It's surprising how music can alter your mood. The right music can instantly make you happier, reduce anxiety, help you push through a strenuous workout, or help to create a festive environment. These days the way we listen to music is a lot different than two decades ago. Physical media is rarely used anymore and a lot of people have adopted streaming as their primary or secondary source of music consumption.
Sonos is one of the most well-known providers of speakers designed for streaming audio. In fact, the company is colloquially known as "the Apple of wireless home audio." Typically, a Sonos product offers a sexy design and high ease of use -- at a somewhat high price point. Sonos speakers form an ecosystem, the company provides a way to easily sync its speakers so you can play the same music throughout your home. Of course, it's also possible to play different music on each speaker, but the idea of grouping speakers together to create a "whole house audio system" is one of the things Sonos excels in. This will require primarily Sonos products as speakers from most other brands aren't compatible with the Sonos ecosystem.
Speakers from Sonos wirelessly connect with each other via Wi-Fi, which is a big benefit as it means you don't have to worry about running many meters of audio cable from one room to the other. All you need is a WiFi modem and perhaps a WiFi extender if your current WiFi network isn't sufficient. Power outlets were the only limiting factor -- until Sonos launched its Move in September 2019.
Move is the first portable speaker in the Sonos home audio portfolio. Besides offering much greater freedom to use it wherever you want in your home, this is also the first Sonos smart speaker that can be used outside. The $399 device has an integrated 36Wh battery that promises a battery life of up to 11 hours. The Sonos Move has an IP56 rating and promises to withstand high humidity, rain, snow, dust, salt spray, UV rays, extreme cold, and extreme heat. Furthermore, it has a rugged design and should be able to survive accidental drops. Sonos once told the press that Move can survive a drop from shoulder height. Personally, I'm not inclined to test this as I assume it will ruin the device's aesthetics.
The product ships in a sturdy cardboard box that includes a picture of the speaker as well as a brief overview of the device's features. Plastics use is kept to a minimum.
A quick start guide is the first thing you see after opening the box. Overall the installation isn't terribly complicated. You just install the app on your phone or tablet and follow the instructions. WiFi is required for the initial set-up.
And here are the rest of the box's contents. The ring-shaped device is the charging stand and the speaker itself is protected by a string draw cloth bag. The ring-shaped charging base has a rubberized base to prevent slipping. The charging base is not weatherproof and should only be used indoors. It's also possible to charge the device with a USB Type-C charger, which offers greater flexibility as USB Type-C is very common these days. According to Sonos, the Move's lithium-ion battery will last about three years or 900 charges. Unlike what I initially expected, the Move's battery can be replaced by the end-user. Sonos will offer replacement batteries sometime in the future, it's unknown how much it will cost.
Design-wise the Sonos Move is inspired by the company's popular One speaker. The Move is a lot bigger though and has a more rugged design to withstand portable use and potentially harsh conditions. The speaker measures 240mm x 160mm x 126mm and with a weight of 3.0kg it's surprisingly heavy. The high weight and the somewhat large dimensions make it less ideal as a portable speaker but the design does give a solid impression. There are two versions of the Sonos Move. I used the Shadow Black version for this review but there's also a Lunar White model with matte finish.
Smart speakers like the Sonos Move are designed to be used in combination with a phone or via voice control. There is no display and the on-device controls are kept to a minimum. The top of the Move speaker has a far-field microphone array, a status LED and capacitive touch controls. Via the controls you can adjust the volume, play/pause, previous/next track, and switch off the microphones.
The front of the speaker consists of a metallic grill with a small Sonos logo. It's a simple but stylish look. Inside the device are two class-D digital amplifiers, one downward-firing tweeter, and one mid-woofer.
Some more buttons are found on the back. There's a power button, a connect button for the initial set-up and a button to switch between WiFi and Bluetooth. Bluetooth playback is a feature that's missing on other Sonos speakers so it's great to see it on the Move. It enables you to stream music from your phone, tablet or laptop when there's no WiFi network to connect to. The back also acts as a handle but in my opinion the "ergonomic handle" isn't big enough to truly be ergonomic. Combined with the high weight and the large size, I don't think the Move is ideal for on-the-go use. Sure the device is great for use in and around your house, but I can't really imagine myself taking it with me to the beach or on a backpacking trip. If you look closely, you can also see the USB Type-C charging port near the bottom of the Move.
For the bottom Sonos decided to opt for a rubberized base. This has some advantages as well as some disadvantages. It's great because it doesn't scratch and it also provides some grip so the speaker doesn't easily slide over a slick surface. What I don't like is that it gives the speaker a less refined look. As you see on the photo below, the rubber easily collects dirt and dust.
Setting up and using the Sonos Move
Setting up the Sonos Move isn't complicated. You need to install the Sonos app on an Android or iOS device, create a Sonos account and follow the on-screen instructions to hook it up with your WiFi network. Once this is done you can link your Sonos account with a streaming service like Spotify and a voice assistant service. If you want to control the Move with your voice, you will need to link it with Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa. Sadly, this feature only works via WiFi. Voice control isn't supported on Bluetooth. Sonos also supports Apple AirPlay 2 by the way.
Keep in mind that a device like the Move only supports streaming, it's not possible to connect it directly to your computer or to use it like a traditional speaker as there's no way to hook up an audio cable. The Move must be used entirely wirelessly. You can stream music to the Move via your laptop or phone, listen to online radio stations via TuneIn or Sonos Radio, and listen to streams from services like Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer, Google Play, SoundCloud, etc.
Sonos speakers have a direct connection with supported streaming services via your WiFi network. You can use your phone or laptop to select which music the Move should play via apps like the Sonos app or Spotify -- but it's not necessary to leave these devices activated as the Move has built-in hardware to take care of this. If you use voice control you can use the Move without having to touch any third-party devices.
When Google Assistant is installed you can just say "OK Google, play Studio Brussel" and the Move will try to figure out what you mean. Studio Brussel is a Belgian radio station so in this case the device will play back this station via TuneIn. It's also possible to give specific commands like "play Iron Maiden via Spotify". This will require a Spotify Premium subscription though, as this feature is only available to paid Spotify users. Other basic voice controls like "play", "pause" and "volume 15 percent" are all supported.
Besides the music functionality, the options are truly endless. You can use Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa to check news, get your questions answered, set alarms, etc. One thing I did notice is that voice control didn't always work properly on the Move. I also have the Sonos Beam soundbar and that device has less issues with recognizing my voice. It's not that the Move is terrible at this -- but it was noticeably less accurate at this task as I had to repeat myself more often.
How it sounds
The Move's audio is more than capable of filling a decently sized room and it's also ideal for outdoor parties. As mentioned earlier in the review, the device is water resistant but I would still be careful with it. IP56 rating means resistance against powerful jets of water but it doesn't mean the speaker can be submerged. Rain shouldn't be an issue but accidents around the pool could cause damage. The downward-firing tweeter of the Move should offer omnidirectional sound but when used outside I often noticed it's not a true 360-degrees experience. When you're behind the speaker you're definitely not in its sweet spot.
So how is the audio quality? The short answer is that it will sound good for the average person. Like other Sonos speakers, this is a lifestyle product that will sound well for a variety of use cases. Move outputs clear, crisp sound but audiophiles will not be blown away. The intended target audience of the Move will have no complaints about its audio quality. This is not a device for audiophiles -- but that's well known from Sonos products.
It holds itself up well at higher volumes with clear highs and a nice bass. When comparing the Move with the Sonos Beam soundbar, I would pick the latter as the winner in terms of sound quality. The Move speaker is equipped with TruePlay, this feature promises to adapt the sound to the environment you're in. TruePlay requires the microphone array to be activated. When walking around my house with the speaker in my hand I definitely noticed TruePlay at work. For example, when entering smaller rooms I could hear how the speaker calibrated its profile to deliver more balanced sound.
How is the battery life?
As with almost all battery-operated devices, battery life isn't nearly long enough. Sonos promises about 11 hours of operation but in real-life conditions it's a lot less. It depends on the volume level but I didn't get much more than seven hours of continuous playback out of the device. Checking the battery life without the app isn't possible, there doesn't seem to be a voice command for this. These days a smartphone is almost a bionic implant for most people so perhaps the inconvenience is limited.
Recharging with the charging base takes about two hours.
A big issue I noticed with the Sonos Move is that idle battery drain can be really high. A quick search via Google reveals this is a common issue. I noticed that when the device is in standby mode, it regularly switches on for no apparent reason. Without even using the speaker, a fully charged battery can drop to zero after several days. If you always drop it into the charging base this will not be an issue.
On the surface, the Move is an oversized, more powerful version of the Sonos One with some extra functionality like the battery, the weather resistance, and the Bluetooth support. It fills a room with very decent sound and will provide ample volume for festivities in your garden. There is definitely a lot to like about the Move but it's not a perfect product. I like it because it's very easy to use in and around the house -- its portability and lack of cables provide a lot of freedom. It delivers all this and good sound quality in a design that's very easy on the eye. But I'm not blown away the battery life. Given its $399 (399EUR) price tag I expected more.
The Good Stuff
- Weather resistant
- Sexy yet rugged design
- Can spicy up an outdoor party
- Well-designed charging base
- Sounds well enough
- Easy to install
The Bad Stuff
- High battery drain in standby mode
- Higher expectations for $399
DV Hardware gives the Sonos Move 8.5/10