Despite its (relatively) modest price, you get a lot of bang for your buck here. The Sonos Roam has a sleek appearance that won’t seem out of place in your house, and its durable, waterproof, and dustproof construction, as well as good battery life, make it perfect for listening to music outside.
The Roam comes with a slew of fascinating capabilities to make the shift from indoors to outside as easy as possible. Sound Swap is the first of these new functions; press and hold the play button, and the Sonos Roam will ‘throw’ your audio to the nearest other Sonos speakers accessible.
Another feature, Automatic Switching between Bluetooth and Wi-Fi Connections, allows you to come inside your home, and the Roam will automatically connect to your Wi-Fi after being associated with your Bluetooth device. You won’t have to set it up or reconnect manually.
Finally, the Auto TruePlay function, which was initially introduced with the Roam Move, has been improved here, allowing the Roam to automatically adapt its soundscape to your surroundings, whether you’re connected through Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.
Of course, none of these flashy features would be worth anything if the Roam didn’t sound great – and we’re happy to report that, despite its diminutive size, the Roam delivers a powerful sonic performance, complete with surprisingly prominent bass, even if it lacks the rhythmic accuracy you’d expect from an audiophile speaker. If you consider yourself an audiophile, you may find the bass to be somewhat overbearing – yet those powerful low frequencies perform well outdoors, where there are no walls to bounce sound off of.
The Sonos Roam is our vote for the best portable speaker of 2021 because of its mix of class-leading connection capabilities, robust sound, and outstanding design. However, it falls short of the best wireless speaker, the Sonos One, in terms of audio quality.
In any event, we believe Sonos has succeeded in making the most competent Sonos speaker to date, and we’d strongly advise purchasing it if you’re seeking a portable speaker that can integrate into your existing home music system while also providing songs for a bonfire or at the beach.
The Sonos Roam is available for $179 / £179 / AU$299, which is $20 / £20 / AU$20 higher than its initial launch price in April 2021, after a virtually product-wide price rise announced by Sonos.
It is the cheapest Sonos speaker to date in the United States and the United Kingdom, undercutting the Sonos One SL, which costs $179 / £179 (AU$269). It’s also less expensive than Sonos’ first portable smart speaker, the Move, which sells for $399 / £399 / AU$649 — a price that places it squarely at the upper end of the Bluetooth speaker market, despite its array of Sonos smarts and great music. However, it’s still not cheap; one of our favorite Bluetooth speakers, the UE Boom 3, costs $129.99 / £129.99 / AU$199.95, albeit it lacks Sonos’ newest device’s innovative assistant capabilities.
While the Roam maintains the brand’s minimalist look, it is nonetheless a significant departure for the audio industry, focusing on robustness and mobility. It’s longer and thinner than the squat Move, and it’s around the same size as a water bottle. It’s also much lighter than the Move, only 0.95lbs / 0.43kg, so you can easily carry it in your hand or throw it in a bag when you’re out and about.
It’s more portable than its predecessor, yet it’s tough enough to weather the elements, thanks to its light design and IP67 water-and-dust resistance rating. Sonos claims that it can withstand being three feet underwater for 30 minutes. An embossed white Sonos logo appears on the speaker’s front; above it, an LED displays the speaker’s connection status, while an LED on the other end indicates battery life.
When the speaker is placed horizontally, the control buttons are on the left end; the buttons are on the top when the speaker is placed vertically. There is volume up and down controls and a play/pause button, and a microphone on/off switch. To skip to the next track, double-press the play/pause button or triple-press it to return to the previous way.
Press and hold the play/pause button to connect the Roam with other Sonos devices; holding the button kept for longer activates the aforementioned ‘throw’ function, which switches your audio to the next adjacent Sonos speaker. The somewhat embossed buttons are more tactile and simpler to operate than the touch-sensitive buttons on top of the Sonos Move, and they’re more accessible for folks with visual impairments.
One of the most remarkable features of the Roam is Sound Swap, which allows you to ‘throw’ music from your Roam to the closest Sonos speaker available and vice versa.
Hold the play/pause button down until you hear the third tone (one more than if you were pairing two speakers) while keeping the Roam close to the second speaker. The song should start playing from the second speaker or the entire speaker array if cast to a Sonos system.
Sound Swap worked well with our home theatre setup, including a Sonos Arc, two Sonos One SL rear speakers, and the Sonos Sub. It was fantastic to bring the Roam in from the kitchen and continue listening to our music on a surround sound system without having to fiddle with our phone.
As previously indicated, this capability also works in reverse, so pressing and holding the play/pause button will enable the Roam to take up sounds from another speaker or setup – helpful in bringing the Roam outside.
Despite its mobility, the Roam is an integral element of the Sonos ecosystem, allowing you to utilize it as part of a more extensive multi-room audio setup or link two speakers for stereo sound. Holding down the play/pause button on the Sonos Roam allows you to pair it with other Sonos speakers. We anticipated this to be the case, as it is with the Sonos Move – the company attributes this to sync concerns and the risk of a directional soundtrack losing focus if a speaker is not correctly positioned in a room.
The Roam is compatible with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5, allowing you to use it at home or on the go. The new Automatic Switching feature makes the transition even more accessible. The speaker automatically connects to your Wi-Fi network when in range and re-pairing with your phone when you are out and about.
To use the Roam, you need to connect it to your Wi-Fi network using the Sonos S2 app. The instructions are not clear on this, but you will not pair through Bluetooth until you do this first. It just took us a few minutes to set up the Sonos Roam. To begin, download the Sonos app if you do not already have it, and then go to Settings > System > Add Product.
When you first connect the Roam to your network, you will be required to input an 8-digit code found on the bottom of the speaker, which you may either manually enter or have automatically entered using NFC. After doing this, you will hear a chime indicating that the code was successfully input, and the speaker will begin connecting to your Wi-Fi network.
If an update is available, you may also have to wait for the Roam to update. There’s also a ‘product tour’ to help you learn about the Roam’s controls and capabilities within the app – it’s an excellent addition that makes the setup procedure feel quite simple.
The Roam’s advertised battery life is 10 hours. Still, we found it to be closer to nine hours while playing music at a medium level, and the company claims the speaker can survive for up to 10 days in sleep mode — it’ll go into sleep mode automatically when you stop playing music.
That battery life is roughly identical to the 11-hour battery life of the Sonos Move and most decent portable speakers on the market. The Sonos Roam can be charged with any Qi-certified charging device, but if you want to keep it in the family, Sonos provides a specific wireless charging stand with magnets to lock the speaker in place for $49 / £44 / AU$79. A USB-A to USB-C connector is also included in the package, allowing you to use your adaptor.