Sonos is now seriously entering the portable speaker market – also with a really exciting candidate! Here are my thoughts on the youngest sibling in the Sonos family.
Although Sonos sniffed at portable sound with Move (which in the name of honesty was not very easy to take on any longer trips) it is only now that they have seriously chosen to face JBL, Philips, Sony and all other manufacturers of truly portable speakers.
A first, external impression
Sonos fighter in this corner has been named Roam. A name that actually does the right thing, especially if you look at the speaker’s physical exterior, which with its 168 x 62 x 60 mm and a weight of 0.43 kg in the name of honesty makes it feel completely perfect to hold and pick with sig. To Roam around with. I guess they’re thinking.
Around the speaker (which is available in a black and white variant) it is Sonos ordinary hard plastic of sensible quality that is represented. At the top and bottom (the small surfaces) we find a rubber-like finish instead. A rather interesting design detail which undoubtedly comes from the fact that the speaker is actually waterproof (down to 1 meter for 30 minutes) but which also contributes to a feeling that “Ah, it probably does not matter if I drop this”. Now is Roam not meant to be able to be lost. But the feeling that it should still fix a lot is there.
A somewhat negative aspect of waterproofness and rubber lining, on the other hand, is that all the buttons are a little tougher than usual to press. For some reason, the on / off button on the back of the speaker is also very sluggish and sometimes it is unfortunately a little difficult to even feel if the button is pressed or not. Thankfully, it is extremely rarely used and after all, I still prefer the physical buttons on Roam compared to the touch variants found on many of Sonos other speakers.
The control options directly on the speaker are otherwise in the usual vintage play / pause, volume and the ability to jump forward or backward in song lists. A dedicated button to mute or activate the built-in microphone for voice services is also available.
The new charging wave
When it comes to accessories have Sonos gone Appleroad and includes only one USB-C to USB-Acable for charging Roam. Here I would have liked to see a wall adapter also included. Maybe especially then Sonos recommends that a 7.5W charger (5V / 1.5A) be used to charge the speaker. Something may not be for everyone. Especially not iPhoneusers (the classic ones) iPhone the wall adapters only output 5W). An exciting detail regarding the charge is that Roam fixes to be charged wirelessly via which Qi-certified charger at any time (as long as the power is sufficient). Sonos has also taken the opportunity to produce a separate variant which can be purchased for SEK 499.
The battery life is set at 10 hours, an estimate that also seems to be fairly good. While I was testing the speaker, the battery life averaged about 8-9 hours depending on the features used. However, it would have been nice with even a little more cream in the battery. Regarding the time for charging, this of course depends on the power of the charger used, but with a 10W charger I managed to go from zero to full charge in about 2.5 hours.
Something that is a bit confusing regarding the charge, however, is that the speaker slowly flashes with an orange LED both when the battery starts to run out and also when it is completely out. For my part, this resulted in a bit of irritation when I assumed that the flashing diode indicated that the battery was about to run out, or that the energy saving mode had kicked in. But the flashing, orange light means instead that the battery either starts to run out or has too low power left to even start the speaker. Admittedly a petitess, but which can possibly create some question marks as to why the speaker does not jump on – even though a light is still flashing.
The speaker’s sleep mode, which is activated either automatically after a moment of inactivity, or via a push of the button on the back, also failed a few times to start automatically. According to Sonos minor software errors such as these must be completely fixed by the official release on April 20. Something that sounds promising.
Features, Features and Sound Swap
On the inside of Roam There are a lot of interesting technologies. From Move we recognize both the support for Google Assistant as well as the possibility of Sonos automatic Trueplay. A function that automatically adjusts the sound according to where the speaker is located. This feature worked really well with Move and do the same with Roam. Fun is also that Trueplay works regardless of whether the speaker is connected over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. Something that is not the case Google Assistant, there Wi-Fi required.
In terms of connection, that’s what I said Wi-Fi and Bluetooth which concerns. Sonos Roam just like everything else in the company’s range can be grouped with others Sonosspeakers and you can also use two Roam as a stereo pair, but only over Wi-Fi. Roam however, can not be used as a rear speaker for a surround installation, something I know does not do to or from in the context.
A completely new feature that comes with Roam is it Sonos calls for Sound Swap. Sound Swap is something as fun as such a “No, really, how seventeen does that work!” function. What it is all about is, in short, not just making it possible to pick up and put back a speaker. Without doing the same with the sound.
By holding Roam next to another Sonosspeakers and hold down Playbutton, you can simply mute the sound from the other speaker. The first time, it’s almost a bit magical when the sound just changes speakers. The function also works the other way around. If you play something Roam just keep it next to another Sonosspeakers and press Playbutton for a few seconds to return the sound to the other speaker. A really cool feature that also works very well.
Does anything sound then?
Despite the technical details, it still feels like the sound is really the most interesting here. As far as it’s actually good. Which I would say it is. Something you must not forget, however Roam is a fairly small speaker, something that definitely has an imprint in how it sounds. The sound is by no means bad and as a pick-me-out-in-the-garden speaker I do not have much to complain about. The sound image is generally warm and fairly easy to listen to, however, I experience that it, especially at higher sound levels, goes a bit in the more confined direction.
The base is about the level you would expect from a speaker size. Nothing extreme, but it certainly is there. Compare man Roam with Sonos stationary speakers One there is no question that the latter creates a wider, clearer and more powerful sound image. But it is also four times as big.
In short, the sound is good for what Roam is. Then if the sound itself is worth almost SEK 2,000, I’m not sure. However, the combination of features and that it is after all one Sonos-speakers with all that they mean by groupings with other speakers, voice assistance, AirPlay 2support and Sound Swap still value for money. If, on the other hand, you are not sitting with others Sonos-speakers and just want a portable speaker, there are acoustically some competitors to possibly glance at a bit.