Portable Bluetooth speakers. Who needs them anymore? We’ve got soundbars for our dens and smart speakers that double as a personal assistant and a DJ. With global smart speakers projected to reach $24.09 billion by 2028 (Source: Emergen Research), the dice seems to be heavily loaded against the old-school Bluetooth portable speaker. Sonos, however, has just unleashed its ultra-portable speaker in time for the festive season in India. Does it pack enough to justify a premium over smart speakers? 

Sound pedigree

The first thing I usually do after unboxing a portable speaker is crank up the volume to about 80%. It generally gives you a quick verdict about the sound pedigree of the speaker. If that first impression is anything to go by, the Roam won me over instantly. During our interaction with the Sonos global product team, they dwelled a lot on the acoustics of the speaker. Emily Lazar, the Grammy award-winning mastering engineer from the Sonos sound board distinguishes the Roam from a megaphone calling it a finely tuned speaker. The audio set-up includes two Class-H amplifiers, a mid-woofer that maximises low-end output and also delivers faithful playback of mid-range frequencies, and a tweeter that creates crisp high frequencies. It all comes together really well.

 

 

The anywhere speaker 

At just a little over 400g and a minimal footprint, this is just the kind of speaker that can slip into your manbag or backpack. We’ve been fans of the Sonos design aesthetic, and the Roam stays in the same zone. It looks elegant and can rub shoulders with your living room artefacts and is compact enough to find room on your bedside table. It’s also IP67 certified, so it won’t be out of place in your bathroom or in the pool. It comes in Lunar White and Shadow Black (that one we checked out). Battery life is another key variable for a portable speaker. As claimed by Sonos, the Roam managed about 9 hours on a full charge. There are rivals at this price point that do much better on the battery front. 

Smart operator

You will need the Sonos companion app to set up your Roam. Streaming can be done via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. I paired it with an iPhone 13 Pro Max. It took a few attempts to get the pairing blue light (by pressing down the power key) going but I managed to hook it up via Bluetooth before I broke into a sweat. It’s a smooth ride from the point your phone starts talking to the speaker. We were also impressed with the Bluetooth range of the speaker. Being smart-enabled, you can also get hands-free help from Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant and also control your smart devices. I was able to use Apple AirPlay to play music and also use Siri to skip tracks and tweak the volume. 

 

Best in class sound?

During my tests, I tried a wide assortment of music including Adele’s “Easy On Me” with heavy vocals and the racy beats of The Weeknd’s “Take my Breath”. I also checked out my usual podcasts and news bulletins. The results were impressive. The Sonos Roam is probably the speaker to beat in terms of sound quality in the Rs 15,000-20,000 price band and has an edge over rivals like the JBL Charge 5. Sonos has equipped the Roam with ‘Trueplay’ tuning that allows the speaker to adapt to surroundings to produce a balanced sound. 

 

The Sonos Roam delivers on the most important front–sound quality. It is surely not cheap, but if you don’t mind the stiff price tag, you’re unlikely to find an ultra-portable speaker with the same sound pedigree. 

 

Bottom-line 

 

What we like: Sound quality, ultra-portable, connectivity options 

 

What can be better: Battery life 

 

 The Sonos Roam costs Rs 19,999 and is available in Shadow Black and Lunar White