Field Test: Sonos Move Portable Speaker

We take the new device outside to find out how capable it really is

Sonos pretty much rules the networked home audio sector. From a systems approach—where you can start with one speaker that streams over WiFi and then add to the network with more speakers for more rooms—they’ve nailed affordability, usability and scaleability. What the brand lacked was portability. Now with the new Move speaker, Sonos lets your bring music wherever you roam.

Portable speakers are nothing new and, like the gazillion or so others on the market, Move lets you stream just about any content you like—thanks to WiFi and Bluetooth capabilities. (Previous Sonos products only streamed over WiFi.) This speaker is truly portable—as long as you set it up over WiFi before streaming over Bluetooth while on the go. While in Maine recently—and mostly off the grid—we tested the device via Apple Music, Spotify, the VLC app (to see if there was any difference between sending non-compressed, completely offline music vs streaming audio over an app like Spotify) and a cached, 320K stream from the Radio Paradise app. We also used the Sonos Stations app (this app relies on WiFi too, but Sonos Stations does not). With all these options, we had zero issues sending everything to the Move, and found it boasts reasonable range. You can wander a good 75 feet from the speaker, and it won’t cut out.

by Michael Frank

While you can add a Move to your home network over the Sonos app and have it work in tandem with other Sonos speakers throughout your home, over Bluetooth there’s no option to create a stereo output or to pair multiple Moves. But considering how many other Bluetooth speakers allow such pairing, that’s an easy app update for Sonos to reveal at a later date.

Over WiFi, the sound is stellar. The bass is deep while the mid-range and highs are clean. This is because Move is always listening for distortion in its signal. When connected with WiFi, Move uses its microphones (the same ones that listen to you when you connect it to Alexa or Google) to adjust sound output via something called Trueplay, where it listens for reverb and adjusts accordingly. For instance, the speaker will reduce bass when you put it on bookshelf where resonance can create feedback. Likewise, it will know its tweeter is creating dissonance if you place the speaker next to a sliding glass door. Basically anywhere it goes, within just a few seconds, Move auto-adjusts.

That said, some highs can still get a little crispy over Bluetooth—especially the crack of a cymbal in a drum solo or the pluck of some guitar strings. Vocals are consistently superb—perhaps surprisingly so—even via Bluetooth.

Courtesy of Sonos

At 6.6 pounds, it’s portable, but not wildly so. Sonos designers did sweat the details of carrying one and crafted an ultra-convenient handle that’s scooped out of the body of the speaker so that it dangles comfortably in your hand, with a small lip at the end of the handle to prevent it from slipping from your grip. The Move is also splash-proof (especially comforting when it began raining during our field test) and Sonos engineers tested beta units against all sorts of mess—from spilled chemicals to sand and beer. While it’s not going to survive a dunk in the pool, a splash from salt or chlorinated water won’t do any damage. They also made it fairly drop-proof—we let it fly from carrying height at the end of our hands a few times onto dirt and it survived entirely unscathed. Through all our testing, it kept playing our favorite tunes too—and with battery life of 10 hours, it might party longer than you. And while it might seem unnecessary, said battery is replaceable because the lifetime of a speaker is greater than that of a lithium ion battery.