On Tuesday, Sonos announced Roam, their first truly portable speaker. The 15oz, pill-shaped speaker looks like many of those waterproof BlueTooth speakers already in the market, but in true Sonos fashion the Roam takes things to a whole new level.
First is that BlueTooth isn’t the only way Roam connects. Wi-Fi is included, and Roam auto-switches between the two. This means that Roam can be a first-class citizen on your Sonos — and AirPlay 2 — network at home, and when you grab it and go it becomes your travel/beach/car BlueTooth speaker.
While we haven’t heard Roam yet, its audio has been obsessively-designed, as expected. The highlight is a “bespoke racetrack woofer” which, along with the rest of the hardware and software, intends to make Roam the “best sounding ultra-portable speaker.” Given Sonos’s track record in the audio department, I’m inclined to believe them. They have high standards there, and I think that’s one of the big reasons we haven’t seen an ultra-portable from them in the past.
One thing which adds to Roam’s sound is Automatic TruePlay. The Roam uses its microphone array to tune itself anytime you move it — and at regular intervals even when you don’t — ensuring you’re getting that Sonos sound signature everywhere you go.
AirPlay, Sound Swap, Qi and Tech
As noted, Roam is a full member of your Sonos environment, but they’ve taken it a step further. Sound Swap allows you to hold Roam’s “Play” button, which then auto-detects the closest Sonos speaker and sends its audio there!
Of course, when on Wi-Fi the Roam is an AirPlay 2 speaker, fully-capable of joining your other AirPlay 2 devices for that brand of multi-room listening and all that goes along with it. That means you can use Siri on your phone to AirPlay music to your Roam. It also features Alexa and Google Assistant directly, so with an iPhone and Roam, you’ve got your choice from all three.
The Roam keeps it’s IP67 waterproofing in tact by being Qi chargeable. Compatible with any Qi charger, the included magnetic base snaps right on to — and perfectly fits — the bottom of the Roam, keeping it charged for that grab-and-go moment when you’re running out the door.
While the Roam’s 10 hours of playtime is good to have, its 10 days of sleep time on a full battery charge is even better, as is the fact that it wakes up in less than a second. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve grabbed my speaker, thrown it in my suitcase, and then realize it was on and the battery’s dead the next day when I go to use it. Nice to see Sonos solve that problem.
Pricing and Availability
At US$169, this is certainly in the high-end of the ultra-portable range. The JBL Flip 5 is $120, and the Audioengine 512 is $99, but those are only BlueTooth speakers, not Wi-Fi, and don’t feature auto-TruePlay, Sonos integration, or AirPlay. Let us not forget: BlueTooth is convenient for portability, but bandwidth is limited, so full audio quality can only be had over Wi-Fi.
Roam will be available starting on 4/20, with pre-orders opening today. We’ll report more here and on Mac Geek Gab once we’ve had a chance to put Roam through its paces and give it a listen (or three!).