technology

Sonos Roam review: The missing piece of the Sonos puzzle


The Sonos Roam is first truly portable Bluetooth speaker from Sonos (Metro.co.uk)

The Sonos Roam isn’t the first time the multi-room audio company has experimented with Bluetooth.

Back in 2019, the Sonos Move arrived with both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth support so you could take the tunes out into the garden. If you didn’t mind carrying a 3kg speaker around with you, that is.

The Roam is a truly portable Bluetooth speaker more akin to the Ultimate Ears’ Boom series. And while the £159 price tag is more expensive than the £129 UE Boom 3, the Roam packs in more features.

It adopts a triangular, Toblerone-esque shape which means you can stand it vertically or horizontally and a much more manageable 0.43kg weight than the Move.

This is a speaker designed to be picked up and tossed in a bag or thrown in the car without a second thought.

At 0.43kg, the Sonos Roam is plenty portable (Sonos)

As expected for any outdoorsy Bluetooth speaker, the Sonos Roam is IP67 rated for water and dust resistance. Which means you could submerge it in up to one metre of water for 30 minutes without doing any damage.

Basically, it’ll survive a trip to the beach or being dropped in the pool.

The feeling of the speaker is smooth plastic with soft-touch rubber at either end. There are four little nodes on one side that act as feet for when it’s laying horizontally.

On top, the button symbols are slightly raised so you can navigate by touch if necessary. There’s a + and – for volume and skipping, a play/pause and a small microphone for muting the voice functionality.

Sonos features

The Roam has buttons on top to play/pause, change volume and mute the microphone (Metro.co.uk)

The most obvious reason for choosing the Sonos Roam over the UE speakers is because of its integration with an existing Sonos system.

As well as running off a Bluetooth connection, it can also join your home WiFi network and become an additional speaker in your Sonos setup.

To start with, you use the Sonos app and your phone’s NFC capability to add it to your network. The Roam will appear alongside any other speakers in the app and you can use it as an individual or group speaker.

And there are lots of Sonos-centric features packed in to the Roam, such as ‘Sound Swap’, which allows you to hand off whatever it’s playing to the nearest Sonos speaker by holding down the play/pause button.

Like the Move, it also has built-in Auto Trueplay, which uses microphones to calibrate the performance of the speaker depending on its environment. This means it will optimise for whether it’s being used inside or outside.

Auto Trueplay will calibrate the sound differently if you’re inside or outside (Metro.co.uk)

It’s also got support for voice assistants like Amazon’s Alexa and the Google Assistant.

If you want to take it outside the home, then you pair the device with your phone by pressing and holding the power button – located on the back next to a USB-C port. The white status light on the front of the grille switches to blue to let you know you’re on Bluetooth.

How does it sound?

For a small speaker, the sound is clean and loud (Metro.co.uk)

Considering the diminutive size and scant weight, the Sonos Roam kicks out plenty of volume and a really good sound.

I’m not an audiophile but, to my ears, the Roam produced what I’d call a ‘clean’ sound.

There wasn’t the kind of over-developed fuzz around the bass that gives a warm tone, but there also wasn’t any tinny, robotic boosting of the treble.

Don’t get me wrong: the thump of bass is still there and you can pick out all the notes on a high vocal track – it’s just that the audio isn’t swaddled in over-processing and comes out nicely equalised as a result.

Sonos’ sound quality has always been one of its hallmarks and I found the Roam gave me a very clear, direct and un-distorted sound. Of course, if you want to, you can adjust the EQ settings manually to get something closer to your personal preference.

For those interested in the technical side of things, the Roam uses one custom racetrack mid-woofer and one tweeter. There are two class-H amplifiers ‘perfectly tuned to the drivers and speaker’s unique acoustic architecture.’

Battery life

The Sonos Roam comes in either black or white and there’s a charging cable included in the box (Sonos)

Any good Bluetooth speaker needs to be able to deliver an extended period of sound away from the mains. Sonos cites the Roam’s battery capabilities as 10 hours of continuous playback on a single charge.

That assessment is actually above what I found using the Roam. From a 100% charge at 7am it kept me company (with a few intermittent breaks) throughout a 9-hour work shift. By 6pm I still had around 30% left in the tank.

If you don’t use the Roam, it falls into a standby state to save power for up to 10 days. Charging is handled via the USB Type-C port on the back of the device next to the power button.

The Roam chargest via USB-C and has small bumps on the rear that it stands on (Metro.co.uk)

Sonos has also made the Roam compatible with Qi wireless charging pads, which means you can juice it up without having to search around for a wire. If you’re interested, Sonos will sell you a specially developed wireless charging stand for the Roam for an additional £44.

Conclusion

The Roam comes in a choice of either black or white (Sonos)

Are there any limitations with the Roam? A couple. It doesn’t work as part of Sonos’ home theater system that you can set up if you have one of the company’s soundbars attached to your telly.

There’s also no 3.5mm jack if you have an older device, like an iPod Classic, and want to plug it in. I attempted to bypass this with a 3.5mm-to-USB Type C dongle plugged into the charging port but no dice.

To get really finnicky, I also found it tricky to spot the tiny white LED light on the front of the speaker grille in bright sunlight. My review unit was the white colour, which probably didn’t help. The Roam is also available in black, which many may prefer at any rate.

My only other nitpick is the power button on the back is not particularly ‘clicky’ so you’ll end up relying on the chime and aforementioned LED to let you know you’ve switched it on.

The power button doesn’t have a lot of travel (Metro.co.uk)

Still, would I buy the Roam? Absolutely.

It’s pretty much the ideal package when it comes to taking your music on the move. It’s small, light, well-designed and pumps out an excellent sound. It just so happens that it can also slot into any existing Sonos setup you happen to have at home.

Sonos has also shown it can bring more features to its products with software updates, so it could well be the case the Roam has more to offer in the future.

And, with the tantalizing potential of a warm summer and the end of lockdown ahead of us, this is definitely a gadget you’ll want to have in your bag.


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