By now, you’ve probably heard about Sonos releasing a new lineup of speakers: the Era 300 and Era 100.
I’ve been using them every day since they launched, and they are truly fascinating. These speakers have been redesigned inside and out, and after over a month of use, I have to say that the Era lineup might just set a new standard for enjoying music and audio – yes, they are that good.
Hey there, friends! I hope you’re well!
Let’s dive into the new features, including spatial audio, the differences between these two speakers, how they compare to older Sonos speakers, and whether they’re worth the upgrade.
Sonos Era 300 vs. 100 – Differences
Let’s start by discussing the differences between the Era 300 and Era 100. While they share the same DNA, there are important distinctions that you should consider.
The most obvious difference, apart from their design, is the price. The Era 100 is priced at $249 US dollars, while the Era 300 costs almost double that, at $449.
The Era 100’s design is reminiscent of the original Sonos One, as it serves as a direct successor to that model.
On the other hand, the Era 300 sports a completely unique look. I’ll be honest, I was initially concerned that its flamboyant wavy design might look odd and out of place. However, when I unboxed it, I found it quite attractive, and it has grown on me ever since.
The unboxing experience with Sonos products is just perfect – they are well-packaged and have a minimalistic look that I appreciate.
Now, when it comes to features, both speakers are nearly identical. They both include much-awaited additions like Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0 support and a USB-C line-in, ensuring these new speakers are future-proofed. However, here’s the key difference that, in my opinion, justifies the price jump: while the Era 100 is limited to stereo sound, the Era 300 supports Dolby Atmos and spatial audio content. This is why so many people have eagerly anticipated these new speakers, and I can confirm that the audio experience is incredible.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Before we dive into the audio performance, we should explore some noteworthy design changes with these new speakers.
New Era Design
One notable design change is the introduction of a recessed bar for volume control. I find it enjoyable to swipe left and right instead of aggressively tapping to adjust the volume.
The Era speakers’ touch controls are more responsive than my Sonos One or Sonos Move. Sonos has done an excellent job of modernizing the controls.
Additionally, both speakers come with built-in microphones, which is nothing new. However, what is new is the “Quick Tune” feature, a tweaked version of the company’s famous Trueplay tuning. With Quick Tune, you no longer need an iPhone to initiate tuning, making it a win for Android users. The speaker uses its own internal speakers to measure the surrounding space and calibrate the sound accordingly. The perk here is that it’s quick! When I tested it, it only took a single tap in the app, and within 15-20 seconds, the speaker was tuned.
However, Trueplay is still where the magic happens. Although it takes a bit longer, Trueplay optimizes the audio for the environment you’re in. Over the past few weeks, I noticed a noticeable difference with both speakers when toggling Trueplay on and off. It’s not a massive difference, but it’s definitely noticeable.
The new Era speaker designs exude class and complement homes or office studio interiors. They have a pleasing aesthetic.
Sound Performance: Atmos & Spatial
Now, let’s discuss sound performance. Both speakers are beyond incredible, but let’s focus a bit more on the Era 300 because this speaker is extra special.
When I first played a song on this speaker, which happened to be “Japan” by Throttle (a track inspired by Rocket League for you gamers out there), I got shivers. The clarity in the mid to high frequencies is a significant improvement over previous Sonos speakers, and the bass is impressively powerful.
The standout feature is spatial audio, which refers to the term used when there are more than two audio channels (beyond stereo) and is usually based on Dolby Atmos. When playing songs that support spatial audio – great examples are The Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face” and Tiesto’s “Boom” – you can hear a greater sense of separation than stereo sound.
If you’ve ever experienced spatial audio on AirPods, you’ll know what it’s like. However, experiencing spatial audio on speakers is a whole new level of enjoyment. Over the past month, it has been a real joy to rediscover my favorite tracks on this speaker.
The fantastic audio performance of the Era speakers is attributed to the six-speaker drivers, including four tweeters positioned strategically and an upward-firing speaker that creates an immersive audio height.
Proper placement of the Era speakers is crucial. Based on personal tests and Sonos’ recommendations, the best position for your Sonos Era speaker is usually in a corner, at listening height, about one foot away from you, and slightly tilted towards the listener. Trueplay tuning should take care of the rest.
One more thing: make sure you’ve updated your Sonos to software version 15.2 so that you can stream Dolby Atmos tracks from Apple Music and Amazon Music. Unfortunately, Dolby Atmos is not yet supported by Spotify.
Moving on to the Era 100, I believe a direct comparison isn’t fair since it lacks Atmos and spatial audio. Nevertheless, it holds its own.
The same songs played on the Era 300 still sound great on the Era 100. The audio is balanced, with lighter bass, and its sound signature is pleasing for everyday listening. It’s also relatively loud for its compact size.
Although it lacks incredible spatial audio capabilities, it can be considered top-of-the-line for stereo sound in this size range. If you were to close your eyes and listen, it would sound like two separate speakers from almost any angle.
I believe the way it works is that the speaker has two waveforms, and the two tweeters direct the music out the sides at different angles, creating a multi-speaker effect. However, it doesn’t provide the same extra-dimensional experience that you’ll get with the Era 300 and its spatial audio.
Comparison to older Sonos Speakers
The Era 100 shares a similar physical appearance to the Sonos One, albeit slightly taller and with the trademark recessed volume bar. However, it delivers a significantly better and punchier sound thanks to the extra tweeter and a 25% larger mid-woofer.
I’ll also compare my beloved Sonos Move to the Era 300. These are two quite different speakers, but I thought, “Hey, why not compare them?”
Surprisingly, the Move sounds like it has more bass, while the Era 300 has a more expansive soundstage.
Just remember, the Move is battery-powered and portable, so they are two different speakers. Nevertheless, it’s interesting to see the Move hold its own, particularly when it comes to stereo music.
For spatial audio-capable music, especially on Apple’s lossless Music, the Era 300 is clearly superior.
It’s challenging to find faults with these new speakers after using them extensively over the past month. The only minor gripes I have are the visible smudges and dust on the black variant, the absence of Google Voice Assistant, and the split design of the Era 300.
However, considering what they offer, I believe these speakers set a new gold standard for spatial audio-compatible speakers.
They have been and will continue to be a joy to use every day, and I anticipate that they will only get better over time as artists and musicians embrace spatial audio over stereo.
For now, I imagine the Sonos Five will remain the go-to choice for those seeking the highest quality stereo-focused speaker. It’s still overall louder, has more bass, and is the king of stereo speakers. However, it would make sense for Sonos to eventually introduce a Sonos Era 500.
The Era 100 serves as the perfect entry point for anyone looking to step into the world of Sonos. It’s incredibly easy to set up and use and delivers brilliant sound.
The Era 300 offers an even more immersive experience with Atmos and spatial audio that simply needs to be experienced in person.
I’ll leave my long-term review of the AirPods Max that you can check out for more audio tech.