Sonos Sub Mini vs. Roku Wireless Bass
If you’ve been feeling a lack of “something” in your home theater sound, chances are you’re at a loss for bass, which is where a subwoofer comes into play. Designed to do all the heavy lifting for the lower frequencies of your surround system, a subwoofer is capable of tapping into the kind of rumble-friendly terrain that a traditional speaker simply can’t deliver (at least in most cases). Nowadays, many audio companies are even offering wireless subwoofers that can be paired to some of the soundbars and speakers that these same brands produce.
Two popular options for all-in-one home theater solutions are network speaker maker Sonos and streaming device stalwart Roku, and today we’ll be comparing the former’s Sub Mini with the latter’s Wireless Bass in a battle of miniature woofers for the ages.
It’s important to note that while these products are similar in name and function — they’re both smaller versions of a subwoofer — they’re also members of two disconnected ecosystems. Sonos works with Sonos. Roku works with Roku.
And never the twain shall meet. With that in mind, this battle might help inform you about which ecosystem is right for you.
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends
Being the smaller of each company’s two available woofers, both the Sonos Sub Mini and Roku Wireless Bass have factored overall portability into the design of their speakers. The Sub Mini ditches the squared-off look of the traditional Sonos Sub altogether, opting for a football-sized cylindrical chassis instead.
But like the middle section of the regular Sonos Sub, where the Sub’s inward-firing main drivers are located, the Sub Mini’s Class D-powered 6-inch drivers fire against each other within a similar sphere-shaped cutaway. This hollowed middle section allows the Sub Mini to cut down on distortion and reduce vibrations. In terms of connections, the Sub Mini has a DC power port, an Ethernet port (if you’d like to hardwire the Mini to your router), and a Join button to add the Mini to your Sonos ecosystem during setup.
Available in black and white finishes, the woofer measures 12 inches tall, 9.1 inches in diameter, and weighs 14 pounds.
The Roku Wireless Bass actually looks a little more like a traditional sub than the rounded-off chassis of the Roku Wireless Bass Pro but features a smaller front-firing 5.25-inch driver, compared to the Bass Pro’s 10-inch woofer. Measuring 13.7 inches tall, 6.7 inches wide, 12.4 inches from front to back, and weighing 11.3 pounds, the Wireless Bass only features a DC power port and a reset button and can only be purchased in black, as this is the only color option for Roku’s lineup of audio products. Both the Sub Mini and Wireless Bass can be connected to both 2.4GHz or 5GHz network bands.
For the force-canceling nature of the woofer’s chassis, refined Class D power, and inclusion of an Ethernet port, we’ll award a point to the Sonos Sub Mini for design. Winner: Sonos Sub Mini
Getting the Sonos Sub Mini or Roku Wireless Bass up and running is a relatively simple process that only requires you to have the Sonos app downloaded on a go-to mobile device or a Roku streaming device connected to your TV. For iOS users, the Sonos setup utilizes near-field communication (NFC) technology to instantly pair the Sub Mini to your Sonos network by simply tapping your iPhone or iPad against the woofer.
And while you can still perform the initial setup using an Android device, you won’t be able to use Sonos’ Trueplay feature, which calls upon your iOS hardware’s microphones to calibrate the Sub Mini’s sound to your listening environment.
For the Roku Wireless Bass, the pairing process is a little more involved but is still pretty easy. To begin, you’ll need to plug in the Wireless Bass, then grab your Roku streaming device’s remote and press and hold the Home button for five seconds to enter the pairing menu. Next, select Pair new device and choose Subwoofer.
After a few moments, you should hear a sound from your Wireless Bass, indicating the woofer has paired to your host device. Seeing as the Roku Wireless Bass pairing process requires a Roku TV or Roku streaming device running the company’s operating system (which you’d likely already have if you’d bought one of these woofers), and the steps are a little more involved than Sonos’ streamlined process, we’ll award another point to the Sonos Sub Mini for its app-friendly installation and iOS-only Trueplay calibration. Winner: Sonos Sub Mini
With both the Sonos Sub Mini and Roku Wireless Bass being smaller versions of each company’s respective flagship woofer (the Sonos Sub and Roku Wireless Bass Pro), one would expect the tinier brethren to sound smaller, too.
In the case of the Sub Mini, this assumption is true, but Sonos’ bite-sized boom isn’t minuscule by any means. In our testing of the Sonos Sub Mini, we found that the woofer had an impactful presence, with “presence” being the key descriptor as opposed to “earth-shaking.” The Sonos Sub Mini nicely fills out the low-end frequencies of whatever Sonos soundstage you’re working with, and while it may not approach the pulse-pounding rumbles of the larger Sonos Sub, it does an excellent job at layering bass into your favorite tunes and movies. The Roku Wireless Bass is half as powerful as its larger Wireless Bass Pro sibling, delivering 60 watts of steady thump and peaking at 120 watts, whereas the Wireless Bass Pro provides 120 watts RMS and 250 watts of peak power.
This makes a relative comparison similar to the two Sonos subwoofers in terms of power. The Roku Wireless Bass delivers reasonably punchy and clear bass that will get the job done as part of a Roku sound system. But thanks to the Sub Mini’s vibration-reducing middle cutaway and Trueplay audio calibration, the Mini sounds a little cleaner and more defiant than the Wireless Bass, which isn’t surprising for Sonos.
Winner: Sonos Sub Mini
As part of each company’s respective lineup of wire-free speakers, the Sonos Sub Mini will only work with Sonos hardware, and the same goes for the Roku Wireless Bass. That being said, there are a few extra limitations to consider. Over on the Sonos side of the arena, the Sub Mini can be paired with any of Sonos’ speakers and soundbars (except for the Move or Roam) but can only be paired with one peripheral at a time.
Let’s say you’ve got your Sub Mini connected to the Sonos Beam soundbar in your living room, but think you may want to add some extra low-end to the garage speakers you’ve got lined into your Sonos Amp. This means you’ll have to go into the Sonos app, un-pair the Sub Mini from your living room group, move the woofer to the garage, and then add the Sub Mini to the app’s garage group of speakers. It’s not a difficult process, but the ability to have the Sub Mini linked to more than one group at a time is a convenience we’re missing out on.
And in terms of the Roku Wireless Bass, the rules of the game are pretty similar.
Using your Roku streaming device, you’ll be able to pair the Wireless Bass to the Roku Streambar, Streambar Pro, Smart Soundbar, or Roku TV with connected Roku speakers. Keep in mind that neither subwoofer features an LFE output, though, which means you won’t be able to manually connect the Sub Mini or Wireless Bass to an AV receiver — they must be wirelessly paired to each brand’s respective audio ecosystem. With compatibility being essentially the same for both the Sub Mini and Wireless Bass, we’ll call this category a tie.
Ah yes, the power of the dollar. When it comes to being a savvy shopper, both Sonos and Roku offer some intriguing bundles that will net you one of the company’s wireless woofers in addition to a soundbar or a set of speakers, but one brand is certainly less hard on the wallet (hint: it’s not Sonos). Let’s say you’re buying all of your Sonos or Roku hardware for the first time and want to invest in a speaker/subwoofer package.
Right out of the gate, one of your cheapest Sonos deals is going to be the Sonos Entertainment Set, which pairs the Sonos Ray soundbar with the Sonos Sub Mini for the low price of … almost £700.
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends
Yeah, Sonos Sub Mini bundles are not exactly cheap. And while you can purchase the Sub Mini as part of a soundbar package, home theater completion kit, or as a standalone device (if you already own Sonos speakers), the least you’ll be spending is the £430 for the Sub Mini itself. Even if you just decide to buy a single Sonos One (Sonos’ least expensive speaker) and a Sub Mini to go with it, that’s still a hefty £650 you’ll be laying down.
As far as finances go, the grass is a little greener over in Roku Town. The Wireless Bass only costs £130 and is being offered as part of three unique Roku ecosystem bundles. And of the three, the least expensive choice would be the Roku Streambar with the Wireless Bass for £250.
That’s £400 less than buying a Sub Mini with just a single Sonos One speaker and almost £300 less if you’re only buying the sub. Other Roku Wireless Bass bundles include the Wireless Bass with Streambar and a set of wireless speakers for £400, and the Wireless Bass, Streambar, and three sets of wireless speakers (fronts, surrounds, and rears) for £700 — which, don’t forget, is the same price as the Sonos Sub Mini with just the Sonos Ray. In terms of overall value, we’ve got to give this one to Roku.
Winner: Roku Wireless Bass
Comparing Sonos to Roku isn’t the easiest side-by-side examination, especially when you consider the fact that Sonos hardware often carries a higher price point but stronger audio quality, whereas Roku gear, from its streaming peripherals to its speakers, tends to prioritize value over outright performance. And while this isn’t to say that the Roku Wireless Bass is a bad subwoofer by any means, if money is your main concern, then you can get an amazing bass boom for the buck with a Roku setup that will be just fine. But if money isn’t the biggest factor, opting for a Sonos system with the Sonos Sub Mini is hands-down the better option — it’s built from the ground up to be the stronger of the two in terms of sound quality, setup, and overall design.
You’ve won us over yet again.
Winner: Sonos Sub Mini