Sonos Roam’s speaker sound and smartness may be enough to justify the price

It may be hard to imagine how a speaker as compact as this can pack in so much, but that’s exactly what Sonos has managed with Roam
Sonos Roam’s speaker sound and smartness may be enough to justify the price. (Photo: Sonos)
Sonos Roam’s speaker sound and smartness may be enough to justify the price. (Photo: Sonos)
Updated on Jan 06, 2022 04:03 PM IST
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It is just how things are. Compact Bluetooth or wireless speakers are mostly left unattended and ignored in some drawer or a corner of a bookshelf most of the time, only to be pulled out when you are travelling. Reasons are simple. Most compact portable speakers are limited by their physical dimensions, the laws of physics bearing down on sound. Not so with the Sonos Roam. This isn’t a plain Jane Bluetooth speaker either.

Let us look at the features list of the Sonos Roam, which will make you part with 19,999. The connectivity options include Bluetooth and Apple AirPlay 2 (this is good news for iPhone users). This will also connect with your home Wi-Fi network, because well, there are the Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant smarts available at the command of your voice.

It is designed to be drop-resistant and is IP67 waterproof. The Trueplay automatic sound tuning, seen on the more expensive Sonos speakers and sound bars, is available here, too. Finally, the portability aspect of the battery life, which if you are in the mood for a spoiler alert, is very robust.

The Sonos Roam design is best described as resembling a bar of Toblerone chocolate — a triangular shape that allows it to be placed horizontally or vertically, as you deem fit. At 430 grams, it is about the weight of two Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max. It feels well built, and that slight heft is reassuring. It is made of what feels like high-quality plastic, with the rubberised layer on either end. Can have this in two colours, black and white, though we do feel a bit apprehensive about the latter retaining a clean look over time.

You would notice an option called Trueplay in the Sonos app for your Android phone or Apple iPhone. We suggest you enable this. Simply put, it’s the situational awareness capability, which allows the speaker to figure out where it is placed in relation to how sound is bouncing off furniture, walls, and floors. It gathers this data from the far-field microphone. This will allow the computational smartness to adjust width of the sound (what is the point of wide sound if the speaker is hemmed inside a narrow shelf, for instance), bass level, and treble.

This isn’t the first speaker to do a similar smart implementation, but is definitely the smallest of its kind. Till now, Amazon has something similar at work in the Echo Studio, as does Apple, with the HomePod. Yet, both of those are much larger speakers. If you move the Sonos Roam around, it will redo these calculations on its own.

The Trueplay feature is more of a slight tweak that you would notice if you were listening carefully. Just dials up the lower frequencies if you have placed this on a bed, for instance, and slightly better highlighting of the vocals if it is placed in a bookshelf — two scenarios where this makes its presence felt. At no point is it a full-blown twist of the bass dial, for instance. All this is very similar to what we had heard with the Sonos Move, its larger sibling.

Inside each Sonos Roam are two Class-H digital amplifiers, one tweeter and one mid-woofer. Start streaming the tunes to it, irrespective of Bluetooth, AirPlay 2 or via any of the voice assistants, and it doesn’t take long to notice how much larger the sound is. This mustn’t have been easy for Sonos to tune, yet the clarity, depth and the power of the lower frequencies is mighty impressive, even when you’d dial up the volume.

If you’re going to use the Sonos Roam for personal listening, it’ll be a great companion on the bedside table or the corner table next to the sofa. Yet, it can fill up a medium-sized room with fair ease too. The Sonos app lets you tweak the Bass and Treble levels as well, that should help further in tuning this to your liking.

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It is the implementation of the low-power and the power-off system that will confuse you. There isn’t a straightforward ‘Power Off’ button on the Sonos Roam, the idea being that it’ll go into a low power consumption mode when not used for a while, which should theoretically reduce the battery drain when in standby.

Since the Sonos Roam can be integrated into a multi-room speaker system too, it needs to be aware to attempts to awaken it. In our testing, and not integrated in any multi-speaker system, the Roam often ended up completely discharging itself (from a fully charged battery state) overnight. The unpredictability meant we preferred to power it down completely (press and hold the button on the back of the speaker for about five seconds).

Battery life itself isn’t the longest in the portable Bluetooth speaker ecosystem. In our testing, the Sonos Roam discharges at about 7% per hour when used at 30% volume in a medium sized room, though that run time would still be more than the claimed 10 hours.

You’ll need a USB-C cable to charge this, which Sonos bundles, but without a power adapter. The one you use for charging your phone, should work. Forget having the wireless charger bundled with the speaker; that is a separate accessory that will cost around 6,000 more and ships in April this year.

It may be hard to imagine how a speaker as compact as this can pack in so much, but that’s exactly what Sonos has managed with Roam. It sounds larger than the size would lead you to believe, the sound signature is extremely pleasant to listen to and the feature list is unmatched by rivals.

You’ll need to be careful about the battery life; the bug with the low-power state is the only real drawback on the performance charts. But for what it is, which is a compact speaker loaded with features, the price tag of 19,999 still will be a tad difficult to justify for some.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Vishal Mathur is Technology Editor for Hindustan Times. When not making sense of technology, he often searches for an elusive analog space in a digital world.

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