Sonos Roam is the company's most affordable speaker yet at $169
Weighing less than a pound, the Roam is designed to work both in your home via Wi-Fi and on the go via Bluetooth.
David CarnoyExecutive Editor / Reviews
Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable reviewer of mobile accessories and portable audio products, including headphones and speakers. He's also an e-reader and e-publishing expert as well as the author of the novels Knife Music, The Big Exit and Lucidity. All the titles are available as Kindle, iBooks, Nook e-books and audiobooks.
ExpertiseMobile accessories and portable audio, including headphones, earbuds and speakersCredentials
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Does Sonos have Wi-Fi headphones on deck, as rumored? Maybe, but today it's introducing the Sonos Roam, its smallest and -- at $169 (£159, AU$279) -- most affordable speaker to date. The ultraportable model, which was leaked in recent days, weighs just less than a pound (0.43kg) -- or about one-sixth the weight of its earlier Move portable speaker -- and has a built-in battery that delivers up to 10 hours of the on-the-go power. Featuring both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth streaming as well as wireless charging capabilities, it's available for preorder now in black or white and it ships on April 20.
I haven't heard the Roam yet, but Sonos calls it "the best-sounding ultraportable speaker ever made." Like the earlier Sonos Move, it can tap into your existing Sonos multiroom audio system and link with other Series 2-compatible Sonos speakers. (Last year, Sonos updated its app to S2, which has created some havoc with Sonos users who've discovered they can't combine newer Sonos speakers with legacy models in their setups.) You can also link a pair of Roams to create stereo sound. But you can't use a pair for rear-channel speakers in a Sonos surround-sound setup.
Sonos is highlighting the speaker's ability to automatically switch to Bluetooth as soon as it's out of range of your home Wi-Fi network and automatically switch back to Wi-Fi when it's in range again. Additionally, you can stream Bluetooth audio from a device such as smartphone to the speaker and broadcast that audio to other Sonos speakers in your multiroom setup. With the Move, you have to choose between a Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connection, not have both working simultaneously.
All of Sonos' new speakers, including the Roam, offer some form of the company's Trueplay sound-tuning feature to optimize their sonic profiles for the space in which they're placed. Rather than use the Sonos app on your iPhone, however, the Roam uses its built-in microphones to monitor its surroundings and continually autotunes itself on the fly. Those microphones are also used to access Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa with your voice -- you have to choose one voice assistant or the other -- and you can pass audio onto the closest speaker in your Sonos setup by holding down the pause/play button on the Roam (Sonos calls this new feature "Sound Swap"). The Roam is able to do this by listening for chirping noises played through your other speakers and determines which one is closest.
Sonos says the Roam is durable, too. It's shock resistant -- the end caps a rubberized -- and has an IP67 water-resistance rating, which means it's not only fully waterproof (it can be submerged in up to 1 meter of water for 30 minutes) but also dustproof.
The feature that I find intriguing is wireless charging. Sonos says you can charge the Roam on any Qi-compatible wireless charger (it can charge at up to 15 watts), but it also sells its own companion $49 charging dock that charges at 10 watts. You can also charge the speaker with the included USB-C cable and that's the fastest charging method, depending on the power output of your power adapter (none is included). Via USB-C, the speaker charges to 50% in an hour while wireless charging takes about double that time to get to 50%, Sonos reps told me.
So, no Sonos headphones -- yet. But after releasing a series of relatively pricey speakers -- even the Move lists for $400 -- Sonos has another speaker in its lineup that costs less than $200. (The Sonos One lists for $199, while the Sonos-engineered Ikea Symfonisk lists for just $99 -- but it's not portable and you can only buy it at Ikea.) With that more affordable pricing, Sonos is hoping the Roam not only appeals to Sonos newbies on a tighter budget but to existing Sonos users looking for an ultraportable speaker that can leave the Sonos nest but be right at home when it returns home.
As soon as I get my hands on a review sample, I'll let you know how it sounds compared to other ultraportable speakers in its size class, including those from Ultimate Ears and JBL that feature both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth streaming capabilities.