OPINION: This week we had fresh rumours emerge suggesting multi-room audio specialist Sonos is set to unveil not one, but two new speakers: the Sonos Era 300 and Sonos Era 100.
While I always suggest taking reports like the latest from The Verge, with a pinch of salt - even if the information is correct now, a lot can change in the months ahead of a product’s launch - in this instance, I still couldn’t help but feel a twinge of excitement and praying one key part of the “leak” is true.
Specifically, the larger, presumably more expensive Sonos Era 300 will be “designed for Atmos audio."
To catch readers up, Dolby Atmos is a surround sound technology that first appeared in 2012 and is currently the main rival of DTS:X. It improves on 5.1 and 7.1 set-ups by adding overhead surround channels which, in theory, envelop the listener in a dome of sound.
The tech is a common site on a lot of modern sound systems, including the newly launched Apple HomePod 2 smart speaker and Sonos’ current generation Arc and Beam soundbars. However, it’s not currently supported on the Sonos One or Sonos Five speakers which launched a few years before it became widespread.
Atmos' addition to the Era 300, probably doesn’t sound like a huge upgrade, more a move by Sonos to keep pace with its main rival, the HomePod 2. But for me it’s a huge deal as it could, if accurate and done properly, let me create the Sonos home cinema setup I’ve always wanted.
The ability of Sonos speakers to speak to each other and create simple yet effective multi-room setups is a constant reason they’ve scored well when they’ve passed through our listening rooms over the years. But, I’ve always hated the fact that, even though it’s fine, the speakers don’t have Atmos.
On the one hand, this is because, if done correctly, it can make any standalone listening experience more enjoyable and immersive. The HomePod 2, for example, does a fine job with music encoded in Dolby Atmos and it contributed to our five-star verdict when we reviewed it.
So having it on the Era 300 is great. But more importantly, it means I could in theory pair the new 300 with a current-gen Sonos Beam (Gen 2) or Sonos Arc soundbar to create a truly immersive Dolby Atmos home cinema experience. This would be a key feature that would let you create a proper Atmos set-up with clever speaker placement that in theory would go beyond what’s on offer with rival sets.
Apple only lets you run two HomePod 2s in stereo through its latest Apple TV 4K (2022). To be clear this isn’t to say the 300 would work well, the team of experts at What Hi-Fi? would need to actually test the setup first (as they currently are with the HomePod 2 in stereo). But the prospect of being able to do it at all is very exciting. This is especially true if Sonos retains the same blissful easy setup process we’ve enjoyed while testing its current generation speakers and soundbars.
If it could pair this open, easy-to-use system with proper, reliable Atmos surround sound performance, then the Era could be a huge release that finally makes Sonos a good recommendation for movie fans.
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