The entry fee into the Sonos ecosystem just became a lot more affordable with the introduction of the Sonos Roam. The $169 portable wireless speaker is designed for use inside your home or outside on the beach. It’s also a smart speaker with built-in microphones for beckoning Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. At first glance it seems to combine the ruggedness and portability of a UE BOOM 3 with an Amazon Echo. However, when you throw in compatibility with the Sonos ecosystem is it a game changer? Maybe.
Two questions come to mind. Will existing Sonos customers buy one to add sound into an additional room? Or will Roam attract new buyers to Sonos? The latter is most interesting, because a lower entry point could pull people into the Sonos experience, most notably through the Sonos app. The app is the secret weapon that creates lock-in for the next speaker purchase, whether a Sonos sound bar or bookshelf loudspeaker. We also like that it works with Tidal Connect.
As for sound quality, we’d expect Sonos Roam to be one of the best for its size. That’s not saying a lot. Every portable speaker of similar size (6.61-inches tall) suffers one way or another. It’s really just a matter of it being pleasing enough to enjoy music. If Sonos can bottle some of the magic from the Sonos 5, this might become the dominant portable wireless loudspeaker in the world. Two of these in a dorm room could be a fantastic streaming system for college kids.
Roam is supposed to automatically tune itself for any environment with Trueplay room acoustics optimization. Although it’s unclear what Sonos means by “automatic,” because Trueplay with its other speakers requires you to walk around the room while the system calibrates itself (through the app) with test signals. It’s automatic after stepping through the process, but not automatic in the sense that it’s always adapting itself to any environment. In any case, Trueplay should have some positive impact on overall musical enjoyment.
Sonos Roam intelligently connects via WiFi at home and automatically switches to Bluetooth when you’re on the go, re-pairing with your mobile device. One Roam works by itself, two can be setup into stereo mode, and if you wanted to spread them around your home you can connect up to 32 of them (or any combination of Sonos speakers).
If you have more than one Sonos speaker, a new feature called Sound Swap switches the music to the nearest speaker in your system. Just press and hold the play/pause button on the speaker. Otherwise all music zones are controlled through the Sonos app, which can play the same thing or different music in various parts of your home.
Seamless connectivity also unlocks Bluetooth streaming for your entire system, with the Sonos app allowing you to group any of your Sonos speakers to Roam when streaming with Bluetooth. Roam works with more than 100 streaming services, including Sonos Radio, and is easily controlled with the Sonos app, your voice with Amazon Alexa or the Google Assistant, Apple AirPlay 2, or directly from your favorite music service app. For privacy, Roam’s microphones are not always on, which means you’ll have to press a button atop Roam first to initiate voice commands. Also, Roam needs to be connected to WiFi for voice commands to work.
“We built Roam to give customers a way to bring the Sonos experience with them wherever they go. “It’s not only our smartest and most versatile speaker, it’s also our most affordable. Roam provides the opportunity for millions of new customers to get started with Sonos, and is the right product at the right time as we begin to gather again with friends and family.”Patrick Spence, Sonos CEO
Roam’s tactile triangular shape and soft profile is comfortable to pick up and looks great inside the home. Combining elegance and durability, Roam is dustproof and fully waterproof with a rigorously-tested IP67 rating, and features silicone end caps and physical buttons to protect against drops or bumps. Roam is ready for any adventure with up to 10 hours of continuous playback on a single charge and up to 10 days of battery life when not in use. To recharge, Roam connects to a custom magnetic wireless charger from Sonos sold separately, any Qi wireless charger, or the USB-C cable included in the box.
Roam’s compact size will fit into any bag or the in smallest corner of your living space. Listeners can place Roam vertically for a smaller footprint or horizontally to provide added stability on uneven surfaces outdoors. Even the packaging leaves a light footprint, made of 100% sustainably-sourced paper with a new design that minimises the use of inks and includes no single-use plastics.
Price & Availability
Sonos Roam is available starting April 20, 2021 in shadow black or lunar white. Pre-orders are now being accepted.