Following the advice of Fred Schneider, Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson (The B52s), who once said, “roam if you want to, roam around the world,” the popular audio company Sonos has introduced its Roam portable speaker.
The Sonos Roam is not a typical portable speaker. Yes, it offers wireless connectivity with Bluetooth. What makes it unique, however, is that it also provides Apple AirPlay 2 and more importantly to Sonos fans, integration with Sonos home audio systems to serve as another speaker within a Sonos ecosystem running on S2.
Priced in the ballpark of other portable speakers from name-brand companies, I have been using the Roam continuously over the past few weeks at home and on the road in environments such as my daughter’s music lessons and my martial arts classes and been able to enjoy the speaker wherever I may Roam.
Sonos Roam Features and Setup
Available in a choice of either black or white, the portable Roam stands just over 6.5-inches tall by about 2.4 inches wide and just over 2 inches deep.
The IP67-rated speaker can be submerged in three feet of water for 30 minutes. Sonos notes the battery delivers up to 10 hours of continuous playback, and users can charge the unit with either the included USB-C cable, as well as with a Qi-certified wireless charger or a Sonos Wireless Charger, which is sold separately.
At home, when part of a Sonos whole-house audio system, the Roam wirelessly connects to a network using 802.11a/b/g/n/ac 2.4GHz or 5GHz spectrums.
CE Pro Features
- The Roam integrates into users Sonos systems when they are using the Roam at home
- When away from home, uses can connect to the Roam via Bluetooth
- The Roam also includes Apple AirPlay 2, and it offers up to 10 hours of battery life
- Sonos specifies the Roam as an IP67 rated speaker, and it can be held under three feet of water for 30 minutes
- Available in a choice of black or white, and it comes with a USB-C charging cable
- MSRP is $169
Internally, Sonos states the speaker incorporates a pair of Class H amplifiers to drive the Roam’s two-way tweeter and woofer setup. Additionally, it also incorporates a farfield microphone for use with voice control platforms such as Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, and it also uses the microphone for its Trueplay automatic equalization (EQ) option.
Once I had pulled the small speaker from its box, I began the setup process, which is like any other Sonos product. Using my iPhone, I was promted through a series of steps in the Sonos app through the setup process. I would estimate that setup took approximately 10 minutes to integrate the portable smart speaker into the existing Sonos system in my home.
Later, in remote environments away from my home network, it was simply a matter of entering my phone’s Bluetooth settings and selecting the Roam speaker to complete a connection to wirelessly stream music from my iPhone to the speaker.
Performance and Final Thoughts
Right up front, I’d like to point out the Roam is an extremely fun product and I can’t recommend enough to Sonos system owners to pick one of these speakers up.
In my home I normally work in my “music room” which has my AV electronics and guitars. Normally I fire up my Sonos Connect, which I am running through Bryston, Meridian and Aerial Acoustics products. Having the Roam enables me to minimize my consumption of electricity by not turning on the home audio system. Now I am running the Roam on its battery or powering it with the USB-C cable. So, this is an immediate energy savings benefit.
In either scenario the speaker is close to me, so I don’t have to blast it to hear it. Either application is also really convenient in the event I need to turn it off I can use the app or physically turn the speaker off by pressing its power button.
I’d like to point out that I never measured the battery performance, but I had no issues with the length of time between charges. I also like the fact that the Sonos app indicates the Roam’s battery life. When I do charge the speaker I use a leftover Apple iOS USB power supply, which are plentiful in my Apple-centric home.
Listening to music from Apple Music, including my library and streaming content that includes local sports radio and Podcasts via Apple AirPlay 2 for example, I will say that male and female voices sound rich and full. Drums and percussion have nice levels of depth for a small speaker and I hear plenty of detail in the midrange, which is important for a number of reasons. First, I think any audio system’s midrange has to be “right” because that is where the musical engagement lives for users, and secondly and more selfishly when I practice guitar—the guitar lives in the midrange so it’s important to me to hear high levels of detail when I am playing along to songs.
I will point out something that should be obvious, but I will note it anyway: The Roam is a small speaker, it plays cleanly and reasonably loud, but don’t expect it to fill a large room with sound. It is not engineered to rival the output of a professional L-Acoustics or Meyer Sound system. Use it accordingly and it will deliver the fun I alluded to earlier.
Traveling with the Roam is just as easy as using it at home. I literally threw the speaker in my jacket pocket and used it during my martial arts classes and as a speaker for my daughter’s music lessons. Its size makes it unobtrusive and it connected within seconds using Bluetooth in these remote environments.
Maybe my only minor observations with the Roam are I’d love to see some sort of protective “travel sock” for the Roam, and I wish the control buttons on the side panel were either a little more tactile or easier to see in lower light locations.
The protective sock/travel case I think would provide some piece of mind for users that will be traveling with the Roam. I think users will love the speaker and will want to travel with it and they will have the same concerns as I do—they will want to protect the Roam from scuffing, scratches and dirt.
There’s really not much more to be said. I think Sonos has hit it out of the park with the Roam. It’s extremely well engineered, its highly functional for a range of usages, it’s reasonably priced, and it sounds awesome.
Realistically, there is not much more music lovers could ask from Sonos and its new Roam portable speaker. Kudos to Sonos for developing the Roam. Its portability, awesome sound quality, ease-of-use, and overall fun factor make it deserving to be on the wish list of every existing and future Sonos system owner.
CE Pro Verdict
- The Roam sounds full; no boomy bass, and it is rich in the midrange with nice levels of high frequency reproduction
- When away from home the Roam literally fits in a jacket pocket to make travel situations easy
- The Roam is easy-to-use through Sonos’ S2 operating system or as a Bluetooth device
- The tactile controls on the left panel of the Roam could be a little easier to see and feel
- A protective travel “sock” would be nice to keep the speaker from getting nicked, marred or scratched