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The Sonos Roam is probably the most targeted, calculated product from Sonos but. It’s a small $169 speaker that’s meant to compete with moveable Bluetooth audio system that folks so usually carry all over the place with no second thought. However it’s additionally designed to fit into Sonos’ multiroom audio platform and showcase the flexibility that comes with it. In reality, excluding the co-branded audio system that Sonos makes with Ikea, the Roam is now the most cost effective means into the corporate’s ecosystem.
The Roam helps hands-free voice instructions, has Apple AirPlay 2, contains wi-fi charging, and incorporates a rugged design that allows you to use it virtually wherever. There’s lots driving on this speaker; Sonos solely releases a pair new merchandise per yr, so all of them must ship. So let’s study how the Roam stacks up in opposition to equally sized audio system and whether or not it ought to exchange no matter you’ve bought now.
At 6.61 inches tall, the Roam really stands shorter than in style Bluetooth audio system just like the UE Increase three and JBL Flip 5. And at underneath a pound, it’s light-weight sufficient to toss into your backpack or tote. The Increase is greater throughout: you possibly can just about match the Roam proper inside it. UE’s Megaboom three and the brand new JBL Cost 5 each enhance the dimensions benefit additional, they usually’re nonetheless near the Roam in value. Going up from there, you get to the actual giants just like the UE Megablast. For this evaluation, I’ll hold it easy and give attention to audio system that resemble the Roam in measurement.
The Roam retains what’s change into the usual Sonos aesthetic, with tons of of precision-drilled holes within the speaker enclosure. However that is not a cylinder-style speaker that shoots audio in all instructions. The Roam has a curved triangle form that naturally initiatives sound each ahead and up when it’s laid horizontally. It is available in both black or white, and I’ve seen that when the black one is in brilliant lighting, you possibly can really see a hexagon sample behind the holes. That plate is there for structural causes, however it’s not likely seen on the white speaker.
That is the primary Sonos speaker to earn an IP67 mud and water resistance ranking. By certification requirements, which means it ought to survive as much as 30 minutes in three toes of water. In sensible phrases, it means you should utilize the Roam within the toilet whilst you bathe and close to swimming pools with out fretting about injury. It’s in all probability a good suggestion to maintain it on a floaty should you insist on bringing it right into a deep pool, although. This speaker doesn’t float. Sure, I checked.
I’ve additionally managed to drop my two evaluation models just a few occasions, they usually’ve come away with solely mild blemishes and a pair nicks you actually must hunt for to note. I chalk that as much as clumsiness; there’s no built-in deal with just like the Transfer, however normally the curved triangle form is straightforward to grip. Either side of the Roam have silicone finish caps to assist with ruggedness. From what I’ve seen, it ought to be capable to face up to a tumble off a bicycle and the damage and tear that comes with being a very moveable speaker.
On the highest (when vertical) or left (horizontal) is the place you discover the controls, that are precise clicky buttons beneath the silicone as a substitute of the standard capacitive sensors that Sonos tends to make use of. Going with actual, tactile buttons for this product was completely the proper choice. They’re straightforward to really feel for and exhausting to press by chance. There are 4 buttons: play / pause, two for monitor controls, and a microphone button for enabling or muting the built-in microphones which might be used for voice assistant instructions with Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant.
On the again of the Roam is a USB-C port and energy button. Except for wired charging, you can too juice up the speaker utilizing any Qi-compatible pad that it’ll match on. My Anker dual-charging station dealt with the duty properly. Sonos additionally sells a wi-fi charger that attaches to the Roam magnetically, however I didn’t get an opportunity to check that. The included USB-C-to-USB-A cable is properly angled on the Roam’s facet in order that it doesn’t get in the best way regardless of the way it’s oriented. Neither the cable nor the Sonos wi-fi charger are water-proof, so that you’ve bought to maintain these dry. When you’re in a rush, undoubtedly go wired; Sonos says it takes “about two hours” for the Roam to go from zero to 50 % when charging wirelessly in comparison with “about an hour” when plugged in. Increased-power chargers can lower down on each of these occasions.
Now onto the principle agenda: sound high quality. Sonos has constructed a good popularity with its previous audio system, however the query is whether or not the corporate could make good on its identify with a speaker this small and moveable. What I’ll say is that the Roam is among the clearest, most nice moveable audio system I’ve used. Others just like the UE Increase three can come off muddy and lack depth. There’s little about their sound and articulation that stands out.
The Roam appears to make a precedence of making certain that the feel and vibrancy of music comes by means of with most readability. Vocals sound crisp, and strings in classical music come by means of lush with out getting pitchy. Devices come by means of with a pure tone. Like different Sonos audio system, the Roam options computerized room optimization referred to as Trueplay, and Sonos says it’s always adjusting to optimize sound for no matter atmosphere it’s in. This does really make a distinction in an echoey toilet, however it’s not some magic cure-all for an acoustically challenged room. (Auto Trueplay works with music each streamed over Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.)
Let’s face it: whereas Sonos claims that the Roam “defies expectations,” it may’t defy physics. It is a comparatively small speaker, and maybe the best-sounding one in its measurement class, however it has weaknesses. On the high of that listing is bass, which might’t fairly match that of the Sonos One and is roundly defeated by the a lot bigger, heavier Transfer. Even the hardly bigger JBL Flip 5 has extra assertive bass that will get noticeably boomier than the Roam. It could possibly go louder, too. Bigger Bluetooth audio system just like the UE Megaboom and JBL Cost 5 will nearly definitely trounce the Roam at bass response, however I don’t contemplate that shocking.
Sonos’ speaker has some low-end resonance — you’ll really feel the vibrations if it’s on a desk — however it’s clear that the corporate has opted for stability over increase issue. The Roam can even solely achieve this a lot once you’re utilizing it in a large open area outdoor with no partitions for the sound to bounce off of. It’ll crank loud with out a lot distortion however can’t attain the identical fullness because the Transfer. It’s once you actually flip up the quantity that you just’ll be left wanting some added oomph. A celebration speaker this isn’t.
Utilizing two Roams concurrently a stereo pair brings out much more element, and the bass additionally advantages from two of them enjoying collectively. There’s no beating correct stereo separation, and two Roams do a greater job blanketing a bed room or front room in music than one alone. Sadly, the method of making a stereo pair can get tedious. It’s important to manually do it from the Sonos app each time. This is sensible since it’s important to choose which speaker is on what facet. However I’d like it if there have been a button shortcut to extra rapidly kind a stereo pair — or at the least a immediate once you energy on a second Roam that asks if you wish to pair them as a substitute of leaving each to their lonesome by default.
To the frustration of some Sonos clients, the Roam doesn’t help you use the stereo pair characteristic when listening over Bluetooth. That is additionally the case with the Transfer, however contemplating how a lot Sonos is hyping the portability of its new speaker, it seems like a fumble on the corporate’s half. Perhaps this poses engineering challenges, however different Bluetooth audio system just like the UE Wonderboom 2 can already hyperlink collectively as a stereo pair while not having an app to get there. Bluetooth stereo could be a compelling motive for some individuals to personal two Roams, however proper now the characteristic isn’t there.
Sonos has at the least launched some new methods with the Roam when utilizing it round the home. The primary is known as sound swap, which helps you to rapidly move off audio from the Roam to whichever of your different Sonos audio system is closest. You simply maintain the play button for just a few seconds, and the at present enjoying music hops over. Repeat the method, and audio strikes again to the Roam. This has labored properly in my expertise up to now, and Sonos goes about finding the closest speaker in a intelligent means. Once you activate sound swap, your entire audio system briefly emit a high-frequency tone that your ears can’t hear — however the Roam can. Once you enterprise outdoors, the Roam does a stable job routinely pairing to your cellphone when you’re outdoors Wi-Fi protection.
The opposite new characteristic that debuts with the Roam is the choice to play Bluetooth audio over your complete Sonos system. Within the Sonos app, you possibly can add your different audio system as a gaggle with the Roam that’s enjoying the Bluetooth audio supply. My turntable doesn’t do Bluetooth, but when yours does, this will probably be a simple option to play your information in a number of rooms — at the price of constancy, after all. There are different methods of integrating vinyl into a Sonos system should you care extra about audio high quality. I did check this characteristic utilizing content material from a good friend’s cellphone over Bluetooth, and it performed simply superb throughout my different Sonos audio system. The Transfer can’t be up to date with this characteristic as a result of the Roam has a brand new antenna that may hook up with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi concurrently. The Transfer solely helps one or the opposite at a time.
However even with these new capabilities, there are nonetheless these occasional occasions the place a Sonos system falls out of step. Perhaps music playback inexplicably begins seizing up, or perhaps the quantity controls within the app you’re casting from — like Spotify — cease working. Even after shifting to its new S2 platform, Sonos hasn’t utterly ironed out the blips when its cellular app goes on the fritz or appears to momentarily lose management over all the things. The bugs are uncommon, however they occur.
What’s worse within the case of the Roam is how poorly Sonos handles shifting between Wi-Fi networks. Every little thing works simply nice at house, however if you wish to use the Wi-Fi options of Roam at another person’s place or when touring, it’s an actual headache. The method of including one other “trusted community” within the Sonos app didn’t all the time work in my expertise. I hope that is one thing Sonos will give attention to extra now that it’s promoting a speaker that’s moveable in a means that the Transfer by no means was. Music on the Roam sounds finest over Wi-Fi, and it’s additionally wanted for options like AirPlay 2. Bluetooth is correct there as a fallback, however the Roam actually has to get friendlier with visitor networks.
The estimated battery lifetime of 10 hours can be on the low facet: the UE Increase three will get 15 hours and JBL’s Flip 5 hits 12. Wi-fi charging helps make up for this to an extent. It’s fairly uncommon amongst Bluetooth audio system, and you’ll play music because the Roam sits on the charger replenishing its battery. However I nonetheless want Sonos might’ve eked out some additional enjoying time. The corporate says you possibly can attain as much as 10 days of standby time, however that strikes me as optimistic. My evaluation models have held their cost for fairly just a few days, although.
There’s additionally a battery drain bug should you arrange Google Assistant on the Roam that Sonos warned reviewers about, and it’s unhealthy sufficient that the corporate is encouraging clients to energy the speaker down when it’s not getting used to preserve juice. Sonos says it’s working with Google on a repair and that clients utilizing Alexa received’t encounter the identical challenge. The beamforming microphones typically picked up my voice instructions with out apparent errors the overwhelming majority of the time, and except for the Google battery bug, each voice assistants labored as anticipated.
It’s finest to consider the Sonos Roam as a private speaker. It’ll do superb in your desk pumping out the soundtrack to your day. It could possibly deal with picnic responsibility for a small group on the park or come for a ride-along in your bike. And sure, it shines within the bathe. However should you’re main a dance class or attempting to entertain visitors at a barbecue, these are the sorts of conditions the place the bigger Transfer simply wins out and proves its price. Consider it this fashion: the extra those that will probably be listening, the earlier you’ll flip to a speaker that isn’t the Roam.
However even with that understood, the Roam has lots going for it. When within the consolation of your own home, options like AirPlay and voice assistants do make it really feel extra succesful than different audio system which might be equally small and straightforward to hold. That and handy wi-fi charging are the place the $170 value will get simpler to just accept.
The Roam can fill in any nook of your dwelling area — the toilet, the storage, wherever — that doesn’t have one other full-time Sonos speaker in it. On the go together with Bluetooth, it’s straightforward to make use of and kicks out clear, satisfying sound for its measurement. Sonos must work on retaining the Roam’s smarts collectively once you’re on completely different Wi-Fi, and stereo pairing over Bluetooth ought to’ve been a characteristic on day one. However neither is sufficient to sink the general worth of Sonos’ newest speaker. So long as you don’t anticipate miracles from its compact measurement, I believe you’ll find yourself pleased.
Images by Chris Welch / The Verge