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Product Review

Sonos Roam SL vs Sonos Roam: What’s the difference?

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If you’re searching around for a new portable speaker, you may have come across the Sonos Room and the Sonos Roam SL.

The Roam earned an incredible 5/5 stars in our review, with TV & Audio Editor Kob Monney praising its excellent performance, great build and useful features.

But, how does the best portable Bluetooth speaker compare to the newer and cheaper Sonos Roam SL?

Keep reading to find out what the difference is between the two speakers when it comes to design, features and audio performance, along with which Roam is right for you…

Pricing and availability

The Sonos Roam launched in April 2021 with a price of £179/$179. The Roam SL came out close to a year later in March 2022 and costs £159/$159, making it £20 cheaper than the standard Roam.

Both speakers have also seen discounts on Amazon recently, with the Roam having dropped to £169 and the Roam SL reduced to £149.

Sonos Roam SL

Design

The Sonos Roam and the Roam SL share almost identical physical designs aside from one defining feature – the Roam SL doesn’t have a microphone.

The speakers are lightweight and portable and can be used vertically and horizontally. In fact, they’re one-sixth of the size of Sonos’ larger outdoor speaker, the Sonos Move.

They have a modern, Toblerone-shaped design with a mesh pattern and tactile buttons on the flat end that control playback, volume and – in the case of the standard Roam – the microphone.

They’re also water and dust resistant with an IP certification of IP67.

Aside from the lack of a microphone button on the Roam SL, the cheaper speaker also comes in a more limited range of colors.

The Roam SL is available in Shadow Black and Lunar White, while the Roam comes in those two finishes, along with more vibrant Red, Blue and Green varieties.

Sonos Roam in garden bed
Sonos Room

Features

Because the Roam SL doesn’t come with a microphone, it also misses out on a handful of features found on the Sonos Roam.

First and perhaps most predictably, you can’t use voice commands to control the Roam SL. That also means you can’t ask Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant to set timers, check the weather or activate your other smart home devices (though this feature is only available over Wi-Fi on the standard Roam anyway).

Automatic Trueplay tuning is another feature the Roam SL does not support. This uses the mic to adapt the sound that comes out of your speaker to fit your surroundings.

We found automatic Trueplay to be a godsend on the Roam, as it removes the need to manually calibrate the speaker for each environment and the results are subtle and consistent.

Finally, Sound Swap isn’t available on the Roam SL. This is a feature that allows you to pull audio from one Sonos product to another. Sound Swap is helpful when you want to move your playlist from your home speaker to your Roam to take your listening outside.

We found Sound Swap to be quick and easy to use, but the feature did seem to make the Sonos S2 app act unstable at times in our experience.

Otherwise, both the Sonos Roam and the Roam SL offer a number of features, including Wi-Fi and Bluetooth streaming, support for Apple AirPlay 2 and up to 10 hours of battery life with USB-C and wireless charging.

Both speakers also offer adjustable EQ in the Sonos S2 app.

Sonos Roam SL
Sonos Roam SL

Performance

As with the design, the Sonos Roam and the Roam SL share the same driver setup, which consists of two Class-H digital amplifiers, one tweeter and one mid-woofer.

While we haven’t tested the Sonos Roam SL here at Trusted Reviews, we have spent plenty of time with the regular Sonos Roam and would expect the two speakers to offer similar performance.

We were very impressed with the Sonos Roam’s audio quality, naming it one of the best-sounding portable speakers available in our review.

The Roam has a similar character to the Sonos Move and the Sonos One SL in tone, though the results aren’t as full or bassy as those produced by the larger speakers.

The mid-range brings great clarity and detail to vocals creating an expressive performance, while the treble has a good sense of bite and detail at the top of the frequency range.

The speaker is also terrifically dynamic with plenty of drive and power and is capable of handling a variety of genres. However, the bass doesn’t have as much presence as the Ultimate Ears Boom 2, nor does it offer as much depth as the B&O Beosound A1 2nd Gen.

Sonos Roam in rucksack
Sonos Room

Verdict

The Sonos Roam and the Sonos Roam SL are two very similar speakers with one defining characteristic – the Roam SL has no microphone.

This primarily affects the feature set offered by the cheaper smart speaker, as the Roam SL doesn’t take advantage of Alexa or Google Assistant support, automatic Trueplay or Sound Swap.

It does, however, offer the same portable design, audio performance and 10-hour battery life as the Roam for £20 less.

If you’re in it purely for the music and aren’t bothered about the features you’ll be missing out on, opt for the Sonos Roam SL. If you’re looking for a smart speaker or the ability to automatically tune the sound to your environment, it’s worth paying a bit more for the Roam.

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