Sonos Roam vs Roam SL: how do the portable speakers differ?

We compare the Sonos Roam and Roam SL to shed light on which one would be the better choice

Sonos Roam
(Image credit: Sonos)

If the smart speaker realm wasn't confusing enough already, industry leader Sonos has decided to release new versions of its popular Roam speaker - dubbed the Sonos Roam SL. But what exactly is this new speaker, and how exactly does it differ from the original Roam?

Both speakers are designed to be used outside, with materials and a design that can withstand all sorts of weather conditions and environments, and we awarded the Sonos Roam full marks when we got a chance to review it. We're big fans of the brand's products in general, and you can find out more about the audio company in our ultimate guide to Sonos.

Keep reading to see how the two speakers are different from each other and which one might suit your home the best. And for more like this, hop on over to our ranking of the best smart speakers you can buy.

Sonos Roam vs Roam SL: Price

Though the two speakers differ in a few key ways that we will detail below, their prices aren't too different. The Sonos Roam SL is around $20 cheaper than its older sibling, with the price sitting at $159.99 and $179.99, respectively.

Sonos Roam vs Roam SL: Design

Even more so than pricing, the Roam and Roam SL are very similar when it comes to design. In fact, they are virtually indistinguishable from one another aside from a few small elements.

Because the Roam SL lacks a microphone, the symbol and light found on top of the Sonos smart speaker are missing. The play/pause, plus, and minus controls are in the same location for both speakers. The mesh body with an embossed logo is the same for both, but the Roam is available in a few extra colors - Sunset (coral), Wave (blue), and Olive (green). Both are available in standard dark and light grey.

Sonos Roam smart speakers in Sunset, Wave and Olive colors

(Image credit: Sonos)

Sonos Roam vs Roam SL: Features

The feature list is where the differences between the Sonos Roam and Roam SL start to become apparent and where the price difference begins to make sense. The bottom line is that one is a smart speaker, while the other doesn't have any smart assistants on board. However, both have their pros and cons.

Sonos Roam

Waterproof?: Yes, IP67
Trueplay?: Yes
Microphone?: Yes
Screen mirroring: Apple AirPlay 2
Battery life: 10 hours
Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth

The Sonos Roam was itself a replacement for the Sonos Move - which was technically portable but rather large and heavy compared to the sleek and lightweight Roam. The speaker is pretty hardy, able to withstand being dropped on a hike or dunked in the pool for up to 30 minutes.

The Roam has a built-in microphone, so you can make use Sonos' Trueplay audio tuning. This requires you to hook the speaker up to the app via your phone and then walk around the space until the system has an idea of things like room size and obstructions like furniture. The result is audio designed specifically for you.

Of course, the best use for the microphone is to speak with Alexa or Google Assistant, and both come ready to go with the Sonos Roam. Choose your assistant and do everything you can do with the best Alexa speaker or Nest device - from setting alarms and getting traffic details to asking those questions you can't be bothered to Google.

Sonos Roam SL

Waterproof?: Yes, IP67
Trueplay?: No
Microphone?: No
Screen mirroring: Apple AirPlay 2
Battery life: 10 hours
Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth

The rugged design of the Sonos Roam SL is the same as its predecessor, with an IP67 waterproof rating and drop resistance. It also has the same Apple AirPlay 2 support, 10 hours of battery life, and Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity.

The big difference is the lack of a microphone, which means that you cannot use smart assistants or Trueplay with the Roam SL. Because the app can't detect and map its surroundings, audio tuning is limited, and both Alexa and Google Assistant require an in-built microphone for you to communicate with it.

That said, the Roam SL is still a fantastic Bluetooth speaker with outstanding audio quality for listening to everything from your favorite tunes to that podcast everyone's been talking about. And you can even listen outside in the garden or take the speaker on family camping trips without worrying about it getting damaged.

Sonos Roam

(Image credit: Sonos)

Sonos Roam vs Roam SL: Our verdict

Our winner is the Sonos Roam, simply because it offers more smart features at just a fraction more money. Until the Roam SL drops in price, it may not be tempting enough of a bargain to steer people away from the excellent Roam proper. Of course, if you just want a good, portable Bluetooth speaker and don't see yourself using Alexa or Google Assistant, it's a good way to shave off a few dollars.

Caroline Preece
Smart Homes Ecommerce Editor

Caroline is the smart homes ecommerce editor for Livingetc, covering everything tech for the home, from smart speakers to air purifiers and everything in between. She is passionate about the role that technology and smart devices can play in daily life, enhancing the home without sacrificing personal style and carefully chosen interiors. In her spare time, she can be found tinkering with bulbs, soundbars, and video doorbells in an effort to automate every part of her small home. Previously, she lent her expertise to the likes of Expert Reviews, IT Pro, Coach, The Week, and more.