The Sonos Move was reportedly created because the company kept getting feedback from its most ardent supporters that they wanted two things: a battery-powered Sonos that could be transported and easily moved; and a speaker more powerful and bass-heavy than the Sonos One.
The Move is precisely those two things, a Play:3 replacement that sounds better than the Sonos One but also a portable Bluetooth speaker that can be removed from its dock and brought — and left — outside, rain or shine, cold weather or hot.
It's the Sonos speaker that does it all and asks for your understanding in paying $400 for the privilege. I love it, and would happily spend $400 for the Move because it fits in perfectly with the way I use speakers around the home. Many people, though, may find it too heavy to travel with and too underpowered to sit idle.
Let's dig into it.
- Rich, enveloping sound with ample bass
- Portable, with built-in handle
- Excellent battery life while undocked
- Water and dust resistance is greatly appreciated
- Seamless transition between Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
- Microphones still aren't as accurate as on dedicated Alexa or Google Assistant speakers
- May be too large and heavy to travel with
- No color options outside black
What is Sonos?
You have heard of Sonos, or about connected speakers in general, but in case you haven't, here's the TL;DR: Sonos sells a bunch of different speakers and accessories that work with one another to form a latency-free mesh Wi-Fi network in the home. All of those speakers, or the accessories that power stereos and other non-Sonos hi-fi equipment, connect through the company's cloud backend to stream music and other audio from one of over 100 sources. These include everything from Spotify to Apple Music to Tidal to Pocket Casts to TuneIn to the most niche services you probably haven't heard of.
Using the Sonos app, or on the Move, Sonos One and Beam using Google Assistant or Alexa, you can build playlists that pull in audio from a bunch of different sources, sending the same track to every speaker at once or different signals separately to every speaker.
Sonos's popularity comes from the strength of its platform and the quality of its speakers. It's why most Sonos owners have more than one speaker, and why many keep them for years. And it's why the Move, being the company's first portable speaker, is such a big deal.
Sonos Move Design & Durability
The Move looks like a Sonos speaker; I don't know how else to put it. It's framed by the brand's now-familiar aurally transparent black mesh grille, with a flat capacitive area on the top for controls and a reinforced rubberized bottom to keep it in place when out of its dock. The mesh wraps nearly the entire way around the Move until it meets the rear control panel, which is underneath the built-in handle.
I love the Move's design, and think especially the integrated handle is a work of pure engineering genius. It's something that seems absurdly simple, but in reality, took considerable iteration. I know this because the company showed off a dozen or so handle prototypes at its launch event, and eventually settled on this one, with no moving parts and no disruption to the audio itself.
At nearly 10 inches tall, six inches wide and over 6.5 pounds, the Move is heavy. This is concerning as a portable speaker, but given the amount of tech stashed inside the chassis, it's not surprising. Unlike the Play:5, the Move is designed to be used exclusively in vertical orientation and resembles a rounded, oversized Sonos One more than the company's larger, more permanent speakers.
The Move is heavy and dense, but the built-in handle makes moving it around incredibly easy.
Of course, part of the Move's heft is thanks to its considerable battery, which lasts 10 hours while connected to Wi-Fi and a bit less while on Bluetooth. Using Bluetooth is actually pretty great: you press the button and it disconnects from your home network to search for nearby phones and tablets; once it's connected, you can get back into pairing mode by holding down that same button.
On Bluetooth, you lose basically everything that makes a Sonos a Sonos, but that's fine: if you decide to heft the Move to a park or bring it with on a trip, you probably aren't concerned about losing grouping, stereo pairing, Google Assistant and Alexa support, or AirPlay 2 streaming. But you also gain one of the most robust Bluetooth speakers around — as long as you're okay transporting it.
To charge the Move, Sonos includes a plastic dock that stays plugged into a wall outlet which connects to two pins at the back of the speaker. There's something satisfying about placing the Move on its dock and watching the four front LEDs light up to denote battery power, and once in the dock it's not going anywhere.
It's great that the Sonos Move is protected against the elements, but IP56 doesn't measure up to some of the competition.
Potentially more satisfying is charging up the Move using USB-C, though you'll need a pretty hefty 45-watt charger to do it, and it still takes several hours to get it back to 100%. And while you can't see the screws without removing the rubber strip along the bottom, Sonos even lets you replace the battery, with cells it plans to sell on its website for an undisclosed price at a later date.
Being portable, Sonos wants the Move to be used outdoors, so it wrapped the thing in a water-resistant membrane and got it certified by the IEC as IP56, which means it can withstand a serious number of particles. Here are the specifics:
- First digit 5: Dust protected. Ingress of dust is not entirely prevented, but it must not enter in sufficient quantity to interfere with the satisfactory operation of the equipment.
- Second digit 6: Powerful water jets. Water projected in powerful jets (12.5 mm nozzle) against the enclosure from any direction shall have no harmful effects.
The Move is also rated for temperatures between -10°C (14°F) and +55°C (131°F), neither of which I could test short of sticking the thing in my freezer. The company also drop-tested the speaker from two and a half feet, and left it out in the hot sun for days, with no ill effects.
Of course, the Move is not alone in its wet-and-wild proclivities. The $170 UE MEGABLAST, for instance, is even more rugged, offering an IP67 rating that allows it to be fully submerged in up to a meter of water for 30 minutes — and it connects through both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi while offering Alexa support and a 16-hour battery.
But when it comes to sound quality, the Move stands alone.
Sonos Move Sound quality
At its core, the Sonos Move is a rugged Sonos One with a slightly more powerful amplifier and a considerably more spacious woofer for deeper bass. It has two Class-D amplifiers, one downward-facing tweeter, and an integrated mid-woofer for both mid-range and bass.
I listened to the Move alongside the Sonos One and Play:5, and while its tuning shares a sonic kinship with the larger Play:5 — specifically a rich, warm mid-range and pleasant but not boomy bass — its fullness and overall power hews more closely to the Sonos One. That's not unexpected, though: whereas the $200 Sonos One shares the same basic architecture of two Class-D amps, one tweeter, and a combined mid-woofer, the Play:5 boasts six amplifiers, three tweeters, and three separate mid-woofers, each of which is pointing in a different direction for true stereo separation.
In other words, if you're hoping the extra $200 over the Sonos One gets you closer to Play:5 sound, you'll be left wanting. On the other hand, the Move is a genuinely impressive speaker, especially since it loses none of its luster while on battery. The Move reproduces music accurately and without flourish: vocals are warm and rich, bass is deep and accurate, though not overpowering, and there's only a tinge of brightness in the highs. For such a relatively small speaker, it's gt a wide soundstage that easily fills most rooms and gets far louder than you'll ever need it to get. The Sonos One is brighter, and sounds more wobbly, with bass that doesn't scale with the volume.
The Move is also the first Sonos speaker to ship with Auto Trueplay, an automated version of the previously manual, and iPhone-only, room optimization technique that involved the user waving their phone around while walking the perimeter of a room. This is a much better experience, to put it mildly. The four far-field microphones integrated into the Move's face — the ones always listening for a Google Assistant or Alexa command — kick in when the system detects it's been moved, listening for the ambiance of a new space and adjust the EQ accordingly.
It's great that the Move has built-in Alexa and Google Assistant, but there are just enough false positives and other bugs to remind you you're not using a first-party speaker.
This is especially useful outside, when there are fewer surfaces off which sounds can reverberate. While I didn't detect a significant shift in sound signature moving from my office to my back yard, there's a clear boost to the low-end and low-midrange to account for signal loss.
Let me be clear: the Sonos Move is one of the best-sounding connected speakers I've heard, at once clean and energetic, accurate yet lively. It sounds better than the Sonos One, better and far less boomy than the Google Home Max, and just as vivacious as the Apple HomePod while staying considerably more useful.
Sonos Move Connectivity
Like the Sonos One and Beam before it, the Move supports both hands-free Google Assistant and Alexa, but not at the same time. Inside the Sonos app, you can log into both services and choose the one that suits you at any given time, easily switching between them with almost no disruption.
The Move benefits from Assistant-on-Sonos's long gestation period — it was announced in 2017 and took almost two years to launch — as the experience is now pretty much problem-free. Even features like Continued Conversation and Broadcast are available, which is a nice touch. For all intents and purposes, this is a Google Home speaker.
Despite the improvements made to the algorithms that pick up the all-important "Hey Google" or "Alexa" hot words, I find Sonos speakers, including the Move, less reliable than any first-party speaker I've used. The Move, like the Sonos One and Beam before it, suffers from more false-positives than I'd like — my daughter's name ends with an "a" and I'm constantly accidentally activating Alexa — and, when the volume is cranked, I find it less likely to pick up my voice than a Google Home or Echo speaker.
And ironically, despite the Move supporting Google Assistant and Alexa, it's not possible to group it with other Echo or Google Home speakers.
The Move also supports AirPlay 2 on iOS devices, which is a pretty useful way of managing a bunch of disparate speakers throughout the home; it even lets you group Sonos speakers with those from other companies, as long as they support the profile.
Sonos Move A fine balance
It's true that you can drop the Sonos move from two and a half feet. You can leave it roasting in the sun, or throw it in your travel bag (though I feel sorry for your back) and keep the tunes coming. You can also leave it in its dock, permanently, and pair it with another Move to make a stereo pair if you so desire.
While you can use two Moves in a front stereo arrangement when paired with a Beam for a home theater setup, the speaker can't be used in a rear surround setup, nor can it be paired with a Sub.
This is my favorite smart speaker, period. It sounds amazing and you can take it anywhere. What more do you want?
The Move is as versatile as it is vexing. It's not quite the Play:3 replacement many users were waiting for, and it doesn't sound nearly as good as the Play:5, which costs just $100 more. At $399, you really have to know why you want a portable Sonos speaker, one that dutifully sheds its intelligence to become a stoic, lonely Bluetooth speaker when you need it to. You have to know that you're going to pick it up from its beautifully-etched handle every once in a while and take it to the backyard, or the beach, or just move it around the house.
And if you plan to use it around the house, you have to know that a single $399 Move is going to be a better decision than the $499 Play:5 — which four years later is still my favorite speaker ever — or whether two stereo-joined Sonos Ones, at a dollar cheaper, would be a better decision.
Should you buy the Sonos Move? Definitely
I love the Sonos ecosystem; I own half a dozen Sonos speakers and use them every day. I don't think about them as tech products, they're just part of the fabric of my home, as entwined in my daily routine as the music and podcasts I consume from them. Competitors like Bose, Libratone, Bluesound, Yamaha, Denon, even Amazon, have tried over the years to recreate the seamless magic that Sonos manages to make look so easy, and they've all failed.
The brand may not have Amazon's mindshare or a Bose's diversity of products, but for what it does, there is practically no real competitor.
To me, it's not so much whether, if you're looking for a high-fidelity connected audio solution, you should get a Sonos speaker. You should. It's whether the Move makes sense for you, and that I can't really answer.
What I do know is that if you buy the thing, you'll be pretty damn pleased with it.
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