Sonos is best known for popularizing multi-room audio, and until now, none of those “rooms” have included your back patio. The Sonos Move shifts this paradigm. At $399, the Move is far from cheap, but it delivers powerful audio in a battery-powered, outdoor-friendly design. It’s quite large for a portable speaker, but its size allows it to deliver some serious bass depth. Its sculpted, bass-forward sound signature may not appeal to audio purists, but there’s no denying the Move’s power, quality, and thoughtful design. It’s a step in a new direction for Sonos, and we think it’s the right one.
Measuring 9.5 by 6.3 by 5.0 inches (HWD), the slightly rounded Move has an eggshell-like finish in black or white. Its IP56 rating means it can handle limited dust exposure, as well as water projected from any direction, though it shouldn’t be submerged. In other words, poolside splashes or rain won’t harm the speaker, and it can get a little dirty, too. It’s also built to withstand intense sun and even drops.
At 6.6 pounds, the Move is heavy for a portable speaker. There’s a recessed area that functions as a handle for carrying it around, but to be clear, this is the kind of speaker you carry from one room to another, or from indoors to outdoors, not the kind of speaker you take on long hikes, unless you don’t mind the extra weight in your backpack.
The top panel houses touch-sensitive controls, including a central play/pause button and side buttons for volume. There’s also a mic/mic mute button for the far-field mic array, which is also located on the top panel. There are three buttons along the back—power, Bluetooth/Wi-Fi, and Join (for joining an existing Sonos network)—as well as a USB-C port for charging. No cable is included, but you get a charging base/stand that has a hardwired adapter with a long cable. The Move also ships with a drawstring protective pouch.
Behind the wraparound metallic grille that covers most of the speaker’s surface area, two class-D amplifiers drive the down-firing tweeter and the mid-range driver. The Move is a mono speaker, which isn’t surprising given its size, but a bit disappointing considering its price.
The Move works with the Sonos app for Android and iOS, which is easy to use and takes virtually all the work out of the setup process. All you need to do is power the speaker up, enter your Wi-Fi password, and follow the on-screen prompts in the app. Updates also happen through the app once your speaker is connected.
The app gives you access to internet radio, as well as the ability to stream your phone’s music library. Beyond that, the app’s TruePlay feature will tune the speaker to its surroundings. In addition to TruePlay, there are bass and treble sliders in the app, and a loudness button that can be disabled—it mainly seems to boost bass at low volume levels.
Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant support can be added through the app, after which you can control the speaker by voice. We found the mic picked up voice commands clearly, even when we mumbled them a bit and the speaker was blasting music. Like most smart models, there is no speakerphone function—the mics are only for voice control.
When not connected to Wi-Fi (if you’re using the speaker out in the backyard or taking it on a trip, for instance), you can still stream via Bluetooth. Pairing is a simple process, and once complete, you can switch seamlessly between Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. That said, you can only use the Sonos app when the speaker is connected via Wi-Fi. The Move is also Apple AirPlay 2 compatible.
While Bluetooth is instrumental in allowing you to use the speaker on the go, so is its built-in battery. Sonos claims the Move can get up to 11 hours of battery life, but your results will vary with your volume levels. The internal battery can also be replaced if you notice a drop-off in performance, but this shouldn’t happen until after about 900 charges or so.
The Move’s sonic performance is strong enough to make you forget it’s a mono speaker. We tested it first with no TruePlay adjustments for a baseline sense of the audio. On tracks with intense sub-bass content, like The Knife’s “Silent Shout,” the Move delivers some palpable low-frequency push—it’s a bass-forward speaker for sure. Plus, you can pump up the bass (or cut it) even more with the Sonos app. At top, impressively loud volume levels, the Move doesn’t distort, though we do hear some DSP (digital signal processing) kick in and thin out the bass a little.
Bill Callahan’s “Drover,” a track with far less deep bass in the mix, gives us a better sense of the Move’s general sound signature. The drums on this track get some added thunder, but nothing too over the top, and Callahan’s baritone vocals get a nice balance of low-mid richness and crisp high-mid edge. The acoustic strums and higher-register percussive hits also have a bright, clear presence in the mix through the Move. This is a sculpted, bass-boosted sound signature, but Sonos does a good job of not veering into insane-bass territory and keeping things crisp despite the added low-frequency oomph.
On Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church in the Wild,” the kick drum loop’s attack gets enough high-mid presence to remain punchy in the mix, though we’ve heard a bit more from other speakers on this track. The vinyl crackle and hiss that is usually sitting in the background takes a slight step forward, so the high-mids and highs are sculpted, and not always merely boosted. The sub-bass synth hits that punctuate the beat are more implied than fully delivered—we hear more of their raspy top notes than their seriously deep frequencies, and the drum loop’s sustain gets beefed up and overtakes the sub-bass as the prominent deep force in the mix. The vocals on this track are delivered with crisp clarity and no notable added sibilance.
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Orchestral tracks, like the opening scene from John Adams’ The Gospel According to the Other Mary, sound excellent through the Move. The lower-register instrumentation gets some boosting, but nothing too dramatic—it still serves primarily as the anchor for the rest of the mix. A little more high-mid presence here would make things sound even better, but this is a solid, balanced, sculpted sound signature—not for purists, though plenty of listeners will gravitate to its rich, bright delivery.
The Sonos Move is rugged, portable, sounds great, and works with an app that allows you to tweak the sound signature to a degree. Throw in voice control with Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, and there’s not much to complain about. Those looking for stereo audio, or a pure, accurate sound signature, will want to look elsewhere—and probably outside of the often-mono smart speaker realm altogether. The only other thing we aren’t crazy about here is the price—$400 is a lot for a mono speaker.
If you’re just looking for a smart speaker for the house, and you don’t necessarily need Sonos compatibility (or portability), you can spend a little less and still get powerful, high-quality audio from the $300 Google Home Max, or upgrade to more powerful stereo audio with the $400 Marshall Stanmore II Voice. If you want a Sonos speaker, but don’t need the portability, consider the Sonos One (Gen 2) for $200 less. But if having a portable, Bluetooth-compatible Sonos speaker is worth the high premium to you, the Move won’t disappoint.