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A white Sonos Roam speaker sitting face-up inside of the box it came in.

Sonos Roam review

Roam, if you want to.
By
October 21, 2022
Sonos Roam
The bottom line
The Sonos Roam fills the niche of a "rugged and portable smart speaker" rather well (because it basically created it). If you already have a Sonos ecosystem set up, this speaker makes for a nice addition on a patio or in another room. Similarly, if you want to start a smart home journey, it's a small and easy to use way to dip your toes into the water.

Sonos Roam

The Sonos Roam fills the niche of a "rugged and portable smart speaker" rather well (because it basically created it). If you already have a Sonos ecosystem set up, this speaker makes for a nice addition on a patio or in another room. Similarly, if you want to start a smart home journey, it's a small and easy to use way to dip your toes into the water.
Release date

April 20, 2021

Price

$179 USD

Dimensions

168 x 62 x 60mm

Weight

429g

Model Number

ROAM1US1

ROAM1US1BLK

Waterproof

IP67

What we like
Durable IP67 rating
Small and portable
Easy-to-use smart features
Integrates well with other Sonos products
Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity
What we don't like
Potential frustrating setup hiccups
Can't be used for phone calls
Only SBC and AAC Bluetooth codecs
Not much bass
EQ only works with Sonos Radio

When it comes to smart speakers, Sonos has been a major player in the field for a while. The Sonos Roam has a few things going for it, most notably built-in support for voice assistants along with both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity. This is the company that basically created the niche category of “rugged, portable smart home speaker,” after all.

Branding aside, does this little speaker stand out in a sea of small sound boxes? After using the Roam for a few weeks, we’re here to tell you what’s good and aggravating about this speaker.

Editor’s note: this Sonos Roam review was updated on October 21, 2022, to update the formatting and expand the list of buying options.

About this Sonos Roam review: We tested the Sonos Roam over a period of a week. SoundGuys purchased the unit for this review. The article was originally published on May 30, 2022.

People already in the Sonos ecosystem will likely find that the Sonos Roam makes for a handy addition to their setups.

First-time smart speaker buyers can take advantage of lots of features in a small package with the Sonos Roam.

Outdoor partiers who want something that can go from sitting at home to the beach and back while syncing with a larger ecosystem.

Anyone who finds Wi-Fi connectivity preferable to Bluetooth will like the Sonos Roam.

What’s it like to use the Sonos Roam?

The Sonos Roam is small and built like a rounded-off triangle, and it comes in a variety of colors (Shadow Black, Lunar White, Sunset, Wave, and Olive). It’s also pretty portable thanks to its 429g weight. Oddly, there is no place to attach a carrying strap to the speaker itself, though a strap is attached to the box. An IP67 rating means you can use this beside a pool or at the beach. The compact design survives falls onto hard surfaces, but it shows scratches and dings easily, given the overall minimalist aesthetic.

A white Sonos Roam speaker sitting diagonally across the corner of a wooden railing in front of a body of water and some trees surrounding a beach in the distant background.
The control buttons on the Sonos Roam all sit on the left-hand side of the speaker, except the power button on the back next to the USB-C port.

Where the Sonos Roam diverges from many models of speaker is a rather frustrating setup process. Both the in-house testing team at SoundGuys and I had an adventure trying to get it to sync up with a smartphone. Theoretically, the included instructions pamphlet makes it seem simple: turn on the speaker, download the Sonos app, select the Sonos Roam in the list of available models and you’re good to go. It isn’t that simple (more on this later).

Another interesting feature is that when you connect the Sonos Roam over Wi-Fi, it won’t automatically play everything when a device starts streaming multiple kinds of content. If you use your phone’s Wi-Fi connection to stream Spotify to the Roam, and then play a video from your Reddit app, the Roam will continue to play your Spotify music, while your phone’s speaker will output the Reddit video’s audio. If you want all sounds to come through the speaker, you have to sync it as a Bluetooth device.

Yes, once the Roam leaves the reach of a Wi-Fi connection, it will function as a standard Bluetooth speaker without access to its smart functions.

How do you control the Sonos Roam?

The side of a Sonos Roam speaker with the control buttons visible.
The control buttons are all shaped differently form each other, but only the mic mute button has an LED indicator.

The speaker has a minimalist look, with the control buttons on the left side and the power button sitting on the back right side near the USB-C port. The controls consist of a play/pause button, volume up and down, and microphone mute. All of them have different shapes and sit in different locations, but they don’t have any distinguishing colors or lights, except the mic mute button which turns off a white LED to indicate the speaker is no longer listening.

Number of pressesFunction
Once
Play/pause
Press-and-hold
Group with other speakers; continue to hold to move playback to and from the nearest Sonos speaker
Double press
Next track
Triple press
Previous track

If you’ve used a smart speaker from Amazon or Google before, you’re familiar with the voice assistant. Using Google Assistant, I can leave my phone anywhere and bark commands at my Sonos Roam. However, I can’t test the controls in the table above related to sending sound to different Sonos products with only this speaker.

Remember that connecting to the speaker via Wi-Fi also means your device’s volume and content playback controls won’t affect the Roam. For that, you’ll need to use the app’s controls or the buttons on the speaker itself.

The play/pause button is multi-functional in addition to those two functions:

To the left of the “Sonos” logo, another LED illuminates to indicate the speaker is on and shows its battery status, and to the far right, a status LED illuminates to indicate certain types of alerts.

The table below outlines what these LEDs indicate:

Light colorBattery LEDStatus LED
Light color
Solid white
Battery LED
Speaker on
Status LED

Light color
Blinking blue
Battery LED
In Bluetooth pairing mode
Status LED

Light color
Solid blue
Battery LED
Connected via Bluetooth
Status LED

Light color
Flashing orange
Battery LED
Speaker overheated (will also chirp three times)
Status LED
Low battery
Light color
Solid orange
Battery LED

Status LED
Charging

Should you download the Sonos app?

You will need the Sonos app (iOS/Android) to use the Sonos Roam, even for basic Bluetooth functionality. The app is how you select which voice assistant to use and what streaming services will be available on the Roam. For example, if you use Google Assistant and YouTube Music, selecting these as your smart assistant and streaming service will make them available on the speaker. By default, Sonos Radio is also included. It’s also where you’ll adjust configuration options including Wi-Fi setup and firmware updates. You can pair two Roam speakers together for stereo playback, but I couldn’t test this with only one speaker.

Sonos Radio is a streaming service, and the free version lets you find playlists, listen to songs, and enjoy radio stations from many places worldwide. It’s pretty fun to explore. The version included for free with purchase is limited, and buying a Sonos Radio HD subscription gives you HD playback (16-bit CD-quality sound at 44.1kHz), the ability to skip songs, and more content to explore. It would be handy for people with large Sonos setups already or if you plan on building one yourself. The app provides a basic EQ as well, which is nice to have, but it only works with Sonos Radio.

The Sonos app supports many streaming services, including major ones like Spotify, Tidal, Deezer, YouTube Music, Amazon Music, and Apple Music. For the full list of supported services, check the list on the Sonos website.

How does the Sonos Roam connect?

A Sonos Roam speaker sitting face-up next to the box it came in.
The Sonos Roam works with both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.

The Sonos Roam uses Bluetooth 5.0 and supports the SBC and AAC Bluetooth codecs. That’s not unusual for small Bluetooth speakers, but it’s a bit of a bummer for Android users. Considering you can play locally stored songs and content over Wi-Fi, however, it’s not a huge issue—especially if you have a large library of FLAC files on your device. It also supports Apple AirPlay 2, but I’m unable to test this without a compatible AirPlay device. There is no support for Bluetooth multipoint. You don’t get an aux jack, either, but many small speakers these days don’t offer one.

Connection issues

During testing, we had to factory reset the Roam more than once before the Sonos app registered it. That’s not exactly intuitive, and it’s important because the speaker connects to your devices in two ways. One is via Bluetooth, and the other is by Wi-Fi. Of course, to connect to Wi-Fi, you need to tell the speaker your connection details and password via the app. Once it connects via Wi-Fi, you can use the full suite of smart features it offers, unlike on Bluetooth.

According to Sonos, the setup process for this speaker should be pretty simple:

  1. Press the power button to turn the speaker on.
  2. Download the Sonos app on your mobile device.
  3. Open the app and tap Settings > System > Add Product.
  4. Select the Sonos Roam from the list and the relevant details for your Wi-Fi connection.

If you want to connect the speaker to your device without Wi-Fi or when Wi-Fi isn’t available, the Sonos Roam will function as a Bluetooth speaker:

  1. Turn on Bluetooth for the device you want to connect to.
  2. Press and hold the power button on the Sonos Roam for around two seconds until the status LED starts blinking blue and you hear a tone.
  3. Open your device’s Bluetooth devices list and select the Sonos Roam from the list.
  4. The two should sync and you can start using your device to play content.

How long does the battery last on the Sonos Roam?

A Sonos Roam speaker sitting next to the box it came in and its includec charging cable.
Inside of the box, you’ll get the Sonos Roam speaker itself and a charging cable, but no AC adapter.

Sonos claims the Roam can get up to 10 hours of playback time when you listen at “moderate volumes.” In our testing, we got 5 hours, 23 minutes of usage from the Sonos Roam with the constant playback of real music, peaking at 75dB(SPL). Your mileage may vary depending on how loudly you listen to your music. That falls well short of the claimed 10 hours, though the definition of “moderate volume” Sonos uses may differ from our testing.

You get a charging cable in the box, but no AC adapter. Sonos sells one separately, along with a wireless charging pad. Charging is pretty quick, with one hour of charging via cable providing 50% battery according to Sonos—it’ll take two hours via the wireless pad to reach the same level. Some chargers may not output enough power to charge the Roam while playing content. The app will pop up a notice if that’s the case.

How does the Sonos Roam sound?

A chart shows the frequency response for the Sonos Roam Bluetooth-enabled smart speaker, and it reveals a consistent midrange and treble output with virtually no sub-bass reponse.
The midrange and treble output are consistent, though there’s virtually no sub-bass response (typical of portable speakers).

Being a small, portable speaker means there are some tradeoffs when it comes to sound quality. These sorts of speakers lack sub-bass, and most people will notice this. The Roam has a tweeter and a mid-woofer, which makes sense given the compact size of the speaker. Still, the Sonos Roam reproduces all instruments pretty well.

Lows, mids, and highs

While the lack of bass might run counter to consumer expectations, for its size, the Sonos Roam sounds decent and clear. In 5 Dollars by Christine and the Queens, it’s easy to clearly distinguish Chris’s vocals from the synthesizer. There are points in which some auditory masking occurs if I listen outside, but it’s not major. You will notice that the bass isn’t quite as loud, but it doesn’t detract too much from pop like this.

The lack of bass does take some of the fun out of genres like punk rock, however. Banana by The Kominas, for instance, doesn’t have its low notes reproduced with the loudness one would expect for the genre. You’ll still hear them, but they won’t have the wall-shaking oomph punk rock is known for.

A hand holding a white Sonos Roam speaker above the box it came in.
The Sonos Roam is small and portable, and fits into one hand without too much trouble.

For both of these songs, I experience the best bass response with the Roam on my floor a few centimeters away from a wall. The speaker has “Automatic Trueplay” according to Sonos, which uses the microphone to adjust the speaker’s playback depending on the environment it’s in (if the mic isn’t muted). It’s hard to say how noticeable this might be across every possible scenario, however. Speakers sound different based on a variety of factors. These include the room itself, furniture, and others—being outside adds even more variables.

For its size, the Sonos Roam gets surprisingly loud. It likely won’t make it over the din of a large indoor party, but for small gatherings, it’ll likely do well. When outdoors, it would probably fill small a patio with pleasing background tunes, but again don’t expect it to fill up a large park.

Can you use the Sonos Roam for phone calls?

Weirdly, even though the Sonos Roam has a “far-field microphone array” (according to the user guide), you cannot use it for phone calls. The mic is only for interacting with the voice assistant and the Automatic Trueplay feature. If you ask it to call someone, you’ll get a message alerting you that’s not possible.

Should you buy the Sonos Roam?

A white Sonos Roam sitting on a wood raining in front of a beach on a sunny day.
The Sonos Roam can indeed roam thanks to its small size and robust build quality.

If you already have a Sonos system setup, the Roam makes for a good addition. That’s especially true if you want to extend your smart home’s reach just a bit further—like to a patio or bedroom. Similarly, if you want to dip your toes into the waters of smart speakers, the Sonos Roam will fit nicely into that niche. With its well-featured app and reasonable audio quality, this speaker sounds good and gives you plenty of conveniences right away. It can be a bit annoying to set up, but once you get everything working, it all flows together nicely. The ability to take it off Wi-Fi and around town using Bluetooth is nice, but don’t expect this to be a camping speaker given its battery life. Plus, it is a bummer you can’t use the Roam for phone calls.

Sonos Roam
Sonos Roam
Decent audio • IP67 durability • Well-featured app
A built-in support for voice assistance along with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity.
Sonos Roam is a portable speaker that operates over Bluetooth and Wi-Fi and offers an IP67 rating. The app allows voice assistance and pairs the speaker with other devices.

What should you get instead of the Sonos Roam?

The Sonos Roam created a niche and filled it, and there aren’t too many exactly equivalent speakers. If you want a smart home starter, a Google Nest Audio, Amazon Echo (4th Gen), or Apple HomePod mini would fill that role. However, while all of these options are cheaper than the Roam, they make you pick a voice assistant and stick with it. Furthermore, none of them can move around; they’re designed to sit in a single spot in your home at all times.

A JBL Flip 6 Bluetooth speaker sitting on wet sand by the ocean.
The JBL Flip 6 survives dunks into saltwater and sand doesn’t get behind its grille, thanks to its IP67 rating.

On the other hand, if you want a small, portable speaker, then there are plenty of those. The JBL Flip 6 doesn’t distinguish instruments quite as well as the Sonos Roam, but it can go nearly anywhere thanks to its carrying strap, cylindrical shape, and IP67 rating. Plus, it’s cheaper than the Roam. Likewise, there’s the even smaller Clip 4, which again doesn’t sound quite as good but it fastens easily to a bag and also has an IP67 rating.

But if your heart is set on something sleek with the looks to match the Sonos Roam (I get it, that minimalist aesthetic is appealing), then try the UE BOOM 3. It also has an IP67 rating, and it even floats. While it is cheaper than the Sonos Roam, it doesn’t sound great, with auditory masking being a problem.

Top of the Sonos One Gen 2) displaying its touch controls.
If youre not much for voice activation, you can control the Sonos One (Gen 2) via the capacitative touch controls on the top of the speaker.

If you want a larger home speaker, we recommend looking into the rest of the Sonos ecosystem. A good starter speaker for home use is the Sonos One (Gen 2). It takes a bit of time and effort to set this speaker up, but once you do, you never have to move it out of the room it is in. The sound quality is very good and has build-in Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant capabilities.

Frequently asked questions about the Sonos Roam

A Bose Portable Smart Speaker sitting on a wooden bench outdoors.
The Bose Portable Smart Speaker has an IPX4 rating, so it can withstand splashes and drips, but it’s best to bring it inside when you’re done.

These are two very different types of portable speakers, with the Sonos Roam weighing half as much as the Bose Portable Smart Speaker. Price is vastly different between the two products, too: Bose’s costs $399 USD while the Roam costs $179 USD. That extra money for Bose’s speaker gets you a louder bass output and starkly different design. The Roam is more durable than the Portable Smart Speaker from Bose, which has an IPX4 rating. This degree of durability is fine for some splashes, but it can’t officially withstand submersion or prolonged exposure to dirt and dust.

A chart showing three frequency response curves for the Bose Portable Smart Speaker at a nominal level in cyan, +10dB in magenta, and +20dB in yellow.
The frequency response chart shows our quasi-anechoic, 1m tweeter on-axis measurements of the Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin. Only the left channel is driven.

The main reason to buy Bose’s speaker over the Sonos Roam is that it’s easier to set up, gets louder than the Roam, and features a carry handle. Otherwise, the Roam has a greater selection of streaming services, is more compact, and supports Wi-Fi and Bluetooth just like the Portable Smart Speaker.

Overall, yes. The IP67 rating means you could keep the Sonos Roam on a shelf just outside your shower, for instance. The voice control options will let you play and pause content without fumbling around with any buttons. The Roam is not rated for long-term contact with water, however. So, it might be best not to keep it directly in the tub with you or anything like that.

Technically, no. You could use the Sonos Roam as a purely Bluetooth speaker, but you won’t have access to any smart features if you do. However, the Roam must be set up via Wi-Fi before it will function as a Bluetooth device, according to Sonos.