How do you follow up on one of the best wireless smart speakers on the market? Sonos hit the sweet spot jackpot with the Sonos One back in 2019, with its enjoyably sophisticated sound, compact size, extensive streaming features and affordable price meaning it easily found its way into people’s homes – not to mention a five-star What Hi-Fi? review.
But Sonos isn’t the type to stand still and rest on its laurels. For the sequel, the company went back to the drawing board and redesigned the entire speaker.
Enter the Sonos Era 100. Now packing stereo sound and Bluetooth streaming alongside its plentiful wireless streaming talents, the Era 100 looks to be a souped-up speaker that aims to improve on its predecessor with panache.
The Sonos Era 100 will cost £249 / $249 / €279 / AU$399 when it goes on sale on 28th March. The outgoing Sonos One launched at £199 / $199 / AU$ back in 2019 – a £50 / $50 increase in price from a four-year-old speaker doesn’t seem like too much of an extra outlay in the current landscape, and that’s before you consider the multiple improvements you get with the Era 100.
The new Era 100 will effectively replace the One, but this will happen over time rather than immediately – so you can still nab a deal or two while stocks last. Currently, the One is selling for as low as £159 in the UK at certain retailers.
At this price, the new Era 100 also veers dangerously close to the five-star Apple HomePod 2, which offers a convincing wireless speaker experience for just £50 / $50 more than the 100.
Build & design
The Era 100 has been refreshed from the ground up, with Sonos stating that there isn’t a single bit of the old One in the new Era 100.
Both models are in keeping with Sonos’s clean, minimal design and are built to a high standard, but the new speaker’s shape is fairly different. The rounded square design of the One is gone; the new Era 100 is a more oval shape. The Era 100 is one inch (about 2cm) taller) and a tad heavier too (2.02kg vs 1.85kg) but it’s still a compact wireless speaker. We found it easy to fit onto any shelf, desk, table or corner in the home – that’s near a mains socket, of course.
The Era 100 comes in a matte black or matte white finish, and the wraparound grille now stretches to the edges more than before for a seamless look.
Why the change to the shape? This isn’t done just for aesthetics; it’s also to accommodate the new drivers inside the Era 100. One of the biggest changes for the new Era 100 is that it delivers stereo sound. The One was mono only.
To that end, inside are two angled tweeters with custom waveguides, alongside a woofer that’s 25 per cent bigger than before. Sonos says this should deliver "detailed stereo separation" and deeper bass. All three drivers are powered by their own Class D amplifier. Sonos is typically tight-lipped about power ratings, but even a quick listen confirms the new Era 100 sounds louder and more powerful than the old model.
Bluetooth 5.0 (SBC, AAC)
Wireless/wi-fi AirPlay 2, wi-fi 6
Battery life N/A (mains-powered)
Features Stereo pairing, Sonos voice control, Amazon Alexa voice control, Trueplay tuning, Adjustable EQ
Connections USB-C line-in (separate adapter required)
Dimensions (hwd) 18.25 x 12 x 13.05cm
Finishes x2 (matte black, matte white)
The speaker’s interface and on-unit controls have been updated, too. Touch capacitive buttons return for music playback and voice control, and there’s a new volume slider in the form of a ‘trough’ in the top panel. Sliding our finger along this ‘trough’ changes the volume smoothly and at satisfying increments (albeit a bit too keenly at times).
Around the back, you’ll find the Bluetooth pairing button and a switch that turns the speaker’s mic on or off. While you can tap the speech bubble icon on/off to enable/disable voice control, Sonos has added this extra physical switch for full privacy and peace of mind if you never, ever want any voice assistant listening in. Handy.
You’ll also find a USB-C line-in connection for hard-wiring sources like a turntable or music player. The downside is that you’ll need an adapter to complete the wired connection, but Sonos doesn’t include it in the box. It does sell the line-in adapter (USB-C to 3.5mm aux) on its website for £19 / $19 – which feels like a rather steep price to pay for a small dongle.
The Era range marks the first time Sonos has included Bluetooth in its wi-fi-based home speakers and the flexibility is more than welcome. It uses Bluetooth 5.0 and the standard AAC and SBC codecs are supported. Pairing is pleasingly swift with our iPhone 12, while the connection remains stable throughout.
There’s no support for spatial audio like big brother Era 300 (the Era 100’s small form factor wouldn’t do justice to the spatial audio effect, says Sonos), but 24-bit audio streaming is supported for local files and through Qobuz and Amazon Music Unlimited.
The Sonos control app is where the speaker’s multitude of functions and features are unlocked. The current Sonos S2 platform makes the whole experience that much smoother and more sophisticated. The app lets you integrate a huge amount of music sources, from all the major streaming services (Apple Music, Amazon Music, Tidal and more) to various internet radio stations. You can also control every element of the speaker: its name, which room it’s in, playback, multi-room grouping, voice control, EQ settings and more. If you’re brand new to the Sonos ecosystem, don’t worry – every bit of the app is easy to navigate for tech pros and novices alike.
The Era speakers are the first to host Sonos’s own voice control (available in English and French only), alongside Amazon’s Alexa. There’s no Google Assistant – Sonos cites a change in technical requirements for third-party devices that would need a “heavy engineering lift” for the Era, so it seems they’re at an impasse. Meanwhile, Sonos’s own voice control is focused just on music playback commands, rather than controlling smart home or automation features. It responds to its wake word (“Hey Sonos”) and natural speech well during testing. It’s not quite as nuanced as Apple’s Siri (which learns your music tastes when linked with Apple Music), but it’s a handy and more private alternative for those who want to make simple music-related requests but don’t want any of their data stored in the cloud.
Another welcome returnee is Sonos’s Trueplay room calibration tuning, which optimises the speaker’s sound depending on where it’s placed in the room. The good news is that this is now available for Android users for the first time. While iOS users can continue using their iPhone’s mic (now called Advanced tuning in the app), Android users can choose the Quick tuning option and use the microphone inside the Era 100 speaker for the calibration.
Both methods work well and you can toggle the tuning on and off to hear the difference. We’ve always found the tuning helpful and it proves the same once again with the Era 100, as it nips in the initial booming bass and delivers clearer mids that sound better in our listening room. Additionally, you can use the EQ sliders for treble and bass to adjust the sound even more to your liking.
Other features we weren’t able to test out for this review but are worth mentioning: you can link two Era 100s together as a stereo pair, and home cinema fans will be pleased to know you can use the Era 100 as surround rear speakers with the Arc, Beam (Gen 1 and Gen 2) and Ray soundbars.
The Era 100 takes everything we liked about the Sonos One – crisp and detailed, spacious sound, deep bass – and cranks it up a dozen notches. It sounds so much bigger, more spacious, more detailed and deeper in the bass, while still retaining a great handle on timing, dynamics and its even tonal balance.
The spread of sound you get from what is still a fairly compact speaker is really impressive. The delivery is powerful, with voices projected out into the room with confidence. The Era 100 sweeps you up into the groove of a song from the get-go, whether you’re listening to Lizzo’s exuberant About Damn Time (toe-tapping rhythm, taut bass) or are enveloped in the instrumental interplay of Four Tet’s Circling.
The bass delivery isn’t just deep and powerful; the Era 100 manages to flesh out the shape and texture of basslines in demanding songs like Massive Attack’s Angel with admirable dexterity. Where the Sonos One gave a decent impression of that brooding tone, the Era 100 gives it actual depth as well as delivering it with excellent agility and control.
It’s an impressive step up in performance, offering a new-found openness that allows instruments and voices space to breathe while still delivering each element as part and parcel of a musical whole. Detail levels are plentiful, with the acoustic guitar strums and nuanced, ragged textures of Corey Taylor’s voice in Bother coming through clearly.
There’s an ease with which Sonos delivers every track we play through it. It never feels dull or distant, nor does it try to attract your attention unduly; this is an overall pleasing sound that is comfortable to listen to for hours.
Yes, if you push the volume up far too high a coarse edge begins to creep in, but the Era 100 filled our large listening room without needing to reach party levels. We try the Bluetooth connection and that same, easy-going character is present, if a touch less crisp and clear than when streaming over wi-fi.
Does this mean you should immediately throw out your old Sonos One? Not so fast. While the Era 100 does admittedly improve on it in nearly every way, sonically, the Sonos One still does a great job of keeping music knitted together in a cohesive manner. It’s a smaller, less refined sound, but there’s a full-bodied richness to the voices that we really like. It’s the only element we wish Sonos had carried over to the Era 100, which doesn’t quite deliver the natural warmth of human voices as convincingly as the Apple HomePod 2. The Era 100 does demand your attention more than the Sonos One, however. If you’re keen to upgrade, we’d simply find separate rooms for them to live in.
How else does the Era 100’s sound compare with the HomePod 2? It’s easily a bigger sound and goes louder with more gusto, but Apple’s wireless speaker offers a tad more nuance and dynamic subtlety. It doesn’t stop us from enjoying the large-scale, spacious and forthright nature of the Era 100, though.
There are few rivals that compete with the Sonos Era 100’s versatility and array of features at this price. Sonos’s gamble of making this speaker from scratch has paid off with winning results on the audio front.
Those already part of the Sonos ecosystem will find the new Era 100 speaker difficult to resist, while those new to Sonos will find it a charming entry to a capable and feature-rich wireless speaker experience with plenty of extra goodies to play with.
- Sound 5
- Features 5
- Build 5
Read our review of the Sonos One
Also consider the Apple HomePod 2
Sonos Era 100 vs Sonos One: which Sonos smart speaker should you buy?
Want spatial audio? Read our Sonos 300 review