Sonos Move 2 vs. Bose SoundLink Max: Which is the best portable speaker?

As our best Bluetooth speakers buying guide shows, there's a surge of portable models tailored to outdoor sounds. Some are home-based speakers that can also handle a spell outside thanks to a high level of protection and long-lasting battery packs, while others like the Bose SoundLink Max are made for life on the go.

The Sonos Move 2 is among one of my favorite Bluetooth speakers for transporting around the house or outside to the yard for background sounds when the sun is out, but it's not exactly the model I'd pick up to take with me on a trip to the beach or a picnic in the park. On the other hand, the Bose SoundLink Max is a more practical speaker for such activities, and here I've put them head-to-head to see how they compare. Each model has its feature strengths and great sound, but which is the best model for taking out into the yard or on a road trip? 

Any buying decision will come down to individual needs. Read on to find out how two of the best outdoor speakers compare and which is best suited to your activity.

Sonos Move 2 vs. Bose SoundLink Max: Specs compared

Sonos Move 2 vs Bose SoundLink Max listing image

(Image credit: Future)
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Header Cell - Column 0 Sonos Move 2Bose SoundLink Max
Price$449 / £449 / AU$799$399 / £399 / AU$599
WirelessWi-Fi, BluetoothBluetooth
Battery life (rated)24 hours20 hours
Size9.4 x 6.3 x 4.9 inches4.7 x 10.4 x 4.1 inches
Weight6.6 pounds4.9 pounds
ColorsBlack, white, oliveBlack, dusk blue

Sonos Move 2 vs. Bose SoundLink Max: Price and availability

Bose SoundLink Max

(Image credit: Future)

There's a $50 price difference between these two portable speakers. The Sonos Move 2 is on sale at the Sonos Store and costs $449 / £449 / €499 / AU$799 at the full MSRP. At the time of writing though, it can be found discounted to $336 at Amazon, which is its lowest price ever. It's available in black, white, and olive colorways.

The Bose SoundLink Max is priced at $399 / £399 / AU$599 and available in black and blue dusk options only — the maker's smaller SoundLink Flex Bluetooth speaker comes in a wider choice of color options. It's available from the Bose website and also from online retailers including Amazon and Best Buy. That's $50 less than the Sonos Move 2, but it's worth saying here that the Bose doesn't have Wi-Fi or smart features of the Move 2. But as a portable Bluetooth speaker, the Bose SoundLink Max is the more affordable option.   

Winner: Bose SoundLink Max   

Sonos Move 2 vs. Bose SoundLink Max: Design

Sonos Move 2

The Sonos Move 2 and Bose SoundLink Max look very different from one another, but share strong build quality and attention to detail. The Move 2 has a sophisticated home speaker feel compared to the transportable design of the Bose SoundLink Max with its rope carry handle.

The Sonos is a good deal heavier and weighs in at 6.6 pounds compared to 4.9 pounds for the Bose. There's a useful finger recess at the back that's handy for moving it around the house, but the higher weight means you won't want to carry it far. It has an IP56-rating for dust and waterproofing, which means it can be roughed around a bit, but it's unlikely to survive a day at the beach or a damp night left outside.

On the other hand, the Bose SoundLink Max looks like the more transportable speaker option and is also better protected with a IP67-rating, protecting it from water splashes, tumbles, dirt, corrosion, and UV light. It's a strong contender for one of the best waterproof speakers.

In terms of its portability and durable design, the Bose SoundLink Max is the more practical speaker for life on the move.

Winner: Bose SoundLink Max

Sonos Move 2 vs. Bose SoundLink Max: Controls

Bose SoundLink Max being held by carry handle above kitchen table

(Image credit: Future)

The Sonos Move 2 has all the connectivity smarts that come with integrating any Sonos speaker. When you’re home, you can control the Sonos Move as you would any other in its ecosystem via the latest version of the Sonos control app. Then, when you’re away from your network, Bluetooth picks up where you left off. Additionally, the Move 2 has the same capacitive volume slider and touch controls on top identical to the Sonos Era 100 and Sonos Era 300 home speakers.

In addition to physical controls on the speaker and in the Sonos app, the Sonos Move 2 can be controlled via voice assistant. It’s compatible with Amazon Alexa and Sonos Voice Assistant. 

Meanwhile, on top of the Bose speaker, physical controls run to Bluetooth connectivity with support for multipoint connections (users need to activate this on the Bose app). There's an assignable shortcut button that switches the source input to either aux mode or Spotify, as well as volume up/down controls, and a play button. All controls worked well and had good tactile feedback during my testing.   

Bose has dropped the Bose Music naming for its control app, and the latest app simply called Bose runs at version 10.0.1 for iOS and 10.0.0 for Android playback devices. The Bose app is nicely laid out and enables users to control playback and volume, adjust EQ, as well as see the remaining battery capacity. It provided reliable pairing to both my iOS iPhone 12 Pro and Sony Xperia 1 IV via Google Fast Pair for Android devices and gave robust control of the SoundLink Max during my testing.

Winner: Tie

Sonos Move 2 vs. Bose SoundLink Max: Sound quality

Sonos Move 2 on a kitchen worksurface

(Image credit: Sonos)

Neither model mentions the speaker's power output, but both deliver a big sound. Any preferences for the sonic characteristics of one model over another will come down to personal tastes. 

The Sonos Move 2 features two angled tweeters for a sense of stereo separation married to a mid-woofer that handles mid-range vocal frequencies and deep bass. Although larger than the Era 100, it has a similar sonic balance with top-notch sound quality across the board and great vocal clarity even when the speaker is turned up to a high volume level. The Sonos Move 2 has plenty of conviction in delivering a dynamic audio experience. 

At least some of that is thanks to Auto Trueplay, which makes spatial adjustments automatically. Outdoors the speaker managed to make up for lack of reflection points and produce a balanced sound with plenty of energy.

Bose SoundLink Max on a kitchen table

(Image credit: Future)

The Bose SoundLink Max has a three-speaker, forward-firing array partnered with a pair of passive bass radiators. The Bose projects sound forwards with gusto, delivers a wider soundstage than the Sonos Move 2, and has a slightly more convincing stereo experience. The Sonos' soundstage feels narrow by comparison. Bass levels are well judged straight from the box, but I preferred the bass frequencies set to level 5 during my testing.

Placing the speaker side by side and streaming the same track to one speaker at a time, highlights some sonic differences. 

The Sonos Move 2 has a richer and more engaging sound with Herb Alpert's "Rise". There's a stronger sense of infectious rhythmic jazz energy that got my fingers and toes tapping, and the trumpet sounds natural. With the same song playing on the Bose, the sound has more emphasis on the mid-frequencies for a sense of clarity and openness, but the bass rhythm doesn't deliver quite the same level of engagement as when played on the Sonos.           

Although it performed well on my travels trying the speaker out in different locations outside, there's no outdoor boost mode to improve the SoundLink Max's audio performance in open space where there are no boundary walls to reflect sound and augment low frequencies. 

Both speakers managed high sound levels before hardening up, and both go beyond sociably acceptable levels for any nearby neighbors.     

Winner: Sonos Move 2

Sonos Move 2 vs. Bose SoundLink Max: Battery life

Bose SoundLink Max held by carry handle outside

(Image credit: Future)

In terms of playback times, the Sonos Move 2 lasts up to 24 hours and the Bose SoundLink Max claims up to 20 hours. 

The Bose has a USB-C charging port at the back, while the Sonos Move 2 uses a charging base giving it a dedicated spot to sit and recharge at home. 

Full recharges on the Bose SoundLink Max take around 5 hours and battery life is displayed as a percentage on the Bose app. Battery life is displayed under the system tab on the Sonos control app.

Winner: Sonos Move 2

Sonos Move 2 vs. Bose SoundLink Max: Verdict

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Header Cell - Column 0 Sonos Move 2Bose SoundLink Max
Price and value (10)88
Design (20)1517
Connectivity (15)1512
Controls (15) 1513
Sound quality (25)2018
Battery life (15)1513
Total score (100)8881

Despite the higher price, the extra flexibility and top-notch performance make the Sonos Move 2 the ultimate portable speaker overall. Although it's not exactly a take-anywhere speaker due its weight, it's an ideal model for those looking to integrate a portable speaker at home with an existing Sonos ecosystem — or a strong building block to start from — that you can easily take out to the yard.

If you're looking for a straightforward Bluetooth speaker that's portable enough for adventure trips then the Bose SoundLink Max is a great choice. It offers stronger durability than the Sonos to endure trips to the beach, festivals, and even a pool party, and is a practical Bluetooth speaker solution that plenty will warm to.

Winner: Sonos Move 2

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Lee Dunkley
Audio Editor

As a former editor of the U.K.'s Hi-Fi Choice magazine, Lee is passionate about all kinds of audio tech and has been providing sound advice to enable consumers to make informed buying decisions since he joined Which? magazine as a product tester in the 1990s. Lee covers all things audio for Tom's Guide, including headphones, wireless speakers and soundbars and loves to connect and share the mindfulness benefits that listening to music in the very best quality can bring.