When Sonos came out with its first Bluetooth speaker, the Move, it was technically portable as in you could lug it around. But it was both gigantic and heavy compared to other Bluetooth speakers. The kicker? It cost $400. Well, it seems that over the past two years, Sonos has gone back to the drawing board and the result is the Sonos Roam—a Bluetooth-compatible speaker that’s actually portable and costs $169.
The news isn’t exactly surprising. After all, nearly all the deets leaked last week. As it turns out, the leaks were pretty accurate. For starters, the Roam is much smaller than the Move, measuring 6.6 x 2.4 x 2.4 inches and weighing slightly less than a pound. In a press briefing, Sonos demonstrated that the Roam fits easily in a person’s hand—something that’s absolutely not possible with the Move. The top panel features play, pause, skip, and volume buttons, and the triangular design is meant to shoot audio upward. It’s also got IP67 water resistance and can be submerged in 1 meter of water for up to 30 minutes. In terms of whether it’s meant to lay flat or stand vertically, Sonos says you can do either, depending on your environment.
The Roam packs in two class-H amplifiers, one custom mid-woofer, and one tweeter. Sonos claims the Roam will be a bassy speaker and comparable to the Sonos One—though perhaps not as loud. It also has a far-field microphone array and will also support digital assistants like Alexa and Google Assistant. And it has Sonos’ Automatic Trueplay tech, which adjusts sound based on your location and environment. It’s a technology that makes sense indoors, but given that the Roam is definitely meant to be taken outside, we’ll have to see how it performs. According to Sonos, it probably won’t be noticeable if, say, you’re in an open field, compared to a forest where there are more reflective surfaces to bounce sound waves off of.
Battery-wise, the Roam has the same capacity as the Move—10 hours of continuous playback on a single charge and up to 10 days in sleep mode. Given that Sonos says the device automatically switches to sleep mode when the sound turns off, it’s hard to say how much mileage you’ll actually get out of it. The nice thing is that the Roam charges over USB-C, though it’s also compatible with any Qi wireless charger. Sonos will also sell a separate, magnetic wireless charger...for an extra $49.
But the most interesting thing about the Roam is a new feature called Sound Swap. By holding the play/pause button, you can hand off sound both to and from any other Sonos speaker. So theoretically, you could listen to a podcast while making dinner, transfer the sound onto the Roam when it’s time to eat that dinner outside, then transfer it back when it’s time to go back inside. It’s similar in function to AirPlay, however, the Roam is the only Sonos speaker that can initiate a transfer.
Sonos also says that the Roam will automatically connect when you’re in range of a known wifi network, and then re-pair with your phone when you’re away without you having to do anything. Rounding out the Roam’s suite of connectivity features, Sonos added support for both 2.4 and 5GHz wifi, and the speaker is compatible with AirPlay 2. Also, as rumors suggested, two Roam speakers can play stereo—provided you’re connected to wifi.
We’ll have to test how seamless the transfer actually is and whether it lives up to Sonos’s claims, but at least on paper, it sounds like the Roam might open up some possibilities for the entire Sonos ecosystem—at least for folks who’ve already invested in multiple Sonos speakers. That brings us back to price. Sonos speakers are expensive—again, the Move costs $399 and the Sonos One is $199—so it’s nice to see that the Roam is more in line with other Bluetooth speakers with similar features. The UE Boom 3, which is probably the Roam’s most obvious competition, costs $149 but doesn’t have wifi capability or the Roam’s nifty handoff features. Aside from the Sonos One SL (which doesn’t have a microphone), the Roam is currently Sonos’s most affordable speaker. That’s great! But the catch seems to be that to get the most out of it, you’d probably need to shell out for at least one other Sonos speaker.
You can preorder the Roam in either white or black starting today at Sonos.com, and at other retailers later this month. The Roam is expected to ship April 20.