no of course You don’t buy speakers to watch it. But if you’ve got your eye on the speaker while enjoying its sound, ideally seeing it won’t make you cringe. So the Era 300, the latest Sonos wireless speaker and the company’s first foray into spatial audio (besides, of course, a Dolby Atmos-enabled soundbar) is such an impressive and accomplished performer — its physical appearance It’s easy to overlook. Unless you somehow accidentally find it in your field of vision, in which case it never ceases to amaze anyway.
It’s fair to say that Sonos’ ubiquity thus far has been built both on its utterly painless ownership experience and on how well its products actually sound. When paired with top-notch ergonomics, an impeccable control app, and the simplest and most straightforward multi-room audio ecosystem, “fairly competitive” sound quality is good enough for many listeners.
With the Era 300, though — and the accompanying smaller, more affordable Era 100 stereo speakers — Sonos has kept all of its established advantages and added audio performance that rivals any comparable-priced, similarly-sized alternative . In the case of the Era 300, spatial audio performance has been improved.
Spatial audio (which basically means “more than two channels” and is almost always based on Dolby’s Atmos format) has gained massive traction outside of its original theater roots, thanks in large part to Strong support from companies like Amazon Music Unlimited, Apple Music and Tidal music streaming services.
Sonos does not support Tidal’s Dolby Atmos content catalog (Hush!), but it does at least support spatial audio products from Amazon and Apple. While Apple is a full-service provider of spatial audio music with its Homepod smart speaker, it’s safe to say that the Sonos Era 300 brushes shoulders with the Apple Homepod when it comes to hardware. Yes, it’s more expensive – but it’s worth it, and then some.
The Era 300 uses six speaker drivers to create an immersive surround sound impression. There are four tweeters: one facing forward, one facing left, one facing right, and one that fits into the horn and fires upwards to reflect sound from the ceiling and create a sense of pitch. Then several mid/bass drivers are angled left and right to create some width (and provide separation when the speaker is playing stereo content). Each driver has a separate Class D amplifier block – this is Sonos, but the amount of power available is confidential information.
The fourth paragraph now ends: “The Era 300 represents the end of an era for Sonos. The company used to have the clearest and most logical naming convention for its speakers—but now we’re in an age where hierarchical order isn’t easy distinguish.”
On the top of the cabinet—so angular and so out of proportion that my youngest daughter cringes at the sight of it—there are some physical controls. The touch surface includes play/pause, skip forward/backward, and voice assistant interaction (the Era 300 is compatible with Amazon Alexa and Sonos voice control), and there’s an indented (and very well implemented) volume slider. The front of the cabinet is featureless aside from the branding and LED indicators that can be turned off. On the bottom there are a couple of small rubber feet and mounts for the cost option stand. Around back, there’s a power socket, a microphone switch, a USB-C type aux input (unforgivably, a custom line-in adapter for this input is also a cost option), and a button for Bluetooth pairing.
Sonos sees Blu-ray
Oh yes, Bluetooth. Who knows how many years after Bluetooth was dismissed as an inferior technology only for its portable speakers, Sonos has undergone a damascus switch. So, in addition to using the example control app that can integrate any number of streaming services, it’s also possible to stream to the Era 300 using Bluetooth 5.0 with standard SBC and AAC codec compatibility. You can also stream over Wi-Fi using Apple AirPlay 2 – with Wi-Fi 6 support.
As well as bringing all your favorite streaming services together, the app also offers some EQ tweaks and the latest version of Sonos’ amazing Trueplay room calibration software. Trueplay, the new software available for Android (albeit in abridged form) and iOS, doesn’t take long and proves to be very effective at tuning the Era 300 to your specific environment.
The app also offers multi-room and multi-channel possibilities (if you have several Era 300s, they can act as rear speakers in a home theater system, as well as a Sonos Arc Dolby Atmos soundbar). The app remains the paradigm, the gold standard…it makes Sonos ownership seem like a very sensible choice, regardless of any other considerations.