Sonos Move is a smarter smart speaker, but is that enough to make you splurge?

Audio brand Sonos has come up with the first line-up of products in India. The products include the Sonos Move smart speaker, the Sonos Beam smart soundbar, and the Sonos Roam portable speaker. They come amid a gap in the market for smart speakers. If you are looking for a premium wireless speaker that also gets you all the bells and whistles of smart assistants and multi-room connectivity, your choice is limited to the Amazon Echo Studio, which means you enter the Alexa ecosystem. And that is it. Apple discontinued the original HomePod. Google has not widened the Nest portfolio in India. And the availability of the Bose Home Speaker 300 remains very limited.

The blending of premium audio with a smart speaker is what Sonos Move is attempting to achieve. The price tag of around 37,399 leaves very little room for compromises. The basics are very much in place on the spec sheet. The wireless speaker is not limited to just Bluetooth. For Apple iPhone, iPad, and Mac users, there is the Apple AirPlay 2 streaming too. It is not limited to any one smart assistant either—take your pick between Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. The Sonos Move will connect with your home Wi-Fi, and that enables not just music streaming but also the multi-speaker setup that you may want to put in place at some stage. And Sonos has given it a battery too, something smart speakers miss out on, more often than not.

You would notice an option called Trueplay in the Sonos app for your Android phone or Apple iPhone. You might want to enable this. It is the situational awareness capability. The idea is to understand where the speaker is placed, how the sound is bouncing off around the room, and the direction it is looking in—to tweak the width of the sound, bass level, and treble. Amazon has something similar at work in the Echo Studio, as does Apple, with the HomePod. If you move the Sonos Move around, it will redo these calculations on its own.

The Trueplay feature is more of a slight tweak that you would notice if you were listening carefully. Just dials up the lower frequencies if you have placed this on a bed, for instance, and slightly better highlighting of the vocals if it is placed in a bookshelf—two scenarios where this makes its presence felt. At no point is it a full-blown twist of the bass dial, for instance.

The Sonos Move’s premium sound credentials get off to a good start with powerful hardware in place. There is one downward firing tweeter, one mid-woofer, and two Class-D amplifiers. That is an extensive array for a portable speaker. You will be a bit surprised, albeit initially, how the Sonos Move reacts to your move to tap on the play button. The sound is definitely one that would be at a place in a speaker much larger than the Move is. It looks like a 360-degree speaker but is not. This is in fact a down-firing tweeter that disperses the sound rather well in all directions. Place this out of sight in a bookshelf, and someone who does not know where the Move is placed will have a slightly hard time locating it. That is also the magic of Trueplay.

The Sonos sound signature is not as warm as a Bose speaker would sound. It also is not like the Apple HomePod. In fact, the Sonos Move is louder at volume increments of 10 after 50% volume, and everything just sounds a notch better with the wider sound. The lower frequencies are really powerful. But there is no artificial sculpting, and even at volumes low enough for close distance personal listening, the bass does not fade away. Not a lot of speakers can maintain this balance—they either relegate the lower frequencies into the background or the vocals get overshadowed.

The Sonos Move will effortlessly handle a variety of music genres, and the soundtrack details still stream through very nicely even if you dial down the volume to have a pleasant conversation.

Most of our music listening experience with the Sonos Move was using AirPlay 2 from an Apple iPhone or Spotify Connect from an Android phone, and it is flawless in both—connectivity, stability, and resolution handling. The few times we invoked either Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, the results were at par with what the respective family smart speakers react with. We did not test the Sonos Move as a stereo pair or as a multi-room system, since we had a single unit available for the review.

There are two ways to juice up the battery in the Sonos Move. You either plug in a USB-C charger or use the oval dock. The dock also adds a visual appeal, and the cable itself is quite long, allowing you the flexibility in placing this in respect to a wall socket. The battery life lasts around nine hours of listening at around 40% volume, which is in the range that the company claims. We did notice though that the standby drain is quite rapid—forget to turn off the Sonos Move after you are done listening, and you will run into a completely discharged Move the next morning. This is something that can be fixed via a firmware update.

Splurge or not?

Is it prudent to spend almost 40,000 on a smart speaker? The Sonos Move does make a solid case for itself. This sounds better than any other so-called premium smart speaker that is there right now or has come before it. You do not get limited by just one smart assistant and the ecosystem of services that has to offer. And the battery makes this quite easy to carry around as well, making it a rare, properly portable smart speaker. That being said, you are still investing a lot of money, and the justification for the splurge may be easier for some. Bear in mind, the Amazon Echo Studio, which started out with a price tag of 22,999 is now available for around 17,999 if you get the right deals.

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