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Sonos Roam review: is this the best portable speaker to take on a picnic?

Sonos’ first truly portable speaker is feature-packed and travel-friendly – how does it compare to rivals from Sony, Ultimate Ears and JBL?

Sonos Roam review: is this the best portable speaker to take on a picnic?

We’re all longing to get back to live events like parties, gigs and concerts. But while we wait, Sonos hopes to bring the recording studio to you with the Sonos Roam. But with its steep £159 price, is it really the best choice, or are rivals out to spoil the show? Which? expert lab tests reveal the answer – find out how it performed through the links below.

Sonos bills its new Roam wireless speaker as ‘the portable smart speaker for all your listening adventures’. It’s Sonos’ first truly portable speaker you can easily take down the garden or to the park – and just about anywhere, when lockdown restrictions come to the end.

It’s certainly far more fully-featured than its similar-looking Bluetooth speaker rivals. While most speakers this size are simple devices you simply connect to your smartphone using Bluetooth, the Sonos Roam offers full compatibility with the Sonos app and multi-room ecosystem the brand is known for.

Below, find out all the details of what the Sonos Roam offers, and how it differs from the leading Bluetooth speakers on the market. Plus, click through to our full tested reviews so you can decide which speaker is right for you.

Best Bluetooth speakers – our expert, independent lab tests and professional listening panel reveal which really are the best-sounding models on the market.

Sonos Roam key features

Sonos Roam smart speaker

Long-time Sonos fans will likely be sold on the fact that for the first time, the Sonos speaker experience can now be taken wherever they go. But could it tempt new buyers over to Sonos too? While £159 will stretch budgets, it’s now the cheapest speaker in Sonos’ offering, and is available in black or white.

It’s by far Sonos’ smallest speaker, 169mm in length and a graspable size and weight. It’s waterproof (to a depth of one metre for a limited time) and fully dustproof. Sonos claims it offers 10 hours of continuous music playback on a single charge. It can be used either horizontally or vertically.

The speaker will connect to your home wi-fi when in range, and switch over to Bluetooth when you’re on the go, such as connecting to your smartphone (it’ll reconnect automatically after you’ve connected for the first time).

Just like all Sonos speakers, advanced features are controlled using the Sonos app on your smartphone or tablet, including access to more than 100 streaming services (these may require subscriptions).

It’s also a smart speaker, meaning you can control it with voice commands using Alexa or Google Assistant. For Apple device users, Apple AirPlay 2 is supported for seamless integration with your device.

Extra features for owners of other Sonos speakers

If you have other Sonos speakers at home, you can put the Roam in a group with them to play music simultaneously, even if you’re streaming via Bluetooth from your phone.

A new Sound Swap feature, by holding down the speaker’s play/pause button, will immediately switch the music playing on the Roam to the nearest Sonos speaker in your home.

Sonos Roam vs Sonos Move: key features compared

The Sonos Roam is unique in packing so many advanced features into a small Bluetooth speaker. If you want an equivalent set of features, your main alternative options are larger devices like the Sonos Move and Bose Portable Home Speaker more intended for taking round the home than going too far outside.

Premium rival simple Bluetooth speakers like the new JBL Charge 5 can be similarly-priced to the Sonos Roam too, despite offering far fewer features, as the table below shows.

See how all these devices compare in the table below. For more information and to find out whether these alternative models are worth buying, see our JBL Charge 5, Sonos Move and Bose Portable Home Speaker reviews.

  Sonos Roam JBL Charge 5 Sonos Move Bose Portable Home Speaker
RRP £159 £160 £399 £330
Dimensions (HxWxD, in mm) 169x61x63 224x99x94 240x180x140 253x108x108
Weight 0.43kg 1kg 3kg 1.1kg
Waterproofing and dustproofing IP67 (waterproof up to 1m for limited time, dustproof) IP67 (waterproof up to 1m for limited time, dustproof) IP56 (highly water resistant, dust resistant) IPX4 (splash-resistant, not dustproof)
Claimed battery life 10 hours 20 hours 11 hours 12 hours
Charging dock Sold separately No Included Sold separately
Wireless connectivity Bluetooth 5.0, wi-fi Bluetooth 5.1 Bluetooth 5.0, wi-fi Bluetooth 5.0, wi-fi
Wired connections No External charging via USB A No No
Voice assistant control Alexa, Google Assistant No Alexa, Google Assistant Alexa, Google Assistant
Multi-room support Yes (Sonos models) Only JBL PartyBoost speakers Yes (Sonos models) Yes (Bose models)

Sonos says the Roam’s sound quality ‘defies expectations for a speaker of its size’, but we don’t just take their word for it – see our full Sonos Roam review to find out whether it’s the best portable speaker you can buy.

Sonos Roam portable speaker

Travel-friendly alternatives to the Sonos Roam

If all you’re looking for is a battery-powered speaker that can stream audio from your smartphone over Bluetooth, you might prefer a less complicated speaker than the Sonos Roam.

In that case, there are lots of great simple portable Bluetooth speakers to choose from – below we’ve selected some brand new models from our most recent tests, so you can find the perfect companion for taking down the garden or to a picnic.

If instead you’re considering using the Sonos Roam as a smart speaker, we’ve also just reviewed the Google Nest Hub (2nd Gen) smart display. It’s worth considering particularly if you’re interested in setting up a smart home, as the display can make it easier to tweak settings.

JBL Charge 5, £160

  • Bluetooth
  • IP67 waterproof and dustproof
  • 20 hours claimed battery life
  • USB socket for charging portable devices
  • Connect to other JBL PartyBoost speakers over Bluetooth

The Charge 5 is a bit larger and more than twice as heavy as the Sonos Roam. This allows it to claim a much longer 20-hour battery life. This extra juice also means you can charge your smartphone from the speaker when out and about via its USB A socket.

Other than that, the Charge 5 is a simple device you stream audio to from your smartphone using Bluetooth. It has a durable, waterproof and dustproof design and is marketed for parties so should help you make the most of events following lockdown. See whether we think it’s worth your money in our JBL Charge 5 review.

Sony SRS-XB13, £59

  • Bluetooth
  • IP67 waterproof and dustproof
  • 16 hours claimed battery life
  • Carry cord

When going out and about, often the smaller the speaker the better, as that means you’ll take it with you more often. This Sony speaker also has a handy carry cord so you can easily strap it to your bag, and being fully waterproof it should survive the elements as well.

Small speakers can lack oomph, but this one is part of Sony’s Extra Bass range. So is the sound up to scratch? Find out whether it’s a good choice in our expert Sony SRS-XB13 review.

Google Nest Hub (2nd gen), £90

  • Bluetooth and wi-fi
  • 7-inch touchscreen
  • Google Assistant voice control
  • Hub for smart home devices such as smart lights
  • Multi-room audio support (Chromecast)

Smart displays are best thought of as smart speakers with screens. This means you principally control the Google Nest Hub through voice commands with its Google Assistant, but you can also interact with it using the touchscreen as well.

It’s particularly handy for use in the kitchen as it can be used hands-free, such as for catching up on the news, radio or cooking recipes, with extra information displayed on its seven-inch screen. You can also use it as a hub for your smart home, such as for turning smart lights on and off with just your voice.

But is the sound as good as a smart speaker, and is there anything to watch out for? Our professional lab put it through its paces in our Google Nest Hub (2nd Gen) review.

To find out which are the best portable Bluetooth speakers on the market right now, see our expert guide to the top six best portable Bluetooth speakers for 2021.

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