When discussing Sonos, most people subconsciously think of its wireless home theater systems.
While Sonos can be associated with the home theater realm, its brand identity differs from this circle. For example, we typically envision custom installations when we think of home theaters. In contrast, Sonos introduces the concept of “wireless multi-room speaker systems” emphasizing ease, convenience, and the ability to enjoy music anytime. Regarding functionality and positioning, it shows that Sonos is pursuing its audience on a different track.
Because of its markedly different market direction from traditional audio manufacturers, the launch of Sonos’ portable Bluetooth speaker, the Sonos Roam SL WiFi & Bluetooth Speaker, comes a bit late. After all, in-home use, Sonos has accumulated years of mature experience and technology; it’s just a matter of transitioning from indoors to outdoors.
However, it is better late than never. The emergence of Bluetooth 5.0 has greatly improved the transmission quality of wireless audio products, and the arrival of the Sonos Roam SL is timely. Besides aiming to create a smaller and lighter portable speaker, in terms of audio quality, the Sonos Roam SL also intends to break the stereotype that “portable means sacrificing audio quality.” It seeks to extend indoor sound quality and excellence to the outdoors.
Since it focuses on portability, the Roam SL naturally boasts the smallest design in Sonos’ product history. Officially, its dimensions are 168mm × 62mm × 60mm, which, compared to a reference, is slightly taller than most smartphones. Therefore, carrying it in a backpack is effortless.
The triangular design of the body resembles the KEF MUO Bluetooth speaker I’ve experienced before. However, Sonos has added an extra layer of silicone padding on the top and bottom, providing better stability on tabletops and some drop protection. Apart from a metal speaker grille on the front, the rest of the body is matte-finished, reducing weight to the maximum and providing some dust and dirt resistance for outdoor use.
The design maintains Sonos’ minimalist aesthetics, with a logo on the front and control buttons on the top, including volume controls and play/pause buttons. Above and below the logo, there are two small LED indicator lights. The upper LED indicates the Roam SL’s connection status (Bluetooth/WiFi), while the lower LED primarily shows its battery status.
Along the central axis, the charging port and multifunction buttons are on the back of the speaker. The latter is the power switch and allows for switching the Roam SL’s connection status. It’s worth noting the USB power cable provided with the Roam SL WiFi & Bluetooth Speaker, which features a 90-degree angled design at the end that connects to the speaker, making it convenient to place against a wall while charging.
Additionally, the Sonos Roam SL supports wireless charging.
To withstand outdoor conditions, the Roam SL boasts an IP67 protection rating. Whether it’s an outdoor picnic or hiking, it effectively guards against dust and water splashes, allowing users to take it outside confidently.
The official claim is that the Roam SL can provide up to 10 hours of playback on a single charge. I usually pay little attention to battery life in electronic products. Still, looking back, during the two weeks of using the Roam SL, I only had to charge it two or three times (approximately using it 3-4 times a week, with each session lasting around 2-3 hours). This battery life is above average, especially considering it supports 15W fast charging.
The Sonos Roam SL supports two wireless connection modes: Bluetooth for convenient outdoor use and Sonos’ pride, WiFi streaming. Initially, users need to pair and connect the Roam SL with the Sonos app. During this process, users must first register a Sonos account and use the phone’s microphone and NFC functionality to complete the setup.
However, once the initial pairing is successful, whether WiFi or Bluetooth, as long as the speaker and the phone (or tablet) are in the same area and turned on, they connect almost instantly.
Like other Sonos speaker products, the Roam SL can stream music from multiple streaming platforms through the app.
Apart from streaming music in the app, users can connect via AirPlay 2 with the Roam SL. You can easily cast music from your devices if your iPhone, iMac, or iPad and the speaker are on the same local network. For Apple enthusiasts, this is an appealing option.
You can also pair the Roam SL with other Sonos speakers to create a multi-room music system. Even if other speakers do not have Bluetooth transmission capabilities, you can still use the Roam SL’s Bluetooth function to sync music to various Sonos speakers. If you have other Sonos devices at home, buying the Roam SL is like adding a “Bluetooth signal transmitter” and giving your Sonos sound system an additional Bluetooth transmission function.
Sonos Roam SL features a custom-designed racetrack mid-bass driver and a tweeter, which allow for some degree of three-way separation. You can even feel its full and powerful low-frequency energy at a certain volume level. In some fast-paced music, while it might sound slightly muddled overall, the fact that it can deliver such strong elasticity in a compact form is impressive and should meet the listening needs of most people.
Its performance in vocals is noteworthy as well. The mid and high frequencies are clean and clear, making it suitable for lyrical and rock music, exuding a delicate and warm sonic quality.
Overall, the Roam SL takes a balanced approach, emphasizing solid mid-frequencies to ensure users have a comfortable listening experience. Its excellent resolution highlights its sound detail and layering, allowing it to handle different music genres effortlessly.
A good speaker can reignite your love for listening to music. Before bringing the Roam SL home, I also had an affordable Bluetooth speaker, but its sound deficiencies were so noticeable that I rarely felt inclined to use it for an entire year.
However, with the arrival of the Sonos Roam SL, I can feel a significant increase in the frequency I use a speaker to listen to music (not just because I’m reviewing it). It doesn’t use a full-range driver, which eliminates that cramped feeling and offers a comfortable, clean sound style that makes it easier to immerse yourself in the joy of music.
Considering all of this, it becomes clear that the Sonos Roam SL WiFi & Bluetooth Speaker, despite its smaller size and Bluetooth capability, shares the fundamental qualities of other Sonos speakers. Its remarkable sound performance is further enhanced by integrating Sonos’ unique features, including support for streaming from multiple music services, AirPlay compatibility, and a multi-room music system.
These factors collectively position it as a frontrunner in Bluetooth speakers. Suppose you have discerning taste in sound quality and seek a wireless speaker that seamlessly transitions between indoor (small spaces) and outdoor settings. In that case, the Roam SL unquestionably stands out as a compelling choice.