Sonos Move hands-on review: A rugged, powerful, and portable Bluetooth speaker
“Sonos leaps into Bluetooth with the Move, a smart speaker that can survive the great outdoors.”
- Powerful sound
- Rugged construction
- Replaceable battery
- Auto Trueplay
- Only basic Bluetooth options
Sonos has officially taken the wraps off its latest speaker, the Sonos Move. The previously leaked portable Bluetooth speaker is the first of its kind from the brand, taking all of Sonos’ trademark features like fantastic audio quality and ease-of-use, and packing them into a ruggedly handsome enclosure built to withstand almost anything you can throw at it.
Until now, all Sonos products have relied exclusively on a home or office Wi-Fi network, preventing them from being used in a variety of locations one might want to use a wireless speaker — while camping, at the beach, at a tailgate party, etc. The Move features both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, including Apple’s AirPlay 2, and you can choose between Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant when using Wi-Fi — both of which are built into the Sonos app.
Digital Trends was given some brief hands-on time with the Move at a recent press event. Here are our first impressions.
Large and in charge
It might have taken Sonos longer than expected to join the Bluetooth bandwagon, but the Sonos Move appears to have been worth the wait. The first thing you notice about the Move is its size. It’s big — and hefty. The Move towers over the Sonos One smart speaker, and at 6.6 pounds, it feels as substantial as it looks. Though the Move shares the One’s smart speaker capabilities and its top-mounted touch-based controls, that’s where the similarities diverge.
Sonos took its time joining the Bluetooth bandwagon, but it appears to have been worth the wait.
Part of the reason for the Move’s size has to do with the speaker components themselves. Two class-D digital amps, a sizeable mid-woofer, and a down-firing tweeter that pushes higher-frequency sounds through a specially-designed waveguide are all packed into the top two-thirds of the Move’s body.
The result is powerful sound that occupies a much wider space than a Sonos One. Sonos claims this gives the Move the ability to fill an outdoor area like a patio or garden with music, while still giving you control over where that sound is directed — a sensible choice for keeping relationships with neighbors from deteriorating during the summer months.
In our demo, the Move filled a large living room area handily and seemed just as happy powering the patio, despite the press event’s busy Manhattan locale. We’ll wait to get our hands on a review model before providing a full sound performance assessment, but we’re already inclined to think it will easily live up to the rest of the Sonos’ family reputation for great audio.
Despite the speaker’s weight, its integrated carry-handle in the back gives us a good degree of confidence that you won’t drop it accidentally. It may not be as comfortable to lug as the Bose Portable Home Speaker, but it looks way better when parked.
Built for the elements (and priced that way, too)
The Move’s physical presence is also the result of its impressive degree of ruggedness. That starts with the company’s choice of color for the shell. Unlike other Sonos speakers, the Move is only available in Shadow Black, specifically chosen for its ability to shrug off the elements and activities Sonos expects the Move will be exposed to.
The speaker has an IP56 rating which means that, short of total immersion in water or sand, it should hold up in all outdoor environments. Sonos made a point of showing off its testing procedures for these claims, with mockups of its actual torture chambers, designed to assess water, dust, and drop-proofing. You can run the Move under a tap to clean it, which should help justify the Move’s tough-to-swallow $399 price.
The last piece of the Move’s portable prowess is its rechargeable lithium-ion battery that Sonos claims is good for about 10 hours of continuous use at moderate volume levels. That’s a respectable amount of playtime, but we’re frankly much more impressed that Sonos made the battery easily replaceable. Given that it has an expected three-year life, that might seem like an obvious choice, but we’ve seen far too many companies go the opposite direction on their battery-powered products.
You get 10 hours of continuous use, but we’re much more impressed that Sonos made the battery user-replaceable.
We can’t commend Sonos enough for doing its part to keep consumer electronics out of landfills. A few hidden screws on the bottom of the speaker can be used to remove and replace the battery, and Sonos acknowledged that those replacements might be higher-capacity by the time this comes up.
You also get two ways to charge the Move. The included charging base is an elegant oval ring that all but disappears when you drop the Move into place. It takes about two hours to fully charge the battery this way. You can also use any USB-C cable to charge the battery, though the charging time will vary depending on the power rating of the adapter. You can check battery life via a battery percentage indicator within the Sonos app, while a small LED at the base of the speaker glows orange when the battery has about one hour left in the tank.
We haven’t yet been able to test how the speaker performs over Wi-Fi vs. Bluetooth. Our demo was too brief to form any final judgments, though it looked as though switching between the two modes is fast and easy, handled via a small button on the Move’s back panel. If you’re a longtime Sonos fan, this back panel holds two surprises: The Move is the first Sonos product with a dedicated power button, and the first Sonos product to ship without an Ethernet port.
Being able to turn a battery-powered device off is obviously key, though the Move is smart enough to enter into a very low-power standby mode if you forget.
No more arm-waving
The Move features yet another Sonos first: Auto Trueplay. Using the on-board mic array, the Move can automatically sense changes in its acoustic environment and adjust sound performance accordingly. It’s a trick that Apple’s HomePod is capable of as well, but Sonos may have an advantage in this department. The company has used thousands of beta testers’ experiences with the ol’ fashioned manual Trueplay function to teach a machine-learning algorithm how to handle certain acoustic environments.
The Move can automatically sense changes in its acoustic environment and adjust accordingly.
The result — in theory — should be a much more accurate tuning profile. In our demo, a Sonos staffer played a Billie Eilish track while the Move was out in the open on a TV stand, and then moved it into a small cubby where it was surrounded on five sides by wooden walls. Within about 15 seconds or so, the Move adjusted its tuning to lower the bass, and boost the treble in its tighter location, bringing Eilish’s vocals back into prominence after they had been lost in their new location.
We’re anxious to see if this feature performs as well when we can control the music and locations.
Those who were hoping that Sonos’ first Bluetooth speaker would go for broke on features may be a bit disappointed there. While the Move is a thoroughly impressive portable speaker, Sonos has chosen to play it very conservatively in terms of its Bluetooth 4.2 connection. It can’t associate with multiple source devices (Sonos says this would have been confusing and/or frustrating for customers), and you can’t stereo-pair it with another Move over Bluetooth.
In addition, the Move doesn’t take advantage of its on-board microphones to give you speakerphone functionality, and the supported Bluetooth codec is limited to the very standard SBC and AAC codecs — no aptX or aptXHD.
Give us the app back
Some of these Bluetooth limitations may not last. Sonos’ reps were quick to point out that Bluetooth is new territory for the company and that we could expect the Move to evolve over time as new features are evaluated and possibly added via firmware updates.
One update we very much hope to see is the ability to use the Sonos app — a master class in usability and convenience — when the Move is in Bluetooth mode. For now, you’ll have to use basic Bluetooth connection from your device over third-party apps like Spotify or Apple Music like any standard Bluetooth speaker. This means no access to your Sonos favorites or playlists, no universal search, and no single user experience for all of your music.
The Move will remember your EQ settings (bass and treble) when you switch from Wi-Fi to Bluetooth, but you won’t be able to adjust them once you’re in Bluetooth mode.
Are these limitations deal-breakers? We doubt it. We’ll let you know in the coming weeks, but we think these are prime opportunities for Sonos to make a great portable speaker even better.
Even if the Sonos Move was merely a Sonos One with a battery and a Bluetooth radio, we’d be pretty happy to see it added to the company’s line of speakers, but the Move is much more. Built to actually withstand the places and activities you might take a portable speaker, and packing a 10-hour battery, the Move is in a category of one.
Its closest Bluetooth-enabled competitors such as the Riva Concert, Bose Portable Home Speaker, and the Ultimate Ears Megaboom 3 may cost less, but none offer all of the Move’s features, and none are compatible with an existing Sonos home audio system — a major reason for Sonos buyers to stay with the company when going Bluetooth.
The Sonos Move is available for pre-order today on Sonos.com for $399 and starts shipping September 24.
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