Sonos Move review: It doesn’t just stand there, it busts a Move

Posted: 18 September 2019 11:00 pm News

Sonos has taken a long time to deliver its first portable smart speaker. It was worth the wait.

Sonos Move review

Quick Verdict:

Sonos has delivered a speaker that feels comfortable in the home, with excellent sound quality and a strong design, and adds the ability to move the speaker around without sacrificing audio quality. While it's too heavy to be truly portable, it's still a great addition to any home Sonos system.
Price: $649
Where to buy them: Sonos and retail partners

The good

  • Fantastic sound
  • Trueplay is great
  • Wi-Fi benefits, Bluetooth versatility
  • Pick your digital assistant

The bad

  • Too heavy for a portable speaker
  • No colour selection
  • Pricey

Sonos has always been a proper, in-home, multi-room audio solution, providing high fidelity music playing in perfect synchrony around the house. And Sonos has always delivered on that promise.

But what about the Sonos fans who want to listen outside the house? What about those who want to listen at the beach, or at a park or at a party? For that market, there is now a strange hybrid of a portable and a fixed speaker that is greater than the sum of its parts: the Sonos Move.

Sonos Move review

Design

  • Larger than you'd expect
  • Solid, heavy build
  • Integrated handle makes it easy to move
  • Simple Wi-Fi/Bluetooth switching

There's not too much about the Sonos Move that says "portable". At 24cm high, 16cm wide and with a weight of about 3kg, this is probably not going to be your first choice for a lightweight hiking speaker.

But there's a justification for that heft that goes beyond the old adage that bigger speakers sound better. Sonos hasn't actually created a portable speaker in the traditional sense. Instead, the Move is a unique hybrid that seamlessly works as both a portable Bluetooth speaker and an additional Sonos speaker for the home.

This is illustrated by the Move's charging base. It is impossible to place the speaker onto the cradle and not get the speaker to charge, and when it's docked, the base blends seamlessly into the Move's design.

While the grill is immediately reminiscent of other Sonos speakers like the Sonos One, the Move's elliptical shape makes it more dominating in a room. The fact that it only comes in black may also make it a bold choice for some decors.

The good news is that the speaker is IP56 rated, so it can handle some pretty significant dust and water exposure (don't drop it in the pool though, it's not that resistant), and it can handle some pretty tough knocks should you take it outside.

On the top of the speaker, you have immediate access to the speaker's touch controls. Like other models, there are three buttons: the play/pause, the volume up and the volume down. You operate track control by swiping across the different buttons. Unlike the One, Sonos has pushed these touch controls to the front of the speaker.

The reason for this is clear: Sonos has integrated a six-microphone array for either Google Assistant or Alexa voice controls as well as for Sonos's proprietary Trueplay technology. This is the Move's real superpower, but we'll discuss it a bit later.

In the centre of the speaker is a touch control for the microphone, giving you complete control over when the speaker is listening to you.

Around the back of the speaker is a large void that works as a convenient handle for carrying the device around. Below that are three buttons: a power button, a mode switch that toggles between Bluetooth and Wi-Fi modes, and the Sonos sync button, which allows you to set up the device on your network.

Also on the back is a USB-C port for charging the device on the go.

For the truly committed Sonos fan, you can pair the Move speakers with two units, and you can take advantage of Trueplay as you move both speakers around different environments, although unfortunately I couldn't test that for this review.

Sonos Move review

Performance

  • Incredible sound
  • Automatic Trueplay gives the best sound in all environments
  • Battery life lasts 9-10 hours

If you've got other Sonos speakers set up in your home, then getting started with the Move is a familiar journey.

If you're new to the ecosystem, then you'll be happy to know that it's a simple process – the Sonos app for iOS or Android does all the heavy lifting for you, connecting you to Wi-Fi and setting up control of your music streaming services.

From there, you're ready to listen to music. And the good news is that the Move delivers on that front, creating a robust, full sound. Obviously, the extra size and weight help contribute, but perhaps a bigger part is the clever design of the two class-D amplifiers and the speaker's woofer and tweeter.

Even at top volume, the Move is clear and balanced. The bass feels strong and vibrant, the mid-range is clear and there's lots of detail up high.

And that's straight out of the box. But Sonos has upped the ante here, developing an updated version of its Trueplay technology that it first introduced with the Play:5.

Trueplay

Instead of having to wander around the room waving an iPhone's microphone around while the speaker made noises to calibrate, the Move uses the inbuilt mics to do this tuning automatically.

And this makes it an incredibly versatile speaker.

While you will still need to set up the Move in a room in your home, you can then easily move it around the home and it automatically adjusts the speaker's calibration to match the environment.

What's more, it can do the same thing outside of your home. As long as it can connect to your Wi-Fi network, the Move will automatically calibrate to any environment, making it a fantastic speaker for your backyard, your front porch or your garden party.

It takes up to 30 seconds for the speaker to calibrate, which it only does after you set the speaker down onto a stable surface. In some cases, the adjustments are so subtle you may not even notice them. But in completely different environments, like outdoors or in a bathroom, the change Trueplay delivers is massively noticeable.

Bluetooth performance

The big caveat with the Trueplay functionality is that it's only available when the speaker is connected to Wi-Fi. As soon as you press the button and switch it to Bluetooth mode, the Move functions exactly the same as any other Bluetooth speaker.

You will need to connect it using the Bluetooth control on your phone, and managing music has to be done via your music app of choice rather than the Sonos app.

There is no Trueplay, and the microphones no longer work, so there's no digital assistant either. But for all the lack of smarts, you do still get a powerful, high-quality Bluetooth speaker with solid battery life.

While the speaker no longer adapts to the environment, it still sounds great.

Battery life performance

Sonos claims you get 10 hours of battery out of the Move when it's not docked. In the time I've been testing it, the number seems to be a little bit closer to 9 hours, but that was mostly on Wi-Fi at a reasonably high volume, and it involved moving the speaker many times to check the Trueplay performance.

Sonos also claims that you'll get about five days of standby time with the Move, which I haven't been able to check yet for the review, but will update as I spend more time with the speaker.

Also on the battery front, it isn't the fastest speaker to charge, taking a few hours to power up a depleted battery on the charging dock. Given that the speaker is designed to be docked generally, this shouldn't really be too much of a problem if you need to use it though.

Sonos rates the battery at about 900 recharges (about 3 years), and will offer DIY battery replacement kits for customers, so you can keep moving with your Move for years to come.

Digital Assistant performance

Like the Sonos Beam and the Sonos One before it, the Move allows customers to choose the digital assistant they prefer: Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant.

Setting up each is incredibly easy within the Sonos app, with a short diversion over to the assistant app to complete the process.

Once set up, both digital assistants work extremely well. There are still occasional issues with comprehension of accents, and more complex requests will almost definitely lead to frustration.

But that's a failing of the assistants rather than the speaker itself and is common among all the best smart speakers on the market

Sonos Move review

Verdict

  • Great for existing Sonos owners
  • Too heavy for a lightweight portable speaker
  • Versatility and sound quality overcome price

Sonos has created an incredible speaker in the shape of the Move. It manages to add a portable versatility to a traditional Sonos speaker, without sacrificing the performance Sonos customers have grown to expect.

The development of Trueplay is the real selling point of this speaker, with automatic calibration for every environment (so long as you're connected to your Wi-Fi network). The versatility across Bluetooth and Wi-Fi is also useful, giving you a device to take anywhere, even if it is best at home.

But given this speaker costs $649, that's a lot of money to spend, especially when you factor in that this isn't the type of Bluetooth speaker you throw in your luggage on an overseas trip (unless you enjoy paying for excess baggage).

Like so many Sonos offerings, this is best suited for customers already invested in the Sonos ecosystem who are looking to add a speaker to a missing room but want the versatility of a portable device.

Pricing and availability

The Sonos Move is currently available for pre-order and will go on sale on 24 September 2019 around Australia. It will sell for $649 RRP and will be available through Sonos retailers nationally.

Specifications

Product name
Sonos Move
Connectivity
Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2
Battery life
10 hours
Dimensions
240 x 160 x 126mm
Weight
3kg
Water resistance
IP56
Microphones
4 x far-field microphone array
Controls
Play/Pause, Volume up/down, Microphone touch controls (top); Power, Bluetooth/Wi-Fi toggle, Sync buttons (rear)
Price
$649 RRP
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