Technology

Sonos Roam test: our opinion –

Sonos has great ambitions for its Roam, which the American multiroom specialist describes as ” the best ultraportable speaker ever “. Suffice to say that we were curious to verify this statement in practice. We can already tell you that in terms of functionality, the Roam is among the most advanced on the market, but that’s not all.

Available in white or black for 179 euros, the Roam is the smallest and most affordable of the Sonos speakers (with the exception of the

Symfonisk
Ikea and Sonos), but it’s still quite expensive for a wireless speaker of this size. Just like the brand’s other “portable” (or rather transportable) hybrid model, the Sonos Move, the Roam is Bluetooth and Wi-Fi compatible. It can integrate into an existing Sonos multiroom system and connect to other second-generation Sonos speakers (called S2). It also supports AirPlay 2, which makes it possible to stream audio directly from an Apple device without going through the Sonos app.

A design reminiscent of the Move

First thing that we notice is that elegance is at the rendezvous with a sleek design and a matte plastic finish typical of the American brand. We clearly find the aesthetics of the Sonos Move with a grille on the front but silicone on and under the speaker this time, to increase impact resistance.

Moreover, the Roam is rather solid and waterproof (IPX67), it can be fully submerged under water (up to 1 meter) for 30 minutes. The device surprised us with its compactness and lightness (430 gr) which make it very easy to transport, much more than the imposing Move. It will slip easily into a small bag or handbag.

As far as the controls are concerned, nothing changes compared to the other products of the brand. At the same time its system is proven: there are three sensitive buttons, a Play / Pause button also allowing to change the audio track with multiple presses, volume buttons + or – and a button to mute the integrated microphone. Rather complete, the whole is responsive and works wonderfully. Nothing to report on this point.

Wi-Fi at home, Bluetooth outdoors

Like the Move, the Sonos Roam is a hybrid of Wi-Fi AND Bluetooth. But the big news is that when you’re away from your home Wi-Fi network, it automatically switches to Bluetooth and switches back to Wi-Fi when you’re in range again. With the Move, you had to activate Bluetooth manually at the start, but the automatic switch will be added by update.

We started our test by connecting the speaker to a

iPhone 12 Pro
. The transition from Wi-Fi to Bluetooth worked smoothly for the three days we used it. Then things got a little complicated when we wanted to connect the Roam via Bluetooth to a

Google Pixel 4 XL
. The power button next to the USB-C charging port doubles as a Bluetooth pairing button. But it had to be manipulated several times for the speaker to finally appear in the Pixel’s Bluetooth menu. Perhaps this is because it has almost no stroke so you don’t really feel its activation when you press it.

It has also happened that the speaker does not automatically reconnect to Wi-Fi after switching to Bluetooth, perhaps a bug of youth. In Bluetooth, the latency level was correct in video but a slight voice / image lag was still noticeable, even with YouTube or Netflix which can apply latency compensation. This did not prevent us from watching videos but it is not the preferred use of the device.

Correct autonomy and wireless charging

Besides the automatic switching between Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, the other interesting feature of this speaker is wireless charging, in addition to USB-C. But it’s a shame that the Roam comes with a simple USB-C cable, without an AC adapter. For the rest, wireless charging worked fine in our test. Sonos also offers a 10-watt wireless charging cradle for 49 euros, but the speaker is compatible with all Qi wireless charging systems up to 15 watts.

You can obviously use the USB-C cable provided, the fastest charging method, provided you use a powerful AC adapter (10W minimum). With a 20W adapter, we were able to charge the Roam to around 50% in an hour via USB-C. Wireless charging takes about double that time to get to the same level.

Battery life is rated at 10 hours at moderate volume levels. But this delay decreases if you use Wi-Fi rather than Bluetooth and it can be affected by the use of the voice assistant. Sonos says it is working with Google on an update that is supposed to improve Roam autonomy when the Google Assistant is activated. Finally, note that the battery of the Roam is unfortunately not removable, unlike that of the Move.

Calibration, assistant and application

Like other recent Sonos speakers, the Roam features the Sonos Trueplay automatic equalizer, which adapts the sound signature of the device according to its placement in the room. However, rather than using the Sonos app on the iPhone, like the brand’s older products, the Roam uses its built-in microphones to analyze its surroundings and apply settings on the fly. We’re not particularly fond of this kind of feature, but in this case the Sonos system isn’t too bad. Nothing revolutionary but it might appeal to those who don’t want to bother with EQs.

When the speaker is connected to a Wi-Fi network, these microphones are also used to call the Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa. The device is quite sensitive and detects voice well, as well as a google speaker. The Roam also knows how to transmit music to the nearest Sonos speaker on the network when you hold down the pause / play button, this is not an essential feature but it does exist.

A word on the latest Sonos app now. It is quite complete, offering a lot of functions such as an integrated player and wide support for streaming platforms (Amazon Music, Spotify, Deezer, Apple Music …) and a lot of other services like Audible , SoundCloud, Bandcamp etc. On the other hand, we regret that the integrated equalizer is limited to the adjustment of bass and treble.

Satisfying but limited sound

The audio part of the speaker is provided by two class H amplifiers and two loudspeakers, a mid-woofer for midrange and bass and a tweeter for treble. We had fun walking the Roam from room to room, as well as outside, like with any Bluetooth speaker. And our first reaction was to tell us that the sound was pretty good for a speaker of this size. Admittedly, the audio quality has little to do with a

Sonos One
or Move, which produces more bass, more power and a higher level of detail, but it does quite well and can fill a small to medium sized room.

Compared to other mini Bluetooth speakers like those from JBL or Ultimate Ears, the Roam delivers more bass and a bit more full sound with fairly decent clarity and more midrange. But like any compact speaker, it should not be pushed too hard because it has its limits, in terms of audio quality as well as power, and must not exceed 80% of the volume or so on pain of saturating and losing power. bass. When you don’t abuse it too much, it has a relatively well-balanced sound profile, but the rendering becomes messy when you push the volume a little too much.

You can combine two Roams to form a stereo pair. The result is very good, with a stereo separation which gives more depth and reinforced bass. Comfort that comes at a high price: 358 euros for the pair. Note that unfortunately, we cannot use a pair of Roam as rear speakers in a Sonos home theater configuration. To do this, you have to opt for the Sonos One or the Ikea Symfonisk.

While the audio quality is good for the size of the speaker, it should be borne in mind that other larger speakers at the same price, or even cheaper, sound better. Anker’s Soundcore Motion + or the JBL Flip 5, both sold for less than 100 €, are able to match the sound of the Sonos, or even exceed it. Much cheaper, the

MaxSound Plus
de Tribit also delivers surprisingly decent sound for the price (less than € 60). Compared to other speakers of its size, however, the Roam is doing quite well.

Competition update

We took the Roam against the JBL Link 20, one of the first hybrid Bluetooth and Wi-Fi speakers on the market, before the Sonos Move and Bose Portable Home Speaker. Sold at a close price, the JBL is larger than the Sonos Roam and therefore produces a sound that is more powerful, fuller and richer in bass. But to choose between the two, we would go for the Sonos because of its software features and multiroom ecosystem. If you have a higher budget, you can also consider the Bose Portable Home Speaker, which provides better sound but is also bigger and slightly less advanced in terms of features (but above all much more expensive).

If you want to save money, then you will have to abandon the hybrid side and move towards a more traditional Bluetooth speaker. At this point, you should take a look at the JBL Flip 5 and Anker SoundCore Motion +. On the other hand, you will say goodbye to personal assistants, multiroom, or automatic calibration. It’s up to you to decide according to your priorities. If you are looking for audio quality above all else, it is better to choose a larger model. If you are looking for an ultra-portable and ultra-connected product, the Sonos Roam will be a good choice.

Conclusion

Although it is far from cheap, the Sonos Roam is much more affordable and easier to transport than the Move, but for less powerful and less qualitative sound (small size requires). Sonos hopes it will appeal not only to new users on a tighter budget, but also to current customers looking for an ultra-portable speaker that can break out of the Sonos ecosystem on the go and re-enter it. as soon as she comes home. With its attractive, waterproof design, and sound quality that’s right for the size, it will be the ultimate ultra-portable speaker for Sonos customers and a great invitation to join the brand’s ecosystem for others. In our opinion, this is one of the best speakers of this size, if not THE best. Only its price puts us off a little because there are speakers of similar audio quality for less, but they will not have the advanced functions of the Roam. After that, it’s up to you to see what your priorities are.

Images: David Carnoy and Karyl AIT KACI ALI

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