What you need to know
- The Sonos Roam is the company’s cheapest product to date at $169.
- It’s a portable Sonos speaker that performs double-duty as a standalone Bluetooth speaker and a whole-home Wi-Fi speaker.
- It’s fully waterproof, has a 10-hour battery and can easily “throw” music to a nearby Sonos speaker.
Sonos doesn’t release new products very often. The last consumer speaker it released was back in 2019, when a product demo involved a flight to New York, a gorgeous patio with a view of Manhattan, and demos showing the newly-announced Move speaker caked in mud, submerged in water, and dropped onto concrete. The company made a big deal about the fact that the Move, which replaced the aging Play:3 in the company’s lineup, sounded like a big, room-filling Sonos speaker that happened to easily pair with a smartphone over Bluetooth and last for 10 hours on its built-in battery.
I really like the Move, but at 6.6 pounds its transportability shouldn’t be mistaken for actual portability. Sonos seemingly understood this, too, when a company representative disclosed to me that some of the development cycle for its newest product, the Roam, overlapped with the Move.
We’ve already seen the Roam leak pretty extensively, and nothing the company announced today is particularly surprising, but when explained by Ryan Richards, Director of Global Product Marketing, its existence makes sense. Like all of us, Sonos is preparing for a world that will once again travel, and sees demand for high-quality portable speakers increasing dramatically. At just under a pound, the triangular Roam looks like a cross between a Sonos One and a UE Boom, and it’s the smallest Sonos device by a considerable margin.
Inside, you’ll find the speaker modestly equipped compared to other Sonos products: a dual-amplifier design with a single mid-woofer and one tweeter, you should expect sound closer to a traditional Bluetooth speaker, though the company promises that the custom-designed components should lead to higher fidelity than the average.
For most people, the benefit of buying a Sonos product is for the ecosystem; the experience improves the more products you add. I’ve got a house full of Sonos speakers and they all work really well together when I want to fill it with sound, or group speakers in particular rooms together. Sonos understands that while the Roam is an entry-point into the company’s easy-to-use world of audio, it’s not going to replace anything currently in its lineup, so it added a feature called Sound Swap, which involves holding down the play button for a few seconds and, if there’s a larger Sonos speaker in range, it will throw the audio to it, sort of like a Chromecast.
Like the Move, the Sonos Roam supports both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, but unlike that larger speaker doesn’t really differentiate between them; it maintains a Bluetooth connection to a nearby phone at all times, turning into a traditional Bluetooth speaker when it loses a Wi-Fi signal. That prevents needing to explicitly enable Bluetooth and pair it to a phone every time. The Roam also uses its simultaneous Bluetooth/Wi-Fi connect to act as a relay, sharing a phone’s Bluetooth audio signal (say, a YouTube video) with the entire Sonos network.
The speaker is IP67 rated, which makes it more robust than the Move. The company says it can be fully submerged in water, and that it’s pretty durable, able to withstand the kinds of beatings reserved for rough-and-tumble rugged Bluetooth speakers without necessarily looking like one.
Sonos plans to sell an optional $49 wireless charging stand with the Roam, but says any Qi charger will top it up, or you can use a USB-C cable plugged into the base for faster top-ups. As with the Move and other recent Sonos speakers, the Roam has far-field microphones to facilitate Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa support.
The Roam launches on April 20 for USD $169, or CAD $229/GBP £159/EUR €179/AUD $279 in white and black colorways.
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