UNBOXED: Reviewing the Sonos Move
While the Sonos Move isn’t necessarily a category-redefining type of product, the portable Bluetooth speaker is a major first step outside of the home for a company that is looking to redefine itself to consumers. Sonos, a major disruptor in the in-home wireless audio space, was the driving force behind the consumerization of WiFi-distributed audio systems. They made it seamless and fun to set up in-home wireless audio systems that sounded great, didn’t cost a fortune, and required minimal effort to set up. But, to-date, their wireless products felt like an oxymoron because they were essentially tethered to the home thanks to their reliance on the user’s WiFi network.
Enter the Sonos Move.
In late 2018, Sonos hinted in a note to investors—shortly after their initial public offering—that they were exploring new ways to expand their product portfolio, which included the possibility of moving “beyond the front door.” With the Sonos Move, the company does just that.
Setup for the Sonos Move still requires you to go the normal route of connecting the speaker to your WiFi network. But once complete, the user has the option to switch between WiFi mode and Bluetooth at the press of a button on the back of the speaker. Just like that, you can take the Sonos Move with you on the road, beyond the four walls of your home, and enjoy the same quality listening experience at a tailgate, at the beach, at a campsite, or wherever you’d like. The speaker’s IP56 rating ensures the Move can withstand falls, bumps, rain, dust, UV rays, and other extreme weather conditions. And the internal battery will provide continuous playback for up to 10 hours. (Sonos says its standby mode will preserve the battery life for up to 120 hours.)
Internally, the Move features two Class-D digital amplifiers, one downward-firing tweeter, and an integrated mid-woofer. Combined the speaker is capable of producing an exceptionally tuned audio experience. The bass production is rich and capable of rocking rooms of any size. The highs come through clear and crisp. And everything in between sounds silky smooth.
An excellent track that really shows off the speaker’s performance capabilities is Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy,” which features heavy bass alongside mid-ranged vocals and higher-pitched finger snapping and clapping. Playing through the Sonos Move, the vocals wrap around you and the strong bass pulls you right in.
I emphasize all of that about the internals, because, in reviewing the Move, I found it really difficult to pick up on any sort of degradation in audio quality when comparing the Bluetooth mode to the in-home WiFi mode. And that’s really a credit to Sonos and the way in which they constructed this speaker. At the Move launch event in early September, engineers walked us through the process they went through designing this thing, which included several dozen cabinet designs, and determining the proper materials to use for nearly every piece of this thing, among other challenges. Literally, every square inch of this speaker was thought about, and it shows through in the Move’s performance.
Size-wise, the Sonos Move is larger than the Sonos One—so, this is more than just a One with an integrated battery, which was what I expected ahead of that launch event. It stands a few inches taller than the One and features that handle design on the back. The handle feels a bit shallow in my fingers when I try to pick the product up, but it’s a sleek design that doesn’t hinder the aesthetics (or performance) of the speaker.
That said, the Sonos Move features many of the same benefits of the One and some of Sonos’s other recent product introductions. Among them, voice control. Chief among them, the Move supports Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, and Apple’s AirPlay 2, all right out of the box. Those features, though, are only available through the speaker when the Move is connected to your in-home WiFi system. When on the go, the four integrated far-field microphone array is essentially turned off. When in the home, that mic setup helps support the auto Trueplay function of the Sonos Move. This Sonos trademarked tech allows the speaker to detect its immediate surroundings—say being placed in a bookshelf as opposed to on an open table—and will perfectly balance the sound production based on that environment.
Another nice touch by Sonos is the included charging stand for the Move. Whereas other Sonos speakers feature a cord that has to be plugged in, the Move features a contact charging base that, when placed on the included stand, charges the speaker. The Move also features a USB-C charging port on the back of the device that allows for charging on the go. But it’s about more than just charging with this stand. Something Sonos pointed out to us during the Move introduction was that the stand gives the speaker an actual home in the home. An otherwise unthought-of detail with other Bluetooth speakers, the charging stand for the Move gives the user a permanent place for the product—removing the possibility that you’ll forget where you put it down. It’s a subtle detail, but one that makes the Sonos Move a successful product both as an in-home and portable speaker.
Bottom line: There’s a lot to like about the Sonos Move. For consumers who’ve avoided the company because of the lack of portable options, this could be that gateway speaker option that hooks them. For consumers who are already acquainted with the Sonos name, the Move is a solid option as they look to expand their Sonos system. Or, if you’re like me, it’s just enough to tide you over until Sonos decides to release some headphones…