Sonos Move review

A brilliant speaker, inside and out

Sonos Move
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Sonos is breaking free with its first Bluetooth speaker, the Move. Yes, the company that redefined multi-room audio is boldly going where almost every other audio company has gone before – "beyond the home".

Sonos is very fond of those three words, and claims Move was spurred more by a desire to have an outdoor speaker than a Bluetooth one. As such, the Move isn't just rugged, but has been tuned to take on the great outdoors.

Read this: The best smart speakers

We've abused the Move no end in order to bring you this review. We've dropped it. We've thrown it at things. We've rolled it around with it in the dirt. Did it survive? Did we? Read on and find out.

Sonos Move review

Sonos Move: Design and setup

The Sonos Move might be portable, but make no mistake, this is not a speaker you can just chuck in a bag. At a solid 3kg, it’s heavy. It’s almost 10 inches tall too, and a little over 6 inches wide; it dwarfs the Sonos One.

But that extra size makes room for better speakers and, of course, a battery. When it’s not using that battery, the Move sits on a charging dock that juices it up. It also gives the Move a more sturdy base to rest on, though a respectable center of gravity means the Move won't tumble easily.

And if/when you do knock it over? Fear not: the Move has been built to withstand all sorts of abuse. After all, you’re going to be taking into the outdoors, where “the elements” lie. As such, the Move is IP65 rated, meaning it's totally protected against dust and can withstand moisture.

Sonos tells me you can use this as a bathroom speaker and not worry about condensation, but if you're taking it for a pool party, don't knock it in the water. It's not meant to be dunked.

Sonos Move review

Sonos Move review

The Move comes in just one color, a grayish-black, not to be confused with the same black that coats the Sonos One. The material and color were chosen to help the Move withstand high temperatures when it's outside under direct sunlight – but that does mean you don't get choice this time around.

The bottom of the speaker, however, is made of rubber, so you can plonk the Move into the dirt, on some grass, a wet surface – whatever it may be – and not have to worry about it being damaged. Just brush it off afterwards and you’re golden.

The back of the speaker has a recessed area that you can hook your fingers inside to carry the Sonos Move. You'll also find three buttons here. The power button can be tapped to wake the speaker, or held down for 10 seconds to power the speaker off entirely. Below that is the Bluetooth button – tap it to switch between Wi-Fi and Bluetooth modes. And beneath is the join button, which will connect the Move to your home network.

Move to the top and there are playback and volume controls, we well as the mic mute button.

Sonos Move review

Sonos Move: Bluetooth and sound quality

While Bluetooth is now an option, Sonos has souped up the Wi-Fi connection on Move to give it a longer range than its other speakers. So if you're only taking it out into the back garden, you might be able to keep using it over Wi-Fi, and use it as a regular Sonos speaker.

Switching between Wi-Fi and Bluetooth modes is done with the push of the small, elongated button on the back. When in Bluetooth mode the light on the top will turn blue (duh) and you’ll then be able to pair with it from your phone, like you would any other Bluetooth speaker.

The Bluetooth mode uses a fixed profile, but it’s one Sonos spent time fine tuning to tackle most outdoor scenarios. I can tell you, it’s no slouch. I’ve played the Move in a park, near a noisy road, and on a picnic bench amidst many large trees. Being outside, I immediately had to turn up the volume, but the Move goes loud. Really loud.

In Bluetooth mode, played at a moderate volume, you’ll get around 10 hours of playback from the Move. That’s Sonos’ claim and it proved true in testing. In fact, we managed to eke out a little more during out first run, but admittedly we were mostly playing at around a third of the maximum volume.

You’ll also get around the same (again, with moderate volume) when playing on your Wi-Fi but not connected to the dock. Crank it up to 11 in either setting, and you'll likely run under 10 hours. After 30 minutes of inactivity the speaker will switch to 'Suspend mode', a sleep mode that can stretch the battery up to five days.

So, let's talk sound. The Sonos Move has the same mid-woofer driver as the Play:5, along with a two Class-D digital amplifiers and downward-firing tweeter, and as such it's closer to the Play:5 in terms terms of quality than it is the Sonos One. The Move has a much wider soundstage and separation than the One, not to mention you can crank it a lot louder.

But it's also a more expensive speaker at $399, and for anyone who's in the market for a Bluetooth speaker, that's not an easy sell. Yes it sounds superb, but there are loads of decent Bluetooth speakers out there that won't break the bank.

Sonos Move review

Move does have another unique feature up its sleeve however: Auto Trueplay. Until now, Sonos speakers could be tuned to the room but only if you a) had an iPhone and b) did so manually by literally walking around waving your phone about, like some sort of exorcist of bad acoustics.

No more with the Move. Sonos has built a technology that lets the Move adapt to its surroundings in real time. It does this by reading the way sound ricochets off objects in the room and optimizing the sound in real-time.

You'll hardly notice it – and that’s a good thing. But Auto Trueplay only works when the Move is connected over Wi-Fi. As soon as it moves to Bluetooth, it switches to a more fixed sound profile that Sonos has designed especially for the outdoors.

Any EQ adjustments you make in the Sonos app while it’s on the Wi-Fi will remain once it transitions, however, but otherwise the Bluetooth mode has been adjusted to help the sound carry further and across a wider stage.

Sonos Move review

But the Move isn't a 360-degree speaker. In fact, Sonos made a conscious choice to leave a blind spot behind it, the thinking being that you could face the Move away from your neighbors' house and towards the party, and the sound would be less likely to irk the people you didn't invite to your backyard BBQ.

Obviously you can still hear it – Sonos hasn’t learned to defy the laws of physics just yet – but the sound quality is muddier from behind. That also means placement needs to be a key consideration.

Going into Bluetooth mode also means you lose access to all the privileges that come with Wi-Fi, including the Sonos app, which will instead only show you the remaining battery life of the Move. It also means Alexa and Google Assistant stop working, as the mic button becomes functionally useless.

There is, however, a lingering unanswered question here, and I know you're dying to know the answer: will Auto Trueplay come to all Sonos speakers? I asked Sonos about this, and the answer is essentially yes – it’s possible – but no one’s saying if or when it could happen.

Sonos Move review

Sonos Move: Alexa, Google Assistant and other smarts

The Move is the first Sonos speaker to arrive with Alexa and Google Assistant working from day one, and the novelty of being able to choose between the two on one speaker hasn’t worn off. I’m Team Google Assistant these days, so the choice was obvious for me, but I love that Sonos is accounting for both camps.

But this is one aspect that needs work. The Google Assistant has had a harder time of picking up my voice than I expected – something we also experienced with the Sonos One when it first launched.

My "Hey Google" requests have sometimes fallen on deaf ears. As I see it right now, the problem is worse when I’m speaking to it from below the microphones. If the Move is up above me on a shelf, it seems to be slightly harder of hearing than if it’s below mouth level.

Sonos made improvements to the One over time, and these days its mics are more sensitive. Hopefully Sonos can tweak the Move in the same way.

Amazon: Sonos Move
Amazon: Sonos Move


Sonos Move
The Sonos Move is a triumph; a portable speaker that sounds incredible and offers heaps of battery life. But that means a high price and, if we're honest, something that isn't actually all that 'portable'. But forget Bluetooth – this is a fantastic Sonos speaker in its own right. Whether it's beyond the home, or just inside it.
PROS
  • Brilliant sound in both modes
  • Very durable
  • Long battery life
CONS
  • Expensive
  • Mic pickup a bit iffy
  • Really heavy

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