The Era 100 is presented at the same time as the Era 300. It is the latter that receives a lot of attention, partly because spatial audio can play. The Era 100 is much more classic and less groundbreaking. But that doesn’t make it unimportant. After all, it succeeds the Sonos One, which in turn was the offspring of the Play:1. These were the cheapest and smallest wireless speakers from Sonos, the devices that often lured new people into the Sonos ecosystem. The Era 100 will also have to take on that role, although its price is higher than before. The new Era 100 will be in stores for 279 euros, higher than the 219-229 euros you paid for the last generation of the Sonos One. However, it’s unrealistic to expect wireless speakers to escape the price hikes you’re seeing everywhere else. But if you’re looking for a bargain, may still be able to pick up the last Sonos One copies at around 200 euros. However, the production has come to an end, we understand from Sonos. The Era 100 really is the substitute.
You do get something for the slightly higher price. Apart from any acoustic improvements, the Era 100 brings a new Trueplay, Bluetooth on top of WiFi and a line-in option that should make vinylistas happier. As before, the Era 100 may also be the popular option to expand a Sonos soundbar with rear channels. Although it does get stiff competition from the more expensive Era 300. It can also play Dolby Atmos height channels in combination with an Arc or new Beam. A demonstration of such an Arc setup with two Era 300s in the back was quite impressive. But: the Era 300 is significantly more expensive than the Era 100, and you need two for a surround setup.
|streaming||Sonos app, AirPlay 2, Bluetooth|
|Extras||Trueplay, line-in via optional USB adapter, voice control|
|Dimensions||18.25 x 12 x 13.05 cm|
The step to true stereo
The Era 100 has a different design than the One. Not so radically different from the Era 300, but still quite modified compared to its predecessor. If you point the vertical Sonos logo at you, you’ll be right in front of the center woofer. It is a larger driver that accounts for both bass and upper mids. Two tweeters are placed above it. Left and right of the logo, one at a time. They are at an angle and therefore do not radiate straight at you. That could not create a kind of dead center in the middle, but we see that Sonos has placed a waveguide in front of the tweeters. It has a calculated shape so that sound waves radiate wider. It would not surprise us that something is also being done in this area in terms of software.
Sonos also drops that the new speaker has faster hardware on board, including a neural processor. “For later,” it says. Apparently, Apple isn’t the only one working on computational audio.
The two tweeters in the Era 100 also receive a different part of the audio signal. They effectively play the left and right channels separately, bringing the Era 100 closer to true stereo performance. It is true that tweeters mainly play higher frequencies – we do not know the crossover point at Sonos – and that lower tones (including voices) will come via the single woofer. That means that the stereo image is not always so pronounced.
You don’t notice much of all those technical things on the outside. The Era 100 presents itself as a sleek object with little to indicate that it is packed with technology. Characteristic of Sonos is that a design that deliberately effaces itself was again chosen. The intention, according to the designers, is precisely that you do not see the Sonos speakers in an interior. That works, although we still find the design futuristic-streamlined. And that works better in some interiors than in others. It’s not always as effaced as the designers want it to be.
As always, there is nothing negative to say about the materials used and the build quality. The Era 100 seems perfectly assembled; if you hold it, it feels very solid. Nothing creaks, bends or feels cheap. Not bad for a speaker of 279 euros. If you take a smartphone of the same price range, you often have a completely different feeling.
Compared to the Sonos One, the Era 100 is more of a cylinder. It’s also a few inches taller, with a slightly smaller footprint. Visually, this makes it appear slimmer. Our black Era 100 showed dust hard. Some dust particles got stuck in the small holes that are made around and removal was not so easy. For that reason alone, we would opt for the white version.
Few brands are more app-centric than Sonos. Yet the Era 100 continues to have a physical control. A useful adjustment has been made here. With some Sonos devices, you can change the volume by swiping. However, in practice it was sometimes difficult to work with the touch-sensitive surface because it was barely distinguishable from the rest of the housing. The Era 100 therefore has a groove on the top. Your finger finds this very quickly by touch and you can make music louder or quieter by swiping. In addition, there is a button to pause a song, flanked by touch buttons to jump forward or backward in the playlist. A final button is hidden at the back. With this slider you switch the microphone on or off by hardware. This button also seems to be the reason why no Era 100 SL appears (yet?).
Era 100 is turntable ready
Despite the fact that Sonos is the brand that has made streaming music services great, record players are remarkably often included in the photo with the speakers. However, connecting a turntable to Sonos has always been cumbersome and expensive. You could only connect a record player to the Sonos Five, Sonos Port or Sonos Amp. Those are more expensive options. Now it is also possible with the entry-level speaker (and the Era 300). But not just like that, because you need an extra USB to line-in adapter for that. It costs 25 euros (or 45 euros if you want an adapter that also contains an Ethernet adapter). However, we have not yet received this adapter, so we cannot tell you anything about the quality. It looks like a very compact thing in which an ADC chip is crammed. You can of course also connect other audio devices to this line-in, such as a CD player or a DAP.
For those who want to connect a record player to Sonos: choose a turntable with a built-in phono amplifier. There are plenty to be found, including at Project and Argon Audio. Otherwise, you still have to provide a separate phono amplifier between the record player and Sonos One. Something to take into account if you are tempted to purchase a vintage record player.
The line-in on the Era 100 doesn’t get much attention, but it’s an important step. It gives a cheaper way to hook something like a record player to your Sonos system. After all, you can also send the record that you play in the living room on an Era 100 to the Sonos speakers in the kitchen.
True play for everyone
Sonos has offered the Trueplay feature for years. This adjusts the sound coming from the speaker so that it sounds optimal in your room. After all, all kinds of things in a room, such as the shape and the furniture present, influence the sound we perceive. Just think of how tiles in a bathroom make music sound very bright. Fortunately, that phenomenon can be compensated for by software such as Trueplay. This function works by playing test tones and having software analyze them. Sounds complex, but as a user you have to do very little.
However, Trueplay was reserved for people with an iPhone or iPad. It required a microphone with known characteristics and only Apple consistently used the same type of microphones in its mobile devices. With Android, with its multitude of manufacturers and models, there wasn’t that consistency.
That is a nice and justified explanation from Sonos, but as an Android user it did not really help you. Of course it was only one function, you could just use the Sonos speakers. You only needed an iOS device for the measurement, so you could also borrow one or invite an iPhone owner for a bite to eat.
Fortunately, Sonos has now found a solution. Or partly. You will now also find the option to set up Trueplay in the Sonos app on your Android device. However, listening to test tones does not happen via the microphone of your smartphone or tablet. The built-in microphone on the Era 100 is used for this.
We quickly notice that this new Trueplay measurement is much shorter than the old (but still available) Trueplay procedure. The speaker plays test tones for half a minute and that’s the end of it. If you measure via an iPhone, it will take a little longer. You then have to walk through the room with your mobile device, while slowly waving the thing. Still funny to watch.
As before, you can quickly enable and disable the Trueplay correction via the app, so that you can judge for yourself what you like better. A first measurement that we performed was disappointing. The end result was duller and collapsed, while without Trueplay it appeared fresher and more spacious.
The greatest asset of the Sonos Era 100
Are you already familiar with Sonos? Then you can safely skip this part. The app experience hardly changes with the introduction of the Era 100 and Era 300. If you are not familiar with the Sonos app yet, please read on.
Setting up the Era 100 is very easy. Sonos has a lot of experience in this area and you will notice it. There is hardly anything to criticize about the current set-up procedure. You let the app search for a speaker, which then identifies itself with a sound, and then you’re almost done. On your phone you are mainly busy giving all kinds of permissions so that the Sonos app can do its job: Bluetooth, location, microphone.
The Sonos app is of course the foundation of the entire brand. These are not audio devices with many buttons and VU meters, the intention is that you do everything via your smartphone or tablet. The Sonos app has also been refined over the years, so that the user experience can be called excellent. The app supports just about every relevant streaming service, including a few you won’t find on rival platforms. Apple Music and YouTube Music, among others. You can also find Spotify completely in the app, but you can also continue to work with the app of the music service.
You can listen to internet radio via TuneIn, where all local stations can be found, but you can also grab Sonos Radio. It offers successful thematic stations and artists’ channels. Apple Music also scores in that area, by the way. You can listen to your own music files, as long as they are not hi-res material or difficult formats.
A strong part of the Sonos experience is how easily you operate multiple speakers. Whether you have each speaker (or Sonos soundbar or other device) play something different or group them ad hoc, it’s very easy to arrange. We continue to regret that you cannot put multiple devices in a permanent group. Nowadays you can create a semi-fixed group (‘everything in the kitchen’) that you can select quickly.
Bluetooth to your Sonos system
A new function with the Era 100 (and the Era 300) is Bluetooth. New? It is not the first time that Sonos offers this, is it? Indeed, you will also find Bluetooth with the Sonos Roam and Move. However, it is an alternative if you do not have WiFi reception, for example if you want music in a holiday home or garden. With the Era 100 it’s just another way to get music to the speaker. To pair your mobile device, you must hold down a button on the back of the Sonos display, the pairing process cannot be started from the app.
That linking went very smoothly in our case. We were able to connect our Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 to the speaker without any problem and play a Qobuz playlist. You can also play that music stream on other Sonos speakers in the house. As with the line-in, you can also play that music stream on other Sonos speakers in the house. An Era 100 is therefore a gateway for Bluetooth streaming for your entire system. Of course you have to stay close to the linked Era 100 to stream smoothly.
Fuller and mature
One of the first things we’re curious about is how the Era 100 handles it in terms of stereo. A first impression was that you do indeed notice something in terms of soundstage. It remains one speaker that plays, but there is a wider view where you notice differences when you walk from one side to the other side of the speaker. It is certainly much nicer for static listening – in the sofa, for example.
A playlist full of favorite tracks that Apple Music generated for us took us to ‘Bang Bang Bang’ by Tracy Chapman, among others. This is a song that sounds better on the Era 100, partly because the percussion can be heard on a larger background. There seems to be more depth in the reproduction, giving you a more live feeling. But don’t expect the ultimate from the stereo either; two separate speakers remain superior in this area. This is also possible with two Era 100s that you combine into a stereo pair, but we have not yet been able to test that. Personally, we think that step to stereo is a valuable one to make, at least in a living room.
In terms of reproduction, the Era 100 indeed takes a step forward. It’s a more mature sound served to us on Anna B Savage’s ‘inFLUX’. The London singer is much more there, with more texture in her voice. Here and there there are also atmospheric sounds, such as fingers sliding over strings, that stand out more from the mix. If you turn the volume up wide, you get a more compressed and unbalanced feeling with small wireless speakers. That’s also the case here when things get really loud; the trumpet on Coltrane’s ‘Blue Train’ then gets a shrill edge. You can go further with the Era 100 than with most small rivals.
When it comes to bass extension, the Era 100 is a minor miracle somewhere. Feel free to blast some Berlin techno through the speaker and get a club feel. ‘The Magic Number’ or ‘Change in Speak’ on the reissued ‘3 Feet High and Rising’ classic by De La Soul play so convincingly rhythmically that you start to move along. The fun factor is still satisfactorily high. But those basses don’t really dive deep – in this area we’re not convinced that so much more comes out of the Era 100 than before. If you really want to complete the picture at the bottom, you should really look at a Sub Mini. Not only with thumping beats, by the way, but also with large-scale orchestral works.
Conclusion Sonos Era 100
The Sonos Era 100 remains the entry-level model in the Sonos universe. So there are some limitations, inherent to a small size and relatively limited power. On the other hand, it remains a stunning all-rounder that beautifully presents music for a relatively low price. The Era 100 does that more openly, detailed and more balanced than before. At least as important is the slick app experience that allows you to track down masses of music without thinking. It may not be an immense step forward compared to the Sonos One, but it is progress.
- A step towards true stereo
- Line In (optional)
- Convincing, full sound reproduction
- Step towards stereo and wider soundstage
- Excellent app
- (mini)Trueplay compromises on detail
- Line-in and Ethernet are optional