Sonos enters a new era
Following what felt like a lifetime of rumours and online leaks, Sonos has finally pulled the cloth from its Era wireless speakers. The new Era 300 ($749) and Era 100 ($399) mark a brand-new range for the multi-room mogul, expanding on the typical Sonos features
(the Sonos S2 platform, Wi-Fi, AirPlay 2, and Sonos and Alexa voice control) with Bluetooth connectivity (for the very first time in a nonportable Sonos speaker), a physical USB-C input and, in the case of the Era 300, spatial audio support.
Indeed, the larger of the two speakers was designed specifically for playback of Dolby Atmos spatial audio tracks, with Sonos’ Principal Product Manager Ryan Moore stating that “the goal with Era 300 was really to create the best standalone spatial audio experience of any single speaker”. At the time of launch, the Era 300 supports Dolby Atmos Music via Amazon Music Unlimited and Apple Music, though there has been no word yet on whether Atmos tracks on the Tidal service will also be embraced by the Era 300.
To cater for its spatial audio chops, the Era 300 rocks a unique hourglass cinched design that makes it looks unlike any other speaker on the market. That has been specifically chosen to cater for the unusual acoustic architecture housed within. Inside are six drivers — four tweeters and two woofers, each driven by its own Class D amplifier — with custom waveguides that fire sound out forwards, upwards, left and right to surround you with music.
The Era 300 can also be used as Dolby Atmos rears in a surround system with the Sonos Arc or Beam Gen 2 soundbars (and a Sub perhaps) — a feature that’s sure to please AV fans, even if such a set-up is pretty costly.
The smaller Era 100 (which looks like and succeeds the existing Sonos One) can also be used as rear speakers, and with a wider range of soundbars too — Arc, Beam Gen 1 and Beam Gen 2, and Ray. But it doesn’t have spatial audio support.
The biggest di§erence between the Era 100 and the outgoing One is that it delivers stereo (compared to the One’s mono) sound. Inside the speaker lies two angled tweeters with custom waveguides that are designed to deliver “detailed stereo separation”, and a 25% bigger woofer that promises deeper bass. Each driver is powered by its own Class D amplifier.
Both new Sonos Era speakers can also be used as stereo pairs — if two are purchased, of course — and can handle audio files up to 24-bit/48kHz from Qobuz and Amazon Music, the two music streaming services that the Sonos ecosystem currently supports. Both work with the Sonos S2 app for more features too, including multi-room system grouping with other Sonos products, music playback from supported streaming services and Sonos Radio, and Trueplay room correction tuning available for iOS and (for the first time ever) Android users.
Both also feature new top panel interfaces with touch capacitive controls, the most tactile of which is a new volume slider (or ‘trough’, as Sonos refers to it). Additionally, Sonos says it has put a lot of thought into the longevity and sustainability of its new products. The Era speakers can be more easily repaired and fully serviced by Sonos thanks to more screws than glue used in the construction; they are made with “a high percentage of” postconsumer recycled plastic (more than 40%, apparently). And they use less power (less than two watts) when in idle mode.
Finally, a word on that USB-C input. If you did want to hardwire a turntable or another source to one of the Eras, you’ll need to buy the Line-In Adapter and Sonos Combo Adapter separately at a fairly reasonable cost of $35 each.
So, could the new Sonos Era speakers help take spatial audio out of the Wild West and propel it towards being the audio feature of the future? I guess we will soon find out…
For more information, visit Sonos at www.sonos.com