Published 2023-03-08 - 8:00 am
Copenhagen/L&B Tech Reviews: Sonos is one of the market leaders in multi-room and home cinema speakers. The American manufacturer does not change its entire range every year, but takes its time before launching a new product, which then has a long lifespan. But now it’s literally time for a new ‘era’ of Sonos speakers, with the Era 100 and Era 300 models.
Rumours and speculation about the new Sonos speakers have been rife, with much of it ‘leaked’ to The Verge website in advance. And much of the information – including the model sketches – turns out to be true and accurate.
L&B Tech Reviews was there at the presentation of the new Sonos speakers at Moltke’s mansion in Copenhagen, and we can share some pictures and impressions here.
Sonos Era 100 and Era 300
The Era series represents a new generation of smart speakers from Sonos. The compact Era 100 is a direct successor to the Sonos One, while the larger Era 300 is a brand new model designed to reproduce Spatial Audio and surround sound from both music and film. Both models can be used individually, paired in stereo – or as part of a larger surround system with the Arc and Beam (Gen. 2) soundbars.
Both new models support Wi-Fi 6e and Bluetooth, and use USB C input with an adapter for Ethernet or minijack line input. Previously, you needed a Sonos Amp or Sonos Port (or Sonos Five) to connect analogue audio sources like turntables, etc.
Sonos Era 300
Sonos users have long been asking for a speaker with upward-firing drivers to utilise the height information in Dolby Atmos soundtracks. And the Era 300 is, in many ways, the answer. It can deliver multi-channel surround sound when used as a rear speaker for your home theatre, and you can pair two speakers with Sonos Arc or Beam (Gen. 2) for what they call “an enhanced Dolby Atmos experience”. For example, with Sonos Arc, Sub, and 2 x Era 300, you’d get a 7.1.4-channel configuration.
The Era 300 is packed with drivers – six in total (four tweeters and two midwoofers) – that project forwards, sideways, and upwards. The speaker has a special ‘hourglass’ shape, where the cabinet narrows in the centre to give the drivers the desired angle.
Sonos Era 100
The smaller sibling to the Era 300 is called the Era 100, and Sonos tells us that it will be an official replacement for the current Sonos One, which is now being discontinued.
The Era 100 is only slightly larger than its predecessor, but is new from the ground up in terms of acoustic design, hardware, and software. The biggest difference is that the Era 100 now features two angled tweeters (versus just one in the Sonos One) and a larger midwoofer (4.4 inches versus 3.5 inches). The Era 100 is intended as an stylish speaker for the bookshelf, kitchen table, desk, or nightstand, but it can also be used in pairs in an expanded stereo or surround sound system. With e.g. Sonos Beam (Gen. 2), Sub Mini and 2 x Era 100, you get a 5.1.4-channel configuration.
Listening demo in Copenhagen
We got a small demo of both speakers at Moltke’s mansion in Copenhagen. We first heard a standalone Era 100 playing music, including hip hop from Kendrick Lamar with pumping bass rhythms, which proved to us that the Era 100 delivers significantly more bass than the old Sonos One. There’s also good clarity and openness in the voices. It will certainly be an interesting challenger to the likes of Apple when we get to test it further.
We also got a more extended demo of the Era 300, where the newcomer played stereo music from a single speaker. And of course, it sounded much cooler! The Era 300 has a significantly bigger and more hard-hitting soundstage than the Era 300, with crisp, tight and punchy bass – impressive for its size, in fact.
We also had the opportunity to hear two Era 300s as rear speakers in a larger surround setup with Sonos Arc and Sub in front. Firstly for the thriller A Quiet Place, where the Era speakers helped create a rather eerie and immersive soundscape. You could clearly sense the ‘movement’ in the soundscape along with the disturbing sound effects in the background. At the very end, we were treated to a blistering demo of Top Gun: Maverick, where we could really hear the jet fighters and missiles whizzing around our ears.
Whilst these were brief demonstrations in an unfamiliar room, what little we heard sounded promising, and we can’t wait to put the Sonos speakers through their paces when we get them on the test bench!
Trueplay tuning – now also for Android
Both the Era 100 and Era 300 have ‘inbuilt’ Quick Trueplay, which means they use built-in microphones to measure and correct the sound reproduction in the room. This means you don’t have to rely on ‘waving your mobile phone’ like you have to with older Sonos speakers – Advanced Trueplay is still the better option, so it’s recommended to use a compatible iPhone/iOS device if you have access to one.
Also supports Apple Music ‘Spatial Audio’
Alongside the launch of the Era 100 and Era 300, Sonos also announced an official collaboration with Apple on the music front. The Sonos speakers will support Spatial Audio via the Apple Music streaming service. It will also be available through Sonos Arc and Beam (Gen 2.)
No support for Google Assistant
A potential drawback for many is that the new smart speakers don’t have built-in support for Google Assistant voice control. In contrast, Sonos Voice Control and Amazon Alexa are supported. However, Sonos hopes to offer the Google version sometime in the future. Whether this is due to Sonos’ ongoing feud with Google remains to be seen.
Price and availability
The Sonos Era 100 and Era 300 will be available at authorised retailers and on Sonos.com from 28 March 2023. The Era 100 will cost €279 each, while the Era 300 will be priced at €499 each. Sonos One will be phased out of the lineup, while the largest Sonos Five model will remain on the shelves.
Rumour has it that some samples of the new speakers are on their way to us for testing, so stay tuned at lbtechreviews.com!