First look: Sonos Move goes portable, but freedom is expensive

We take the new Sonos speaker for a spin

Ears-on with the Sonos Move

Much has already leaked out around Sonos' new Move speaker, and nearly all of it is true. Yes, it's the first Bluetooth Sonos speaker, meaning you can now take it off Wi-Fi and still enjoy Sonos sound. And yes, it looks a bit like a larger, slightly squished Sonos One.

But here's what surprised us: it's a much better-sounding speaker than we had expected. It's inevitable when you hear the words "Bluetooth speaker" to assume there will be compromises, but the Sonos Move is actually a more powerful speaker than the Sonos One, and not just in how loud it goes (hint: very loud). It's also better tuned, resulting in a Sonos speaker that sits just below the Play:5 in terms of overall quality.

Sonos Store: Pre-order Sonos Move
Sonos Store: Pre-order Sonos Move

But this also means the Move is more expensive, coming in at $400, and that makes it a harder sell. If you're in the market for a Bluetooth speaker, do you care about having the best quality, or do you just want something that sounds good enough? For many people the latter will be enough, and that's okay. The challenge is for Sonos to persuade those people that they're wrong.

First look: Sonos Move takes things portable without hurting the sound

Sonos thinks the Bluetooth market is too full of compromises. During our demo we heard how some engineers gatecrashed strangers' backyard BBQs to test prototypes of the Sonos Move against other market speakers. All that culminated in a speaker Sonos believes is perfect for the outdoors, with wide dispersion and sound that reaches much further than any of its other speakers, while packing in all the smarts: Google Assistant, Alexa, AirPlay 2 and Spotify Connect.

But first, let's talk about the look of this thing. As far as Bluetooth speakers go, this thing is hefty. 10 pounds of heft that isn't made for just chucking into a bag. The Move comes with a charging base, which will charge it up when it's sat on it, and Sonos promises up to 10 hours of playback time on a single charge. After 30 minutes of inactivity the speaker will switch to 'Suspend mode', a sleep mode that can stretch the battery up to five days.

First look: Sonos Move goes portable, but freedom is expensive

Also, you might describe it as black, but don't tell Sonos that. It calls it "shadow-black", and it's really more of a grey that absorbs less UV when outdoors and won't cook the speakers inside. It's also got a tougher shell made to withstand bumps and drops (in a demo Sonos let us drop a Move from about three feet just to prove that, though admittedly we weren't able to test it post-drop. We'll take Sonos' word that it was just fine).

The middle-back of the Move is recessed, creating a handle for picking it up and carrying it. You'll also find the power, join (for quickly connecting to the rest of your Sonos system) and a new Bluetooth button. Press that button to switch the Sonos between Wi-Fi and Bluetooth modes.

First look: Sonos Move takes things portable without hurting the sound

Sonos Move: Bluetooth mode and Auto Trueplay

We'll get onto Bluetooth in a moment, but one of the headline features of the Move is one that makes the Sonos experience much smoother: Automatic Trueplay. If you're an iPhone user and have ever set up a Sonos speaker before, you'll recall the somewhat-strange process of walking around the room waving your phone around to tune to acoustics, like some sort of audio exorcist. (And if you're an Android user, you don't even get the option).

But no more with the Move. Sonos has now built that technology into the speaker so it adjusts dynamically to its surroundings, registering all of the different reflection patterns of each individual space (this can be turned off if you'd prefer). But when the Move is switched to Bluetooth mode (yes you guessed it: by hitting the Bluetooth button on the back) the speaker switches to a fixed sound profile that Sonos says is optimized for an outdoor environment.

But switching to Bluetooth mode means some features stop working. The Sonos app will become useless, and Google Assistant/Alexa will go mute. At this point it becomes, well, just a Bluetooth speaker.

First look: Sonos Move takes things portable without hurting the sound

While we got to see the Move in both modes, it was hard to appreciate any subtle differences in our short testing time, but we can certainly confirm this thing can get loud when outside. There's a wide soundstage, yes, but the speakers don't fire out of the rear – a decision made so you can place it in the garden and not annoy your neighbors.

However, you might not even need Bluetooth. Sonos has given the Move a really good Wi-Fi range, so there's a chance you'll be able to take it into the backyard and still run it on the Wi-Fi.

The obvious question is now: will Automatic Trueplay come to older Sonos speakers? No one would confirm this when asked, but Sonos hinted it was a possibility.

Sonos Store: Pre-order Sonos Move
Sonos Store: Pre-order Sonos Move

Sonos Move: Early verdict

The Sonos Move so far feels and sounds like a terrific speaker, but we're not entirely sure. There are plenty of decent Bluetooth speakers on the market that are a lot less expensive than the Move, but most aren't as good. The question is: are you willing to spend $400 on a Bluetooth speaker? If you've been waiting on something to fill the garden for social gatherings, this is it. But Sonos has made a fantastic sounding speaker here – even if it never takes a step outside.

TAGGED   speakers

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