The most important thing you can say about the new Sonos Roam – which costs $ 170 and will start shipping next month – is that it fits in a tote bag. Given that there are endless Bluetooth speakers available that match this description, from the stunning $ 80 Wonderboom 2 to the awful best-selling $ 30 OontZ Angle, this may sound like a diss. It is not. The Roam is a big leap forward for Sonos, as it’s both exactly what the company’s devotees have been waiting for. and the best portable speaker available for even the most avid Sonos skeptic. Thanks to its small size, outstanding sound quality and endless streaming features, Roam is the first Sonos product that will make damn close to anyone happy.
The main reason for this is simple: the Sonos Roam is the best sounding portable speaker I have tested. It eats lunch at any speaker of the same size and can compete with the larger speakers in its price range. When you are put on the “Love Lockdown” test (yes, this is one thing), Roam sounds much more than speakers of the same size as the aforementioned UE Wonderboom 2. UE does not necessarily sound bad – you can find the outline of the sliding bass – but Roam sounds much clearer. Nalgene-sized UE Megaboom 3 delivers stiffer bass than Roam for obvious reasons, but does not sound better. On slightly smaller bass-heavy tracks, such as Saweetie’s “Back to the Streets”, the low end sounds mostly between Roam and Megaboom. In fact, the diminutive Roam artist’s melodic voice and all the sparkling details hidden in the production are much clearer.
But it is to judge Roam solely as a portable speaker, when it is also the most famous member of Sonos wireless family. Devoted Sonos users have been pushing for a portable audio solution for many years now. In 2019, Sonos took a first step with the Move, a Bluetooth-enabled, battery-powered speaker that had all the portability of a bowling ball – lugable to the backyard, but no longer. It seemed that Sonos could not expand the wireless super system to the last limit: the tote bag.
Two years later we have Roam, which has sound from the Sonos class and Versatility at the Sonos level. After configuring Roam through the Sonos app, you get access to lots of dirt-easy ways to actually use the speaker. AirPlay or Bluetooth from any app or WiFi using the Sonos app. You can control it with a connected streaming service, such as Spotify or AppleMusic. Do not underestimate this level of choice – Bluetooth is good when you are on the go, but at home the stability of AirPlay or WiFi, even on a portable speaker, is a blessing. It means no more walking away from the speaker with the phone and listening to the music.
When using Wi-Fi, you can also use Roam’s built-in microphone to dial Google Assistant or Amazon’s Alexa to play audio for you (and turn off smart bulbs while you’re at it). But even if you are not, Roam still has some relatively advanced software. It is Sonos’ signature Auto Trueplay, which allows the speaker to adjust its EQs, depending on the acoustics of the space. In addition to the new Sound Swap, which allows you to send sound to or “pull” music from any of your other Sonos speakers at the touch of a button on Roam.
Even during charging, Roam is in front of the portable package. The USB-C input works much faster than the proprietary charger on the go, but the real magic trick is that Roam can charge when placed on any Qi-enabled wireless charging puck. In our tests, we found that Roam’s battery lasted for an entire working day when streaming classical music from WQXR. This includes some Bartok during a shower after exercise – Roam is waterproof for 30 minutes on up to one meter of water.
Bottom line here: If you’re a Sonos skeptic – which I get, since the cost goes up when you imagine ticking off your living space with non-cheap speakers – Roam still feels like the best Bluetooth portable speaker available, all things considered. One you can take with you to the beach and which allows you to avoid the finesse of Bluetooth when you are at home. One that fits seamlessly into your life. One that, if you decide to take the Sonos Dive, suddenly becomes so much more useful.
And if you already enjoy the warm embrace of Sonos life? The Roam does exactly the one thing you’ve always wanted a Sonos speaker to do: it fits in a freaking tote bag.