Sonos recently entered the Indian wireless speaker market with a lot of fanfare. With the Sonos Move already making a huge impression on us and winning the Digit Zero1 Award for the best performing wireless speaker of 2021, our expectations were high. It should be noted, however, that this is only the company’s second attempt at using a battery powered speaker. The brand is further known for its premium speakers that offer multi-device setups. Priced at Rs 21,999, the Sonos Roam is absolutely exorbitantly priced when compared to competitors from brands such as JBL and Ultimate Ears. It does, however, come equipped with unique features such as Sonos’ multi-room setup. Not only does the speaker feature Bluetooth, but it can also work with your existing Sonos multi-room audio system over Wi-Fi. The speaker also has plenty of other features that we’ll cover in this review. The ultimate question to be answered is whether the Sonos Roam can stand out from the competition to be worth 20K. Let’s figure it out.
Sonos Roam: build and design
With the Sonos Roam, the company retains the minimalist, stylish aesthetic that was present in previous devices like the Move. An important differentiator, however, is that Sonos has focused much more on portability and overall ruggedness with the Roam. The speaker is quite small and weighs only 0.43 kg. By contrast, the Sonos Move, which is also a battery-powered Bluetooth/Wi-Fi speaker, weighs a whopping 3kg. The Roam, on the other hand, is easily portable and can be carried in a purse or purse. The speaker has a honeycomb grille, but it doesn’t wrap all the way around the speaker’s body, so you won’t get 360-degree sound.
It has a long, cylindrical shape that can be placed upright or horizontally as desired. When placed horizontally, the speaker knob has non-slip rubber grips to keep it stable. The speaker comes with a feature called TruePlay that automatically adjusts the sound based on the speaker’s orientation. We’ll talk more about TruePlay in the features section.
Aside from its lightweight construction, the Sonos Roam is also rated IP67 dust and water resistant, making it a valuable outdoor speaker, protecting it from elements such as dirt and rain. You can even use the speaker in the shower without worrying about water damage. The speaker can even survive underwater, however, according to the company, we do not recommend trying this out.
The control buttons are located on the left side of the speaker (when placed horizontally). There are volume buttons, a pause/play button and a microphone button. The pause/play button has multiple functions and can also be used to search for songs. The buttons are embossed and tactile, and we prefer them to the touch buttons on the Sonos Move.
On the back of the speaker you have the on/off button. Pressing and holding this button activates pairing to connect the speaker to a source device. You also have the USB Type-C charging port below the power button. The speaker is available in two colors – Shadow Black and Lunar White. Both look stylish and aesthetically pleasing, like most Sonos devices.
Sonos Roam: Features
The Sonos Roam comes with quite a few extra features that you don’t normally get with portable speakers to justify the exorbitant price. Such a feature is called Sound Swap. What this feature does is you can essentially “throw” the music from your Sonos Roam speaker to the nearest Sonos speaker nearby, and vice versa. Now if you press and hold the pause/play button for one second, you can pair the Roam with other Sonos products and play music on the Sonos products at the same time. Essentially, you can place a large number of Sonos speakers throughout the house and link them all together to play music anywhere in the house at the same time. However, to activate the Sound Swap function, you need to press and hold the pause/play button for more than a second.
Now your music should automatically start playing on the nearest Sonos speaker. This feature worked seamlessly in our testing phase. We were able to easily “throw” the music from the Roam to the Move and vice versa, all without reaching for your phone. If you want the Sonos Roam to pick up the music again, press and hold the pause/play button on the Roam again for longer than a second.
As mentioned before, the speaker works on both Bluetooth v5.0 and WiFi. It has what’s called an Automatic Switching feature that automatically connects the speaker to Wi-Fi when it’s in range and reconnects to your phone when it’s out of Wi-Fi range, making the transition between Bluetooth and Wi-Fi modes smooth. The speaker also supports Apple AirPlay 2, which is excellent for iOS users.
The speaker is also compatible with the Sonos app, which you need to get started. After you’ve downloaded the app, go to Settings > System > Add product. Follow the on-screen instructions and you should be able to connect the speaker to your Wi-Fi network and your phone in no time. The app also has a product tour that explains the speaker’s controls and features. When using Wi-Fi, there is support for AirPlay2 and other music streaming services in the app, such as Spotify, YouTube Music, Apple Music, Tidal, and a few others.
Now the speaker is also compatible with Google Assistant and Alexa in some countries, but the feature is not yet available in India, which is very disappointing. This is one of the main attractions of the speaker, as it basically transforms the Roam into a smart speaker (on Wi-Fi only) that can control itself hands-free, control other smart home devices, answer questions over the internet, and more. So it is unfortunate that Indian users who buy this device will not be able to access this feature for the time being. We hope Sonos will roll out this feature to the Indian market as soon as possible, but a definite date is not yet in sight.
The Sonos Roam also comes with a feature called Automatic Trueplay that optimizes the sound for the location or environment you’ve placed it in. According to Sonos, the speaker’s microphone senses the environment and makes periodic tuning adjustments to ensure the best possible sound. The microphone must of course be turned on to use this feature, so make sure the microphone button is turned on. During our testing, we noticed minor tuning differences in different environments, but it’s not very obvious. Finally, the speaker supports Qi wireless charging, and Sonos separately sells a wireless charging pad that charges the speaker up to 15W. You can also charge it wirelessly with your existing Qi wireless charger if you have one.
Sonos Roam: Performance
Equipped with two Class-H digital amplifiers, one tweeter and one mid-woofer, the Sonos Roam delivers powerful audio that is surprising given its compact size. The sound is not 360 degrees, but easily fills a medium-sized room. However, the Sonos Move delivers a more room-filling, fuller-sounding sonic performance. But the Roam comes surprisingly close.
The bass response is a little over-emphasized, but that works well in open environments as you can still feel the punch. The bass response is strong, but still controlled enough to avoid too much auditory masking.
The mids are detailed and clear, but the lows are slightly weak in the mix, so you lose some detail in cymbals and hi-hats. This isn’t an audiophile speaker like the Sonos Move, but it’s one of the best sounding portable speakers of its size we’ve come across. The midrange detail and heavy bass easily beat competing products from JBL and Ultimate Ears, but those speakers tend to be cheaper too.
The overall reproduction of the music is somewhat bass-oriented, but we prefer outdoor speakers. If you use the speaker indoors, you can slightly lower the bass response so that it is less jarring indoors.
As for battery life, Sonos promises up to 10 hours of wireless playback time (at moderate volume levels). We listened to the speaker at about 55-60 percent volume and it lasted about 8.5 hours in our tests. The speaker can also last up to 10 days in sleep mode. The speaker will automatically enter this mode when not in use.
The speaker charges to about 50 percent in an hour with the included cable, but wireless charging takes about 4 hours to fully charge. Overall, battery life is mediocre or even mediocre compared to some options that offer 16-24 hours while having a similar footprint.
Sonos Roam: Verdict
Priced at Rs 19,999, the Sonos Roam is a luxury portable speaker that impresses in more ways than one. Whether it’s the seamless Wi-Fi + Bluetooth connectivity, powerful audio, or IP67-rugged construction, the Sonos Roam justifies its price, especially for those with an existing Sonos speaker system at home. Features like Automatic Trueplay and Sound Swap are also welcome additions, but the handy voice assistant is missing in India, which is disappointing. Also, the battery life, 10 hours, is pretty lackluster for this price. Overall, the speaker is extremely impressive when it comes to sound, connectivity and construction, but the mediocre battery life and missing voice assistant feature are pretty significant drawbacks. Nevertheless, the Sonos Roam as a whole is an excellent offering that should make an excellent companion both indoors and out.