In a now fully established market, with no shortage of great-sounding options, the Sonos Roam was probably the most hotly anticipated portable speaker ever.
In fact, there is probably only a handful of companies that could hope to have similar impact without some truly game-changing feature. Because, though Sonos is almost synonymous with wireless speakers – in mass-market terms at least – it has taken until 2021 to release one that is fully portable and geared totally towards outside living.
We’ve already published our Sonos Roam review, but there’s more to this migratory little speaker than just how good it sounds. Here is everything we think you need to know to get the best out of Sonos’s latest release – and make it worth that long, long wait.
What is Sonos Roam?
In short, the Roam is the first truly portable wireless speaker living within Sonos’s family of multi-room products. That means, as well as accompanying you to the park and soundtracking your outing via Bluetooth, it can connect to every other Sonos product on your home wi-fi network.
The Roam isn’t strictly Sonos’s first Bluetooth speaker you could carry around in your backpack – that was the Sonos Move – but it is at least the first to leave you room for a laptop and packed lunch. You can think of the Move, released nearly two years ago, as more of a home and garden speaker than one you’d consider taking with you wherever you go.
The Roam’s dimensions and weight – 17 x 6.2 x 6cm (hwd) and 430g – are a big part of its appeal in that respect, but it also boasts an IP67 rating for water and dust resistance. That means it can be immersed in one metre of water for up to 30 minutes, while its built-in battery has the stamina for up to 10 hours of playback from a single charge.
Add in wi-fi and Apple AirPlay 2 connectivity, Amazon Alexa and Google assistant voice control, and the best multi-room app on the market, and there you have it: a portable speaker that only Sonos could make.
- Sonos Roam vs Sonos Move: which one is best for you?
Is the Sonos Roam worth it?
The Roam certainly isn’t the best-sounding wireless speaker you can buy for this money, which is why we gave it four stars in our review, so it’s a good question to ask yourself.
Firstly, do you have any other Sonos products or do you plan to? If the answer is no, then you’re possibly best off looking elsewhere for a go-everywhere speaker at this price. The integration to Sonos’s network is a huge selling point for the Roam, so really should be something you require in order to go this way.
Otherwise, if you do have a family of Sonos speakers looking to adopt, you should ask yourself how you want to use your portable speaker. Because, as mentioned, if what you really need is a garden speaker then you might be better off with the Sonos Move. It’s more expensive, but it does also sound better, and can withstand the elements just as well.
If your answers to those are that you don’t need Sonos or ultra-portability from your new wireless speaker, then we’d be surprised if you didn’t find yourself better served by something else entirely. There are plenty of great-sounding options that offer battery power, wi-fi and voice assistants, from a range of trustworthy brands, and you’ll find them lurking on our best portable speakers page.
Is the Sonos Roam waterproof? Can it be used outside?
The IP67 rating means the Roam is watertight enough to deal with rain or snow, and Sonos promises it’ll operate in more extreme high and low temperatures as well.
The Roam can breathe underwater for 30 minutes but only at a depth of one metre, so we wouldn’t risk it floating around the pool on a lilo, but we’ve used ours on a drizzly day along the British coast and neither rain nor sand has stopped it working yet.
- Check out our pick of the best outdoor speakers
Do I need a protective case?
Again, don’t take what Sonos says as a challenge, but the Roam should withstand a number of bashes, bangs and falls. So no, you shouldn’t need a case unless you can’t bear scuffing the ends.
We’ve been pretty careful while testing ours, as we are with most things, but the Roam has fared well on its travels so far.
That said, if you are determined to add some extra protection, long-time Sonos-collaborator Flexson has just launched a case for the Roam and we're sure more must be on the way.
Can Sonos Roam play while charging?
Yes. The Roam charges either via USB-C, using the optional Sonos Wireless Charger, or with any Qi wireless charger – and during charging, the Sonos Roam can play music. Just like the Move can.
Can Sonos Roam be used as surround sound speakers?
Unfortunately not. Not for the moment, at least. Sonos is well known for its regular updates and new features can be added to its speakers in time. Right now, though, if you want proper decoded surround using dedicated rear speakers, you’ll need the Sonos One, One SL, Play:1, Play:3, Play:5, Five, Symfonisk bookshelf speaker or Symfonisk lamp speaker (or an Amp or Connect:Amp powering passive speakers).
Though you can’t use the Roam as a surround speaker, because the Roam is part of Sonos’s multi-room family you can still play the same audio as is playing on any other Sonos speaker on your home network. That includes the Arc and the Beam.
All you have to do is group the Roam with whichever other speaker you want to share audio, and you can essentially carry it around with you thanks to the Roam’s portability.
Can Sonos Roam connect directly to a TV?
Apple AirPlay 2 Yes
Dimensions (hwd) 16.8 x 6.2 x 6cm
You could, but it wouldn’t be the best use of the Roam. There is no physical audio connection, let alone HDMI, so you’d be connecting it to your TV via Bluetooth. That wouldn’t be the end of the world, as the Roam boasts Bluetooth 5.0, but you aren’t going to get anything approaching the sound or features of a dedicated soundbar such as the Beam or Arc.
Can I pair two Roam speakers in stereo?
You can, but only via wi-fi and the Sonos app; this can’t be done using only Bluetooth. That isn’t the end of the world if you want to do so outside, but it does make things a bit more difficult enjoying a proper stereo mix out in the wilderness.
While placing two Roam speakers near the house might work when you’re in the garden, further afield you’ll need to set up a wi-fi network perhaps using a second phone or tablet. You can’t use the same device to work the control app and provide the wi-fi hotspot, so it does start getting fairly convoluted, but it is possible if you’re desperate open-air stereo.
How does the Roam work with other wireless speakers?
As we’ve said, if you aren’t already invested in the Sonos multi-room family then you might be better off looking elsewhere for your portable wireless speaker needs.
However, the Roam’s Apple AirPlay 2 compatibility means you could also set up a multi-room system with speakers from other manufacturers that way. Otherwise, you’ll need a linking device that will communicate with the Roam via Bluetooth.
What is Sonos Trueplay?
Trueplay is a Sonos technology that has been around for a while, allowing its speakers to tweak EQ settings automatically depending on where they’re placed – in open space or near to a wall, for example.
Given the whole idea of the Roam is that it moves around with you, it’s handy you can leave the Trueplay function on and it’ll do this automatically every time you place it down. How much of a difference that’ll make when battling outside noise and weather is another thing entirely, but it can do little harm.
What does the Loudness function do?
Loudness is another Sonos feature that can affect the sound of your speaker. It isn’t just a volume boost, though: it tends also to add a little more bite to the sound. This more forward presentation isn’t suitable for all listeners, or all tracks, all of the time; at very least it can help cut through at a garden party, though.
Can I stream hi-res music on the Roam?
Actually, yes you can. For a long time this has been on our list of wants from Sonos, and finally it is possible thanks to new partnerships with Qobuz and Amazon Music. The Sonos S2 app already let users play 24-bit files from a local drive, but now thankfully users can stream hi-res tracks from these music services – providing they subscribe to them, of course. And now we wait ever so patiently for Apple Music and Tidal compatibility...
Does the Roam sound better upright or on its side?
Because the Sonos Roam has only one tweeter and one woofer, playing in mono, that makes it pretty versatile in terms of orientation.
It is angled, though, so generally if you’re putting it at ear height then upright will give you better focus; anywhere lower and having the Roam on its side will direct the sound upwards toward you and improve on stability. Given the choice, we usually ended up with the latter placement in our testing.
Is Sonos Roam compatible with S1?
A simple one to answer, this: no, version one of the Sonos platform isn't compatible with the Sonos Roam, so you’ll have to update to the Sonos S2 control app.
For the uninitiated, Sonos S2 is the latest app and operating system – essentially a complete update to the software side of the ecosystem.
Which voice assistants can I use with Sonos Roam?
The Sonos Roam has Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant built in, for which you can use the speaker’s on-board microphone.
Can I turn the microphone off?
Yes, it’s as simple as pressing the rubber microphone push button on the end of the speaker.
Does the Sonos Roam feature wireless charging?
Indeed it does. Sonos has released its dedicated Roam Wireless Charger, which you can buy for £44 ($49), but you can wirelessly fill the ten-hour battery using any Qi-certified charger. The Roam also comes packaged with a USB-C cable (but no plug) to charge via the connection at the back of the speaker, and this will also work with generic such cables.
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