos says the Roam will get 10 hours of battery life per charge, with “up to 10 days” of life through a low-power mode that the device will immediately enter into when it’s not playing anything. (Whether this estimate applies to Wi-Fi or Bluetooth streaming is not clear, though—the former will presumably shorten the total play time.) The speaker can charge over a 15W USB-C port (a cable is included in the box) or any Qi-certified wireless charger. Sonos will sell a wireless charging pad specifically made for the Roam for $49.
The Roam looks like Sonos’ first real step into outside-the-home audio. It advertises a deeper feature set than most portable speakers and could rope new buyers into Sonos’ family of devices, though at $169, it’s still pricey for its size. Whether it will be worth the premium will largely come down to sound quality, and that’s something we’ll have to test for ourselves. But for those who want a more premium travel (or shower) speaker, it could be appealing.
Listing image by Sonos