Sonos announced its latest portable Bluetooth speaker on Tuesday: the Sonos Roam.
The device will ship on April 20 for $169, with pre-orders starting Tuesday. While not cheap, that price makes the Roam the most affordable offering in the Sonos range.
A smaller Sonos speaker
The Roam isn’t the first Bluetooth speaker Sonos has made; that would be the Sonos Move, which the company launched in late 2019. At nearly 10 inches tall and 7 pounds, however, the Move was still best suited in and around the house.
The Roam, on the other hand, seems much easier to carry around. It measures 6.61×2.44×2.36 inches and weighs just under a pound. The hard grille, matte finish and rounded corners resemble those of the Move, but the device has an elongated, softly triangular shape. It has an IP67 dust and water resistance rating, which means it can be submerged in up to one meter of water for 30 minutes. Raised controls for volume, playback and mic mute sit at one end of the rod-like design, although the speaker can be used horizontally or vertically. The former orientation causes the speaker to naturally point upwards, bringing the sound closer to the listener’s ears.
Sonos unveiled the Roam in a pre-recorded presentation to the press, so we weren’t able to listen to the device ourselves. However, Sonos sells the Roam largely on promises of balanced, better-than-expected sound quality for its size, saying the device can deliver enough volume to “fill a room.” Given the limited space, 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 through the latter. If you’re out 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
Furthermore, the Roam has a similar feature set to other devices in the Sonos range. 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, although 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-microphone array built into the device — while iOS users can send audio directly to the device. can send the Roam via AirPlay2.
In particular, the Roam makes it possible to stream Bluetooth audio to an existing Sonos system. Because the speaker can connect to both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth at the same time, you can launch Bluetooth content on the Roam, group the Roam with a Sonos system over Wi-Fi, and then listen to the same content through all your speakers. (The Move can only stream over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, not both at once.) To some extent, current Sonos users can get around the lack of Bluetooth audio support on most of the company’s devices, albeit for an additional $169. .
The Roam also supports Move’s “Automatic Trueplay” feature, which automatically adjusts the speaker’s EQ when the unit is moved, calibrating the sound on-the-fly to better match the acoustics of the venue. This now works over Bluetooth in addition to Wi-Fi streaming, an addition that Sonos says will also be available on the go. Meanwhile, with a new feature called “Sound Swap”, you can hold down 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 switch from one room to another without having to open the app up to switch speakers.
Sonos says the Roam gets 10 hours of battery life on a single charge, with “up to 10 days” of battery life via a power-saving mode that instantly turns the device on when it’s not playing anything. (Whether this estimate applies to Wi-Fi or Bluetooth streaming isn’t clear, though – the former will presumably reduce overall playback time.) The speaker can be charged via 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 made specifically for the Roam for $49.
The Roam looks like Sonos’ first real step into outdoor audio. It advertises a deeper feature set than most portable speakers and could tie new buyers to the Sonos family of devices, though at $169 it’s still pricey for its size. Whether it will be worth the premium will largely depend on the sound quality, and we’ll have to test that ourselves. But for those who want a more premium travel (or shower) speaker, it may appeal.
Listing image by Sonos