The Sonos Era 300 and Era 100 were unveiled this week, and though we only had a very brief hands-on session with the two, the new smart speakers definitely have a lot of potential - to the point we can’t wait to get them into our listening room for proper testing.
Highlights include completely reworked speaker designs, which Sonos claims will lead to big audio quality improvements across the board, as well as the addition of Bluetooth and USB-C connectivity to both speakers.
As an added layer of allure, the larger, more expensive Sonos Era 300 even has spatial audio support, which makes it a direct rival to the Apple HomePod 2 - one of the best smart speakers we’ve ever reviewed.
But while we’re excited about testing the new Era speakers imminently, naturally many readers (and the What Hi-Fi? team) have already started speculating about what could be next in the pipeline. Specifically, whether a new, currently unconfirmed, speaker to succeed Sonos's most premium offering, the Sonos Five, might be on the cards.
Here to help add to the excitement we’ve jotted down our top five wishlist of things we’d like to see from a potential, fabled Sonos Era 500.
1. An updated design
The Sonos Five isn’t ugly. It’s just a very utilitarian-looking box of a speaker, where the only real design flourish is the Sonos logo on its front. In fact, our reviewers went so far as to say: “straightforward in the manner of a brick, the Sonos Five hasn’t so much been ‘designed’ as ‘hewn’.”
This is why we’d like to see any successor, like the rumoured Era 500, have a similar design update to the Era 300 (pictured above). To catch you up, the new 300 speaker has a "cinched hourglass" aesthetic we thought looked rather nice during our hands-on session at the launch event, leading our eyes on the ground to conclude:
“The quirky design makes it stand out – in a good way – compared to other traditional single speaker designs on the market.”
- First impressions: read our Sonos Era 300 hands-on review
2. Better audio - particularly with its handling of the low end
The new design would also fit into our second big request - improved audio. We didn’t have massive problems with the Sonos Five’s sound quality, but our reviewers did find its low end was a little too flabby for serious listening without TruePlay - a tuning technology that only works if you are streaming from an Apple device.
Playing Moodymann’s Taken Away from a non-Apple device, we found the Sonos Five’s sound was altogether too bass-forward and lacking in definition, with the lower frequencies dominating the rest of the frequency range.
We’d like this issue to be fixed on any successor to the Five. Thankfully there's a strong chance this could happen. We haven’t tested the Era 300 to see if the problem has repeated itself yet, but the good news is that Sonos has done work to improve the newer speakers' audio delivery.
Specifically, Sonos has loaded the Era 300 with six drivers. There are four tweeters (one forward-firing, two side-firing, one upward-firing to deliver spatial audio with Dolby Atmos) and two woofers (angled left and right for stereo playback). Each of the six drivers is also powered by its own class D amplifier.
It would make logical sense for Sonos to do a similar redesign on any other new Era speaker, like the hotly rumoured Era 500.
3. Spatial audio with Dolby Atmos for music and movies
The Era 300 is the first speaker Sonos is marketing as being bespoke designed for spatial audio playback. This is an immersive audio technology we're increasingly seeing in the world of music, which uses Dolby Atmos to create “a sphere of sound” – where you can hear the audio coming from all directions, including above you.
The new speaker's driver arrangement is specifically designed to let the Era 300 deliver tracks in spatial audio with Dolby Atmos, but it can also be paired with a Sonos Arc or Beam Gen 2 soundbar to act as rear Dolby Atmos speakers in a home cinema system (going up to a 7.1.4 Atmos configuration with a Sub).
We’ve not had a chance to test it yet, but some of the team are already excited about the addition after hearing quite how much work Sonos is doing to ensure there’s music, as well as movies, to listen to in spatial audio.
As a result, we’d really like to see the same multi-channel Atmos surround ability also appear on the Era 500, if it ever appears.
4. More Bluetooth, please
The new Era 300 and Era 100 are the first home speakers from Sonos that support the Bluetooth 5.0 standard, which supports the standard SBC and AAC codecs. This is great news for people that place convenience over having the best audio possible, as it means you can stream music to them from pretty much any modern electronic device and streaming service quickly and easily.
This is why we’d really like to see the connectivity also appear on any subsequent Era or Sonos speaker, including the 500.
5. Wider hi-res audio support
Our final request comes from one minor quibble we have with the Era 300’s connectivity - as it stands the Era 300 (and Era 100) only supports playback of 24-bit/48kHz hi-res music from Qobuz and Amazon Music.
With many of the team using other streaming services, like Tidal, as their daily driver for personal music streaming we’d really like to see hi-res support over Bluetooth and wi-fi rolled out to more platforms on the potential Era 500, and Era line in general.
Of course, we can't even begin to speculate on things like pricing (no prizes for guessing it might be priced higher than the Sonos Five or Era 300), but a more premium speaker from Sonos with better specs and better audio will certainly have our attention.
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