Home Theater Systems Buying Guide
Home Theater Receivers Buying Guide
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The new Sonos Era 100 is a voice-controlled wireless smart speaker and represents the first significant audio upgrade that Sonos has made to its smaller speaker lineup in quite some time. Sonos touts it as the "next-gen home bookshelf speaker". I will back that. Not only does it have a new design, but there are plenty of new features and connectivity options that demonstrate Sonos' commitment to innovation for not just the audio quality, but for the user. So, what's different in the Era 100 compared to previous Sonos speakers? Era 100 vs. Sonos One and Play:1? Should you switch out your old Sonos speakers for the Era 100?
I put this brand new speaker to the test and then some in this review, so read on. If you’ve watched our YouTube channel, you know I’m kind of the “go-to” guy when it comes to Sonos. I’m always excited to get my hands on their new releases - I'm a gadget and music guy, and Sonos has always scratched that itch for me. If you’re new to our YouTube channel, we have an entire playlist of videos devoted to Sonos. Buckle up. I go into detail. Get ready to immerse yourself in your favorite music like never before and experience a new level of sound quality and clarity that will blow you away from such a small speaker.
So how did we get here? … to this “new era” of Sonos speakers? Sonos was founded in 2002 with the mission to help music lovers play any song anywhere in their homes. They had a long way to go before the technology even existed to make that dream a reality. Their first release, the ZP100 one of the first streaming amplifiers which came out in 2005. Sonos didn’t release an all-in-one speaker until the Play:5 in 2009. The Play:5 led to the Play:3 in 2011, and then the Play:1 in 2013.
Today, Sonos’ rate of innovation and speed to market has drastically increased with a slew of new releases over the past few years. Sonos has a speaker for just about any room. I attribute this to Sonos’ commitment to their 3 principles. 1) Setup has to be fast and intuitive for anyone, 2) It has to integrate well with any technology or service, and 3) it has to deliver superior sound in any home environment. I think that’s a fantastic approach to technology and streaming music.
The original Play:1 was my favorite gift to give for a long period of time. I gave one to my sister, my brother, my mother, you get it. I personally owned (5) Play:1s at one point... I loved those little speakers. Sonos replaced the Play:1 with the Sonos One in 2017, but there wasn’t much of an audio upgrade when the One came out. It was slightly larger, and added Voice Control, but other than that, it delivered a very similar audio experience. For me, I didn’t need voice control, so I never upgraded.
Fast forward to 2023 with the release of the Era 100. Almost 10 years after the Play:1’s debut, and Sonos is finally delivering audio upgrades to the smaller form factor speaker... and now I’m tempted to switch out my system with the Era 100’s improved audio, enhanced Trueplay tuning, and the new, dedicated Sonos voice control option.
Sonos voice is built specifically to control your music. When you ask for an esoteric low-fi band from Southern California there’s a better likely hood that the Sonos voice platform will know what you’re talking about rather than Alexa whom is searching almost any iteration of that word. Keeping the music first allows them to be more accurate at playing what you want to hear and more specifically what you asked to hear.
Sonos is dedicated to a simple unboxing experience and eco-friendly packaging. The Era 100’s packaging is made of entirely recycled materials. SONOS has also started to incorporate this philosophy into the materials that they use to build their speakers. The Era 100 is constructed with the most recyclable and eco-friendly materials to date. Sonos has even updated the power cord wrapper to a recycled material so there are no plastics involved at all.
Sonos wants the speaker to be unboxed and ready to go as fast as possible, and with a single strip to pull on, the box opens, and you have access to everything very quickly.
Inside the box is the ERA100, a power cord, and simple instructions for setup and that’s it. Nothing superfluous.
The setup of the Era100 is exactly like any SONOS device and it's a breeze. Sonos wants to reduce your “Time to music”. So setup is seamless and quick. Once you have the SONOS app on your phone and you’re connected to your network, SONOS will walk you through the process.
There are (3) ways to connect your new speaker:
Once the speaker is ready to be setup, a prompt in the SONOS app will appear asking if you want to add a new speaker. Follow the on-screen instructions and you’re ready to go.
The whole process took 4 minutes to add both speakers AND combine them into a stereo pair. After they’re added into your system, Sonos offers a run through of how your new speaker works, called “Get to know your Era 100”. This is a simple walkthrough to get you familiar with button placement and new features.
The Sonos Era 100 comes in black or white matte finish and weighs a little under five pounds. At around 7” H x almost 5” W x and 5” D, it’s taller than the One and the Play:1 by almost an inch and comes in at about a pound heavier. The difference in the body is that it’s not as much of a rounded off square and is a lot more oblong/cylindrical with a wraparound grille. It's super clean and minimalistic. Sonos will be releasing stands and wall brackets designed specifically the Era 100 which will maintain the clean minimalism by conveniently hiding the power cord and allow your speakers to sit at just the right height.
You'll find updated playback controls on the top of the speaker. There are three distinct ways to control the volume directly on the unit itself: 1) A new swipe-able volume control. The speed that you swipe will adjust the ramping speed of the volume. So, if you go slowly, it will go slowly. If you swipe quickly, the volume will adjust faster. 2) You can also tap to raise or lower the volume. 3) And you can press and hold to ramp the volume.
Also on the top of the speaker, you will find a standard play/pause button in the middle and a dedicated button to skip forward and skip backwards. These functions were available on their previous speakers, but you had to remember to swipe left or right or double or triple press the play button.
There also a button to turn the microphone on or off (it will have a white light if it’s on), and there is also a kill switch on the back towards the bottom that will make sure the microphone is never on. Green means it’s good to go. You’ll need this turned on to run Sonos' new quick Trueplay feature, but you can disable it once you’ve finished. A quick reminder: you will not be able to enjoy Sonos’ Voice Control or Amazon Alexa while you have the kill switch set to "off".
I discovered an interesting detail Sonos added for the user when I engaged the Sonos voice control. During the process I got a warning that I had to engage the microphone on the left speaker because it was chosen by the Sonos app to be the dedicated speaker to listen for voice commands. Funny thing is the right one had the microphone engaged but it wouldn’t let me proceed until I fixed the switch on the left speaker.
Something that the Era 100 (and Era 300) have that the One and Play:1 did not have, is the addition of Bluetooth as an input. Bluetooth 5.0 to be exact. It is a concurrent Bluetooth input just like on the Sonos Roam where it will stay on your network and be available via Bluetooth (unlike the Sonos Move). The Bluetooth input can be shared to any room in your Sonos ecosystem, so you’re not limited to a single player. This makes it easy for friends and family to use their phone to play music through your Sonos system without having to download the app or get on your Wi-Fi. Press and hold the Bluetooth button and it will quickly go into pairing mode and you’re set. While testing it, I used Bluetooth in a variety of ways, but my favorite was connecting the Era 100s to my MacBook to act as much better speakers than what the laptop could offer.
But Bluetooth isn’t the only way to get non-Sonos music into your Sonos system. There is also a USB-C input on the back of the speaker here. Sonos gives you two options of what you can do with the USB-C. They are selling USB Attachments that will allow you to connect a 1/8” stereo cable to add in something like a turntable. The other attachment will have a 1/8” stereo input and an ethernet, aka network connection. Since most people will be connecting to this speaker wirelessly, Sonos didn’t want to take up real estate on the speaker for a network connection.
The Era 100 totally shifted the soundscape of Sonos' small entry level speaker with this new design. It’s not just going to have a 47% faster processor to handle the demand needed for Voice Control, High Resolution Audio, or using their Phase array technology when it’s a rear speaker.
Sonos has also upgraded the speaker architecture. The Era 100 has two tweeters instead of one tweeter in the Play:1 or One, to create better stereo imaging alone, or if you’re using them in a stereo pair it will create a more spacious sound stage.
The Era 100 has a 25% larger midwoofer than its predecessors and is shaped much like oval midwoofers that you’ll find in the Arc, Beam, or Ray. This lets the bass be a lot punchier. It also has a custom waveguide to help create that wider soundstage
There are Three class-D digital amplifiers that Sonos toons to the unique acoustic architecture of the Era 100
That additional height and larger midwoofer will give you more bass response, but while I played with it, I did add my Sub Mini to the mix to get the oomph I really wanted.
The Era 100 can be used in three configurations: 1) as a standalone speaker, 2) a stereo pair, or 3) as rears in a home theater setup.
As a standalone speaker, the Era 100 is great in the kitchen, office, bedroom, or wherever you want to add a little music.
As a stereo pair, I think it’s a great contender for top 2-channel systems for under $1,000 for sure with the help of the Sonos Sub Mini. I’ve always felt two Ones and a SUB Mini were a great starting point for a 2.1 channel musical setup, but when I set up a pair of the Era 100s with the Sub Mini, it felt like a more substantial listening experience. The Sub Mini took over the heavy lifting for the low end and the Era 100s midwoofers could focus on filling out the midrange instead of playing double duty. The dual tweeters made it feel like vocals were more present, and the soundstage more open.
If you add in the Victrola Stream Onyx that has the “works with Sonos” designation, you have a well-rounded audio system for a little over $1,500 and you only had to buy four things.
In regards to a home theater setup, when paired with an ATMOS capable soundbar, Sonos engineered the Era 100 to utilize the same phase array technology that the Beam Gen 2 has so you can create a simulated ATMOS setup. It’s not a true ATMOS setup because there aren’t dedicated channels to the height speakers, but it will use psychoacoustics to create the feeling of an enhanced audio setup.
If you’re like me and have the Sonos Playbar, I will warn you that the Era 100 will not work as rears with the Playbar.
If you want a true ATMOS setup with Sonos, make sure you watch our video about the ERA 300 where I go into more detail about Sonos’ first full 7.1.2 Atmos surround system.
A crucial part in any Sonos speaker setup is running Trueplay, Sonos’ room calibration software. The Era series speakers come with the ability to do a “quick tuning” of Trueplay that will use the microphones built into the speaker to do a very quick calibration. I’m talking about 30 seconds at most. This is perfect for someone who wants a quick setup and doesn’t want to walk around with their phone for 5 minutes doing the standard Trueplay.
Do not set this speaker up without using this feature. It benefits the sound so much, and if you need to hear for yourself, you can. In the app, you can turn it on and off to A/B test for yourself. But, it takes 30 seconds. It took me longer to explain it than to set it up. Slightly longer if there is also a Subwoofer.
Which leads me to another big innovation with the release of the Era series speakers: Sonos has finally released Trueplay calibration for Android devices! You asked for it, and they listened. It won’t be the same as if you were using an iOS device because there are still a great number of microphones that the Android phones could use, but SONOS wanted to make sure you could tune your system if you were an Android user. The result is the SONOS app will make a couple suggestions on how they’d like to tune the system, and then you can pick which is the one you like the most. I’m glad that SONOS finally found a way to add this feature to the Android ecosystem.
I tested the Era 100s in 5 different setups. I made an Amazon Music playlist because that’s the only service on Sonos that can stream High Resolution audio AND Spatial audio . The Era 100 isn’t rated to do spatial audio, but the Era 300 is (and I was testing the Era 300 right after this).
I see this as the most common use case for the Era 100. I replaced the Play:1 in my kitchen and put the Era 100 in its place. The bigger speaker made sound a lot bigger in my little room. The two tweeters made a big difference by using the space a lot more to its advantage, and the bass bump made things shake a little more. I also started to really use the Sonos Voice control in my Kitchen more than anywhere else because my hands were usually occupied.
The Era 100 is the perfect speaker for where you want music coverage in your home and you don’t have a lot of space to give up.
I would love to see more people setup a pair of Era 100s in stereo, because that was the most fun setup that I tested. I set this up at my office desk, and played it against a pair of Play:1s, a pair of powered speakers with a S2 Sonos:Connect, and my Playbar (yes, I have all that and more at my desk). The Era 100s showed me that my powered speakers were a little muddy in the mid-range, versus how crisp things sounded with the 100s. It felt like it had the most impact while I was listening. This setup really allowed me to experience the audio difference between the Play:1 and the Era 100.
I say this a lot, but if you do setup a stereo pair, match it with a Sub Mini. In all the setups I tested, I kept going back to this one to compare it against other systems in my house. The additional investment in a Sub Mini will greatly impress you and improve your experience. I promise.
A stereo pair would be perfect for a home office, study area, or with a turntable in a dedicated music space.
I borrowed a Beam Gen2 from our showroom so I could test out the Era 100s as rear speakers. The Beam Gen 2 and the Era 100s created an Atmos-like surround system. Together they created a more spacious sound environment. It’s not just acting as a direct surround speaker, the Era 100 is creating a sound reminiscent of having multiple speakers by using its two tweeters and their phase array technology to make it seem like they’re placed differently. It was a far more enveloping sound environment than using Ones as rears because you get a real sense that there is height to your rear channels.
This is perfect for a surround system for TVs up to about 50”.
When I wanted to take a break from listening to music and wanted to watch another YouTube video, I used the Era 100s ability to use Bluetooth as an input. I was using my MacBook Pro, and easily added the Era 100s as speakers, and boom, I was ready to go. I even swapped my MacBook for my iPad when I wanted to run a video in the background while continuing to prepare for this review.
The Era 100s are exceptionally versatile. This was perfect for my office, or any desk space that has multiple screens where you need content overload.
This is the out of the box configuration that I tried out. Since Sonos added the option for a Bluetooth input, I felt I might as well test it with my TV and I was pleasantly surprised. The stereo pair sounds quite good and can offer an alternative to a soundbar, if you’re more limited on space. I can see the Era 100s on their stands with a TV in the middle as a very minimalistic and clean install. However, you do lose the special features associated to soundbars like speech enhancement and night-time mode. I considered it a great test of the Era 100s capabilities, and a clever use case. I actually really enjoyed it.
We get asked a lot in our reviews and videos: “How does it sound?” Well, that is hard to reproduce in a video or typed out here. However, if you’re familiar with the Sonos lineup I can make some direct comparisons for what the differences were like for me. I ran a Trueplay tuning on every setup so every speaker was on equal playing field.
First: does it sound better than the Play 1? Yes. I found the Era 100 to have a better bass response and a wider sound stage.
Second, does it sound better than my Play 3? Yes, by just a little. The Era 100s have a distinct separation between the high frequency and the midrange which I felt increased their clarity, while maintaining enough separation for the low end.
It’s really an impressive speaker for its size. I even tested it against my PlayBar. I found the Era 100s to have better bass response and were musically more dynamic.
For the best re-play possible with the Era 100, Sonos does suggest placing them with 8 inches of clearance. Don’t crowd them, they want room to breathe.
I really appreciate the new look and sound of the Era 100. I’m glad that Sonos has finally upgraded the audio in their smallest form speaker.
Pros: Bluetooth and USB-C connectivity. Quick, easy setup. Updated, more intuitive playback controls. Room-filling sound. Sleek, modern design. Added tweeter and larger midwoofer provide more spacious sound and punchier bass.
Cons: These should not be placed in crowded spaces, they need "room to breathe" (approximately 8-inches of clearance) to maximize audio performance.
Would I switch out my old Sonos speakers for the Era series? Yes. I plan on finding my Play:1 a new home and I’ll be putting an Era 100 in my kitchen and dining room to make use of the Auto Trueplay feature and get Sonos voice control. I’d also like to add these as a stereo pair at my programming desk, because yes, I have two desks in my office. I have different setups based on tasks, I can’t help it.
I’m trying to decide if I’m going to go with a full Atmos setup in my living room and I haven’t decided between the Arc and the Beam Gen 2. (I live in an apartment, for context). If I go with the Beam Gen2, I’ll use the Era 100s as my rears and (if I get the OK to upgrade at home) to the Arc, I’ll go with the Era 300s so I can do a true ATMOS setup. If you are thinking about doing this, check out our other video where I’ll spend some more time explaining why.
With so much going on with this release, I'll leave you with a few simple Q&A's that have come up below.
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