In this video I’ll review the Sonos Roam portable Bluetooth speaker to help you figure out if its the right speaker for you. I’ll take a deep dive into the Sonos Roam’s build and form factor, button access, power and ports, and additional features, and will also do a sound comparison with the UE Boom 3 and JBL Flip 5. I’ll wrap up the video with my recommendation.
If you do think the Sonos Roam is the right speaker for you, you can click here to buy it. Alternatively, if you think the JBL Flip 5 or Ultimate Ears Boom 3 are more in line with what you’re looking for, you can click here to buy the JBL Flip 5 or click here to buy the UE Boom 3.
Build and Form Factor
Now let’s dig into the Sonos Roam, and start by taking a look at the speaker’s build and form factor.
The Sonos Roam is the smaller counterpart to the larger Sonos Move. The Sonos Move checks in at around 10 inches tall, 6.3 inches wide, five inches deep and weighs almost 10 pounds. By comparison the Sonos Roam measures in at roughly half that at 6.61 inches tall, 2.44 inches wide, 2.36 inches deep and weighs in at just under one pound. The speaker feels solid and seems to be made out of quality materials.
The overall aesthetic of the speaker is simple and sleek. The front-facing part of the Sonos Roam Bluetooth speaker is a metal grill, while the rest of the core body of the speaker is wrapped in a plastic shell. The ends of the speaker are flat rubber pieces designed to support your Sonos Roam in a standing position. Additionally, there are four rubber feet on the bottom where you can also lay your portable Bluetooth speaker horizontally. One thing I did find missing on the exterior design was a built-in strap or something you could easily use to tie or clip the speaker on to something else, such as a backpack or bag.
Finally, the Sonos Roam boasts an IP67 rating, making it both waterproof and dustproof. This means that exposure to normal levels of dust shouldn’t bother it, and also that it can be submerged in up to three feet of water for up to 30 minutes and it should operate just fine.
Next let’s take a look at button access.
Most of the buttons on the Sonos Roam portable Bluetooth speaker are located on the rubber pad on the left side of the device. There is a Microphone button, Volume Up and Volume Down buttons, and a Play/Pause button. The Microphone button can be used to access either the Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant voice assistants. Of note, while the Sonos Roam does have a built-in microphone you’re not able to use the speaker as a true speakerphone. The volume buttons and play/pause button operate as advertised. Button clickiness was good and you won’t be left feeling like you have to drive your finger through the device to get a response.
The Power button is located along the lower back part of the Sonos Roam, and is without a doubt what I dislike the most about this speaker. The Power button has no click response so that you have a good idea of whether you pressed it or not. Most of the time a firm press will work, but there have been times where I find myself pressing the button progressively harder just to get it to respond.
Next let’s do a quick sound comparison between the Sonos Roam, the JBL Flip 5 and the Ultimate Ears Boom 3 portable Bluetooth speakers. I chose those speakers because they are all roughly the same size and are priced similarly.
For this sound comparison I’ll play the same 20-second sound clip from a song with deeper bass on each of these speakers at fifty percent volume under the exact same conditions. Additionally, these audio files won’t be manipulated in any way.
Now let’s listen to a 20-second song clip from a song that hits some higher tones. Again, each of these speakers is at fifty percent volume and under the exact same conditions. Additionally, these audio files won’t be manipulated in any way.
Out of the box, the sound on the Sonos Roam sounds cleaner and more balanced than the audio from either the JBL Flip 5 or the UE Boom 3. The mids and highs also felt more crisp on the Sonos Roam. The biggest downsides of the Roam were that the overall volume didn’t get anywhere near the level of the UE Boom 3 or the JBL Flip 5, and the bass also felt incredibly weak. As a result, when I took the Sonos Roam outside the audio from it also didn’t travel nearly as well as the other speakers. The Sonos Roam is fine for a small picnic, but it isn’t something you’ll want to try and use for a full-blown backyard party. For what it’s worth you can use the Sonos app to adjust the treble and bass, and while you can use that to make the bass a little better, I didn’t feel like the improvements brought it anywhere near the level of the bass on the JBL Flip 5 or UE Boom 3. But as a reminder speaker audio is experienced differently by everyone, so you’ll want to listen to the Sonos Roam in a store to make sure the audio quality is something you’re comfortable with as it relates to any other Bluetooth speakers you’re considering.
Power and Ports
Next let’s discuss power and ports.
You’ve got a few different options for charging your Sonos Roam. The first charging option is through the USB Type C port on the lower back part of the device. The second option is to charge your device wirelessly through any Qi-certified wireless charger. To charge wirelessly you just stand your device on a wireless charging pad. The downside is that on a full charge you can only expect to get around 10 hours of audio playback. This is a big step down from the Ultimate Ears Boom 3 that will give you 15 hours of audio playback on a full battery, and also the JBL Flip 5 that will give you 12 hours of audio playback. As with most other newer portable Bluetooth speakers, the Sonos Roam doesn’t include a 3.5-millimeter auxiliary port.
Finally, let’s look at additional considerations when you’re deciding whether or not to buy the Sonos Roam portable Bluetooth speaker.
Unlike other portable Bluetooth speakers on the market that you can take out of the box, connect to other devices and start listening to audio immediately, Sonos requires you to set up your Roam with the Sonos app before you can start using it. While the app is fine, being forced to set up my speaker through the app before I could use it was annoying. I would assume a big reason Sonos does this is to track how you interact with your speaker, as you have to agree to send this information to Sonos as a condition to use the app. If you’re someone who doesn’t like feeling like Big Brother is watching you, this may make the Sonos Roam a deal breaker.
One of the best features of the Sonos Roam is the ease with which it can be connected to other Sonos smart speakers. Specifically, all generations of Sonos smart speakers can be connected together. While the ability to pair different generations of portable Bluetooth speakers together is something you can find in the Ultimate Ears lineup, that’s something you’ll likely struggle with if you’re looking at JBL’s portable Bluetooth speaker lineup.
Alternatively, the Sonos Roam does support Apple’s AirPlay 2, which gives you more control over what audio gets played through what AirPlay-enabled speakers. You can also stream audio from your TV to your speaker, stream audio from your Mac, use Siri to play and control music, and more.
You can also set up the Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant virtual assistants to work on your Sonos Roam, and you can interact with them when your speaker is connected to a wifi network. Those assistants will need to be set up in the Sonos app. However, be warned that while the ability to interact with voice assistants is nice, this will be a massive drain on your battery, and will likely result in the audio playback time you get being less than the advertised 10 hours.
And finally, the Sonos Roam does boast a Trueplay feature that automatically tunes the speaker to sound best in whatever environment it’s in.
In closing, I’d best qualify the Sonos Roam as a good desk speaker for people who care about clean, crisp, well-balanced audio. Additionally, if you’re someone who already has a lot of Sonos speakers in your house, or Airplay-enabled speakers, that you’ll want this speaker to play nice with, this is also a good speaker to add to your home. However, if you want a small speaker that can really get loud or has knockout bass, the Sonos Roam isn’t it, and you’ll likely be happier with the JBL Flip 5 or the UE Boom 3. It’s also hard to recommend the Sonos Roam for people on the go because of the lack of a strap that makes it easy to attach or tie on to things. And as petty as it sounds, the lack of clickiness in the Power button is something that drives me crazy, and I know there are other people who will steer clear of this speaker just because of that. So if you’re someone who needs to feel some degree of button response, you’ll definitely want to test drive this speaker. Again, if these things are important to you, I’d also recommend either the JBL Flip 5 or the UE Boom 3. Next, there’s the price. The Sonos Roam is the new kid on the block and the price will likely come down over time, but you’re definitely paying a Sonos premium, as the speaker retails for around $170. When you stack the Sonos Roam’s price tag up against the $150 for the Ultimate Ears Boom 3 and the $120 you’ll pay for a JBL Flip 5 that compete in the same space, it’s hard to justify spending the extra money unless you have other Sonos speakers or you’ll want to use it in your Apple AirPlay setup. And finally, if you’re looking for a small portable Bluetooth speaker you can use outside, the Sonos Roam likely won’t cut it and again I’d recommend the JBL Flip 5 or the UE Boom 3.
Links to Purchase
Again, if you do think the Sonos Roam is the right speaker for you, you can click here to buy it. Alternatively, if you think the JBL Flip 5 or Ultimate Ears Boom 3 are more in line with what you’re looking for, you can click here to buy the JBL Flip 5 or click here to buy the UE Boom 3.