Portable speakers like Sonos’ new Roam is more fun when the world is open for exploration. They bring your favorite music to an Airbnb in Yosemite, a beach in Hawaii or – as I recently learned Lewis Hamilton’s Bose speaker obsession– all the major racing tracks on Earth.
In many ways, the Roam is one of the first gadgets I tested in 2021 that inspires optimism. The company’s sleekest, cheapest, and most portable speaker reminds us that soon we will be able to listen to music together more normally, indoors and out.
It’s taken a surprisingly long time for Sonos to surpass the convenience of Wi-Fi. In its ten-year history, the Roam has been just the company’s second speakerphone designed to leave your home network. Now a built-in bluetooth connection means the Roam, as the biggest movement that came before it, can stream virtually any audio anywhere you want through a cell phone connection.
The Roam itself is a small cylindrical rounded triangle about the size of a 16-ounce can of beer. A large Sonos logo is affixed to a thin grille, with rubber buttons on the sides and small rubber feet to hold it hot dog-style to a surface. It is surprisingly indefinable, especially compared to similar size options from Ultimate Ears and JBL, which scream in bright colors.
I prefer the stylish gray of the Roam, although that makes it harder to find in a dark bag. The size is also very convenient to take it with you everywhere. Unlike the larger Move, which is essentially the same size as a home lock Sonos One (and more expensive), you’ll actually want to bring it.
But the hallmark of Sonos’ dominance in the home speaker market isn’t actually the speakers themselves. This is how easy the ecosystem is to use and how independent it is from the service. Download the Sonos app to your iPhone 12 or Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, and you can easily stream from Apple Music, Spotify, or pretty much any other major platform. The Roam even supports AirPlay 2.
Setting up roaming in the app is easy. You can choose a room in your home to pair it with when it’s not in your bag. Then you can use the app to adjust the volume or play and pause music. Of course, you can do the same just by pressing the rubberized buttons on the top of the speaker.
It has a single power button and a USB-C port for rear charging. A full charge will give you around 10 hours of listening time before needing to plug back in or sit on a Qi-certified wireless charging mat. A wireless charging station is a great option if you plan to keep it in one place indoors, without worrying about cables. Sonos charges $ 50 for this accessory, but you can easily find something cheaper.