Sonos is one of the WIRED Gear staff’s favourite speaker firms. Within the splintered buy-it-trash-it world of Wi-Fi related tech, the place nothing appears to attach collectively correctly or final all that lengthy, Sonos audio system at all times sound excellent. They’re constructed to final for years, they usually do issues different audio system simply can’t. Sonos audio system can group collectively in any approach you would like and work with most each streaming music app. You may as well management them with both Google Assistant or Alexa voice assistants—a rarity in 2019.
Like a guided missile, Sonos has perfected its line of sensible Wi-Fi audio system for the house, and it’s by no means swayed from that focus on—not even to step onto the again porch. For practically a decade, it has fully ignored the numerous superior Bluetooth audio system available on the market.
A couple of 12 months in the past, chief product officer Nick Millington hinted that Sonos was making ready to step open air for the primary time. “One of many key transitions that we discuss is from residence to in every single place,” he informed me. “The house is not the one place the place you take heed to music. There are a lot of locations the place you take heed to music.”
And now, a 12 months later, a Sonos speaker with Bluetooth has lastly arrived. (A 12 months looks like a very long time, however Sonos releases new merchandise at a extra deliberate tempo than a lot of the tech world.) The Transfer is the primary Sonos speaker with a battery inside it, and the primary one which additionally works past the confines of Wi-Fi.
It’s a half step—a speaker that sits stationary on a shelf a lot of the time, however will also be carried anyplace. It rests on a charging cradle, connecting to Wi-Fi and the Sonos app like every other Sonos speaker. You may sync it together with your Sonos speaker community when you have one, however when you’re able to jam “out of vary,” it has a deal with on the again and a Bluetooth toggle that permits you to connect with a cellphone or PC. The IP56 splash- and dust-resistant score ought to maintain it protected if these adventures embody rain or the seashore too. Simply don’t take it for a swim, since it might probably’t survive a dunking.
There are a couple of kinks I’ll go over, and a $399 price ticket that can make a few of you groan, however it’s arduous to argue that Sonos hasn’t put out one of many extra versatile and best-sounding transportable audio system you should purchase.
The very first thing I seen concerning the Transfer was how huge it’s. The speaker weighs as a lot as a six pack of 12-ounce beer bottles and is bodily imposing, at 9.5 inches tall and greater than 6 inches large. It doesn’t sink into the background of a room fairly as simply as Sonos’ extra petite One audio system.
It’s as large as two of these Sonos One audio system stacked on their facet—or two UE Megaboom audio system facet by facet, or two 24-ounce beer cans duct-taped collectively. (And until you’re having one helluva rager, it sounds rather a lot higher than duct-taped cans too.)
I maintain mentioning alcohol as a result of, effectively, it is a speaker made to occasion. It has the identical model and contact buttons because the One (quantity, play/pause, mute), full with a hoop of microphone holes up high so you possibly can speak to it with whichever one of many two voice assistants you’d like. A lot of the casing is product of black plastic, with a matte-soft rubbery base and a steel grille. It seems hardy, and supposedly it might probably face up to a drop or two, although I’ve been too form to totally take a look at that sturdiness.
That silicone base holds a battery that has been lasting me slightly longer than the marketed 10 hours per cost—your mileage will range primarily based on how loud you crank it. (The lithium ion battery is detachable as effectively. Sonos says it is going to have replacements prepared if house owners wish to get a brand new battery in a couple of years, as soon as the present one begins to fade.) A few steel connectors on the underside of the speaker additionally let the Transfer slip proper into its included charging cradle. The cradle capabilities like slightly stand, so it’s a sublime method to give your Transfer a house while you’re not cell, although you may also cost it by way of the USB-C port on the again.
What’s completely different is the cavity constructed into the again of the speaker. You may seize it comfortably like a deal with to tote it from place to put. The ergonomics jogged my memory of a very comfortable indoor mountain climbing grip—the sort you’d discover on the straightforward wall at a health club. You may scoop it proper up with one hand. Regardless of its six-pound weight, transporting the Transfer isn’t a chore.
Being a transportable speaker, I anticipated the Transfer to be crammed with directional drivers that blast music out all sides in an arc, just like the Megaboom and so many different transportable audio system. As a substitute, it is slightly extra conventional. It has a single downward-firing tweeter that splits off to the left and proper to widen the soundstage for these larger, crisper notes, and a large forward-facing mid-woofer smack dab within the heart so it might probably thump when the beats get low.
I’ve listened to loads of music on the Transfer this week, and the most important praise I can provide it’s that I simply by no means appear to show it off. The tweeter and woofer do a terrific job projecting sound broadly—maybe as much as 180 levels, relying in your house. The Transfer stuffed up my workplace, lounge, and yard with ease, with much more depth and readability than many audio system its dimension.
Just like the Apple Homepod and Google House Max, it manages to sound so good in every single place as a result of it makes use of its far-field microphones (the identical one that allow you to speak to Google or Alexa) to continually retune itself. Sonos calls this Computerized Trueplay. Set the speaker down someplace, and after about 30 seconds, its sound auto-adjusts to the setting. The modifications it applies are delicate, however noticeable. After I set the Transfer out within the open, it projected loud and proud, however after I positioned it in, say, a cupboard, the bass calmed right down to cease vibrating the wooden round it, and the treble notched up so I may hear the vocals higher.
It appears to sound wonderful in every single place. I even set the Transfer on the passenger-side ground of my automotive and listened to it as a substitute of my stereo on an hour-and-a-half lengthy automotive journey this weekend. I wasn’t anticipating a lot, however after some time I type of forgot I wasn’t utilizing the automotive audio system.
With the tragic death of The Vehicles lead singer Ric Ocasek, I’ve been revisiting the band’s clear pop-rock precision in hits like “Simply What I Wanted” and “You Would possibly Assume.” If I shut my eyes, typically it looks like I’m proper there within the studio with the band. Like most Sonos audio system I’ve examined, the Transfer by no means appears to overpower the music it performs. The bass punches when it must, and the vocals are studio-crisp. It’s as balanced because the music calls for.
The Transfer delivers on most of its transportable promise, however its limitations have often annoyed me all through the week. Although the Bluetooth works effectively, you gained’t be capable to use the Sonos app to play music or management the speaker settings (or EQ) until you’re on your house Wi-Fi. Straight to the Spotify or Apple Music app, you go.
The Transfer additionally can’t connect with a number of telephones or gadgets at a time both, so that you solely get to have one DJ at your occasion. Oh, and although Sonos is understood for its means to group a number of audio system into ad-hoc zones, this isn’t potential on Bluetooth. And that is regardless of many competing audio system, like that Megaboom we maintain mentioning, being able to daisy-chain collectively.
For now, it is clear that Sonos nonetheless sees Bluetooth as an add-on, not a core focus. Sonos may add extra Bluetooth options sooner or later by way of app updates (one thing it does regularly), however the firm’s coronary heart nonetheless lies with Wi-Fi.
When you’re already planning some form of moist and wild Sonos trip, it’s possible you’ll wish to mood these expectations proper now. The Transfer can get moist. I do know as a result of I sprayed it with a hose many occasions. However each time it will get moist up high, the contact buttons appear to go nuts, pausing, enjoying, altering the quantity—very similar to your “waterproof” cellphone does if you happen to take it underwater. (Please don’t.) You may flip these contact controls off, however solely while you’re on Wi-Fi, so you need to suppose forward. So sure, it might probably get moist, however it isn’t designed to work as effectively when it does.
And whereas I am complaining, I also needs to observe that there are some Alexa Abilities and Google Assistant options that will not work with Sonos. I sometimes use Google Assistant for some white noise to assist me hit the zzzzs, however that specific talent will not work on Sonos audio system. As a substitute, it performs some white noise from Spotify, which … simply is not as straightforward to go to sleep to.
A New Form of Sonos
Just like the Symfonosk audio system Sonos not too long ago launched with Ikea, the Transfer is a brand new form of product for Sonos, and we hope it’s simply the beginning of a brand new, wider world for the 17-year-old sensible speaker model.
Widened worldviews don’t come low-cost. With a value of $399, the Sonos Transfer is twice as costly because the Sonos One. It has much more energy and adaptability than the One, although it might probably’t match the Sonos Play:5 in sheer energy. It’s additionally pricier than most high-end Bluetooth audio system and $100 greater than the Apple Homepod, one in all its nearest indoor rivals.
If cash had been no object, I’d decide a Sonos Transfer over most different sensible audio system any day of the week (besides the one close to my mattress). It’s a well-thought-out speaker that works inside and is prepared for a 10-hour jaunt outdoors when the time arrives. In different phrases, it suits my comparatively tame way of life. However with out full waterproofing (or the flexibility to drift), it’s not ready for a canoe journey down the river, and even to take a seat on a floatie within the pool.
Whether or not the Sonos Transfer is price $399 to you’ll rely the place you’re transferring, and for a way lengthy. The calmer your life, the happier you and your Transfer might be.