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A brand new era of smart speakers has arrived as Sonos officially made two new smart speakers available for purchase this week: The Era 100 and the Era 300. Both speakers are built with the idea of providing buyers with an intimate and intentional listening experience that is immersive and features an improved user interface.
The Era 100 aims to replace the company's most popular smart speaker, the Sonos One, with key improvements to the already-impressive device. The larger, higher-end Era 300 takes a jab at putting out immersive spatial audio in the comfort of your home through Amazon Music Unlimited and, as of March 28th, through Apple Music as well. Sam Feine, Audio Systems Engineer at Sonos, describes the new smart speakers as, "The future of immersive listening".
"Audio connects us to our surroundings; setting time aside for intentional listening has become part of self-care", explains Feine. With the Era lineup, Sonos is debuting brand new hardware and software, with both devices sharing the same chipset, voice control through Sonos or Amazon Alexa, Trueplay for both Android and iOS users, better energy efficiency, and Bluetooth and Wi-Fi 6 connectivity.
Even though these upgrades were highly sought-after by Sonos users, the company failed to deliver on other features with the Era speakers. Aside from the fact that these smart speakers still don't support Chromecast like they do Apple AirPlay 2, they also no longer support Google Voice Assistant, only Amazon Alexa and Sonos Voice Control.
According to Feine, Google had some tough technical challenges to meet to continue support for Google Voice, so the company determined its time was better spent developing a great product rather than meeting these challenges. This drawback begs the question of how the new Era 100 will compare to its main competitors: The new Apple HomePod and Amazon's Echo Studio.
Sonos Era 100
The Sonos Era 100 is available for the retail price of $249 and is a replacement for the Sonos One, the most popular Sonos smart speaker with voice control. The Era 100 features all new acoustics and software, with an improved processor from its predecessor's, to ensure the audio quality is crisp and rich, no matter the volume.
Touting a larger woofer, the Era 100 offers deeper bass than the Sonos One and many other compact smart speakers on the market. It features dual angled tweeters for detailed stereo separation, and improved amplification. The three Class-D digital amplifiers result in a powerful and rich stereo experience.
This speaker is large enough to hold its own in a small or medium room, but small enough to place one in each room around the house and listen to synchronized music, or pair two in one room for even wider-spread stereo sound.
How the Era 100 compares to Sonos One
Aside from sporting a 25% larger woofer and 47% faster processor than the Sonos One, the Era 100 also features Bluetooth connectivity to pair devices without even using the Sonos app, as well as a line-in for a turntable or other accessories.
The Era 100 also has Trueplay built-in by using the speaker's built-in microphone array, so it can tune the audio output according to your room acoustics on its own, whether you have an Android or iOS device. In the past, Trueplay tuning was only done using the microphones from your iPhone or iPad as you moved around the room, which is still an option.
Though the Era 100 also comes in black and white and is only less than an inch taller than the Sonos One, both speakers in the Era line are built with post-consumer plastic and less adhesive in favor of screws, in an effort by Sonos to be more environmentally responsible.
The speakers also feature software to optimize energy efficiency, so they consume less energy when idle.
Sonos Era 300
The Sonos Era 300 is an hourglass-shaped power speaker with Alexa built-in. The retail price of $449 falls right between the Sonos Move and Sonos Five, but the spatial audio innovation packed into this smart speaker is pretty remarkable.
This isn't your run-of-the-mill speaker, that's for certain. It features six powerful drivers angled around the front, top, and sides of the speaker that are enhanced by custom waveguides to widely disperse audio for room-filling sound. The two high-performance woofers are strategically spaced on each side of the Era 300, in an effort to minimize vibration while maximizing a balanced low-end output.
Room-filling sound and deep bass aside, the Era 300 also holds a forward firing and two side-firing tweeters that join an upward-firing tweeter loaded into a directional horn. This is built to enhance spatial audio by bouncing sound off the ceiling.
The Sonos Era 300 seems like an outstanding standalone speaker to be the center of parties or to use for a quiet night in for relaxing immersive listening, thanks to the combined power and spatial audio capabilities. But grouping two Era 300s with the Sonos Arc and Sub, for example, can make for 7.1.4 Dolby Atmos sound in the comfort of your home.
Available in black or white, the Era 300 speaker also touts an improved user experience compared to previous models, thanks to the capacitive touch controls at the top: Like the volume slider and dedicated skip and replay controls, as well as a Bluetooth button to pair devices.
The far-field microphone array works for both voice control using Sonos or Amazon Alexa or for Trueplay, to enhance the audio output to fit your room's acoustics. The microphone can be disconnected from power by toggling the off switch at the back of the Era 300.
With the new Era lineup, Sonos has made some clear upgrades, such as the addition of a USB-C port for more capabilites using appropriate adapters, like that for a turntable or an ethernet cable. The line-in and Bluetooth pairing features are key characteristics that many had wanted in the Sonos One, for example, so it's great to see the company delivering.