Worth the Hype or Not? I Tested The First-Ever Portable Speaker from Sonos

sonos move
credit: Sonos

Believe it or not, up until last week, Sonos didn't have a portable speaker in its arsenal. Of course, the entire Sonos speaker family is known for audio innovation, so naturally the new model is so much more than just your average portable speaker. When I got the opportunity to test-drive it, I jumped at the chance.

Sonos undoubtedly sets the gold standard for multi-room audio. No matter which Sonos speakers you choose, you can easily set up a home audio system that plays the same or different music in each room, from a desktop computer, TV, Spotify, or the radio. While the brand has long been filled with novel speaker systems, the one thing the company never offered was a true portable speaker — but now it's here, and it's appropriately named Move.

First thing's first: The Move is bigger than many portable speakers — it's about 9.5 inches high and a little over 6 inches wide. It weighs 6.6 pounds and has a clever scoop in the back that serves as a carrying handle, making it easy to transport around wherever you're listening to tunes.

The rear of the Sonos Move portable speaker
credit: Dave Johnson

If you do happen to lose your grip, though, Sonos swears you probably won't damage it. It's highly impact-resistant with a shock-resistant case and also has an IP56 rating, which means it's able to withstand direct exposure to rain, moisture, dust, and sand. A Sonos rep even told me "you can take a hose to it," which is handy if you tend to use it outdoors.

The great thing about the Move is that it's a wonderful complement to an existing Sonos system, but stands just as well on its own. If you already have a Sonos system of speakers, you know the drill. You bring this guy home and, after a two-minute setup, it's fully integrated into your multi-room system. You can control it from the Sonos app on your phone or tablet (the only controls on the Move itself are a play/pause button and volume controls) to play on its own or in sync with speakers in another room.

The top of the Sonos Move portable speaker
credit: Dave Johnson

If this is your first and only Sonos speaker, it works exactly the same way, except that there are no other speakers for it to join forces with. (It's worth pointing out that if you buy a pair of Moves, you can link them together for stereo playback.)

What's unique about the Move, though, is that if you take it outside the range of your home network, the speaker can fall back on Bluetooth and connect directly to your phone or another device. Even at home, just press the Bluetooth button on the back of the speaker to switch from Sonos to Bluetooth mode. That makes it a super versatile speaker, able to play nicely with your existing multi-room setup and stand on its own.

The speaker runs for about 10 hours on a single charge, and comes with a small base that you can set it in when it's at home in its usual spot. There it'll stay topped off, ready to go mobile at a moments' notice. If you are on the go and left the base at home, no worries – it'll also charge from a standard USB-C cable.

The Sonos Move portable speaker in its charging base
credit: Dave Johnson

The Move has some other tricks up its sleeve, as well. Thanks to a microphone built into the top of the speaker, it handles voice commands with your choice of Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. Set up the digital assistant of your choice, and Move is able to answer questions, control smart home devices, tell you the news, and — most importantly — play music using voice commands. (There's a button to mute the speaker if you want to enforce privacy.)

That's not all. The microphone also calibrates the speaker's audio for whatever room it's in. It's like Sonos' Trueplay, found in other Sonos speakers, but instead of needing to use your smartphone to balance the audio, Move knows it's in a new location and runs Trueplay automatically.

Which raises the question: How does it sound?

Much better than your typical portable speaker, for sure. Sonos is known for making quality audio products, and if you're expecting the same from its first portable, the Move does not disappoint. I played a variety of music on the Move over the course of testing, and never tired of using it. The Move really fills a room — when pushed, it can get quite loud, and packs a lot of bass into its portable little frame. Even at louder volumes, it never gets unpleasantly boomy. The Move also handles both delicate acoustic music and heavier amplified music with equal aplomb, and passed my standard new-speaker test with flying colors: It did a wonderful job reproducing The Beatles' Dear Prudence, which has perhaps the most beautiful bass line ever committed to tape.

There's no question that $399 is a lot of money to drop on a portable speaker, but Sonos' Move gives you a lot for that price. It can do double-duty as a zone player in a multi-room audio system, and go on day trips as well. It also features Alexa and Google Assistant, along with automatic Trueplay room tuning. Combine all that with excellent sound quality, and there's no question that this is a great buy.


Dave Johnson

Dave Johnson

Dave Johnson writes in the Los Angeles sunshine after spending years in the Seattle rain and Jersey snow. He's a been a scuba instructor, drummer, and the author of about three dozen books. Fun fact: He once drag-raced against a hoverboard while riding a Segway. For science.