Portable Bluetooth speakers are everywhere these days, but two of the very best options are the Bose SoundLink Flex and Sonos Roam. Out of all the speakers available, portable Bluetooth ones tend to be some of the most popular. They’re known for being compact, can be taken just about anywhere, and often have resistance against the elements. Whether someone’s out hiking or just having a picnic in the backyard, these speakers can be incredible to have.
Bose and Sonos are best known for premium at-home audio gear, yet both companies have since ventured into the portable niche. Bose debuted the SoundLink Flex in October 2021, not too long after the Sonos Roam hit the scene back in April. The Flex and Roam are designed with the same core goals in mind, and each one gets a lot of things right. That said, there’s a clear winner as to which one most people should buy.
Starting with the hardware, both the SoundLink Flex and Sonos Roam have incredibly durable designs. Each one is backed by an IP67 dust/water resistance rating, in addition to a rugged exterior. Bose says the SoundLink Flex can “withstand almost any mishap,” and the Sonos Roam is made out of “shock-absorbent materials.” Bose goes a step further by claiming the Flex can float in water and keep playing music while doing so, but either model should be more than durable enough. From there, Bose and Sonos each have unique design elements that set their speakers apart. While the SoundLink Flex can only be placed horizontally on a flat surface, it also comes equipped with a built-in strap to attach to a backpack, wall mount, etc. The Sonos Roam lacks any such strap, but its design allows it to be placed horizontally and vertically thanks to its flat bottom.
Design isn’t the only area where Bose slightly one-ups its Sonos competition. The SoundLink Flex features a new audio system called ‘PositionIQ Technology.’ This allows the Flex to know how it’s oriented (standing upright, lying on its back, or hanging from the strap) and adjust its audio playback accordingly. Bose says it’s the world’s first Bluetooth speaker with any such technology and really is quite impressive. By comparison, the Sonos Roam uses its Trueplay feature to adapt its audio based on the room/environment it’s in. While not quite as technically impressive, both speakers do have ways to automatically adjust their audio without any input from the user.
Another benefit of the SoundLink Flex is its battery life. Bose rates it to last up to 12 hours on a single charge, giving it an extra two hours of endurance compared to the 10-hour rating for the Sonos Roam. In regards to smart features, however, Sonos does manage to regain a couple of points. Both speakers can be controlled from companion apps and sync up with other speakers in their ecosystem for simultaneous playback. Beyond that, only the Sonos Roam features smart voice controls from Google Assistant or Alexa. It also natively supports AirPlay 2, allowing iPhone users to easily stream their audio without relying on Bluetooth.
Then there’s the price. The Bose SoundLink Flex is available for just $149, compared to the slightly more expensive $179 Sonos Roam. For most people, it’s safe to argue that the SoundLink Flex is the better overall buy. It’s slightly more rugged, has a built-in strap, more advanced sound adjustment, and longer battery life — all for $30 less than its Sonos counterpart. The Sonos Roam is an excellent choice for anyone who values voice control, AirPlay 2, or is heavily invested in the Sonos ecosystem, but everyone else is better off with the Flex.