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Sonos Roam SL

Mobile Bluetooth/WLAN speaker

In a nutshell

The Sonos Roam SL is the smallest and cheapest entry into the Sonos multiroom universe and is also recommended as a stereo set thanks to its good sound. This weatherproof Bluetooth speaker also does a good job on the move. This kind of listening pleasure is no bargain, but it is certainly well worth the price.

Pros:
  • Good sound
  • Multiroom-capable
  • WiFi
  • Apple Airplay 2
  • 10 hours runtime
  • Stereo setup possible
Cons:
  • High price
  • No Google Chrome Cast
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How small can speakers be and still sound reasonably good? With the Roam, Sonos offer a 430-gram speaker that sounds bigger than it looks (168 mm x 59 mm x 62 mm). It can be expanded into a small but fine stereo set as a duo and is also multi-room compatible.

The Roam is available in two versions, with and without the “SL” abbreviation. The slightly cheaper Roam SL does not have a microphone and is therefore not receptive to voice commands and cannot automatically adapt to the room conditions via Sonos’ Trueplay (see our review of the Sonos Move 2). It also does not offer any sound swap functionality, i.e. the option to take over music from another Sonos speaker.

Long-term test of the Roam SL

I’ve been using the Roam SL for almost a year now. I decided in favour of the SL for various reasons: I deliberately chose not to use voice input, and the Trueplay function was not a high priority for me as I wanted to use it as a kitchen sound system. A third and perhaps the most important reason was the sensationally low price of 119.99 euros during Cyber Week in November 2022; this meant I put two in my shopping basket as a Christmas present. Also important: I already had a small Sonos stereo setup for my TV and, naturally, I wanted to use the Sonos multiroom functionality.

Small and neat, the Roam fits in every corner

As the speaker is certified to IP protection class 67 (dustproof, temporary immersion in water), it can be used outdoors in the worst weather, in the bathroom or in rooms that are not always favourable for electronics, such as my kitchen, without any damage. Thanks to the rubberised base and supporting surface, the Roam SL is stable and also demonstrates its robust side when travelling, e.g. in the mesh drink holder of a rucksack.

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Up to 10 hours of battery life

The Roam SL can play for up to 10 hours at a moderate volume. After around two hours plugged into the cable, the speaker is fully charged again; if you use the optional wireless charger, this takes around twice as long.

After almost a year of daily use, the Roam SL is still able to run for almost 9 hours, although I have to say that I use both Roam SLs almost exclusively as a “kitchen radio” via USB power supply.

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The Roam SL as a Bluetooth speaker

The smallest Sonos speaker can be easily paired with a smartphone or computer via the Bluetooth 5.0 protocol and play their media. The Roam SL supports the Bluetooth codecs SBC and AAC. However, it is not possible to set up the stereo pairing of two Roam SLs in pure Bluetooth mode, multipoint, or the Sonos sound swap function.

The speaker can also be used as a playback medium via Apple Airplay 2. In Bluetooth mode, the small LED next to the Sonos lettering lights up blue; in pairing mode, it flashes blue.

A special feature that Sonos offer is the option of using a Bluetooth source as an entry point to a multi-room experience, something that should not be taken for granted with Sonos. Bluetooth is defined as a line-in in the Sonos app, and this input signal can then be distributed throughout the entire Sonos network via WiFi.

The Roam SL in a WiFi network

The Sonos 2 app and an internet connection are required for both setup in the home network and commissioning. Sonos always requires registration via a valid email address. The app can also be used to add further Sonos products, group them into rooms and realise multi-channel setups with all non-mobile Sonos products. With the Sonos Roam, you can only integrate a stereo setup of two identical Sonos speakers – such as the Roam SL in my case.

If you have equipped several rooms with Sonos speakers, you can play the same sound source in all rooms at the same time, but you can also distribute different sources to the rooms via the app.

Wake-up functions can also be activated via the Sonos S2 app, e.g. to wake you up in the morning with gentle sounds from a playlist. However, this requires the corresponding streaming service to be integrated into the Sonos app. In addition to Spotify, Apple Music, Soundcloud, Amazon Music and Tuneln, Radio.net services (and many others) can be embedded. A relatively new option is Sonos Radio, a paid service that streams at 16-bit, 44.1 kHz in CD quality.

What does the Sonos Roam (SL) sound like?

The answer to this is surprisingly good if you don’t “overstimulate” them. We liked Roam speakers best when played at close range with a maximum of half volume. Here, the bass reached sufficiently low down, and the structure-borne sound from the desk/shelfboard surface was not unduly amplified by the very well-damped chassis, meaning the speakers did a good job in all standing and lying positions. If you read the specifications, it’s amazing what Sonos can pack into such a small speaker, as there is “only” one tweeter and one mid/bass driver, each driven by two Class H amplifiers.

As a stereo pair, the Roam SL are easy to listen to at close range and do a good job even with more demanding tasks and high-energy bass. A loudness circuit with a subtle bass boost is particularly effective here. At close range, music of any genre can be listened to with pleasure, especially considering the size of the Sonos speakers. We enjoyed tripping through our Spotify playlist and were surprised by the agile playback of Robert Glaspers’ “What Are We Doing”. But even with classical music, such as Stravinsky’s “The Firebird”, two Sonos Roamwere capable of conjuring up much more sound than their compactness would suggest.

As a sound system in our 15 square metre kitchen, my two Roam SLs were impressive as kitchen radios. Music and spoken word were pleasant to listen to at around half volume. If you like it louder, you should expect distortion from around three-quarters volume, and the bass also noticeably robs the mids of their power. Here, it would be a good idea to use the app to take a little of this power away from the bass via EQ.

Other than that, the EQ should only be used to a very limited extent, as the two “bands” gave the treble too much sharpness and overemphasised the bass. Let’s put it this way: the Roam SL is set at the factory, so you don’t really need the EQ for the streaming options on offer.

Conclusion

As a straight Bluetooth speaker, the Sonos Roam SL is not a bargain at the recommended price of 179 euros, but it’s worth the money due to the sound quality. As a stereo pair at twice the price, they earn our recommendation for anyone who is already a fan of Sonos products and wants to build a multi-room setup. But these speakers are also ideal for camping or other outdoor activities. Important to remember: Sonos is a convenient stand-alone solution that harmonises seamlessly with Apple devices thanks to Airplay 2 but doesn’t use Google’s Chrome Cast. The Trueplay function and voice control via Voicecontrol of the Roam without SL can be omitted if necessary. If you want to use this, we recommend the more expensive Sonos Roam without the SL add-on.

8 months ago by Ralf Willke
  • Rating: 4.38
  • Sound
  • Handling
  • Price/Quality
  • Function

Technical specifications

  • Ear couplingSpeakers
  • Weight without cableca. 430 g
  • Cable length120 cm

What's in the box

  • USB-A-C charging cable

Special features

  • Available in black and white
  • BT version: 5.0
  • BT codecs: SBC, AAC
  • An Internet connection is required for the initial setup

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