Portable speakers can leave a lot to be desired, if you’re someone who likes to lose yourself in sound. That’s true whether you’re trying to overpower neighboring beachgoers’ music or seeking to hear your favorite podcast all throughout the house while you do chores. The Sonos Roam more than meets those challenges, and redefines what’s possible in a portable speaker.
What It Is and Why We Like It
The Roam features full sound; thumping bass; and rich, clear tones whether listening on a deck, dock, or deep in the woods. It’s also aesthetically pleasing, feels good to hold, and at 6.61x 2.44 x 2.36 inches, it’s truly portable. It’s able to handle the use and abuse of being tossed in with your camping gear or kept in the hold of your boat. The water-and-dust-resistant speaker is IP67 rated and clocks in under a pound with a rugged casing that can survive accidental spills. For this review, I took it canoe camping, and propped it on my tailgate gearing up for a day of downhill in the Killington Bike Park parking lot.
The Roam’s sound packs a punch because of what’s inside: two Class-H digital amplifiers tuned to the drivers and speaker’s unique acoustic architecture, a tweeter for crisp high-frequency response, a mid-woofer for playback of mid-range frequencies that also maximizes low-end output, a far-field microphone array that uses advanced beamforming and multi-channel echo cancellation for quick voice assistant activation and automatic tuning, and a 18Wh battery that can power this speaker for up to 10 hours.
A lot of speakers lose the bass when you’re outdoors. This one doesn’t. But it also has superior sound in your living room, family room, and kitchen. Turns out it’s also stellar in a rental car with a busted radio. The bass boom as much as you want, and podcasts play clearly and crisply. Wherever you play music on Roam, it automatically tunes itself to your environment, whether you’re on Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. So, when I hosted a big-screen outdoor movie in my backyard and streaming the sound over the Roam, It was like being in the theater, not like being inside a tin can. There was no straining to hear the soundtrack.
To play music, you need the Sonos app, which pairs with streaming services including Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora, Amazon Music, TuneIn, and Sonos Radio.
And if you already have a Sonos sound system at home, it connects and integrates. Once you’ve paired the speaker to the app, the speaker pairs automatically when you bring the Roam inside.
Roam’s form factor is as good as its sound. The rounded, baguette-shaped speaker can be positioned on one side or the end, so it fits into most spaces, it’s unobtrusive whether it’s home sitting on a coffee table or on a beach blanket.
The downsides to the Roam are minimal. Controls are few and they’re multifunctional, so there’s a learning curve around how long to hold buttons to get the unit to reset, pair, and throw sound to a different speaker. Buttons on Roam play, pause, adjust the volume, skip tracks, replay tracks, turn the mic on and off, and manually pair a Bluetooth device.
The Roam works with Google Assistant and Alexa. Send sound directly from your iPhone, iPad, or Mac to Sonos using AirPlay 2, then ask Siri to turn it up or skip a song.
The Roam comes with a USB-C charging cable. Sonos also sells a magnetic charging base, which is a great option if you’ll plug this speaker in at home.[$169, sonos.com]
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