Sound studio

The sound and intelligence of Sonos Roam’s speakers may be enough to justify the price

This is how it is. Compact Bluetooth or wireless speakers are mostly left unattended and ignored in a drawer or corner of a shelf most of the time, only to be removed when traveling. The reasons are simple. Most compact portable speakers are limited by their physical dimensions, with the laws of physics influencing sound. This is not the case with the Sonos Roam. It’s not just a simple Jane Bluetooth speaker, either.

Let’s take a look at the list of features of the Sonos Roam, which will make you part ways of ??19,999. Connectivity options include Bluetooth and Apple AirPlay 2 (that’s good news for iPhone users). This will also connect to your home Wi-Fi network, as the Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant smarts are available at your voice command.

It is designed to withstand drops and is IP67 waterproof. Auto-tuning for Trueplay sound, seen on more expensive Sonos speakers and soundbars, is also available here. Finally, the portability aspect of battery life, which if you’re in the mood for a spoiler alert, is very rugged.

Sonos Roam’s design is best described as resembling a Toblerone chocolate bar – a triangular shape that allows it to be placed horizontally or vertically, however you see fit. At 430 grams, that’s about the weight of two Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max. It feels well built, and this light weight is reassuring. It’s made from what looks like high quality plastic, with the rubberized layer on each end. Can have it in two colors, black and white, although we’re a little worried that the latter will keep a clean look over time.

You will notice an option called Trueplay in the Sonos app for your Android phone or Apple iPhone. We suggest you activate it. Simply put, it is the situational awareness ability, which enables the speaker to determine where he is placed in relation to how sound bounces off furniture, walls, and floors. It collects this data from the far field microphone. This will allow the computational intelligence to adjust the width of the sound (what good is a wide sound if the speaker is hemmed inside a narrow shelf, for example), bass level, and treble. .

It’s not the first speaker to make a similar smart implementation, but it’s certainly the smallest of its kind. So far, Amazon has something similar at work in Echo Studio, just like Apple, with the HomePod. Still, both are much bigger speakers. If you move the Sonos Roam, it remakes these calculations on its own.

The Trueplay feature is more of a slight tweak that you would notice if you listened carefully. Just crank up the lower frequencies if you’ve placed it on a bed, for example, and emphasize the vocals slightly better if it’s placed in a bookshelf – two scenarios where that makes its presence felt. At no point is it a full-fledged twist of the bass dial, for example. This is all very similar to what we heard with the Sonos Move, its big brother.

Inside each Sonos Roam are two Class H digital amplifiers, a tweeter and a mid-woofer. Start streaming the tracks to it, regardless of Bluetooth, AirPlay 2, or through one of the voice assistants, and it doesn’t take long to notice how much bigger the sound is. It mustn’t have been easy to tune for Sonos, but the clarity, depth and power of the low frequencies is very impressive, even when you turn up the volume.

If you plan to use the Sonos Roam for personal listening, it will be a great companion on the nightstand or corner table next to the sofa. Still, it can also fill a medium sized room with fairly great ease. The Sonos app also lets you change the bass and treble levels, which should help you fine-tune this to your liking.

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It is the implementation of the low power system and the power off system that will confuse you. There is no simple “Power Off” button on the Sonos Roam, the idea being that it goes into low power mode when not in use for a period of time, which should. theoretically reduce battery drain on standby.

Since the Sonos Roam can also be integrated into a multi-room speaker system, it should be aware of attempts to wake it up. In our testing, and not built into a multiple speaker system, the Roam often ended up completely discharging (from a fully charged battery state) overnight. The unpredictability meant that we preferred to turn it off completely (press and hold the button on the back of the speaker for about five seconds).

The battery life itself isn’t the longest in the portable Bluetooth speaker ecosystem. In our testing, the Sonos Roam discharges at around 7% per hour when used at 30% by volume in an average-sized room, although that runtime is still longer than the advertised 10 hours.

You’ll need a USB-C cable to charge it, which Sonos offers, but without an AC adapter. The one you use to charge your phone should work. Forget the wireless charger that came with the speaker; it is a separate accessory which will cost around ??6,000 more and shipped in April of this year.

It can be hard to imagine how a speaker as compact as this can hold so much, but that’s exactly what Sonos has achieved with Roam. It looks bigger than the size would suggest, the signature sound is extremely enjoyable to listen to, and the feature list is unmatched by its competition.

You will need to pay attention to the battery life; the bug with the low power state is the only real downside on the performance graphics. But for what it is, a compact speaker full of features, the price of ??19,999 will still be a little difficult to justify for some.


    Vishal Mathur is a technology writer for Hindustan Times. When he doesn’t make sense of technology, he often seeks elusive analog space in a digital world.
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