STEREO GUIDE verdict
+ Lively, balanced sound with rich bass
+ Responds very reliably to voice commands even while music is playing
+ Bluetooth and Wi-Fi
+ Trueplay room calibration also works without iPhone
- LAN connection and analog line input only via separately offered adapter
- bass gets thin at higher SPL
Sound: Tonal balance / Transparency7.5
Sound: Bass / Dynamics7.5
Ease-of-use / Connectivity9.4
Although the IKEA Symfonisk Gen 2 is the entry-level Sonos speaker hard to beat when it comes to Value-for-money, their compact Sonos One is still a bestseller. After a rather slimmed-down version came onto the market with the One SL, the new Sonos Era 100 can definitely be seen as a successor to both this successful concept and the versatility of Sonos´ Roam. With some surprises in the form of new functionalities, which we will take a closer look at in this review.
In any case, the dimensions are very similar to the One, and the price was increased only moderately. In return, the Era 100 offers several important features a lot of people were always missing in the compact One. First of all, we are talking about Bluetooth and analogue inputs. Sonos also did not have a compact all-in-one speaker with virtual stereo imaging in its lineup until now, and you always needed an iPhone for their Trueplay room calibration, (exceptions being Roam and Move). For 280 bucks, the Sonos Era 100 is thus a multi-talent, especially since it also offers Airplay 2 and Roon compatibility. However, Sonos does not make a big fuss about the latter.
Virtual stereo from a speaker just 5 inches wide
We are usually a bit skeptical about overly narrow speakers with virtual stereo. We don’t expect any miracles in terms of ambience and focus from the Sonos Era 100’s width of just 5 inches either. The acoustic concept of the almost round speaker nevertheless sound convincing: A single woofer takes monaurally center stage for all frequencies from bass to upper midrange. Above this cone, two tweeters are placed almost laterally in the rounded baffle behind the metal grille and thus have the chance to broaden the imaging significantly.
Sonos does without a bass reflex vent or any passive driver. This concept of a sealed enclosure promises less maximum SPL and subjective bass power. However, it always proves to be an advantage when bass precision is an issue in acoustically difficult environments, such as near a wall, in a corner or on a shelf.
Sonos room correction now for Android as well
In these cases, the Sonos Era 100 offers a room calibration called Trueplay . In the past this used to solely work with iPhones. With the Era 100, however, you can choose to use the iPhone’s mic or the built-in microphones in the speaker. For Android users, this question does not arise at all. Due to the Android variety with devices from different manufacturers and correspondingly different microphones, Trueplay was only available for them on the two mobile speakers Sonos Roam and Move, which also controlled an independent calibration with their own microphones.
The Sonos Era 100’s self-sufficiency in terms of Trueplay does not only charme Android aficionados with the convenience of adjusting the streaming speaker to the room acoustics and its respective positioning. Apple fans can also rejoice. With the built-in mics, it’s now fast-paced. A few sweeps from the speaker and the matter is settled. Anyone who has ever gyrated around the room with their iPhone for a while full of contortions after instructions, only to be told by the app to do it all over again better, will surely join the joy in the Android camp. However, bean counters who want to get it exactly right may continue to use their gymnastics exercises for Trueplay while waving their iPhones.
Sonos S2 App: Voice control and many sources
The Sonos S2 app for iOS or Android is necessary in any case. With this one, you can not only set up the Era 100, but also add voice assistants. This can be done very easily with Sonos Voice Control. Apart from the general login required to use the S2 app via its Sonos account, no other registrations or user accounts are required.
A few clicks are enough and after a short activation phase, which Sonos bridges with information about its proprietary voice control, the operating help is ready on demand: “Hey Sonos, play music” is enough and playback starts. At the same time, I sat on the couch at a distance of a few meters. But even the next task was done perfectly by the ghost in the machine on the first try: “Hey Sonos, stop the music” stops the playback posthaste. Such tricks succeed even at loud listening levels or even from my working area located outside the actual listening zone – around the corner.
The voice control immediately recognized the wake word in all test runs, which can be recognized by a small LED at the upper end of the baffle when there is visual contact. And of course, you can tell from any position because immediately after the wake word is detected, the Sonos Era 100 gently lowers the audio to a quiet level for perfect communication with the user.
The developers have really done a great job. Four microphones ensure improved speech recognition, even through Alexa. The well-known Amazon voice assistant is available as a second option. If you have linked your corresponding Amazon account with the Sonos app, you can also use it to ask questions about the weather or the time, which the Sonos Voice Controller answers with “sorry, I don’t understand” at best. After all, it is purely for device control and should be a real boon for the visually impaired or blind. But it does not serve the user as comprehensively as the Amazon voice assistant. Above all, you can also communicate with Alexa in your usual language in many countries. In combination with Sonos Voice Control this privilege is currently only enjoyed by those who live in the English or French-speaking regions.
As for privacy concerns, Sonos assures you during the setup of its voice control that it processes the data locally, i.e. in the new neural processor chip of the Wi-Fi speaker, and does not record anything. At least it’s a small consolation, especially since English is very common among younger people. And if you don’t trust your voice assistant, you can turn it off completely via a slide switch on the back of the Sonos Era 100.
Touch and feel have improved
The touch controls on the top of the round speaker enclosure have also grown up compared to previous Sonos products. Thus, there are not only the usual control buttons for playback and track jump, but also a direct selection of the voice assistant and a stepless touch bar for volume control.
Bluetooth also works as a playback method without deactivating the Wi-Fi and Multiroom functionality. All you have to do to establish a connection is press the Bluetooth button on the top of the back. What I find really cool is that the Sonos Voice Control continues to listen very attentively and reliably complies with commands like “Hey Sonos, make it louder” even while using Bluetooth.
Analogue and LAN connection only via additional adapters
Analogue signals can be imported using an input adapter from 3.5 mm jack to the rear USB-C port of the Era 100, which is offered separately for 25 bucks. If you have a turntable with a built-in phono amplifier, for example, you can also listen to records very easily via the Era 100. The Sonos S2 app is used to switch to the line input. All those who do not want to do without Ethernet cables for the network connection of their Sonos Era 100 will also have to buy an adapter.
The smallest stereo Sonos in the listening test
Sonos did well to position the Sonos One SL slightly below the Sonos One in price, because otherwise it would be really tight for it at 230 to 280 euros – especially if its special compactness of the Sonos One does not count. The Sonos Era 100 is not only a good deal bigger than the well known entry-level model, it also sounds much more grown-up. This makes it worth every penny it costs more. The louder the playback, the greater the difference.
On the one hand, the Era 100 showed a much greater transparency in the mids in the listening test. And it also sounded much more open, fresher in the treble. In addition, we found a wide variety of recordings that led to some more substantial lower bass. Which was also showing more contour and precision. With some recordings the bass kicked properly. Only when it came to maximum SPL and dynamics, the bass got very subtle and lacked authority in order to avoid distortions or mechanical overload.
With its very dynamic, broadband reproduction full of detail, the Sonos Era 100 clearly sets itself apart from the Sonos One and the One SL, respectively. No traces of traditional American voicing were audible. The One in particular followed the Anglo-Saxon trend of a mild, warm tuning that had been cultivated for a long time and which sacrificed subtle details in the mid-high range.
Live now makes even more mood
The Era 100 therefore was pretty convincing, especially with live music. One could not only witness the applause or heckling very vividly. It even allowed capturing the acoustic fingerprint of the concert hall. For example, in the live version of “Psycho Killer” from the Talking Heads you could hear quite clearly that the recording was made in a large hall and not in an acoustically muffled recording studio. This was previously unthinkable for Sonos in this price range. In addition, you can’t get a wide stage out of a 12 centimeter wide multi-room speaker like you can with a hi-fi system with two separate, widely spaced stereo speakers. However, the Era 100 produced a much bigger picture in the test than the Sonos One, which is designed as a mono speaker. The sense of spatial depth thus gained in persuasiveness.
After we enjoyed a few tracks from the new Depeche Mode album “Memento Mori” on the Sonos with sonorous, clean synth basses, it was clear: The Era 100 really breaks a new era in terms of sound among Sonos speakers in the entry-level range. It is more broadband, crisper and more international in its tuning. This allows for much more authentic music playback than anything you’ve gotten from Sonos below the Sonos Five. And even against him, he still scores a point or two in some disciplines. Most importantly, for less than a Sonos Five costs, you get two Sonos Era 100s that you can connect into a stereo pair to experience true spatiality. The setup is simple, the price moderate, but the stereophonic effect decisively better. That’s just a little tip on the side.
Conclusion and alternatives to the Sonos Era 100
Those who use a Sonos system will find few compatible alternatives in this size. Both the Ikea Symfonisk Gen 2 and the Sonos One versions are cheaper, but offer much less than the Era 100. This is not only true in terms of sound. They also can’t keep up with the connectivity of the Sonos Era 100. And they are certainly not as practical as the new smart speaker with Sonos Voice Control and Alexa.
Sonos has been beating the drum for its new speaker line in the run-up and some colleagues could not get their reviews up fast enough. But in this case, there really is substance.
Specifications Sonos Era 100
- Retail price: 280 dollars/pounds/euros
- Dimensions (W x H x D): 12 x 18 x 13.5 cm
- Weight: 2 kg
- Features: 2-way, virtual stereo, stereo pairing, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Sonos 2 app compatible, standalone Trueplay room calibration, Alexa voice control via integrated microphones built in
- More at www.sonos.com
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