Spatial audio has excited the audio market ever since Apple announced movie and TV content to be supported in iOS 14 at the WWDC event in June 2020. Spatial audio essentially delivers surround sound and 3D audio through headphones via dynamic head tracking. Typically, this is not a feature found in traditional audio speakers.

Over the past two decades since its founding in 2002, Sonos has built a remarkable premium audio brand for multi-room audio products. While the smart speaker market is crowded — even at the high end — Sonos has been able to do something that some brands haven’t succeeded with, requiring customers to pay a premium for premiums and brand loyalty. Are ready.

With that as a backdrop, Sonos has focused its efforts over the past few years primarily on two product categories: portable speakers like the Move and Roam; and more expensive home theater products like the Atmos-enabled Arc and Ray soundbars. The Sonos One and Sonos Five, the company’s primary sets of music-focused speakers, still sound great, but are starting to show their age.

spatial audio capability

The Era 100 and Era 300, two new “better and better” offerings from Sonos, change that dynamic. Priced at $450, the Era 300 is the first Sonos speaker capable of playing spatial audio. In comparison, the $250 Era 100 is a completely rebuilt successor to the Sonos One, with several upgrades over its predecessor.

You can use any pair of them in stereo or as back surround speakers in a home theater setup, just as you can with other Sonos speakers. If you have a Sonos Arc or Gen-2 Beam and all, you can get an outrageous 7.1.4 Dolby Atmos experience by adding a pair of Era 300s as your rear surround — that is, as long as you’re prepared to cough. $2,600 for that setup.

Era 300 – Aaron Judge of the home audio market

The Era 300 shown above has a unique appearance compared to other Sonos speakers but adheres to the brand’s signature minimalist aesthetic.

Its slightly unique knock-over hourglass design has a practical purpose in that it enables the upward-facing tweeters to fire at a slight but precise angle, which the manufacturer claims provides more room-filling reflections for spatial audio. Will do

There are three more tweeters: two pointing left and right, one pointing forward and dead center. Lastly, there are two woofers on either side of the speaker, which deliver plenty of bass.

Era 100 — A more affordable alternative to Apple’s new HomePod

The Sonos One is acoustically similar to the Sonos Play:1 that was announced in 2013. The Era 100, on the other hand, has more solid updates.

With its $250 price point, the Era 100 is an affordable alternative to Apple’s latest HomePod, and it represents a significant upgrade over the Sonos Play:1. The Era 100 has a woofer that is 25% larger than the One and a pair of tweeters providing left and right stereo channels in a single speaker.

sonos era 100 speaker

Era 100 Speaker (Image Credit: Sonos)

Even though it lacks the spatial audio capabilities of the Era 300, it represents a significant improvement over the earlier model.

Despite their wide array of features and price points, these speakers have a lot in common. With an optional line-in adapter, you can connect a turntable or other audio equipment to both via their USB-C connections. This capability is a major advantage over Apple’s HomePods (both the latest model and the HomePod Mini) as both the Era 100 and Era 300 can also serve as external PC speakers. However, that usage model is clearly too narrow.

new enhancements

It’s worth noting that both the Era 100 and Era 300 mark the first time Sonos has included Bluetooth in a non-portable speaker, which is a must. These speakers also feature newly revamped touch controls on the top, so you can now swipe your finger up a small ridge instead of tapping either side of the play/pause button, in addition to dedicated forward and back buttons to change the volume .

In addition, Sonos provided a physical switch to turn off the microphone rather than simply muting it via software. This welcome approach actively disconnects it for added security.

The Era 100 and Era 300’s exclusive TruePlay tuning feature, which measures how sound reflects off walls, furnishings and other surfaces, uses these mics to tailor audio based on where you set up the speakers in your home. Can also do to increase. TruePlay was announced by Sonos in 2015, reflecting the company’s desire to optimize audio quality in different home environments.

As a mobile phone app, Trueplay previously required an iOS device for setup. Android users were out of luck because although Sonos has installed integrated microphones in its speakers for several years, TruePlay was incompatible with Android devices.

TruePlay makes a significant difference, and this new capability means that many more people, especially Android users, will likely have access to it.

Summary of the Era of Sonos speakers

Keeping competitors apart, Sonos firmly believes that spatial audio is how music playback will evolve in the future. The company’s leadership claimed that a) the Era 300 would be the definitive way to hear the finer points of spatial audio mixes without the need for a room full of audio equipment and b) that artists and producers were highly interested in the format.

A single speaker can only deliver so much, no matter how sophisticated its driver array. Looking at the streaming audio landscape on a higher level, it’s likely that the big hitters — Spotify, YouTube Music, and other services — will likely start supporting spatial audio sooner rather than later. However, for spatial music the only two services compatible with the Era 300 for now are Amazon and Apple.

Even when playing stereo mixes, the Era 300 should be an excellent speaker. The 300 will be a more niche offering in the company’s lineup, similar to the excellent but higher-priced Sonos Five speakers. Still, it makes sense that if the spatial audio wave is about to begin then the Sonos Play would be ready to trend the developing spatial audio market rather than catchup.

Early media reports of the Era 300 indicate that it produces a distinctive sound. Given my experience with Sonos products, I expect audio quality to be superb, though I’ll reserve judgment until I get a chance to use them.

It should be pointed out that Sonos first proved its worth by reproducing standard audio, and compared to the Era 100, the 300 has much more volume, bass, and presence. Given that it costs $200 more and has twice as many drivers, expect audio quality to be second to none.

closing thoughts

One of the main reasons that Sonos has been successful in the highly competitive home entertainment speaker market is that it has made no compromises when it comes to speaker development.

While the speaker space has become inundated with sub-$100 solutions that are often designed to control the smart home, Sonos has spent its resources avoiding that quagmire to differentiate itself. In that sense, it’s unfair to compare the new Era 100 and 300 against the Apple HomePod, as Sonos’ products are unabashedly focused on providing world-class audio experiences — though both new Sonos speakers integrate Amazon Alexa support.

All that said, the adoption of spatial audio is a leadership opportunity for the company. The Era 300 can be seen as the first salvo in its efforts to raise the bar in the premium audio space.

The Era 100 and Era 300 have black or white color options. Both are expected to ship on March 28 and are available for preorder now on the Sonos Shop.

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