Sonos Move review: Glorious audio performances at home and on the road

I’ve been pining for a portable outdoor Sonos speaker for years. I suspect anyone who’s bought into the Sonos ecosystem has. The Sonos Move not only scratches that itch, its Bluetooth radio gives me the option of taking the speaker on the road. What could be better than that? Audio performance rivaling the mighty second-generation Sonos Play:5, plus real-time room compensation and your choice of Alexa or Google Assistant onboard.

The Move isn’t Sonos’ first outdoor speaker. The company partnered with Sonance in late 2018 to produce the weatherized Sonos Outdoor by Sonance speakers, but those are wired, passive, and expensive at $799—plus the cost of an amplifier to drive them. You can buy them direct, but they’re really intended for the custom-installer market. The Move isn’t exactly cheap at $399, but it is self-amplified, battery-powered, and—weighing in at 6.6 pounds—luggable, with a deep handle molded into the back of its enclosure.

sonos move handle 2 Michael Brown / IDG

A deep handle molded into the back of the Sonos Move’s enclosure makes the 6.6-pound speaker easy to pick up and move.

At home—and everywhere else

To listen to the Move at home, you’ll want to connect the speaker to your Wi-Fi network. The onboard dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi adapter provides significant range that should enable you to listen just about anywhere in even a large yard, provided you have a good router. That will also enable you to sync it to all your other Sonos components in a multi-room audio system. You can pair two Move speakers as a wireless stereo pair when connected to Wi-Fi, but you can’t pair the Move with the Sonos Sub. The Move also supports Apple’s AirPlay 2 audio technology.

I evaluated the Move while connected to a three-node Samsung SmartThings Wifi router that I’m in the process of reviewing, and I was able to wander impressively long distances around my rural property without the speaker dropping off my network. In fact, the Move maintained its Wi-Fi connection even at the end of my more-than-300-foot-long driveway.

Unfortunately, my Pixel 2 XL couldn’t match that performance, so I had assumed that left me with no way to control the speaker apart from touching the play/pause and volume-control buttons on the speaker itself. But then I remembered that I could use voice commands! This worked with Alexa, and while I didn’t switch over to Google Assistant to verify that it would also work, there’s no reason I can see that it wouldn’t. That is a remarkable performance for an 802.11n device. Your mileage will vary, of course, depending on the quality of your router and the density of competing Wi-Fi networks where you live.

sonos move wifi range Michael Brown / IDG

The Sonos Move’s Wi-Fi range is incredible. The speaker remained connected to my network despite being more than 300 feet from my house (which you can see in the background).

Take the Move on the road—or anywhere beyond the reach of your router or personal hotspot—and you’ll switch to a Bluetooth connection. The Move supports Bluetooth 4.2 with AVRCP (Audio/Video Remote Control Profile). Just push the mode button on the back of the speaker to switch from Wi-Fi to Bluetooth and then pair the speaker with your smartphone or tablet. Once paired, you need only push the button on the speaker to switch modes.

You will experience a slight compromise in audio quality with Bluetooth compared to Wi-Fi, depending on what you’re streaming. You won’t notice it while playing tracks on services like Spotify that stream lossy, relatively low-resolution tracks (compared to 16-bit/44.1kHz FLAC files, for instance). Wi-Fi can provide the bandwidth for FLAC and other codecs in resolutions much higher than that, although Sonos components are limited to a maximum resolution of 16-bit/48kHz.

That means you won’t get full quality from lossless streaming services such as Tidal, Qobuz, or the new Amazon Music HD when the speaker is in Bluetooth mode. And you won’t be able to take advantage of the high-resolution (24-bit/192kHz) streaming options available from Qobuz or Amazon Music HD using either connectivity option. Support for aptX—or better yet, aptX HD—would help the Move’s Bluetooth performance, but Sonos supports only the SBC and AAC codecs over Bluetooth.

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