When you think of a sequel to any tech product, it’s easy to jump to the conclusion that it’s “everything the original was supposed to be.” And as I’ve been testing the new $449 Sonos Move 2 speaker over the past few days, it’s been tempting to lean on that story. The Move 2 improves upon the company’s first portable speaker with better, wider sound—now with stereo output instead of just mono—and a huge advance in battery life. It’s also more versatile with the inclusion of line in and the ability to recharge your phone and other devices via the speaker’s USB-C port. The only downside might be that all these improvements come with a $50 price increase.
But in reality, the first Move was never anything like that. This was before Sonos figured out how to seamlessly juggle Bluetooth audio with music played through its Wi-Fi-based whole-home audio platform; you had to choose one or the other using the button on the back. (Sonos solved this vexing dilemma with its much more compact Roam speaker.) At the time of the Move’s release, the basic Sonos One was also limited to mono playback. It wasn’t until the Era 100 that the company crammed two tweeters into a relatively small single-speaker cabinet. It now runs the same game with the Move 2, giving the product a dedicated left and right channel instead of blending everything together. However, time has not been kind to the Move 2 in every way: amid the ongoing legal spat between Sonos and Google, the smart speaker ships without the Google Assistant present on the first-generation hardware.
Apart from the improved controls at the top, the look of the Move 2 hasn’t changed much. It’s still the same shape. And it’s still quite tall (9.53 inches) and heavy (6.61 pounds) to be considered very “portable” — but at least you have a built-in carrying handle. Like the first Move, this is really designed to be moved around in different places inside and outside your home, not to accompany you to the beach like a traditional Bluetooth speaker.
In addition to the standard black and white options, Sonos offers a green color for the Move 2, and I really enjoyed the olive shade when reviewing it. It’s not overly bold, but it’s stylish and not boring. You get a wireless charging base in the box, and unlike the first use, it can be unplugged instead of being fully plugged in. As before, the Move 2 can alternatively be charged via the USB-C port.
Around the back is a power button, a Bluetooth pairing button, a physical switch for the Move 2’s built-in microphones, and a USB-C port. In keeping with the original, the Move 2 supports automatic Trueplay, which uses microphones to analyze the speaker’s surroundings and optimize the sound whenever you move it to a new location. Hands-free voice control is possible with both Sonos and Amazon Alexa voice control. There are two ways to disable the microphones: tap the bubble button on the top of the speaker to disable voice assistants while leaving features like Trueplay autoplay on. If you want to turn off the microphones completely, use the switch on the back.
However, Google Assistant is missing from the Era lineup after it was first dropped. With JBL now offering a speaker that runs Alexa and Assistant at the same time, I really hope Sonos and Google can put aside their legal battles and figure out a way to bring Assistant back into the fold. For a certain group of customers, its absence makes the Move 2 a nonstarter.
Another aspect of the Move 2 that disappointed me (albeit to a lesser extent) is that it can’t serve as a speakerphone for calls. If the thing works with Bluetooth and has microphones that I already talk to on a semi-regular basis, why not go the rest of the way, Sonos? Many cheaper Bluetooth speakers and even Apple’s non-Bluetooth HomePods include this feature, so it’s frustrating to see Sonos leave it out again.
However, there are several ways the company has favorably expanded the capabilities of the Move 2. Like the Eras, it supports line-in (if you purchase Sonos USB-C adapter for $19), so you can connect any audio source, such as a turntable, to the speaker and play that content through the rest of your Sonos system. Anything you’re listening to via Bluetooth can also be synced through your clustered speakers, a convenience that the first generation Move lacked. Sonos continues to support Apple AirPlay 2, and you can directly control its speakers using music services including Spotify, Pandora, Tidal and many more.
Another new trick is that the rear USB-C port can be used to charge external devices. It delivers 7.5 watts of power, which isn’t particularly fast, but it’s a good backup if your phone’s battery dies while you’re playing tunes in the park or on the beach far from any outlet.
Battery life on the Move 2 has more than doubled, and Sonos says it can get up to 24 hours of continuous playback. This big jump can be attributed to two things: there’s a bigger 44Wh battery inside, and the company has also made power-saving optimizations under the hood. The larger battery is backwards compatible with the original Move, but putting it in this speaker won’t magically give you 24 hours of listening time, as the first-gen Move lacks some of the newer efficiency improvements.
“Placing a Move 2 battery inside the original Move will extend the Move’s battery life by about 25 percent, giving you about 13.5 hours of battery life,” Sonos spokeswoman Olivia Singer told me via email. “Move 2 has a much more efficient system that contributes to further improvements in playback.” In any case, I really appreciate that the battery is easily replaceable to begin with; this ensures a long lifespan for the Move 2 compared to many consumer speakers where the battery will gradually hold less charge over time.
I’ve said more than a few times that the original Move has become my favorite Sonos product overall because of its portability and powerful sound. Upgrading the Move 2 to stereo isn’t a monumental change—a single-unit speaker is limited in how much separation it can create—but you can clearly hear the difference. When playing a test file, I could easily distinguish the left and right tweeters within the Move 2. The main advantage of this stereo arrangement is that you won’t have to worry about the details of the track being lost in the background, as can happen when everything is downmixed to mono.
The overall sound signature is true to the original Move, meaning the Move 2 still tends to emphasize the highs; I’m also currently testing the new similarly shaped Ultimate Ears Epicboom, and the UE speaker puts more emphasis on those sharp upper frequencies, while the Sonos takes a more balanced approach. If you want a higher level, it’s easy to do with the EQ sliders in the Sonos app. The bass response was more than adequate for my needs, but I can see some people wanting more punch from the Move 2 when actually turning the volume.
Among other Sonos speakers, I’d rank the Move 2 below the flagship Sonos Five and the Atmos-focused Era 300. You basically get a wireless Era 100 that you can take anywhere, and that’s an enticing thought. Like any of the company’s speakers, you can pair two Move 2s in stereo if you want a wider, more immersive presentation that one unit can’t create on its own. But since this is a portable device, a stereo pair may not be as practical here as with other Sonos speakers.
At this point, the Move 2 is by no means as “portable” or easy to pack with luggage as the Roam, but it’s no problem carrying it around the house, taking it out to the backyard, or throwing it in your trunk on the go. If you plan to take it on the go all the time, Sonos sells an extremely overpriced $79 case. The original Move came with a fabric carrying case, but that’s gone this time, and Sonos told me it was only ever meant to protect the speaker during shipping and handling.
If you already own an original speaker, you’re no doubt wondering if it’s worth an upgrade. In most cases, assuming you’re happy with what the Move has to offer so far, I’d say the answer is no. The original remains an excellent product – especially if you bought it on sale. But if you’re constantly draining the Move battery or already have the Move 2 line-in function in mind, then switching to a new one starts to make more sense. Stereo sound will be more pleasant and faithful to your favorite music, but that alone is not enough to exceed $450.
As a complete package, the Move 2 is a slam-dunk sequel that only gets better when you factor in Sonos’ long-term software support. The company needed to learn from other products to get here, but anyone who loved the first Move will find even more value in its successor. Hopefully Google Assistant will eventually return. But even if it doesn’t, the Move 2 offers plenty of features and good enough sound to make it a unique flagship of Sonos’ hardware lineup.
Photo by Chris Welch/The Verge