The Move is mostly made of plastic, although its front grill is metal. Most of the other Sonos models have plastic grills; because metal can interfere with antenna signals, the plastic construction keeps wireless performance stable. The Move’s four antennae are located near the plastic bottom of the speaker, so having a metal front grill wasn’t as big of a concern.
Even with all that plastic, the Move is still hefty. Sonos was trying to design something physically large enough to offer full sound, but that wasn’t overwhelmingly huge. What it landed on isn’t exactly a throw-it-in-your-tote-and-go gadget. But it’s also more sophisticated-looking than a lot of other Bluetooth speakers. There are no bulging buttons, no bucket handles or loops. Even its dark gray paint job was considered: it’s not deep black because that would make it hot to the touch if left out in the sun for awhile. Which is what you’re supposed to do with it.
Durability is a concern with any portable speaker. Sonos says the Move has an IP56 rating—waterproof enough to protect against rain and snow and mustard (Spence actually included mustard in the list he rattled off), though you won’t want to take it into the swimming pool with you, since it can’t survive a full dunking. The bottom portion of the speaker, which is coated in rubbery silicone, houses a 10-hour lithium ion battery. The lifespan of this battery is estimated to be about three years. After that, Sonos will sell you a replacement battery module, so you can keep on using the same speaker.
“We’re trying to be as smart and sustainable as possible,” Spence says. “This is not a smartphone you’re going to replace every two years. This is a five-to-ten-year proposition.”
The Sonos Move’s midrange driver is the same one that can be found in Sonos’ biggest speaker, the Play:5, and the basket that holds the driver is built directly into the casing of the speaker. These design decisions were two-fold: the company wanted to ensure the speaker could handle big, low-end sounds and not lose clarity in the outdoors, and building the driver directly into the casing is supposed to make it more durable. If you drop that sonorific six-pack on your way to the party, hopefully it won’t break.
The two speakers that the Move most closely resembles, the Sonos One and Play:1, both have two forward-firing drivers. While the Sonos Move’s midrange driver faces forward, the tweeter faces downward into a custom-molded plastic waveguide that sends sound waves out of the speaker body in multiple directions. This design choice is meant to give the speaker a wide, even soundstage regardless of where it’s placed, since the Move is designed, well, to be moved.
In the first sound demo I heard, Sonos director of product marketing Ryan Richards played the Tame Impala song “Borderline” through the Move. At medium volume, it sounded great, with clean highs and clear vocals, and a healthy amount of bass. When I asked Richards to crank it up, some distortion crept in. But I was mostly struck by how loud the thing gets. Richards said the company learned from its early user testing that people wanted the ability to crank it loud in outdoor spaces, so Sonos had to do some software customization work at the louder end to make it sound decent.
In another part of the demo, Richards showed off a new automated process for Trueplay, the system Sonos uses to get a speaker sounding its best no matter where you plunk it. Normally, when you buy a new Sonos, the app walks you through the process of calibrating it during the setup. After you’ve positioned the speaker, the app asks you to wave your smartphone around over your head like a goofball for 45 seconds while the speaker and the phone “scan” the room and study how the sound waves behave in the space. The speaker’s audio is then automatically tuned by the app.