Audio

Portable Bluetooth speaker lives up to Sonos' audio standards

It sounds almost unbelievable that the Sonos Move is the audio firm's first portable speaker. It is also Sonos' first Bluetooth speaker, though it still supports Sonos' Wi-Fi-based system, which lets users group and control multiple speakers at the same time.

With Sonos being fashionably late to the portable speaker scene, there is definitely a lot of attention on the Move. The good news is that it manages to live up to my expectations, though it is not without flaws.

My biggest grouse is that the Move is large and heavy for a portable speaker. It is taller and - at around 3kg - heavier than the home-bound Sonos One smart speaker.

To be fair, it is not too difficult to carry the Move for short distances, thanks to a built-in handle moulded into the back of its enclosure. But I don't see myself lugging it further than, say, the distance between my home and the barbecue pit of my condominium.

As a portable speaker, the Move offers relatively basic Bluetooth functionality. For instance, it cannot pair with another Move for stereo audio playback in Bluetooth mode, unlike some Bluetooth speakers. This stereo pairing feature, though, is available in the Sonos mobile app (available for iOS and Android) if you switch to its Wi-Fi mode.

In addition, the Sonos app can be used to adjust the speaker's settings or playback controls when the Move is in Wi-Fi mode, but this functionality is absent when the phone is connected to the Move via Bluetooth. There is also no support for higher-quality Bluetooth codecs such as aptX.

  • FOR 

    • Excellent, balanced audio that lives up to Sonos' usual standards 

    • Rugged for outdoor use 

    • Auto-tuning feature 

    • Good battery life and battery can be replaced

  • AGAINST 

    • Heavy for a portable speaker 

    • Sonos app unavailable in Bluetooth mode 

    • Expensive

  • SPECS

    PRICE: $729

    CONNECTIVITY: Bluetooth and Wi-Fi

    WEIGHT: 3kg

  • RATING

    FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 4.5/5

    PERFORMANCE: 4.5/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 3.5/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

The Move looks similar to other Sonos speakers - matte black with a front metal grille. It is rated at IP56 for protection from dust and liquid splashes, so it will probably be fine at the beach and even in the rain, but don't dunk it in a puddle.

At the back are buttons for power, connecting to Wi-Fi and toggling between Wi-Fi and Bluetooth modes. At the top of the speaker are capacitative touch controls for volume and media playback, as well as a mute button for the far-field microphone.

The microphone plays two roles. First, it is always listening for the audio cues for Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa.

However, this voice assistant feature is currently unavailable in Singapore, though Sonos' local distributor Tat Chuan Acoustics said Google Assistant support will arrive here later this year.

Second, Sonos uses the microphone to enable an auto-tuning feature that adjusts the speaker audio to its environment. For instance, the Move may dampen the bass to reduce vibrations if the speaker is placed on a wooden bookshelf.

To charge its battery - said to be good for 10 hours - simply place the Move on its circular charging ring. It can also be charged via a USB-C port using a power bank or smartphone charger.

In my testing, the Move's battery dipped by around 12 per cent after two hours, which translates to a battery life of around 16 hours. This uptime will likely vary depending on the speaker volume - I had set it at around 40 per cent.

To my surprise, the battery (good for 900 charges) can be replaced, which should extend the longevity of the speaker. This is important because the Move is priced at $729, making it one of the more expensive portable Bluetooth speakers in the market.

The Move lives up to Sonos' high standards in audio. The speaker fills the living room with a wide, robust and balanced sound. The bass is not overpowering like some Bluetooth speakers. Yet, it can go very loud, which is what you want for an outdoor speaker.

You can stream music to the Move from an Apple device via AirPlay 2. But it does not support Google Cast for Android devices. Instead, you can either stream from music files in your smartphone or from numerous music services, such as Apple Music, Spotify and Tidal.

In the case of Spotify, a paid Spotify subscription is required for this streaming feature.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 09, 2019, with the headline 'Portable Bluetooth speaker lives up to Sonos' audio standards '. Print Edition | Subscribe