Connections: Wi-fi, AirPlay 2, Bluetooth, USB-C line-in
Dimensions: 16 x 26 x 18.5cm
The Era 300 is a versatile beast, with more playing options than ever, courtesy of Bluetooth, line-in, wi-fi and spatial audio. It sounds superb with greater expression and dynamics, and has all Sonos's usual smarts and effortlessly user-friendly design. A must at the upper end of Sonos's smart stable.
- Detailed, dynamic sound
- Convincing spatial audio
- Wide streaming support
- Wired connection needs adapter
- No Tidal Dolby Atmos support
Connections: Ethernet, wi-fi, AirPlay 2, 3.5mm line-in
Dimensions: 20.3 x 36.4 x 15.4cm
It's bigger and bulkier, and doesn't have as many playing options, or spatial audio. Despite these shortcomings, the Five is still a compelling proposition, thanks to its good – but not great – room-filling sound and seamless Sonos multi-room integration.
- Room-filling, loud sound
- Well made and finished
- Can form a stereo pair
- Forward, lean presentation
- Bulky size
- No Bluetooth
Sonos has a range of wireless speakers to suit many situations and budgets, but these two are its two highest-end offerings.
The Sonos Five launched first – it's the brand's priciest speaker, and comes with a 3.5mm line-in port for connecting a turntable. The new Era 300 is positioned just below the Five. Its special skill? Spatial audio. Hence the unique design – the idea is to spread tunes all around the room, and this cinched hourglass form factor is the best way to do that, apparently.
They, briefly, are the speakers. But which is right for you? They're priced very similarly, but there are some notable differences elsewhere in terms of specs and performance that you should be aware of. Let's see how the two compare.
Sonos Era 300 vs Sonos Five: price
As the most premium speakers in Sonos's line up, both models are pricey propositions. The current Sonos Five is an evolution of the Sonos S5, which became the Play:5, then the Play:5 Gen 2, and then the Five. It launched in 2020 for £499 / $549 / AU$700, but Sonos now sells it for £549 / AU$899 (the US price hasn't changed). Which just shows how bad the cost of living crisis has got.
But don't worry, it can be picked up cheaper elsewhere. Current best prices are at around £440 (though the US and Australian prices are stubbornly sticking close to the RRP).
The Era 300 launched at the end of March 2023, and is positioned just below the Five. It sells for £449 / $449 / AU$749. There's a real dearth of deals around at the moment – that's due to the product's newness, and the fact that Sonos kit is rarely discounted. So if you do see a deal, snap it up.
**Winner: Draw (depends on your location)**
Sonos Era 300 vs Sonos Five: design
The Era 300 looks like no other smart speaker that's gone before it. It's a far cry from Sonos's other devices, with a unique cinched hourglass design that helps it deliver spatial audio, firing sound out in all directions to create a truly room-filling acoustic experience.
There are some neat touches. The control panel on the top has an enhanced volume slider (which is recessed like a trough), and it works seamlessly with other Sonos speakers. Both Era 300 and Five have touch controls that are responsive, too.
The Five looks a bit drab in comparison. It's very similar to its predecessors from which it evolved, and considering the first-generation Play:5 launched in 2009, we're looking at quite an old design. It's also quite a lot larger than the Era 300, which is the more compact and interesting-looking of the two.
Like all Sonos products, though, the Five is finished to a high standard, and comes in the standard black or white colourways. Used on its own, the Five is intended to be positioned in landscape orientation, but you can prop it up in portrait, especially if you want to use a pair of them for true stereo sound. You'd have to make sure there's ample space on your shelf to accommodate it, though.
**Winner: Sonos Era 300**
Sonos Era 300 vs Sonos Five: features
Being top-end Sonos speakers, these both come packed to the gills with features.
Spatial audio is the feather in the new Era 300's cap. Inside are six drivers (four tweeters, two woofers, all powered by dedicated Class D amps), which fire sound in all different directions to create a truly room-filling sound. Because the Era 300 was designed with spatial audio with Dolby Atmos very much at the forefront, it even plays Apple Music Spatial Audio tracks, becoming the first non-Apple-made device capable of doing so.
It also supports Dolby Atmos Music via Amazon Music Unlimited, but not Tidal. Not yet, anyway – Sonos says it "will continue to add more listening choices and partners", so it could be coming at some point in the future.
The other big sell of the Era 300 is that it has both Bluetooth 5.0 and a USB-C line-in port, making it the first Sonos mains-powered speaker to offer both. That means you can listen to music beamed wirelessly over Bluetooth from your phone (it supports the AAC and SBC codecs), and even hook up a turntable (though you'll need an extra adapter for that, which costs £19 / $19 / AU$35). Spatial audio only works over wi-fi, not Bluetooth.
Wi-fi listening comes as standard (courtesy of WiFi 6), and voice controls come courtesy of Sonos's own voice assistant (for handling music playback only) and Amazon's Alexa for further smart home control. The mics can also be muted using a new speech bubble button, or turned off entirely with a switch on the back of the speaker.
There's no Google Assistant, however. Sonos says this is due to a change in the technical requirements for Google Assistant on third-party devices. The company told us in a statement: "We’re evaluating these requirements, but it’s a heavy engineering lift and we’ll continue to prioritize work that builds on our vision of voice assistants all working concurrently. We remain hopeful that Google Assistant will be part of this ecosystem one day, but that’s really up to Google."
As well as being used for music, the Era 300 can be used as a rear surround with the Sonos Arc or Beam Gen 2 soundbars to work as part of a Dolby Atmos home cinema system.
And it supports Trueplay tuning for Android users for the first time, but with the speaker itself performing the room analysis with the built-in mics in order to optimise the sound (called 'Quick tuning' in the app). On iOS, the iPhone's mic handles this part – called 'Advanced tuning' in the Sonos app.
The Sonos Five doesn't support spatial audio and is designed for stereo output. It supports external devices like turntables too, but has a 3.5mm line-in rather than a USB-C. It has a more conventional driver arrangement, with six blocks of Class D amplification powering six speaker drivers: three mid/bass units (facing more-or-less forwards), two tweeters angled quite strongly outwards, and a third tweeter facing dead ahead.
It has Apple AirPlay 2, but no Bluetooth, and TruePlay calibration but only for iOS devices. No mics means no voice controls, though if you pair it with another mic-enabled Sonos speaker you can control it by speaking.
Of course, both speakers can be controlled by the Sonos S2 app, which comes with all the multi-room powers that Sonos is renowned for, as well as plenty of EQ settings, music streaming service and radio integration. Both speakers are a doddle to set up and use.
But the Five has a fairly reduced feature set in comparison, but that's not surprising given its age. With the Sonos Era 300, you're getting quite a lot more for the money.
**Winner: Sonos Era 300**
Sonos Era 300 vs Sonos Five: sound
This is what it all comes down to. Both of these speakers are designed to create a room-filling sound, but which really justifies its price?
The Era 300 has an immense sense of scale that screams 'spatial audio'. It projects sound further into the room and overhead more confidently than any other similar wireless speaker we’ve heard, such as the Apple HomePod 2.
And it's not just about scale – the quality is impressive too, with tracks sounding wonderfully solid and cohesive, and that goes for stereo as well as spatial audio. Songs have ample detail and fluid dynamics, whether you’re listening to an ’80s rock anthem or a piano-led classical piece. There's texture and solidity behind each note, and there's a better sense of the emotion behind the vocals.
Listen in spatial audio, and the scale becomes even more pronounced. Tracks expand far beyond the confines of the speaker, with the spread of sound so convincing that it’s hard to pinpoint where exactly the music is coming from. Though this effect does vary depending on the song and how it’s been mixed for spatial audio.
You can also tweak how it sounds using the Sonos app, adjusting the height channel’s level to suit how loud or intense you want the effect to be. Overall, the Era 300 shows a very mature, very assured sonic performance.
The Five doesn't have spatial audio, and while it can't quite compete when it comes to the scale, it does still go very loud – a tad louder than the Era 300. Despite its larger size, it's not too bass-heavy, either, and the soundstage is admirably spacious. The top of the frequency range is a little rounded off, which stops treble sounds becoming hard or edgy at higher volume. The result is a speaker that doesn't sound different as you crank up the volume, just louder.
Vocalists are given enough room and aren't swamped by the instrumentation, but the presentation is a touch forward and lean compared with the Era 300's more expressive and capable sound. Bon Iver's vocals on Exile sound rather reedy and flat on the Five, while Era 300 delivers deeper textures and personality. The more subtle second-stage dynamics of harmonic variation can elude it, too, especially when a recording is especially dense or otherwise complex. It's just not as impressive as its newer, more accomplished, sibling.
**Winner: Sonos Era 300**
Sonos Era 300 vs Sonos Five: verdict
When the Era 300 first leaked, rumours abounded that it would replace the Five as Sonos's top-of-the-range smart speaker. That didn't happen – the Five remains Sonos's biggest speaker, and it's still a decent option if spatial audio isn't a deal-breaker. It's loud, detailed and forthright, and of course fits seamlessly into your Sonos set-up.
But the Era 300 is clearly a cut above. Spatial audio, Bluetooth and the USB-C line-in make it Sonos's most versatile speaker yet, but it's the audio performance that's ultimately more refined and more capable. It's hands-down our winner.
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