Sonos embraces Dolby Atmos and spatial audio for its new flagship smart speaker. Cliff Joseph finds himself surrounded. Read our Sonos Era 300 Review.
The Sonos Era 300 and Era 100 are the company’s first brand-new smart speakers since 2017. While the smaller Era 100 is set to replace the existing Sonos One speaker, the Era 300 sits just below the flagship Sonos 5 model. But despite the fact the Era 300 costs £ less than the Sonos 5, in many ways, this is a better speaker.
Available in black or white, the Era 300 is a departure from the conventional rectangular design that technology, Sonos is extending its capabilities to embrace Dolby Atmos for movie soundtracks and spatial audio for some streaming services.
|Sonos Era 300
|Wireless multi-room smart speaker
|260 x 160 x 185mm
|Networking: wi-fi; AirPlay 2 ; Bluetooth 5.0 (SBC/AAC)
Sonos’ larger speakers have used up until recently. And, as multi-room audio is now a well-established
Sonos describes the design of the Era 300 as an: “elegantly cinched hourglass” and it has six separate drivers, each with its own Class D amps. The front panel houses a single mid-tweeter, while the left and right include both a bass driver and a mid-tweeter to enhance stereo separation. There’s one more high/ mid tweeter located on the top – just behind the main control panel -angled to bounce sound off the ceiling for Atmos effects.
The control panel has been updated to include a new touch-sensitive volume slider as well as Play/Pause and Forward/Back controls. There’s a microphone for use with Amazon’s Alexa and Sonos’ Voice Control system. There’s a Pause button to temporarily disable voice services and, for extra privacy, a power switch that shuts down the microphone.
The Era 300 relies primarily on Wi-Fi to connect to your home network and other Sonos speakers as part of a multi-room audio system. It also supports Apple’s AirPlay 2 and -finally – adds Bluetooth 5.0, albeit only supporting AAC for Apple devices, with no aptX for Android.
The back panel lacks the Ethernet port that has been included in previous Sonos speakers, replacing it with a USB-C port – you’ll need to pay for an adaptor to use this properly. A Line-In Adaptor with 3.5 mm connector will set you back £ while a Combo with both 3.5mm and Ethernet costs £
The difference it makes to songs is immediately obvious, just as it is on key rivals such as the Apple Home Pod and Amazon Echo Studio. The latter is a natural competitor for the Era 100 – but just how good is? the bigger, beefier new Sonos?
1 Squeeze box
Available in black or white, the Era 300 is an interesting-looking thing – pinched in the centre like an hourglass. This is due to the driver setup, with woofers angled left and right plus four tweeters: two to the sides, one to the front and one firing upwards.
2 Press box
The buttons are on the top as with most Sonos devices, but the key control – volume – has been redesigned and is now an indentation. You can slide your finger along it to go louder or quieter, or tap on the ‘+’ and ‘-’ at each end for small changes.
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3 Boom box
Sound quality is really impressive, even with non-spatial tracks. The clarity is exceptional and the sheer power is evident with bass-heavy tunes, while symphonic music just soars. The soundstage is admirably wide for the form factor.
4 Voice box
Support for smart speaker tech is great – you can choose Sonos’s own voice assistant if you just want to do the basics, or go for full Alexa, which works pretty well. But Google Assistant is no longer supported on these new Sonos speakers.
5 Outside the box
There’s now a Bluetooth pairing button on the rear too – yes, the Era 300 supports Bluetooth like the Roam and Move. It’s a sure sign that Sonos has realised it’s been excluding a large section of users who just want to connect their devices to speakers directly.
Sonos claims: “The entire room is your sweet spot,” and this speaker does an admirable job of creating room-filling sound. The opening piano notes of Moments Of Pleasure by Kate Bush drift lightly through the air and when her vocal enters the Era 300 captures its warmth and delicacy yet still creates a sense of presence that commands the space. This 2011 re-recording replaces the more piercing solo vocal of the original with the gentle tones of the Waynflete Chamber Choir, and the Era 300 bathes the room in their soft, harmonies during the chorus. The speaker lets the delicate tones of the piano fall through the air while capturing the almost imperceptible shimmer of cymbals that add a sense of urgency to the performance.
A similar gentle touch is shown on the lightly plucked harp that opens Sarajevo by Max Richter. As the piercing tones of soprano Sarah Leonard start there’s real tension between her soaring voice and the slow, deep surge of strings that slowly drive the piece forward. Then the Era 300 steps back and gives the orchestra free rein as the rapid swirl of the violins erupts, clashing with the slow military march of the horns. It may not be true spatial audio, but it creates the sort of expansive soundstage the track needs and provides room for the clash of sounds.
For true spatial audio, the Dolby Atmos remaster of The Beatles’ Come Together gets off to a good start creating an impressive sense of movement for a single speaker. The bongos skip across the room as the sharp tap of the high hat sets the pace. A firm, sinuous rhythm to the bass riff also seems to sway through the air around me. Then the Era 300 flexes its muscles as the lead guitar punches out into the room with a controlled power that kicks the chorus up a gear.
The Era’s Atmos support is perhaps best suited for use with films with an Atmos soundtrack and it does a good job creating a sense of movement in the opening sequence of Blade Runner, as the hover car zooms across the Los Angeles skyline, with the sound panning effectively over to my left as the car flies off-screen. Though it lacks a little bass and can’t quite dig down to some of the rumbling deeper moments, the Era 300 provides a versatile alternative to a conventional soundbar
|6 (2x woofers, 1x forward-firing tweeter, 2x side-firing tweeter, 1 x upward-firing tweeter)
|Dolby Atmos, automatic room calibration
|USB-C, Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0, AirPlay 2
|Sonos Voice Control, Amazon Alexa
So is the Era 300 worth the money?
Absolutely. It’s expensive for sure but it punches high and hard. It really excels at spatial audio, takes standard stereo recordings up a notch, and is a super-smart speaker if you add Alexa. Oh, and it can do all that Sonos multiroom stuff you expect too. You certainly won’t be disappointed.
The expansive sound of the Era 300 makes it a good option for music and films
- Clear, precise sound
- good sense of space
- Atmos support
- bass could be stronger
- extra cost for adaptor
Best Sonos Era 300 prices in the US ?
Best Sonos Era 300 prices in the UK ?
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SONOS ERA 100
The Era 300 is a big speaker. So, unless you really need to fill a big space, you may find the smaller Era 100 does the trick especially if you pair it with a second unit – two Era 100s cost only a few quid more than the Era 300.
If you want the Dolby Atmos sound, consider buying a pair of HomePods. Placed in a stereo pair these will match the volume of the Sonos Era though they don’t have quite the same level of immersion, and will cost you £ more.