A fine upgrade in several ways over the One, the Sonos Era 100 benefits from a sleeker design, reconfigured driver setup and a spate of features that make it a more accessible option for more users. But in terms of whether it sounds better than its predecessor, the One still has the edge with clarity and detail.
- More emphatic bass delivery than the One
- Quick Tune Trueplay
- Supports Bluetooth connectivity
- Wider sweet spot
- Excellent app interface
- Hike up in price
- Arguably too bassy
- No adapters included with speaker
Quick Tune TrueplayCalibrates speaker with a tap in the app
ConnectivitySupports Bluetooth and Wi-Fi
The Sonos Era 100 is the first notable update to the now iconic Sonos One, boasting a revamped driver setup, design and additional features including very welcome Bluetooth connectivity.
This new era doesn’t mark a change in Sonos’ approach to wireless multi-room sound as such, but it does represent a change in tone, a more accessible product with an audio performance that’s been reconfigured. Is this new era all it’s cracked up to be?
- Taller, sleeker appearance
- Switch for turning mics off
- USB-C port replaces Ethernet
In a straight comparison to the Sonos One, the Era 100 is taller, deeper and around the same width, but the gentle curvature of the Era makes it look slimmer. The footprint it takes up is around the same too, able to fit onto surfaces such as kitchen desktops and into bookshelves.
It still adheres to Sonos’ ‘Industrial’ design aesthetic that matches up with the rest of the speakers and soundbars, though the Era 100 has a sleeker appearance that makes the One look squatter by comparison. The LED light that was on top of the speaker has been repositioned to the front so the status of the speaker can be seen wherever you’re seated.
On the top surface are touch capacitive controls employed for operation (playback/track skipping), with a slider in the middle to manage volume (you can just tap either end to increase or decrease).
The built-in microphones can be turned off via software and hardware solutions. There’s a button on top to stop voice assistants from eavesdropping, while a switch on the back of the unit disconnects power from the microphones completely. That ensures both voice operation and Trueplay are disabled. Also, rather hidden on the speaker’s rear is a button for Bluetooth pairing.
The Ethernet port is gone, replaced by a USB-C port. The speaker can still be hardwired into a router, but an adapter is required, of which Sonos sells two: Sonos Combo Adapter (Ethernet) and Sonos Line-In Adapter (computer, turntables, etc). The USB port also allows for devices to be connected such as a USB-C to Lightning cable for older iPhones.
It’s a change that probably won’t go down well as some (especially businesses) prefer to hardwire to avoid a wobbly connection. It feels unfortunate that not one of the adapters is included. Choices of colours are the standard black and white.
- No Google Assistant integration
- Adds Bluetooth support
- Sonos Voice Control for hands-free playback
Almost everything expected from a Sonos speaker is ticked off with Era 100, with a few new additions and one notable omission. The omission is the lack of Google Assistant. Google has changed the requirements for its inclusion on third-party devices, so the decision as to whether it’ll come to the Era speakers appears to have been left in Google’s court.
For voice operation it’s Amazon Alexa and Sonos Voice Control, the latter solely for managing music. With the Voice Control, say “Hey Sonos”, and you can ask it to play music, or ask for a song, album, radio station or track from a compatible streaming service.
Currently, Sonos Voice Control isn’t set up for Spotify or Tidal and doesn’t seem to think Qobuz exists (or believes I’m asking for something else) – but it does work with Amazon Music. I’ve found that you need to speak loudly for it to hear (or just get closer to the speaker) and in a fun feature, Sonos Voice Control is voiced by Mr. El Pollo Hermanos himself, Giancarlo Esposito, if you choose US English or French in the Voice Control settings.
There is the Sonos app whereby users control various functions and access a wide array of music streaming services such as Sonos Radio, Deezer and Qobuz or fiddle with settings. Even though there are plenty of settings to wade through, the Sonos app remains an intuitive one, easy to navigate, swift in terms of response and visually feels more upmarket than Denon’s HEOS.
With the Era speakers comes a new version of Trueplay in Quick Tune. Instead of having to wave an iPhone around a room to calibrate the speaker, the user can tap a button in the Sonos app and the Era 100’s built-in speakers measure the space around it to create a listening profile that matches the room’s acoustics. It’s quite a speedy process, taking up to 20 seconds.
Quick Tune is available on Android devices (with Trueplay having been restricted to iPhone previously) and it’s an addition that makes Sonos speakers more accessible to users. If you have an iPhone, you still get the choice of the more advanced version of Trueplay whereby you waft the smartphone about while moving around the room. You can manually adjust bass, treble and loudness levels in the Sonos app too.
Pair two Era 100 speakers together and stereo sound is possible, and there’s multi-room in daisy chaining Sonos speakers together, handing audio off from one speaker to another. As was the case with the One Gen 2, you can wirelessly connect two Era 100s to a Beam Gen 2, Ray, or Arc as rear gunners in a home cinema setup. The Era 100 doesn’t feature upfiring speakers like the Era 300, so the audio is more directional.
Wireless options include Bluetooth 5.0, improving the Era 100’s accessibility by allowing more devices, and there’s casting over Wi-Fi with Spotify Connect and AirPlay 2 (for iOS devices).
- Bigger emphasis on bass
- Wider sweet spot
- Not as subtle as the One
The innards of the Era 100 have undergone a revamp from the One. That speaker’s two Class-D amplifiers powering a tweeter and woofer setup make way for three class-D digital amplifiers that power two angled tweeters and a woofer. The tuning for the Era 100 has also changed as well, with a bigger emphasis on the lower frequencies.
This has the effect of the Era 100’s performance being weightier across the frequency range; bass has more heft, the midrange is presented with more solidity and treble is thicker in description.
Stranger feat. Mikky Ekko benefits from this meatier bass with a more explosive presence, and it’s the same with Jacob Collier’s All I Need and Thundercat’s Them Changes, all generating more depth, variation, and extension to bass frequencies than the original Sonos One could.
And that bass power is not at the expense of vocal clarity either, but the change in tone lacks a few characteristics that made the One and One SL as good as they were. The Era 100 lacks that lightness in describing the midrange; its weightiness means that while it’s still unearthing similar levels of detail, it does so without the same subtlety and deftness of touch.
The Era 100 isn’t as bright as the One when dealing with treble either. Abba’s Winner Takes it All has very good vocal quality: a clear, fairly uncoloured sound that’s in the realm of neutrality, but the piano in the track sounds rolled off and dulled, and the same can be said for GoGo Penguin’s Erased by Sunlight. There’s not much bite or shine to the higher frequencies, leading to what amounts to a safety first, middle-ground approach.
I’d encourage playing around with the EQ to alter bass and treble levels, though these changes don’t present themselves in a sharper or brighter manner for high frequencies, just that it draws out the treble over and above midrange and bass.
Trueplay could almost be described as bass management. Out of the box with no tuning, the Era 100 sounded limp, and after a Quick Tune it was at the races with a punchier, more rapid reproduction of low frequencies. And having placed this speaker in four different positions in two rooms the level of bass has been consistent in each location after each re-tune.
Sonos says to carry out a retune every time the speaker is moved, but I’d say it’s more important to do this if you’re taking the speaker from a freestanding position to one where it’s either enclosed or reinforced by something behind it. A retune helps get bass back in step.
Turn the volume up and the DSP (digital signal processing) kicks in, and this means that bass levels don’t increase in step with overall loudness. In fact, it seems to get smaller and hollow, but unless the Era 100 is being used for parties, I’d struggle to see why you’d need to turn it up over level 50. At 40 it’s a big, room-filling speaker.
Compared to the similarly-priced Denon Home 150, the Sonos incurs a bigger bass performance, but the Denon is the richer, more musical presentation matched against the Era 100’s neutrality. The Sonos isolates voices better than the Home 150, but the richness of the Denon’s midrange and added expression with voices such as Phoebe Bridger’s in her Punisher album, Michael Jackson’s in Ben and Janelle Monae’s in Can’t Live Without Your Love offers a more fluid and defter performance. This is where the Sonos’ weightier signature doesn’t play into its benefits.
Nevertheless, the angled tweeters put forward a wider listening spot than the Sonos One can manage when shuffling across a room. The One’s vocals have a defined point of origin, but the Era 100 comes across as more seamless and consistent wherever I sit in a room. Bluetooth requires hammering the volume way up as the speaker is very quiet at normal levels, and in terms of streaming it maxes out at AAC quality.
Is the Era 100 better sounding than the One? At first, I would have said yes, but over time they each have their characteristics that will appeal to some and less so to others. I find myself preferring the crisper sense of detail and clarity of the One over the weight and firmness of the Era 100. They’re both very good, and if you felt the One was short of bass then that’s made up for in spades with the Era 100.
Should you buy it?
If you felt the One lacked bass:
Bigger, more powerful bass is on the menu for the Era 100, though arguably at the expense of subtlety and detail. Still, for parties this Sonos speaker has plenty of welly to its low end.
If you don’t want to pay more:
A jump up of £50 in the UK makes it more expensive than the Denon Home 150, a wireless speaker with similar set of skills.
Is this new era of Sonos speakers better than the old one? In some ways yes, in others not as much. The Era 100 is a powerful, weighty speaker, more capable in handling the low end than the Sonos One was, but at the expense of subtlety in the midrange and outright brightness in the treble.
It’s arguably too bassy, though that emphasis gives various music genres such as R&B, Hip Hop and Pop more impact and excitement. And it is more accessible than the One was with the inclusion of Bluetooth and Quick Tune Trueplay that opens the speaker to being used with more devices and by more people.
Perhaps at the end of the day, the Era 100 is a more fun, energetic speaker compared to the clinical nature of the One, which again may speak to its mainstream appeal. It does come with a price hike, so while the Era 100 may not be an out-and-out home run over its predecessor, there’s much to enjoy about music in its presence.
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Tested with real world use
Compared to similarly priced speakers
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Sonos Era 100
120 x 130.5 x 182.5 MM
Two tweeters, one midwoofer
Bluetooth 5.0, Wi-Fi
Matte black, Matte white
Midrange refers to the part of the frequency range that sits between the bass and treble. The midrange is the area that handles vocals and most of the instruments heard in a track. It can also be in reference to midrange loudspeaker drivers that replicate this area of the frequency range.
AirPlay 2 is the second generation of Apple’s proprietary wireless streaming tech, which is built into all of its hardware products (and supported by many others). It’s designed to pass content from your Apple device – music, video and photos – to a compatible receiver over your Wi-Fi network such as a TV, wireless speaker, AV receiver etc.