Tushar BurmanNovember 12, 2021 11:40:24 am
Bluetooth speakers come in all shapes and sizes and usually amaze me at how loud they can sound, even small and cheap ones. The Sonos Roam isn’t small or cheap, and while it impresses with the volume of sound that emanates from the relatively small package, it’s the feature set that really impresses.
What is that?
Sonos is a company that pioneered “multi-room sound” systems – speakers that connect and stream wirelessly throughout the home. The idea is that you put one in each room and you can have a single source of music throughout the house. Typically, their products were reasonably sized and convenient to place, but certainly not as small as roaming is. This speaker is their debut in the portable Bluetooth speaker category and they have put all their legacy and firepower to good use.
Physically, it is oblong, with a rounded triangular cross section that makes it easy to place flat or standing. The suggested position appears to be standing, but I have found that the dish works just as well. Sonos Roam has some weight, feels well built and sturdy, and the design is understated. If anything, the base “SONOS” logo might be a little too big for this discreet device. The ends are rubberized and on one of them there are embossed snap buttons, which make them waterproof. This is good, since the Roam is rated IP67 water resistant, for use near the pool, picnics or anywhere.
A Bluetooth speaker with Wi-Fi?
Sonos Roam, as part of the Sonos multi-room speaker family, is equipped with Wi-Fi and integrates into the Sonos system you may already have in your home. This means you can put it anywhere and it adds to the music already playing on the other speakers. As a Bluetooth speaker, this is beyond the scope for which I could buy such a device, but in the home it makes sense, since you are likely to get much better quality and range over Wi-Fi than you would with plain bluetooth. . The system itself is mature, which is reflected in the excellent Sonos app which allows you to control the music being played, update the firmware, name and location of the system’s speakers, etc.
At home, Wi-Fi was my preferred method of using Roam, but that’s not without caveats. At this point, I’m more used to Spotify and its excellent “Connect” protocol which apparently connects to everything. All of my Amazon devices (one in each room) are capable of streaming Spotify content, so Roam, which requires another app to do the same thing, has become a bit of a nuisance. It wouldn’t be, if you were already in their system, but since Spotify, AirPlay, and others are so ubiquitous now, this relatively new (for India) system might be hard to sell. However, Roam supports AirPlay 2 for iOS users, so there is.
Performance: very good, but not revolutionary
To reiterate, speaker manufacturers have gotten very, very good at making very small speakers sound surprisingly large. Sonos Roam isn’t alone in this capacity, nor is it surprising. My initial impression of the speaker playing music over Wi-Fi was that it lived up to the course. You can’t really expect loud bass from such a small device, but I’ve felt more authority from competing devices. The frequencies beyond the bass seemed well represented and the speaker was pleasant to be around, playing ambient music. There may be some benefit to the bass if you keep it upright rather than lying flat, but I can’t be sure. Sonos Roam also seems to be a bit polite compared to other speakers of its size that I’ve heard. Most of my Amazon Echo devices get louder, although it’s true that it doesn’t sound as refined when it does. The Roam didn’t crack at all even at maximum volume levels, which I sadly needed to use due to that kindness.
Sonos includes a technology called “Trueplay” which uses “spatial awareness” to optimize the speaker’s audio output. The Roam includes a built-in microphone which it uses for this purpose, adjusting the equalization based on where it is placed. I’ve heard good things about this and other similar room correction technologies in the past, but on the Roam it was hard for me to tell if it was making a difference. Turning it on and off in the app made a slight difference in the sound signature, at best. However, I know it’s a technology that works and will keep experimenting to see where it performs.
As a voice critic of Bluetooth devices in general, I was pleased to find that the Roam behaves like a Bluetooth speaker. The connection to my phone was quick and seamless, as was the connection to the Wi-Fi. The speaker has a dedicated on / off button on the back; the sleep function is particularly pleasant, as the speaker comes to life with a single touch. A nice trick Sonos handles is to seamlessly switch between Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Step away from your Wi-Fi network with your Roam and the speaker will continue to stream music using Bluetooth instead. You can also transfer music from your Roam to the other Sonos speaker closest in the house with the push of a button. Additionally, you can also use media servers you may have in your home (uPnP) to stream music to the speaker via the Sonos app.
So, we have a water-resistant Bluetooth speaker that also works in Wi-Fi, connects to the home server and automatically optimizes the sound. How else could they over-design this? Well, there’s 15W USB-C charging and wireless charging on any Qi-compatible pad, and there’s also an optional magnetic charging unit just for the Roam. The company claims ten hours of battery life, with ten days of standby time – enough for a day. The Roam can also be paired with another, creating a stereo pair if desired. However, at the asking price, it would be much better to buy one of their high-end units.
Verdict: well thought out, good performance, expensive
Aside from Spotify Connect, there’s very little you could miss in Sonos Roam. It has an incredible range of features for a device in this segment. I love the well thought-out interface, the handy LEDs to indicate charging, microphone use, quick standby and reset, and Wi-Fi connectivity. It worked flawlessly with everything I threw at it and will remain my favorite portable speaker for these reasons. Until something comes up for review that sounds significantly better and doesn’t spoil basic Bluetooth. Sonos Roam is available in black or white for Rs 19,999. At that price, you might be tempted to look at similar offerings from Bose, which has always had significant brand prestige in India.