Sonos Roam evaluation: portable potential
The Sonos Roam is essentially the most centered, calculated product from Sonos but. It’s a small $169 speaker that’s meant to compete with portable Bluetooth audio system that individuals so typically carry in every single place with out a second thought. However it’s additionally designed to fit into Sonos’ multiroom audio platform and showcase the flexibility that comes with it. In reality, excluding the co-branded audio system that Sonos makes with Ikea, the Roam is now the most affordable manner into the corporate’s ecosystem.
The Roam helps hands-free voice instructions, has Apple AirPlay 2, contains wi-fi charging, and incorporates a rugged design that allows you to use it virtually anyplace. There’s so much driving on this speaker; Sonos solely releases a pair new merchandise per 12 months, so all of them must ship. So let’s study how the Roam stacks up in opposition to equally sized audio system and whether or not it ought to change no matter you’ve received now.
At 6.61 inches tall, the Roam truly stands shorter than in style Bluetooth audio system just like the UE Increase 3 and JBL Flip 5. And at below a pound, it’s light-weight sufficient to toss into your backpack or tote. The Increase is greater throughout: you possibly can just about match the Roam proper inside it. UE’s Megaboom 3 and the brand new JBL Cost 5 each improve the scale benefit additional, and so they’re nonetheless near the Roam in value. Going up from there, you get to the true giants just like the UE Megablast. For this evaluation, I’ll hold it easy and give attention to audio system that resemble the Roam in measurement.
The Roam retains what’s turn out to be the usual Sonos aesthetic, with a whole lot of precision-drilled holes within the speaker enclosure. However that is not a cylinder-style speaker that shoots audio in all instructions. The Roam has a curved triangle form that naturally tasks sound each ahead and up when it’s laid horizontally. It is available in both black or white, and I’ve seen that when the black one is in vivid lighting, you possibly can truly see a hexagon sample behind the holes. That plate is there for structural causes, however it’s probably not seen on the white speaker.
That is the primary Sonos speaker to earn an IP67 mud and water resistance ranking. By certification requirements, meaning it ought to survive as much as half-hour in three toes of water. In sensible phrases, it means you need to use the Roam within the lavatory whilst you bathe and close to swimming pools with out fretting about harm. It’s most likely a good suggestion to maintain it on a floaty for those who insist on bringing it right into a deep pool, although. This speaker doesn’t float. Sure, I checked.
I’ve additionally managed to drop my two evaluation models just a few occasions, and so they’ve come away with solely gentle blemishes and a pair nicks you actually must hunt for to note. I chalk that as much as clumsiness; there’s no built-in deal with just like the Transfer, however usually the curved triangle form is simple to grip. Either side of the Roam have silicone finish caps to assist with ruggedness. From what I’ve seen, it ought to have the ability to face up to a tumble off a bicycle and the wear and tear and tear that comes with being a really portable speaker.
On the highest (when vertical) or left (horizontal) is the place you discover the controls, that are precise clicky buttons beneath the silicone as a substitute of the same old capacitive sensors that Sonos tends to make use of. Going with actual, tactile buttons for this product was completely the correct determination. They’re straightforward to really feel for and arduous to press unintentionally. There are 4 buttons: play / pause, two for observe controls, and a microphone button for enabling or muting the built-in microphones which might be used for voice assistant instructions with Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant.
On the again of the Roam is a USB-C port and energy button. Except for wired charging, you may also juice up the speaker utilizing any Qi-compatible pad that it’ll match on. My Anker dual-charging station dealt with the duty effectively. Sonos additionally sells a wi-fi charger that attaches to the Roam magnetically, however I didn’t get an opportunity to check that. The included USB-C-to-USB-A cable is properly angled on the Roam’s facet in order that it doesn’t get in the way in which regardless of the way it’s oriented. Neither the cable nor the Sonos wi-fi charger are water-resistant, so that you’ve received to maintain these dry. For those who’re in a rush, undoubtedly go wired; Sonos says it takes “about two hours” for the Roam to go from 0 to 50 p.c when charging wirelessly in comparison with “about an hour” when plugged in. Increased-power chargers can minimize down on each of these occasions.
Now onto the principle agenda: sound high quality. Sonos has constructed a good popularity with its previous audio system, however the query is whether or not the corporate could make good on its title with a speaker this small and portable. What I’ll say is that the Roam is without doubt one of the clearest, most nice portable audio system I’ve used. Others just like the UE Increase 3 can come off muddy and lack depth. There’s little about their sound and articulation that stands out.
The Roam appears to make a precedence of guaranteeing that the feel and vibrancy of music comes by way of with most readability. Vocals sound crisp, and strings in classical music come by way of lush with out getting pitchy. Like different Sonos audio system, the Roam options computerized room optimization known as Trueplay, and Sonos says it’s continually adjusting to optimize sound for no matter setting it’s in. This does truly make a distinction in an echoey lavatory, however it’s not some magic cure-all for an acoustically challenged room. (Auto Trueplay works with music each streamed over Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.)
Let’s face it: whereas Sonos claims that the Roam “defies expectations,” it could possibly’t defy physics. This can be a comparatively small speaker, and maybe the best-sounding one in its measurement class, however it has weaknesses. On the prime of that record is bass, which might’t fairly match that of the Sonos One and is roundly defeated by the a lot bigger, heavier Transfer. Even the hardly bigger JBL Flip 5 has extra assertive bass that will get noticeably boomier than the Roam. It might probably go louder, too. Bigger Bluetooth audio system just like the UE Megaboom and JBL Cost 5 will virtually definitely trounce the Roam at bass response, however I don’t contemplate that stunning.
Sonos’ speaker has some low-end resonance — you’ll really feel the vibrations if it’s on a desk — however it’s clear that the corporate has opted for stability over increase issue. The Roam may solely accomplish that a lot if you’re utilizing it in a large open house open air with no partitions for the sound to bounce off of. It’ll crank loud with out a lot distortion however can’t attain the identical fullness because the Transfer. It’s if you actually flip up the quantity that you just’ll be left wanting some added oomph. A celebration speaker this isn’t.
Utilizing two Roams concurrently a stereo pair brings out much more element, and the bass additionally advantages from two of them taking part in collectively. There’s no beating correct stereo separation, and two Roams do a greater job blanketing a bed room or lounge in music than one alone. Sadly, the method of making a stereo pair can get tedious. You need to manually do it from the Sonos app each time. This is sensible since it’s a must to choose which speaker is on what facet. However I’d find it irresistible if there have been a button shortcut to extra shortly type a stereo pair — or at the very least a immediate if you energy on a second Roam that asks if you wish to pair them as a substitute of leaving each to their lonesome by default.
To the frustration of some Sonos clients, the Roam doesn’t can help you use the stereo pair function when listening over Bluetooth. That is additionally the case with the Transfer, however contemplating how a lot Sonos is hyping the portability of its new speaker, it seems like a fumble on the corporate’s half. Perhaps this poses engineering challenges, however different Bluetooth audio system just like the UE Wonderboom 2 can already hyperlink collectively as a stereo pair while not having an app to get there. Bluetooth stereo is likely to be a compelling purpose for some folks to personal two Roams, however proper now the function isn’t there.
Sonos has at the very least launched some new methods with the Roam when utilizing it round the home. The primary is known as sound swap, which helps you to shortly cross off audio from the Roam to whichever of your different Sonos audio system is closest. You simply maintain the play button for just a few seconds, and the presently taking part in music hops over. Repeat the method, and audio strikes again to the Roam. This has labored effectively in my expertise up to now, and Sonos goes about finding the closest speaker in a intelligent manner. Once you activate sound swap, your whole audio system briefly emit a high-frequency tone that your ears can’t hear — however the Roam can. Once you enterprise exterior, the Roam does a strong job routinely pairing to your cellphone when you’re exterior Wi-Fi protection.
The opposite new function that debuts with the Roam is the choice to play Bluetooth audio over your total Sonos system. Within the Sonos app, you possibly can add your different audio system as a gaggle with the Roam that’s taking part in the Bluetooth audio supply. My turntable doesn’t do Bluetooth, but when yours does, this can be a simple approach to play your information in a number of rooms — at the price of constancy, after all. There are different methods of integrating vinyl right into a Sonos system for those who care extra about audio high quality. I did check this function utilizing content material from a pal’s cellphone over Bluetooth, and it performed simply wonderful throughout my different Sonos audio system. The Transfer can’t be up to date with this function as a result of the Roam has a brand new antenna that may connect with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi concurrently. The Transfer solely helps one or the opposite at a time.
However even with these new capabilities, there are nonetheless these occasional occasions the place a Sonos system falls out of step. Perhaps music playback inexplicably begins seizing up, or perhaps the quantity controls within the app you’re casting from — like Spotify — cease working. Even after shifting to its new S2 platform, Sonos hasn’t utterly ironed out the blips when its cell app goes on the fritz or appears to momentarily lose management over every little thing. The bugs are uncommon, however they occur.
What’s worse within the case of the Roam is how poorly Sonos handles shifting between Wi-Fi networks. All the pieces works simply nice at house, however if you wish to use the Wi-Fi options of Roam at another person’s place or when touring, it’s an actual headache. The method of including one other “trusted community” within the Sonos app didn’t at all times work in my expertise. I hope that is one thing Sonos will give attention to extra now that it’s promoting a speaker that’s portable in a manner that the Transfer by no means was. Music on the Roam sounds finest over Wi-Fi, and it’s additionally wanted for options like AirPlay 2. Bluetooth is true there as a fallback, however the Roam actually has to get friendlier with visitor networks.
The estimated battery lifetime of 10 hours can also be on the low facet: the UE Increase 3 will get 15 hours and JBL’s Flip 5 hits 12. Wi-fi charging helps make up for this to an extent. It’s fairly uncommon amongst Bluetooth audio system, and you may play music because the Roam sits on the charger replenishing its battery. However I nonetheless want Sonos might’ve eked out some further taking part in time. The corporate says you possibly can attain as much as 10 days of standby time, however that strikes me as optimistic. My evaluation models have held their cost for fairly just a few days, although.
There’s additionally a battery drain bug for those who arrange Google Assistant on the Roam that Sonos warned reviewers about, and it’s dangerous sufficient that the corporate is encouraging clients to energy the speaker down when it’s not getting used to preserve juice. Sonos says it’s working with Google on a repair and that clients utilizing Alexa gained’t encounter the identical problem. The beamforming microphones typically picked up my voice instructions with out apparent errors the overwhelming majority of the time, and apart from the Google battery bug, each voice assistants labored as anticipated.
It’s finest to consider the Sonos Roam as a private speaker. It’ll do wonderful in your desk pumping out the soundtrack to your day. It might probably deal with picnic responsibility for a small group on the park or come for a ride-along in your bike. And sure, it shines within the bathe. However for those who’re main a dance class or attempting to entertain friends at a barbecue, these are the forms of conditions the place the bigger Transfer simply wins out and proves its price. Consider it this fashion: the extra those that can be listening, the earlier you’ll flip to a speaker that isn’t the Roam.
However even with that understood, the Roam has so much going for it. When within the consolation of your own home, options like AirPlay and voice assistants do make it really feel extra succesful than different audio system which might be equally small and straightforward to hold. That and handy wi-fi charging are the place the $170 value will get simpler to simply accept.
The Roam can fill in any nook of your residing house — the toilet, the storage, wherever — that doesn’t have one other full-time Sonos speaker in it. On the go along with Bluetooth, it’s straightforward to make use of and kicks out clear, satisfying sound for its measurement. Sonos must work on holding the Roam’s smarts collectively if you’re on totally different Wi-Fi, and stereo pairing over Bluetooth ought to’ve been a function on day one. However neither is sufficient to sink the general worth of Sonos’ newest speaker. So long as you don’t anticipate miracles from its compact measurement, I believe you’ll find yourself completely happy.
Pictures by Chris Welch / GadgetClock
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