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Sonos Roam review: That should actually have been the Sonos Move

Sonos Roam featured image
Picture: TechnikNews
(Post picture: © 2021 TechnikNews)

Readers who subscribed to my test for the Sonos Move remember, know that I wasn't quite taken with the thing. Now the Sonos Roam was presented and I could see it. You can read here why I liked this one better.

The Sonos Roam is a speaker for on the go. It comes with Bluetooth, which means you can connect quickly and wirelessly on the go. In your own four walls, it can then be controlled via WLAN with the Sonos app or with AirPlay 2.

This package is similar to the Sonos Move, which the manufacturer presented at IFA 2019. Sonos markets the Move with the slogan “Experience sound everywhere”, which I didn't really agree with after my test. My conclusion:

Unfortunately, the world is not that perfect either, in my opinion there is still a little bit of fine-tuning. Well, the Move should be portable - but it wouldn't take it any further into the garden than mine. This is due to the heavy weight. Although there is a handle, it does not make the device any lighter. In addition, I don't always find the sound perfect.

The move was just too difficult for me. So I still think that this Proproduct is only suitable for use in the garden or on the balcony.

This is where the Roam comes into play, with which the manufacturer is going a completely different way. It's a whole lot more compact and also much lighter than its bigger sibling. You can now read in this review why I like this approach for a portable speaker more.

Unboxing and initial setup

But before you can start using it, the device must first be unpacked and set up.

The packaging is surprisingly small, it is a light-colored cardboard box with a few pictures and inscriptions. Basically, the box is hardly bigger than the loudspeaker itself. To access the contents, the tabs on the underside have to be removed. Sonos only included the essentials, once the speaker itself in a fabric jacket, a compact quick-start guide and small print and a USB-C cable for charging the Roam.

Sonos Roam unboxing

You can find that in the two boxes. (Image: TechnikNews)

For my test, I also got the charging station, which can be purchased separately. The box of this looks more or less the same as that of the loudspeaker itself, the seals have to be removed again in order to open them. The charging station, a power supply unit and a USB-C cable are included here. Here we already have the first point of criticism: Why is a power supply not also included with the Sonos Roam? Not everyone will buy this charging station, it would have been practical. The company offers one in the online shop, but it costs another 19 euros.

The initial setup takes place in the Sonos app, which is available for iOS, iPadOS, Android, Windows and macOS. It is important that you take the S2 app, as the other one is only compatible with older models. Of the Prozess itself is very easy and shouldn't take more than 15 minutes. When you open the app, a pop-up will appear asking you to set it up, provided that both devices find each other. Otherwise, the couplingproStart zess via the settings in the app. After that, the Roam will play a connection establishment sound. A connection to the home WLAN is then established and any updates are installed. Once that's done, nothing stands in the way of enjoying the music.

Design and workmanship

As you may have noticed by this point, we have a very small speaker here. The Roam is only 168 millimeters high and 62 millimeters wide, and at just 430 grams it is also very light. Thanks to its ergonomic shape, the device can be carried very easily with one hand. It also fits in bags of any size - so transport is always very pleasant, no matter where and how you take the item with you. I often caught myself putting the thing in my pocket and walking around the house. The disadvantage here, however, is that there is no resonance body and the sound is slightly worse as a result. Sonos offers the loudspeaker in two different colors, one in white and one in black.

Sonos Roam form factor

The Sonos Roam is definitely compact. (Image: TechnikNews)

All important control options have been placed on the top, which is made of silicone. There are buttons for starting and stopping playback and for adjusting the volume. Furthermore, a button for a voice assistant is hidden here, the user can choose between the Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa in the app. The pressure point of the keys is actually very soft. However, you have to use some force to trigger this.

A third of the sides are taken up by the loudspeaker grille. There are four knobs on the left, which are intended for setting up the Roam. Basically, you are flexible on the right when setting up the cylinder, as it is equally stable on all sides. The silicone layer on the underside hides the coils for wireless charging with Qi technology. Either you use the accessory from Sonos or you use charging pads that support the standard. On the back we have a USB-C port and the power button, which also functions as a pairing button.

My opinion on processing is twofold. Basically, the Sonos Roam makes a robust impression. It is also protected against shocks and was also designed against the ingress of water, whereby we are dealing with an IP67 certification. Thanks to these 30 minutes, the loudspeaker should be able to withstand water that is one meter deep. So far, so good, but I'm a little skeptical about the top and bottom with the silicone. It is not flush with the sides of the roam and there is a small gap between the silicone layer and the rest of the housing. I doubt whether these parts remain intact when they hit sharp-edged surfaces or elements.

Connectivity options

There is definitely no lack of connection options with a smartphone, tablet or computer. There is a suitable option for every conceivable situation.

As already mentioned, WLAN is available for operation at home. On the one hand, control via the Sonos app is then possible. There you get access to every conceivable music service, you can quickly and easily create multi-room configurations and control the sound via equalizers. In addition, you can use the "SoundSwap" feature with other Sonos speakers stored in the app. SoundSwap works by roaming to another speaker, pressing the play/pause button, and it automatically plays to the other speaker Proproduct is passed on. I'm usually skeptical about such functions (looking at you, home pod mini), but here I was really pleasantly surprised at how reliably the whole thing works.

Sonos Roam app

Screenshots: TechnikNews

A good alternative to the Sonos app is AirPlay 2. This has the great advantage that it is natively integrated into Apple devices and the sound can come from any app. In addition, the coupling with Proproducts from other manufacturers that support the standard are also possible. On the negative side, I often noticed that there are still a few teething problems here and there. For example, it often happened that after a short pause, playback only resumed on one link in the connection.

Sonos Roam AirPlay

The Sonos Roam can also be controlled via AirPlay 2. (Screenshots: TechnikNews)

For situations where there is no WiFi connection, Bluetooth 5 must be used. I don't think there is much need for explanation here, you couple the smartphone or another device and start playback. The Roam and a playback device always found each other very quickly in my test and there was not a single crash. The only thing that is a bit annoying is switching from Bluetooth to WLAN operation. The Roam does not appear automatically in the app or for AirPlay if it is connected via Bluetooth. You are forced to either restart the Roam or deactivate the Bluetooth on the playback device.

Battery life and charging station

As a mobile device, the Sonos Roam requires a battery and the manufacturer states 10 hours as its runtime. But I made the experience that often after eight hours at a volume of about 50 Procent was the end. That's a big difference, which really shouldn't be. With the still ongoing (partial) lockdowns and other restrictions, this was not so important. After about 1,5 hours, the Sonos Roam is fully charged again, although it takes a little longer with wireless charging.

Sonos Roam charging station

Picture: TechnikNews

Let's finally get back to Sonos' own charging station. As already mentioned, this is sold separately, although I think it should be part of the scope of delivery for a small extra charge. It is shaped like the roam and sticks magnetically to the underside of it and is perfect for use at home. Despite use, you always have a full battery and the whole thing looks more elegant than a plugged in cable.

Klang

I was really excited about the sound beforehand. As you saw with the HomePod mini, the sound can be decent even if the case that houses the drivers isn't that spacious. In addition, the Roam is more or less twice as expensive, which raises expectations again.

My impression of the sound quality here is also similar to that of the competition from Apple. This is perfect for the size, but the Roam simply can't keep up with larger speakers - and doesn't want to. Nevertheless, smaller rooms can be filled with sound without difficulty. And: It is audibly more powerful than the Apple HomePod mini at the same volume.

For testing purposes I once again listened a little more closely to some of the songs. I was able to gain the following insights:

  • Teeth from 5 Seconds of Summer (Pop): Here the bass is very powerful and at the same time reserved. If you turn it up really loud, it starts to oversteer a little. Even the softest guitar tones come across nicely and the voices sound fine.
  • Dead To Me from Whales and Fraxo (EDM): This song is characterized by the different volume levels in different sections. These differences are always noticeable, loud and quiet passages are very clear and natural. With larger speakers, the song always carries you away, but if you keep the size in mind, you can also be satisfied with the roam here.
  • Turn around from Alltta (Rap): Here, too, everything fit. The bass hammers properly, but the voices and the higher notes do not distort. In addition, small details in the background come into their own.

What would definitely have been great is 360-degree sound. The reason for this is that you don't place the speaker optimally when you're out and about, for example, or that you're constantly moving around in the garden. It would still be great if you were directly exposed to the music. All in all, the Sonos Roam doesn't have to hide at all, despite the compact form factor, outstanding sounds are produced produe.

Prices and availability

The Roam is available directly from Sonos, from Amazon, from MediaMarkt and a few other locations. The recommended retail price for the loudspeaker is 179 euros. A separate power supply is available for 19 euros, for the charging station you have to put 49 euros on the table.

Sonos Roam: Conclusion

In my opinion, the marketing of the Sonos Move is more in line with the Sonos Roam. Don't get me wrong, I think it's good that you don't have to rely on a power outlet and WiFi with the Move either, but I just wouldn't take the speaker with me either. The Roam, on the other hand, is small and light and can therefore be carried by hand. You even have up to eight hours of playback time before you have to go back to the socket or power bank.

The little speaker comes with a few things that I really liked. Including the charging station for at home, the multitude of connection options, the excellent sound with regard to the compressed space in the housing and "SoundSwap". I also have a small list of points of criticism. This includes, among other things, the accessories and scope of delivery policy, the processing of the silicone surfaces and the overestimation of the battery life.

Overall, the Sonos Roam is a loyal companion on the go and a good addition to an existing Sonos system.

Thank you for providing the Sonos Roam, Sonos One and the charging station for the Roam.

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David Haydl

David lives in Graz and has been there for around half a decade TechnikNews, also editor-in-chief for some time. He regularly provides the site with news, test reports and the like TechnikNews Weekly, which was his idea to launch. He likes to spend his free time outdoors, listening to a lot of music (and clearly too loud) and some podcasts on all kinds of topics, and also likes to go running. He enjoys the time that remains with his charming girlfriend or in front of the TV.

David has already written 1144 articles and left 108 comments.

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