Saturday, July 2

Sonos Roam SL Review: Sonos’ Ultra-Portable Speaker Arrives in SA

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With so many options on the market, shopping for a new portable Bluetooth speaker can be an overwhelming experience. Now, Sonos is adding yet one more consideration to the list with the launch of its new Roam SL ultra-portable, go-anywhere speaker. Sonos says the premium, compact and versatile new speaker delivers powerful yet detailed sound, at a pocket-friendly price that consumers will love. But is this the portable speaker for you? We put the Sonos Roam SL Bluetooth speaker to the test.

The sister product to the older sibling, the Sonos Roam, the Roam SL is more compact and ditches the microphone to allow for reduced overall weight and size, and a reduction in price. Like the Roam, the Roam SL offers all-day battery life packed into a premium, durable, and portable design.

Sonos Roam SL

Unboxing the wireless speaker is indeed a premium experience. The packaging for Sonos Roam SL sets new standards in environmental sustainability without compromising on a premium aesthetic. In designing the packaging, the Sonos team wanted unboxing the speaker to be a joyous experience, akin to opening a gift on your birthday, anniversary, or any other special occasion.

Designed with sustainability in mind, the box is made from 100% sustainably sourced paper — even the hanging loop on the top is made from paper fibres — completely negating the need for plastic foam, a far less environmentally friendly substance. Inside the minimalist box, the speaker is lovingly encased in a soft white cloth product bag, further adding to the premium unboxing experience.

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Sonos Roam SL

According to Sonos, this new addition to the Bluetooth speaker range will enable consumers to enjoy richly detailed sound with the clarity, depth, and fullness you’d expect from a larger speaker. The speaker is capable of connecting to the rest of your Sonos system at home on WiFi and automatically switches to Bluetooth when you’re away. For stereo sound, consumers can pair their Roam SL with a second Roam SL, or a Sonos Roam via WiFi and the Sonos app.

While most Bluetooth speakers on the market offer plug and play functionality, that allow you to use the device straight out of the box, the Roam SL takes a bit more graft to get going with the best sound experience. I found setting up the speaker to be a fairly tedious process. The entire process of downloading the Sonos app and setting up the speaker in the app took approximately 30 minutes. Without following this lengthy setup process — which involves everything from connecting the speaker to WiFi, enabling NFC connectivity, and needing to input a special pin code embedded on the speaker —  you’re stuck with the standard audio settings and sound.

Sonos Roam SL

However, once set up, using the Bluetooth functionality is a smooth experience with options for Apple AirPlay and basic Bluetooth music playback easy to use. Straight out of the box, the standard sound of the speaker is a little tinny and lacklustre, but a few tweaks of the bass and treble in the Sonos app does help to bring a little more depth to the sound. The app offers bass and treble faders, but not a true five-band EQ, which is a little disappointing. Elsewhere in the app, a volume/loudness button adjusts the bass response relative to the speaker’s volume level. When playing music at moderate volumes, the audio is rich and crisp, but some elements lose detail at higher volumes.

The Roam SL’s rounded triangular frame angles its drivers up toward the listener when it sits flat, but you can also stand it up vertically. The speaker is mono (you can link two Roam SL units as a stereo pair via the app), so you don’t ruin any stereo imaging in either position. Controls sit on the left panel — offering a multi-function button for playing, pausing, and navigating tracks (when you press it multiple times), as well as dedicated volume buttons. Along with the USB-C charging port, the back panel houses a power and Bluetooth pairing button. Tactile buttons help avoid accidental button presses while on-the-go.

Sonos Roam SL

The device offers up to 10 hours of continuous playback on a single charge and up to 10 days of battery life when in sleep mode. For even longer battery life, you can enable the Battery Saver setting so your speaker powers down completely when not in use. The speaker is also dustproof and fully waterproof with a rigorously tested IP67 rating.

Is the Sonos Roam SL the speaker for you?

In terms of sound, base depth, and power, the Sonos Roam SL isn’t as strong as similarly priced rugged portable speakers on the market. However, for those who already have a larger Sonos setup, the Roam SL is the perfect speaker to integrate with your existing setup. If you fall into that category, then the Roam SL is a welcome, slightly more affordable alternative to the regular Roam that’s equally adept at home and on hiking trails, just with a heftier price tag.

The Sonos Roam SL is available in South Africa at a recommended price of R3,499.

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