Review: New Sonos Era 300 - Wireless Spatial Audio Speakers
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New Sonos Era 300 Speakers New Sonos Era 300 Speakers
The new Sonos Era 300 is a voice-controlled wireless smart that introduces Spatial Audio to the SONOS ecosystem. The Era 300 immerses you in rich, room-filling sound that adapts to any space, lets you stream all your favorite music services with the touch of a button, and control everything from your smartphone. So, what's different in the Era 300 compared to previous Sonos speakers? Era 300 vs. Sonos Era 300 and Sonos Five? What configuration is best for the Era 300? And what the heck is "spatial audio"? 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.
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 deep with this review and my hands on performance testing of the Era 300. Immerse yourself in rich, room-filling sound that adapts to any space? Stream all your favorite music services with the touch of a button and control everything from your smartphone? Get ready to feel every beat, every note, and every word.
Sonos Speakers Then & Now Era 300: Sonos Speakers Then & Now
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 second speaker was the Play:3 in 2011 and was retired in July of 2018. The Play:3 is a formidable speaker for its size and has an impressive bass output due to its passive radiator. Five years after the Play:3 was retired, Sonos has released the . I think the Era 300 is finally a proper follow up to the Play:3.Era 300
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, 3) and it has to deliver superior sound in any home environment. I think that’s a fantastic approach to technology and streaming music.
Sonos is delivering audio upgrades and a new listening experience with the Era 300’s immersive spatial audio, enhanced Trueplay tuning, AND the Sonos voice control option. Sonos voice is built to control 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 Era 300 Unboxing Sonos Era 300 Unboxing
Sonos is dedicated to a simple unboxing experience and eco-friendly packaging. The Era 300’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 300 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, There are two locks on either side of the box with a tab to hold them in place.
Remove the tab, slide the lock and the top pops right off.
Inside the box is the ERA300, a power cord, and simple instructions for setup and that’s it. Nothing extraneous.
Sonos Era 300 Setup Sonos Era 300 Setup
The setup of the Era300 is a breeze - just like any Sonos device. Sonos wants to reduce your “Time to music”. 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: 1) A Near Field Chip method will ask you to place your phone near the speaker for it to authorize the Era 300 to access your Wi-Fi information from your phone. 2) A “chirp” method sends out a high frequency sound from the speaker to your phone OR, 3) Lastly, there is a PIN code on the bottom of the unit that you’ll have to type in.
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 300”. This is a simple walkthrough to get you familiar with button placement and new features.
New Design & Features New Design & Features
The Sonos Era 300 comes in a black or white matte finish and weighs almost 10 pounds. It’s short and stout a little over 6 inches tall, 10 inches wide and a little over 7 inches deep. But don't let the word "stout" turn you off. It is, in fact, quite a sleek and elegant design. Sonos will be releasing stands and wall brackets designed specifically the Era 300. The Era 300 stands will conveniently hide the power cord, will look seamless, and will be just the right height.
With the Era 300, 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. If you go slowly, the volume will adjust slowly. If you swipe quickly, it will quiet faster. 2) You can tap to raise or lower the volume. 3) And you can press and hold to ramp the volume.
You'll find updated playback controls on the top of the speaker. A standard play/pause button in the middle here, and they added 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 is a button on the top 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 that will make sure the microphone is never on. Green means it’s good to go. You’ll need this kill switch turned on to run their 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 "on".
An added "friendly" detail I found during setup was when I engaged the Sonos voice control. During the process I received 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.
Bluetooth & USB Connectivity Bluetooth & USB Connectivity
Something that the Era 300 (and Era 100) 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 300s 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.
Sound and Speaker Upgrades Sound & Speaker Upgrades
The Era 300 was designed to not just be a standard speaker but a spatial audio speaker, so you’ll be able to enjoy Dolby Atmos music from streamers like Amazon Music. Spatial Audio is the new buzz word immersive, 360-degree sound, or digital surround sound, where the sound seems to envelope you from all around.
As you can see the Era 300 has a unique look to it. There is a forward-facing center tweeter that is a compression driver and is supported by a pair of tweeters that are angled drivers which fire out of the sides for coverage. Finally, there is one that is slightly smaller that goes directly out of the top through a directional horn to reflect sound off the ceiling. There are two high-performance woofers on the sides to produce a balanced bass response. Way more bass than I thought it could put out. I was pleasantly surprised, because I usually like the throw on a Sub.
There are Six class-D digital amplifiers that Sonos tunes to the unique acoustic architecture of the Era 300. And, because they are their own drivers when they’re used as rear speakers they can also be used as an Atmos speaker.
The Era 300 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 300 is great in large rooms where it will fill the space.
As a stereo pair, I think it’s a great contender for top 2-channel systems for under $1,000 for sure. It has plenty of low-end output, so it doesn’t need a Sub. A Sub Mini isn’t a bad add-on for a 2-channel system, but the Sub Gen 3 would be better in a full surround. 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 three things.
For a home theater setup, when paired with the Sonos Arc ATMOS soundbar and a SONOS Sub, you’re creating a real 7.1.2 ATMOS surround system. It is a truly an immersive sound experience to watch a movie with a full Dolby Atmos setup. Previously, the best speakers you could have for rears in a Sonos ATMOS system were their Fives
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 60 seconds at most. A little longer if you have a Sub. 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 listen for yourself. But, really, it takes 60 seconds. It took me longer to explain it here than to set it up.
Which leads me to another big innovation with the release of the Era series speakers is 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.
Hands-On Performance Testing Hands-On Performance Testing
I tested the Era 100s in 5 different setups. And, I made an Amazon Music playlist because that’s the only service on Sonos that can stream High Resolution audio and Spatial audio.
As a Stand-Alone Speaker
I see this as the most popular setup for the Era 300. I replaced the Play:3 in my Bedroom and put the Era 300 in its place. The angled tweeters on the Era300 and dual woofers made a big difference by filling the large ceilings of the room. I even used the Sonos Voice control to set a sleep timer to have a cut off at night.
A perfect speaker for where you want sweeping music coverage in your home.
As a pair of Stereo speakers
I think you will find the Era 300 will benefit the most from a stereo pair. I tested it against my pair of Play:5 Gen2s and my bookshelf speaker two channel system. The Era 300s showed how much more spacious the sound could be with a more dynamic driver setup. I surprised people when I A/B tested the Play:5s vs. the Era300s. Most thought that the bigger speaker was playing the bigger sound.
Make sure you have open space for them to play. They work so much better when they’re not crowded. Because of that, I think the Era 300s would really benefit from the dedicated stands that will be released soon from Sonos. You’ll be able to place them in better locations to accentuate their spacious sound.
As rears with an ARC
I went to our showroom in Montgomeryville, PA where we have an Arc soundbar surround system setup with the Sonos Ones as rears and dual Sub Gen 3s. I watched a few Atmos movie scenes through our Kaleidescape system with the Ones as the rears and then swapped in the Era 300s. What a massive difference that made. Not only were the rear effects more present, but the Era 300s created a more spacious sound environment. If you have a big TV setup (like 60” and above), this is THE setup to have so your audio matches the impact of your video.
As Laptop Speakers
Music from Laptop speakers can be hard to listen to. Whether the classics to the more obscure, like Minor Threat, or your old roommate's band. This is where the Era 300s ability to use Bluetooth as an input came in handy. I was using my MacBook Pro, and easily added the Era 300s as speakers, and boom, I was ready to go. Using the Bluetooth connection, I could stream the music I wanted without having to load the Sonos software and share files. And when I wanted to take a break from listening to music, I used it to watch another YouTube video. 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 300s are remarkably flexible. This was perfect for my office, or any desk space that has multiple screens where you want to multitask with your content.
As TV Speakers
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. I was pleasantly surprised. The stereo pair sounds sounds quite good and can offer an alternative than having a soundbar, if you’re more limited on space under your TV. I can see the Era 300s on their stands with a TV in the middle for a funky, yet very minimalistic and clean install. However, you do lose the special features associated to soundbars like speech enhancement and night time mode. I think it looked cool and considered it a great test of the Era 300s capabilities. A real clever use case. I just bought a new TV cabinet and this could be my next setup.
How Does it Sound How Does It Sound ?
We get asked a lot on the comments from our videos and reviews: “How does it sound?!” We'll always recommend that you try to hear it for yourself. If we play it for you in a video, it's just not the same. But, if you're familiar with the Sonos lineup, I can make some direct comparisons for what the differences were like for me. And, I ran a Trueplay tuning on every setup so every speaker was on equal playing field.
In my music room, I have a pair of Sonos Play:5 Gen2s. I wanted to see how the Era 300s stacked up against them. I started by listening to Green Day’s Nimrod because I love that record and their new 25th anniversary release has a High Resolution release and sounds really good. The drum fill and bass lines in the middle of the song Scattered really showed the depth that the Era 300s could handle while still showcasing a crisp symbol. Also, the orchestral movement in Good Riddance paired with the acoustic guitar is very ethereal. Compared to my pair of Play 5 Gen2's, the Five's played a little flat in comparison and didn’t have as focused imaging. With the Era 300s, it felt like Billie Joe was center stage and singing while with my Play 5 Gen2s it felt more spread out. Just less "tuned in". I unconsciously kept switching to the Era 300 and leaving them play because I got in a groove and forgot I was doing a listening comparison.
Would I swap out my Play 5 Gen 2s for the Era 300s? Yes.
However, where I have my Play5: Gen 2s is not a good space for the Era 300s. There is not enough space to the left and right for them to play to their fullest potential. As I've said above: they like room to breathe.
Spatial Audio Setup
It’s important to understand that Dolby Atmos isn’t just for movies. It’s for music, too. I mentioned my Amazon playlist had Spatial Audio. If you haven’t spent some time and listen to spatial audio for music I highly suggest doing so. You can feel like you’re in the middle of a concert because the music is all around you. If you like the Beatles or The Rolling Stones you’re in luck, plenty of their releases are available. But, I’m into The Clash so I had so more searching to do for songs I dig.
What a joy it was to listen to “What’s up? By 4 Non Blondes”. I just sat back and took a deep breath and enjoyed the music on all sides of me. And, as I was listening to “You oughta know by Alanis Morissette”, I actually looked to the right in the middle of the song as I was expecting there to be a speaker there even though I knew there wasn’t. I still looked because the sound was surrounding me unlike ANY other time I’ve listened to just TWO speakers.
Then I jumped into Space Oddity by David Bowie. It was like swimming in music. What an amazing new way to listen to music. If you’re into modern music a lot of new albums will be readily available. Some classics have already been remastered to make use of this new format. I’m sure you’ll find something you’ll love. Either by discovering something new like Harry Styles’ As It Was, or reliving a classic like Oingo Boingo’s Weird Science.
A not so traditional setup for the Era 300 was one I used with my meditation app, Calm. I first thought I would Bluetooth to the Era 300 but in my heart I knew it would be available to add as a streaming source. Luckily, it is one of the hundreds of streaming services that Sonos can access. It was way better than connecting through Bluetooth because I wouldn’t have to worry about my phone illuminating and pulling my attention or being interrupted by a phone call or text alert. With the Era 300, it felt like I was swimming in relaxing audio as opposed to it feeling like a speaker next to me.
Final Thoughts Final Thoughts
I really appreciate the funky look and sound of the Era 300 and I’m glad that SONOS introduced an Atmos Speaker that wasn’t a soundbar.
Pros: Spatial audio provides immersive sound. Bluetooth and USB-C connectivity. Quick, easy setup. Room-filling sound. Sleek, modern design. Can be used as Dolby Atmos surround speakers.
Cons: These cannot be placed in crowded spaces, they need "room to breathe" to maximize spatial audio performance.
Where would I use this? I plan on moving my Play:3 to its new home, and I’ll be putting an Era 300 in my bedroom to make use of the Spatial Audio, Auto Trueplay feature and get Sonos voice control. I’d also like to get a stereo pair and find a good spot for them in my music room. I might have to get a different furniture setup to make them work, but I do want that Dolby Atmos music ability. I’m still 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 or the Beam Gen 2. If I go with the Beam Gen2 I’ll use the Era 100s as my rears. If I get the OK to upgrade to the Arc, I’ll go with the Era 300s so I can do a true ATMOS setup.