Portable speakers like Sonos’ new Roam are most 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 of Lewis Hamilton’s Bose speaker obsession—every major race track on Earth.
In many ways, the Roam is one of the first gadgets I’ve tested in 2021 that inspires optimism. The company’s sleekest, cheapest, most portable speaker serves as a welcome reminder that soon we’ll be able to listen to music together more normally again, indoors and out.
It took a surprisingly long time for Sonos to jump beyond the comfort of Wi-Fi. In its decade-plus history, the Roam is only the company’s second speaker designed to leave your home network. Now, a built-in Bluetooth connection means the Roam, like the larger Move that came before it, can stream virtually any audio wherever you want via a cell phone connection.
The Roam itself is a small, cylindrical rounded triangle that’s about the size of a 16-ounce beer can. A big Sonos logo is affixed to a thin grille, with rubber buttons on the sides and little rubber feet to hold it hotdog-style on a surface. It’s surprisingly nondescript—especially compared to similarly-sized options from Ultimate Ears and JBL, which scream in bright colors.
I prefer the classy gray of the Roam, though it does make it a touch harder to find in a dark bag. The size is also very convenient for taking it with you anywhere. Unlike the larger Move, which is essentially the same size as a home-locked Sonos One (and more expensive), you’ll actually want to bring it along.
But the hallmark of Sonos’ dominance in the home speaker market isn’t actually the speakers themselves. It’s how easy the ecosystem is to use, and how service-agnostic it is. Download the Sonos app to your iPhone 12 or Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, and you can easily stream from Apple Music, Spotify, or virtually every other major platform. The Roam even supports AirPlay 2.
Setting up the Roam in the app is easy. You can choose a room in your house to associate it with when it’s not in your bag. Then, you can use the app to adjust volume or play and pause music. Of course, you can do the same by just pressing the rubberized buttons on top of the speaker.
It has a single power button and a USB-C port for charging on the back. A full charge will get you about 10 hours of listening time before it needs to plug back in or sit on top of a Qi-certified wireless charging mat. A wireless charging dock is a great option if you plan on keeping it in the same place inside—no fussing about with cables. Sonos charges $50 for this accessory, but you can easily find something cheaper.