Sonos Move 2 speaker review: Welcome to the portable era

Sonos has packed its latest audio and sustainability advancements into an on-the-go form, with few sacrifices. Sorry for your wallet!
Sonos Move 2
Brandt Ranj / Popular Science

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Sonos released its latest at-home speakers, the Era 100 and Era 300, in March 2023. Their new name signified the next chapter of Sonos’ journey into connected speakers, and the multi-driver, multi-channel 300 even introduced Dolby Atmos support into its non-soundbar speakers. With the company’s latest speaker—the creatively named Move 2, a successor to its first party speaker—Sonos seeks to bring some of its new audio standards into a device you could take anywhere.

The original Sonos Move was released in 2019, and a lot has happened in the audio world since then, especially in the increasingly competitive world of high-fidelity wireless speakers. Having spent a little more than a week with the speaker, I can confidently say the Move 2 is an excellent addition to Sonos’ lineup, taking everything I really liked about the Era 100 and cramming it into a portable speaker.

The Move 2’s release comes at an interesting time in the portable smart connected speaker world. JBL released its new premium lineup, including the Authentics 300, which is the same price as the Move 2. Bang & Olufsen’s Beosound A5, released this past spring, comes in at a whopping $1,300, which proves premium audio companies are taking portable speakers seriously. The Move 2 keeps pace and even exceeds much of its competition by offering a speaker with an inviting design, great sound, continued advancements in sustainability, and tight integration with the company’s every-growing ecosystem of speakers. Sonos, like Apple, has cultivated an active fanbase, and they’ll find a lot to like about the Move 2. Skeptics may become converts if they give the speaker a chance.

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Overview

  • The Sonos Move 2 is the second generation of Sonos’s first portable speaker, released in 2019.
  • It inherits many features found on the Sonos Era 100, including stereo sound, a USB-C port for charging and expandability, and a recessed volume slider.
  • Music lovers charmed by Sonos’ sound profile, ease of setup, and broader ecosystem should consider the Move 2 before any other mid-sized portable Bluetooth speaker.

Pros

  • Excellent sound
  • Wireless charging
  • Replaceable battery
  • Modularity (Via USB-C)
  • Built-in handle

Cons

  • $50 price increase from the original Move
  • Coating can come off

The verdict: The Sonos Move 2 is a big improvement over the original in tangible ways, including better battery life, stereo sound, and even more sustainability features. In a crowded field, it’s hard not to recommend this portable speaker to anyone who cares about ease of use, ergonomics, and great sound.

The build

It seems odd to describe a speaker as inviting, but that’s the adjective that’s continued to come into my mind during my time with the Move 2. From the front, it looks like a standard Sonos speaker: Ovular, brandished with the Sonos logo, and a pinhole-sized LED on top to let you know the speaker’s status. On top of the speaker, you’ll find a recessed well that acts as a volume slider—swiping your finger left turns audio down, right turns it up—as well as play/pause, voice assistant mute, and track selection controls.

Turning the speaker around will reveal a power button, Bluetooth button, a mic switch, and USB-C port. The USB can charge the speaker or connect the Move 2 to a Sonos dongle for additional connectivity options. There are two exposed pins at the very bottom, allowing you to wirelessly charge the Move 2 by setting it atop a charging base (a plastic loop) included in the box. The base feels solid, and the speaker immediately recognized it and began charging. This isn’t the only way to top up the Move 2, but it gives the speaker a sense of additional portability; you feel like you can grab the speaker and go at any time. Sonos more than doubled the Move 2’s battery life compared to the original version, offering up to 24 hours of use per charge instead of 11. You shouldn’t have to plug it in daily—and I certainly didn’t—though you might have to more often if you pump the volume or take advantage of its ability to be a power bank for USB-C devices. Sonos did this without dramatically increasing the speaker’s size or weight, too.

Sonos-Move-2
The Move 2’s rear cutout makes it easy to grab and go. Brandt Ranj / Popular Science

What makes the back of the Move 2 different than any other speaker I’ve tested is that those aforementioned buttons are inside a tapered recess. The top of this control panel cutout is hollow, with enough space for four of my fingers. This acts as a handle, allowing me to transport the Move 2 from place to place easily. It’s the type of industrial design feature that feels immediately natural and nicer than the straps or handles that come with many larger portable speakers. While I really like the Move 2’s sound profile—more on that later—it’s this built-in handle that charmed me the most.

Cutting a chunk out of the back of your speaker could be a recipe for disaster as it leaves less space for audio components (bigger amps and drivers are better) and a battery. Sonos seems to have accounted for this, and I never had any issues with the Move 2’s sound or lifespan. I set it down on its charging stand for testing purposes but could have gotten a week’s worth of daily use from the speaker without running the risk of having it conk out. This is not entirely unique for a speaker in the Move 2’s size class, but still nice to see.

While the Move 2’s physical design impressed, what’s on the inside really counts. Sonos outfitted the speaker with three class-D amplifiers to drive a pair of angled tweets and a single mid-woofer. This driver array allows the speaker to play music in stereo, though you might want to pair it with a second Move 2 if you’re concerned with better channel separation. My only complaint about the Move 2’s build is that part of its finish got scratched while being transported in a backpack, which feels like it shouldn’t happen so easily for a speaker intended to be lugged around. All this doesn’t take away from the Move 2’s ability to perform indoors or out; with an IP56 rating, the speaker is protected from dust and high-pressure water streams so that you can feel confident taking it from the patio to the pool, the backyard to the beach (though don’t submerge it in sand nor surf).

The setup

Sonos has streamlined the setup process to the point of virtual perfection. The Sonos app (available on both iOS and Android) immediately recognized the Move 2 and asked if I wanted to add it to my system. Tapping “yes” on the prompt initiated a setup process that happened entirely in the background. The speaker was added to my home’s WiFi network and integrated as part of the Sonos system in under a minute.

I was prompted to download a firmware update, which was just as simple, and then I was free to begin testing the speaker in earnest. Many wireless speakers have a similarly straightforward setup process, but it’s impressive that Sonos has streamlined it for one that connects over WiFi. It’s tedious to enter your WiFi password into yet another app, and I was pleased I didn’t have to.

The Sonos Move 2 (left) next to its homebound sibling, the Sonos Era 100 (right). Brandt Ranj / Popular Science

If you’re on an Apple device, like I was for testing, you can stream lossless music to the speaker over WiFi using AirPlay 2, Apple’s custom protocol. Non-Apple devices can stream music from both services and their local library through the Sonos app. If you prefer Bluetooth, you can enable this mode by pressing the Bluetooth button on the back of the speaker. The first time you do this, the speaker will enter a pairing mode, and the LED on its front side will flash blue. Once connected, you can use it like a typical Bluetooth speaker, trading more universal connectivity for more limited bandwidth and range. However, it’s important to note that you must go through the WiFi setup before taking advantage of Bluetooth; this is not a speaker intended for anyone who doesn’t have a connected household.

It’s unnecessary, but you can connect the speaker to your Amazon account via the Sonos app to use the Move 2’s microphone to access Alexa, Amazon’s smart home assistant. When connected, you can use the Move 2 to control smart-home devices and play tracks with your voice. The Move 2 ships with Sonos’ more limited smart home assistant mostly designed around music playing. The microphone can be temporarily muted by tapping a capacitive touch control on the speaker’s top.

The sound

If you’ve heard a Sonos speaker before—especially the Era 100 or recently released Ray and Beam 2 soundbars—you’ll be familiar with how the Move 2 sounds. Sonos has its own preferred tuning and makes no qualms about admitting that. The Move 2’s press page goes so far as to say the speaker’s class-D digital amplifiers are “precision-tuned for the speaker’s unique acoustic architecture.” I’m typically very critical of non-flat EQs because I’d like to hear music as close to the artist’s intentions as possible, but I admit to liking the Move 2’s sound profile a lot.

Don’t worry; Sonos hasn’t evoked the infamous “smiley face,” or U-shaped, EQ setting wherein the lowest bass and treble frequencies are jacked up while the midrange is tamped down. The speaker sounds remarkably natural, with a tasteful EQ that you’ll only notice if you’re really listening to it. If you’re listening to tracks you’re very familiar with, you may notice a little extra bass here or a little less treble there, but it’s all in favor of making audio sound pleasing.

There isn’t an identical “one-sound-fits-all” Sonos sheen applied over everything you hear, as tweaks will vary from song to song and room to room. Sonos’ audio profile is backed up with Automatic Trueplay, a software feature that adjusts the Move 2’s sound based on the environment using the speaker’s built-in microphone. This happens in real-time, and it was possible to hear a slight difference in the Move 2’s sound when moving from one location to another. The one caveat, however, is that you need to have the microphone enabled for Automatic Trueplay to work. A physical switch on the back cuts off power to the mics if you’re not into persistent monitoring, but there’s no way to create a Trueplay profile that works with the mics off.

Some speakers, like JBL’s Authentics 300, live up to their name by providing a warts-and-all presentation of music, which is great if you crave music accuracy but does rely on you having higher-quality, better-mastered source material. This was the strategy high-end audio companies employed before the powered, connected, and wireless speaker revolutions. Still, it doesn’t always square with the way people listen to music now, i.e., listening to lossy tracks on streaming services. Both paths work, but Sonos’ path of applying digital processing makes it easier to get a consistent experience.

Sonos Move 2
The Sonos Move 2 is the new way to experience digital music. Brandt Ranj / Popular Science

While listening to podcasts, I noticed the richness in each voice, regardless of its register. There was a lot of detail, while a subtle sheen was placed over the entire recording to buff out some rough edges, which were audible when listening through other speakers. Sometimes, some light processing is good; you want to enjoy a show rather than be distracted by the effects of someone broadcasting from an untreated room. This doesn’t mean poor-sounding recordings will magically sound good; it’s just that good recordings can sound even better.

I had a similar experience when listening to music. I could make out every bass note Chris Hillman played on The Byrds’ cover of Bob Dylan’s “You Ain’t Going Nowhere” as clearly as the snare drum beats laid down by Michael Clarke. Jumping ahead 55 years to Olivia Rodrigo’s “bad idea right?” I was similarly pleased that the bass—turned way up—didn’t drown out the multi-layered vocals or driving guitar solo. I tested the Move 2’s treble performance by listening to The Clash’s “Train In Vain (Stand By Me),” whose intro includes a series of cymbal hits that can sound piercing on speakers with a bright sound profile. If that’s the case, each hit will hurt your ears. The Move 2 walked right up to that line but didn’t cross over. Naturally, the mastering and resolution of the music you listen to will play a factor in your experience. Different versions of the same songs can differ pretty dramatically depending on the musician and engineer’s tastes.

Listening to tracks from different eras and genres, I continued my formal tests by listening to Earth Wind & Fire’s autumnally appropriate “September.” The song, a total bop, has a lot going on. The horns in the background, conga drums, steady drum and bass lines, and those soaring vocals. The auditory menagerie sounded well-kempt on the Move 2, on which each song element was audible if you focused on it. On the whole, the Move 2’s sound profile sounds a little bass-heavy (not uncommon for a speaker that can see outdoor use), with a lot of effort put into making sure sounds in the midrange, like vocals, sound particularly great.

I spent most of my time listening to lossless audio tracks from an iPhone over WiFi, but did pop on Bluetooth mode for testing (the baseline SBC and native-Apple AAC codecs are supported). I didn’t notice any significant quality hit switching to the more compressed format and didn’t even feel limited by its lower range most of the time. In most cases, a track’s mastering will matter much more than its resolution.

While the speaker can play songs in stereo, it can’t recreate as wide a soundstage as a pair of individual speakers or even the football-shaped Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin. If I listen to the lopsided stereo mix of The Mamas & the Papas’ “California Dreamin’,” it still sounds pretty close to the mono mix. On the Zeppelin, I could clearly hear vocals from half the band on my left and the other half on my right. Stereo separation gets better the further away you sit, but a portable Atmos speaker, this is not. Of course, you’re not taking the Zeppelin anywhere with you, no matter how powerfully dynamic it sounds. You can pair two Move 2 speakers together for better separation to the tune of $900, but you should consider other options at that point.

The conclusion

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Specs

  • Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.3 x 5 inches (HWD)
  • Weight: 6.61 pounds
  • Battery life: Up to 24 hours
  • Connectivity: WiFi 6, Bluetooth 5.0, USB-C port
  • IP Rating: IP56
  • Voice assistants: Amazon Alexa, Sonos Voice Control
  • Price: $449
  • Release date: September 20, 2023

Sonos has been on a roll since the introduction of its first smart speaker, the One, in 2017. The Move 2 is the latest addition, and it benefits from the improvements Sonos continually makes to its audio infrastructure and product ecosystem. Some features I didn’t test, like the ability to hook the Move 2 to a turntable using an optional dongle or the user-replaceable battery, speak to Sonos’ confidence in this being your go-to portable speaker for a long time and that you may even find new ways to use it. Of course, the Move 2’s $449 price tag will put it out of reach for many people, which is why the Toblerone-shaped Sonos Roam exists for $179. But what you get with the Move 2 is similar performance to the homebound Era 100 wherever you go and a battery that keeps going and going. The Move 2 is a refined speaker that will satisfy existing Sonos fans with its familiarity and audio quality that should convert new fans if their budget allows.

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Brandt Ranj

Staff Writer, Commerce

Brandt Ranj is a commerce reporter at Popular Science. He writes about the latest and greatest gadgets, from headphones and TVs to chargers and cables. He splits his time between New York City, Long Island, and Croatia, carting test gear around the U.S. and the globe.