The most significant thing you can say about the new Sonos Roam—which costs $170 and will begin to ship next month—is that it fits in a tote bag. Considering that there are endless Bluetooth speakers available that match this description, from the superlative $80 Wonderboom 2 to the horrific best-selling $30 OontZ Angle, this might sound like a diss. It is not. The Roam is a giant leap forward for Sonos, as it’s both exactly what the company’s devotees have been waiting for and the best-possible portable speaker available for the even the most ardent Sonos skeptic. Thanks to its diminutive size, sterling audio quality, and endless streaming functionalities, the Roam is the first Sonos product that will make damn near anyone happy.
The main reason for this is simple: the Sonos Roam is the best sounding portable speaker I’ve tested. It eats the lunch of any similar-sized speaker and can compete with the larger speakers in its price range. When put to the “Love Lockdown” test (yes, this is a thing), the Roam sounds a lot more full than similarly-sized speakers like the aforementioned UE Wonderboom 2. The UE doesn’t necessarily sound bad—you can find the outline of the sliding bass—but the Roam sounds much clearer. The Nalgene-sized UE Megaboom 3 delivers beefier bass than the Roam for obvious reasons, but doesn’t sound better. On slightly less bass-heavy tracks, like Saweetie’s “Back to the Streets,” the low end sounds largely the same between the Roam and the Megaboom. In fact, the diminutive Roam renders the artist’s melodic voice and all the shimmering details hidden in the production much more clearly.
But that’s judging the Roam purely as a portable speaker, when it’s also the most clamored-for member of the Sonos whole-home wireless family. Devoted Sonos users have been pushing for a portable audio solution for years now. In 2019 Sonos took a first stab with the Move, a Bluetooth-enabled, battery-powered speaker that had all the portability of a bowling ball—luggable to the backyard, but not any further. It seemed like Sonos couldn’t extend its wireless super-system to that last frontier: the tote bag.
Two years later we have the Roam, which packs Sonos-grade sound and Sonos-level versatility. Once you’ve set up the Roam through the Sonos app, you get access to a ton of dirt-simple ways to actually use the speaker. AirPlay or Bluetooth from any app, or WiFi using the Sonos app. You can control it with a connected streaming service, like Spotify or AppleMusic. Don’t underestimate this level of choice—Bluetooth is fine when you’re on the road, but at home, the stability of AirPlay or WiFi, even on a portable speaker, is a blessing. It means no more wandering away from the speaker with your phone and hearing the music sputter.
When you’re on Wi-Fi, you can also use the Roam’s on-board mic to to call up the Google Assistant or Amazon’s Alexa to play audio for you (and turn off your smart bulbs while you’re at it). But even if you’re not, the Roam still features some relatively advanced software. There’s Sonos’ signature Auto Trueplay, which allows the speaker to adjust its EQs depending on the the space’s acoustics. As well as the new Sound Swap, which lets you send audio to or “pull” music from any of your other Sonos speakers just by pressing a button on the Roam.
Even in charging, the Roam’s ahead of the portable pack. The USB-C input works a lot faster than the proprietary charger on the Move, but the real magic trick is that the Roam can charge when placed on any Qi-enabled wireless charging puck. In our tests, we found that the Roam’s battery lasted through an entire workday when streaming classical music from WQXR. That includes some Bartok during a post-workout shower—the Roam’s water-resistant for 30 minutes in up to a meter of water.
Bottom line here: If you’re a Sonos skeptic—which I get, since the cost adds up when you imagine dotting your living space with not-cheap speakers—the Roam still feels like the best portable Bluetooth speaker available, all things considered. One you can take with you to the beach and that lets you avoid the finickiness of Bluetooth when you’re home. One that fits seamlessly into your life. One that, if you decide to take the Sonos plunge, suddenly gets so much more useful.
And if you’re already enjoying the warm embrace of the Sonos life? The Roam does exactly the one thing you’ve always wanted a Sonos speaker to do: it fits in a freaking tote bag.