There wasn’t much left that we didn’t already know, but today, Sonos has officially announced its latest speaker, the Sonos Roam. Just as The Verge reported last week, the Roam is a portable battery-powered speaker priced at $169. Preorders start today, and it will go on sale on April 20th.
The Sonos Move was the company’s first try at a portable product, but it’s quite large and hefty to actually travel with. The Roam, however, is a true “bring it anywhere” speaker. It’s the smallest speaker that Sonos has ever made, though the measurements I gave you last week were a hair off. It’s actually 6.61 x 2.44 x 2.36 inches and weighs 0.95 pounds. Sonos told me it considered “hundreds” of different sizes and prototypes before landing on this design. With dimensions like that, the big question is whether the Roam can live up to the reputation Sonos has established for good sound quality.
I haven’t heard the thing firsthand, so I can’t yet say how it compares to a UE Boom, JBL Charge, or one of Bose’s portable speakers. Sonos has packed the Roam with “two Class-H amplifiers.” There’s a tweeter for high frequencies and a “custom racetrack” mid-woofer — similar in shape to what’s in the Arc soundbar — that “ensures faithful playback of mid-range frequencies and maximizes low-end output.” It’s not a 360-degree design like some Bluetooth speakers, but Sonos says this is intentional and that the Roam fires audio where it makes the most sense.
Here’s how everything fits together:
Sonos is also bringing automatic Trueplay to the Roam, so it will tune audio output for the best results based on whatever room or environment that the speaker is in. (It does this by using the built-in mics, which are also there for the purpose of hands-free Alexa and Google Assistant voice commands.) Two Roams can be set up as a stereo pair over Wi-Fi, but unfortunately, this option isn’t available when you’re playing music over Bluetooth.
Unlike the Move, which made you choose between Wi-Fi and Bluetooth modes, the Roam takes advantage of both connections at once. It’ll join your Wi-Fi network automatically and then repair to your phone (also automatically) once you take it away from home.
You can play something from your phone with Bluetooth on the Roam and extend it across your whole multiroom Sonos system. (Yes, the company confirmed to me that this is also an easy way to get Bluetooth-enabled turntables playing on all your Sonos speakers.) Apple’s AirPlay 2 is also supported, and as always, you can play audio from a ton of services through the Sonos mobile app.
The Roam can last for up to 10 hours of audio playback on a charge, and a USB-C charging cable comes in the box. As I said last week, Sonos is also selling a wireless charging stand — the Roam attaches to it magnetically — but you can use any Qi wireless charger that will fit the speaker when it’s standing up, so that’s nice. When not in use, the Roam can last for up to 10 days of standby time.
Like the Move before it, Sonos says the Roam has been put through a ton of durability tests. The speaker has silicone at both ends to help protect it when dropped. It’s rated IP67 for dust and water resistance, so it can survive baths in a meter of water for up to 30 minutes.
Another neat Roam trick is called Sound Swap. Just hold the play / pause button on the top for three seconds, and the Roam will pass the music it’s playing to whatever other Sonos speaker in your system is closest. The way Sonos achieves this is clever: when Sound Swap is activated, all of your Sonos speakers will emit a high-pitched frequency that people (and dogs, I’m told) can’t hear. This is how the Roam figures out which one is nearby. This type of handoff could prove useful for an eventual, long-rumored set of Sonos noise-canceling headphones.
The Roam seems like a compelling product for Sonos, and I’ve already seen a lot of excitement about a variety of use cases. Is it the perfect bathroom speaker? The ideal speaker for tossing into your bag when traveling? Taking to the beach or park? A ton hinges on how good it sounds for $169. For that verdict, stay tuned for our full review.
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