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Out of the study, onto the beach


Whether you’re in a white boy summer or hot girl summer mindset, having a good quality Bluetooth speaker is a must. Sonos, as one of the biggest names in premium audio, has thrown its hat into the portable speaker ring with the Sonos Roam. This compact Bluetooth speaker brings all the great aspects of a Sonos audio system to a portable and fantastic-sounding form factor. It’s close to being the ideal portable speaker, but a couple of shortcomings keep it from true greatness.

Design, hardware, what’s in the box

The Sonos Roam looks like your typical portable Bluetooth speaker. It’s a roughly triangular box standing six-and-a-half inches tall and about two-and-a-half inches wide. The rest of the body is a nice matte plastic with rubber on the top and bottom. The top has 4 buttons: a microphone mute, a play/pause, volume up, and a volume down. The back has a single USB-C port and the power button. All around, the design is pretty classic and unassuming.

The front is a metal grill protecting the mid-woofer and tweeter. Unlike most portable speakers, Sonos separated these two speakers for better sound quality. Sonos has also built this speaker with IP 67 water and dust resistance, along with drop resistance to protect the hardware while you’re hauling it around. That’s something that doesn’t come up much with the company’s home speaker systems, but it managed to make the Roam durable while retaining the elegant Sonos style.

The bottom of the speaker is actually a wireless charging coil. You can dock the Sonos Roam on any Qi wireless charger to keep it topped up while using it as a speaker for a specific room. It’s actually a super cool feature and ends up working well with AirPlay if you want to use it as a dedicated speaker for a room with an Apple TV.

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In the box, Sonos provides a 10W USB-A charging brick along with USB-A to USB-C cable and a small sleeve to carry the Roam around. The charger does output the maximum 10W the Roam supports. I didn’t actually find the sleeve to be that useful and ended up throwing it away after a few days because it was just a thin cheap piece of felt that didn’t feel like it did much.

Sound quality, features, and battery life

Let’s cut to the chase: from highs to lows and everything in between, this is the best portable speaker my ears have been blessed to bear. I would put it at about the same level as a HomePod mini, which is one of the best smart speakers for audio quality. However, the Roam can go with you anywhere. The Sonos Roam does support connecting in stereo, but I wasn’t able to test that as I only have one speaker.

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There are three ways to play music on the Roam—Sonos Connect, Bluetooth, and AirPlay 2. If possible, you should use Sonos Connect. It can pull directly from basically any audio platform like Apple Music, YouTube Music, Amazon Music, Deezer, Tidal, and Sonos’ own Sonos Radio HD. Since it’s streaking directly to the speaker, it sounds the best. Right under that is AirPlay 2, which is almost as good as Sonos Connect. Bluetooth is a bit worse depending on the connection, but it’ll use AAC rather than something like LDAC or aptX. While you’re using this outside and away from WiFi, which is what the Roam is meant for, you probably won’t notice the difference, but if you’re really looking to nitpick, Bluetooth should be your last resort.

The Sonos Roam does a lot more than pump out amazing audio. It has both Alexa and Google Assistant support, which provides access to your smart home anywhere your WiFi reaches. It also has Trueplay, an auto-adjusting EQ to balance the music to whatever your environment may be. It supports Apple AirPlay 2 so using it with your Apple products is easier than ever. AirPlay 2 is so good, in fact, I was able to use my Sonos Roam as part of a surround sound setup with 4 HomePod minis. It doesn’t support Google Cast, though, so you won’t be able to use it in a similar setup with Nest Speakers. The lack of Google Cast support could be due to the ongoing Sonos-Google lawsuit, but it’s annoying for anyone who uses Google’s smart home platform.

There is one notable issue with Google Assistant on the Sonos Roam—it will automatically turn itself on. When turning off the speaker, pressing the button on the back puts it into a low-power standby mode that makes connecting fast and has minimal impact on the battery. If you have Google Assistant enabled, the Sonos Roam will randomly turn itself back on and drain that battery.

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Assuming Assistant doesn’t get in the way, the battery life is about what Sonos advertises: 10 hours, give or take a little depending on volume. I found myself just throwing it on a wireless charger whenever it wasn’t in use, so it rarely got low enough to need a full recharge. It’s nice to just pick up the speaker on my way out the door and not have to worry about whether or not it’ll last through the day. The wireless charging support makes this one of the most convenient portable speakers I’ve used.

Should you buy it?

Yes. The Sonos Roam is the best small portable speaker I’ve ever used. From design to durability to sound quality, it checks every box. This is the perfect speaker to bring to the beach or have poolside. It sounds great, looks great, and the best to have for the summer. There are other speakers that are louder or last longer on a charge, but none of those are the total package that the Sonos Roam is. If you’re looking for a Bluetooth-only portable speaker that sounds fine, something like the JBL Charge 5 will do the job with a larger battery, but will be lacking the sound quality the Sonos Roam has.

Yeah, $170 is a lot to ask for a Bluetooth speaker. Luckily, the Sonos Roam is more than that. It has the portability and ease of use of a Bluetooth speaker, plus high-quality streaming, smart home integrations, and more. It has the best of both worlds, as long as you don’t need Google Cast. That and the battery drain bug keep this from earning a Most Wanted award, but we’ll circle back when and if it gets fixed.

Buy it if…

  • Want to jam at the beach
  • Have a Sonos setup

Don’t buy it if…

  • You just want a basic Bluetooth speaker
  • You care about Google cast

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