Sonos Move is an entirely logical product for Sonos to bring out, in some ways. It extends Sonos’ reach into your garden and beyond, albeit via Bluetooth rather than by expanding its multi-room network onto 4G. It’s also a suitably premium product that fits neatly into the existing Sonos lineup in terms of sound, design, functionality and price.
However in certain other ways, Sonos Move is a rather odd product.
Most other portable, water-resistant, drop-protected wireless speakers out there are very lightweight, cost no more than £150 and are designed for pop-party super fun time. Sonos Move, by contrast, is £399, weighs a hefty 3 kilos (over 6.6 lbs) and is a very adult-sounding product. It’s as happy playing classical music or prog rock as it is belting out pop hits. Oh, and Sonos is releasing it shortly before the clocks go back and the annual British ice age commences.
Even so, the Sonos Move is an excellent speaker. It sits comfortably at #1 in a field of one in the £399 outdoor wireless speaker category, and it’s simultaneously taking on the Naim Mu-so Qb 2, the Bose Home Speaker range AND Ultimate Ears’ impeccable and affordable range of waterproof, portable speakers. And those who like to surf the cutting edge will be pleased to know it also supports the all-new, great-sounding, reasonably-priced Amazon Music HD streaming service
Sonos Move review: battery life, design and specs
The Sonos Move is not the sexiest thing I’ve ever clapped eyes on, but it sits comfortably next to the rest of the range despite being way more rugged. There are three buttons on the back for setup, power and connectivity, and controls on the top to change volume, mute, skip tracks and turn Alexa or Google on and off.
For indoors, there’s 4×4, dual-band Wi-Fi with the option of gigabit ethernet if you rock it old school. The Move sits on a very attractive, although barely noticeable, charging pad. There’s also the option to charge via less aesthetically pleasing but more portable USB-C.
Sonos Move is set up via, and runs on, the same app as all other Sonos speakers. It can thus access all the same streaming services as any Sonos speaker. It also supports AirPlay 2, and has your choice of Alexa or Google Assistant on board.
Outdoors, Move uses Bluetooth 4.2 with AAC and SBC support for improved audio quality. In Bluetooth mode, it’s set up and used just like any Bluetooth speaker – ie: you do not use Sonos’ app. Instead, you stream from Spotify, Tidal or other apps, or use the music on your device. This is a first; previous Sonos speakers with Bluetooth had it only to speed up setup, curiously.
If you’re only going to the garden, you may be able to stay on your home network, as Sonos has increased the Wi-Fi range of Move compared to all its other speakers. It won’t follow you to the local park, however.
Sonos Move is not waterproof but it is water and dust resistant to an IP56 rating. That means it can put up with heavy rain for a limited period, but not total immersion in water. As far as I can make out, you can put it in a humid bathroom – but obviously, keep it away from the bath, or you may die – and take it to the beach so long as you keep it out of salt water and don’t literally bury it in the sand.
The tough silicone base means Move can sit happily on a variety of surfaces. Move has also been tested to withstand being dropped on to concrete from a metre or so, although I can’t say I’ve tried that. The off-black/dark charcoal (or ‘shadow black’ as Sonos prefers to put it) finish is designed to stand up to the UV assault of the sun.
Sonos Move’s battery life is 10 hours of music playback, with a power-saving mode keeping it alive for five days if you don’t use it. The battery is user-replaceable, albeit with the use of a screwdriver. Sonos will sell replacement batteries, but there’s no word on pricing yet.
The Move has either a pleasing heft to it or is way heavier than most portable speakers, depending on your viewpoint. The ‘handle’ – a large recess on the back – is comfortable and easy to grab, however.
Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa can be accessed for music playback, news, smart home device control, answering questions and more.
Sonos Move review: sound quality
While you can quibble about the overall portability of the Sonos Move, the genius of it is that it sounds and acts just like any other Sonos speaker, but one that can venture outdoors as well.
Audio quality is roughly comparable to the Sonos One when you’re on Wi-Fi and it doesn’t lose too much definition when you go outside and switch to Bluetooth. As with many Sonos speakers, you can even pair two Sonos Moves into a stereo pair, although only indoors.
As the Move is not designed to stay in one place, there’s a nifty new feature on board: Automatic TruePlay. All recent Sonos speakers have used TruePlay room tuning. This adapts the sound to the speaker’s position in the room, and the room’s acoustic properties. TruePlay Room calibration involves you walking around said room wafting your phone up and down while it plays a load of UFO noises. This does make you feel like a bit of a tit.
Sonos Move’s Automatic TruePlay, as its name suggests, does away with the phone wafting, and re-calibrates every time a built-in accelerometer tells the speaker it’s been moved. Alexa’s far-field mics – also used to receive commands to Alexa and Google – set about analysing the sound bouncing back to it from walls and furniture, and adjusts the sound to suit. The results are genuinely impressive.
I’ve tried deliberately putting the Move in all manner of stupid places, and TruePlay always seems to find a way to make it sound at least passable – and usually really good. Seriously, I put in a drawer in the hallway, playing a stream from my TV via a Beam and even that sounded good. It also does a stand-up job outside.
Overall, the Sonos Move sounds very good in all but the most unpromising locations, and very much like the Sonos One in more favourable conditions. It projects a lot of bass from a relatively small box, and has a much wider sound field, although not full 360º sonic projection. This is intended to prevent you inadvertently firing loud music into your neighbours’ garden. But you can always do that deliberately, if you like.
Audio-wise, I can’t think of an outdoor-friendly, battery-powered speaker that can compare to Sonos Move. The likes of Dali, BeoPlay, Bluesound and Audio Pro have made some brilliant-sounding speakers with batteries, in the same kind of price bracket, but they haven’t been weather-resistant or ruggedised to any particular degree. The likes of Ultimate Ears and Bose have made weather-proof, fully portable speakers, but they don’t sound anywhere near as good.
Sonos Move review: voice control and other features
Thanks to the same powerful mics that enable the TruePlay tuning, controlling Alexa and Google Assistant doesn’t involve too much shouting. They don’t hear you every time, especially over music, but then I can’t think of a device on which they ever do.
Sonos’ app is quite unwieldy, but that’s a reflection of how many streaming services and how much stuff – options, features, multi-room elements, network storage connections, voice control setup, etc etc etc – is packed into it. You can use it quite simply via voice control for Amazon Music, Spotify or Google Play or just leave it on your favourite streaming service or web radio channel most of the time.
Another way to simplify matters is to use AirPlay 2 or Bluetooth, both of which work seamlessly. You do lose some sound quality with Bluetooth – there’s no aptX support so this might be more noticeable if your phone uses that instead of AAC – but not to a catastrophic degree. The mixture of downward firing tweeter and well-braced woofer – braced so that dropping the speaker doesn’t destroy it – seems to cover a multitude of sins with lower quality sources.
Sonos Move review: verdict
Sonos Move sits in such a small niche – premium portable, ruggedised speakers that weigh 3 kilos – that I suspect it probably won’t do all that well, at least in colder and wetter countries such as the UK. However, that’s not really my problem, since I don’t have Sonos shares, and whether it sells in large quantities or not, Move remains a truly excellent speaker.
If you’re in the market for a weather-resistant, rugged speaker that can also perform just like an indoor Sonos speaker – and doesn’t look so weather-resistant and rugged that it becomes ugly – Sonos Move is a great option. Like I said, #1 in a field of one.
Sonos Move: price and release date
• Sonos Move ships September 24, priced £399