Hands on: Sonos Move Review

Hands-on with Sonos' first Bluetooth speaker.

First Impressions

It's an impressive first look at Sonos' first ever Bluetooth speaker. It features all that you'd expect from a Sonos speaker that lives in the home, but can also function outdoors. It comes at a significant price, and given its size and weight it isn't exactly what you'd call portable, either.

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £399
  • Weight: 3kg
  • Auto Trueplay
  • Apple AirPlay 2
  • Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant

It’s been in the works for a while, with rumours swirling for some time too. At the IFA 2019 tech expo in Berlin, the covers were finally taken off the Sonos Move speaker.

Having dominated the multi-room market for years, it was an oddity that Sonos hadn’t used its expertise to release a Bluetooth speaker. That’s now been addressed with the Move, the first Bluetooth speaker from the Californian company that “goes wherever you go”; a speaker that sounds great outdoors and works like any other Sonos speaker when in the home.

Does Sonos have a potential hit with the Move? Let’s find out.

Related: Best multi-room speakers

Sonos Move price and release date

The Sonos Move goes on sale in the UK and Ireland on September 24 for £399. It also goes on sale in Germany, Spain, France, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Finland, Poland, Sweden and Switzerland for €399. It launches in the United States and Canada for $399.

Sonos Move build and design — Not quite the “portable” speaker we expected

Despite being called a “portable” speaker, the Move is much bigger than you might have imagined.

Compared to a Sonos One it’s 8cm taller, 4cm wider and a tiny bit thicker. Nonetheless, it’s an attractive-looking unit, adhering to the Sonos’ distinctive aesthetic. And despite being quite big, ist’ appreciably svelte in terms of look and shape.

At 3kg it makes Sonos’ claims of portability a little sketchy. If you’re imagining a portable speaker with proportions of the UE Wonderboom 2 or a JBL Charge, then your estimations regarding the Sonos Move are a little out. In terms of size and weight, it’s more like the Marshall Tufton.

Related: Best Bluetooth speakers

Sonos Move

Despite the size, the Move is a svelte-looking speaker

At that size and weight, the jury is still out on whether it’s the type of speaker you’d want to take with you. Transitioning from the home to the garden  is fine, but we have reservations as to whether you’d want to take it anywhere else. Portable isn’t quite the right term; referring to it as an “outdoor” speaker better aligns expectations.

That’s because the Move has been built to withstand plenty of abuse. Rated at IP56, which is the highest without submerging it, the Move laughs in the face of dust, water, dirt or any other liquid that could trouble it (ketchup, mustard, whatever). A feat further helped by its sealed design.

It’s a durable unit, too, able to survive some decent drops due to solidity of its silicon base. At the event, CEO Patrick Spence commented that whilst drop-testing the Move, it broke a piece of concrete yet the music kept playing. It appears to be a tough mudder.

Sonos Move

A view of the ergonomic handle (up top) and the power, Wi-Fi/Bluetooth switching and pairing buttons

There’s an integrated ergonomic handle on the unit’s rear, so the speaker can be lifted and taken from one place to another with one hand. This mitigates the speaker’s weight to an extent.

The Move is only available in black – or to be exact, Shadow Black. That shade of black helps regulate the Move’s temperature, to avoid the unit overheating. Not really likely to be much of a problem for us in the UK – although it can also survive temperatures down to -10°C for those in cooler climates.

There’s a charging base included with the Move, on which the speaker can sit. There’s also a USB-C cable for charging on the go.

On the back of the unit, just below the handle, are three buttons: one for power; one for switching between Bluetooth and Wi-Fi; a third that enables pairing. On the top panel are built-in far-field microphones, an LED status light, and capacitive start/stop playback button.

Related: Sonos One review

Sonos Move

The top panel with built-in far-field mic and capacitive touch buttons

The battery lasts for 10 hours, and can be replaced if it becomes faulty. Sonos says it would send the owner the tools, a replacement battery and instructions on to how to change it if it breaks down.

Sonos has clearly put plenty of thought into covering all the bases with the Move. Yes, it’s big and weighty – two characteristics you won’t necessarily be expecting when thinking of a portable speaker. However, the Move presents a no-compromise first effort, one that packs in plenty of features.

Sonos Move features – It has everything you’d expect from Sonos speaker that lives in the home

When indoors, the Sonos Move is intended to work like any other Sonos speaker. Being able to switch from Bluetooth to Wi-Fi means it can become part of an existing Sonos ecosystem.

It comes bearing smarts in the form of Amazon Alexa built-in, alongside Google Assistant for those who prefer voice control or want to perform tasks hands-free. And with AirPlay 2 supported, Siri is available to use through an iPhone.

Related: What is Apple AirPlay 2?

Sonos Move

The Sonos Move in the charging dock with replaceable battery next to it

As noted earlier, battery life is 10 hours. Tap the power button – a long press will turn it off completely – or leave it for 30 minutes when it isn’t on the charging base, and the Move switches into a low power mode. It will be able to wake easily from this suspended mode for any tasks (alarm clock, music playback, and so on) and it can stay in this mode for 120 hours.

In the base are four antennas that support 2.4GHz and 5.6GHz wireless bands and Bluetooth support is of the 4.2 variety; not the most recent Bluetooth 5.

Related: What is Bluetooth 5?

Sonos Move sound quality – Big and bassy

We didn’t have much hands-on time with the speaker for a thorough evaluation of performance, but from what we did hear, the Sonos Move appears to be a big-sounding speaker with a strong, bassy character, presenting clear vocals and a decently wide soundstage.

Sonos’ intention with the Move is that the sound quality remain consistent, regardless of the environment it’s in. And in our brief time with it there didn’t appear to be much difference between playback indoors and out (it arguably sounded airier outdoors), or in terms of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. We imagine closer inspection would bear some differences between the various modes and settings.

Sonos Move

I like to move it, move it

A quick blast of Tame Impala’s Borderline in the outdoors section, the timing sounded good, with plenty of clarity and detail, and an emphasis on a beefy low-end. You can expect the typical Sonos sound from the Move, but broader and bigger.

Of more interest is the Move’s Auto Trueplay feature. Trueplay tunes a speaker to its environment, but it’s a feature only supported by Apple’s iPhones. The breadth of Android vendors makes it an issue to be consistent with the measurements Trueplay needs.

Related: What is Sonos Trueplay?

Sonos Move

The Sonos Move, Sonos Beam and Ikea Sonos Symfonisk lamp

Auto Trueplay is always working in the background, listening and adjusting the sound based on the Move’s environment. A demonstration showed the Move being picked up while playing a Billie Eilish track and placed inside the compartment of a drawer.

The song kept playing, the bass turning boomy in the enclosed space. However, a little while later and the Auto Trueplay function kicked into action, reducing the bass and granting the upper frequencies a little more space to breathe. It isn’t instant, but there’s a noticeable difference when it filters through. Whether you want to replicate that experiment and find out for yourself is a choice we leave up to you.

It’s a clever piece of tech that avoids you having to control Trueplay via an iPhone, wandering around the room for the right measurement. The Move is the first speaker in Sonos’ lineup to launch with it – and, who knows, it could appear on other Sonos speakers further down the line.

Sonos Move — Early verdict

As a speaker the Sonos Move works well, sounds good and comes with the features you’d expect of a Sonos speaker made for the home. Being able to switch from Wi-Fi to Bluetooth is simple and easy, and from our observations so far, it’s an accessible speaker to use. Factor in its ability to withstand accidental bumps or mishaps, and on first viewing we’d say  it’s an impressively put-together speaker.

However, questions remain over the nature of its portability; its size and weight don’t strike us as being particularly portable. There’s a market for speakers of this size and the Move comes with more features than Marshall’s Tufton, which is a straight-firing outdoor Bluetooth speaker.

The price is, also, is a hurdle: £400 is a steep price for any wireless speaker (it certainly deflated the sales of the Apple HomePod). In the context of Sonos’ other speakers, it isn’t as dear as the Play:5, but a £400 portable Bluetooth speaker is a tricky proposition to sell to a market that’s more accustomed to seeing wireless speakers priced at less than a quarter of that RRP.

We’ll be putting the Move through its paces as soon as get our mitts on a review sample.

A ’hands on review’ is our first impression of a product only - it is not a full test and verdict. Our writer must have spent some time with the product to describe an early sense of what it’s like to use. We call these ‘hands on reviews’ to make them visible in search. However these are always unscored and don’t give recommendations. Read more about our reviews policy.

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