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Sonos Era 100: The Next-Gen Home Bookshelf Speaker

The Sonos Era 100 replaces the Sonos One, the flagship speaker in the manufacturer’s range. The Era 100 now opens the manufacturer’s range and has a more prominent speaker and two tweeters for almost stereo playback. And that’s not all. A line-in and Bluetooth appear alongside AirPlay 2 and voice assistants. Let’s see how the Era 100 stacks up against the One.

Pros

  • Excellent tonal balance and sound resolution
  • Extended spatialization with two tweeters
  • Bluetooth compatible
  • Maximum sound power
  • Acoustic calibration
  • Alexa and Sonos Voice Control voice assistants
  • Pleasant user experience

Cons

  • Google Cast and Google Assistant not included
  • A medium level of microphone sensitivity
Sonos Era 100 2

DESIGN


Sonos remains faithful to its aesthetic choices, and the Era 100 does not represent a break with the One. A little higher, this speaker is almost entirely covered with an aluminium grille, sensitive to fingerprints in its black livery. The speaker top houses a more advanced touch zone, with volume control now possible by sliding in a groove on the side. However, the + and – symbols can still be tapped traditionally.

Sonos has kept the internal layout of the Sonos One the same. The Era 100 is still a 2-way speaker, which relies on a bass-midrange driver-oriented towards the listening area. The size of the driver has been increased by 25% (it is now ovoid), which should allow for a higher volume without requiring more power from the amplifier.

Another new feature includes two tweeters to widen the soundstage, each oriented on a different axis but towards the listening area. This a good idea, which allows Sonos to claim that the Era 100 is a stereo speaker. It’s only half true… more on that later.

Sonos Era 100 3

CONNECTIVITY


The Sonos Era 100 is equipped with WiFi 6 and Bluetooth 5 controllers and a stereo analogue line input. This significantly improved over previous Sonos One and Play:1 models, which lacked Bluetooth. The speaker can now be used outside the WiFi network, although the audio quality is slightly lower due to Bluetooth compression.

The Sonos Era 100 supports AirPlay 2, which makes it easy to play music from iPhones, iPads, Macs and Apple TVs. It’s a little less easy from an Android smartphone, as Google Cast is no longer supported. However, Sonos has found a way around this and has approached Deezer, Tidal and Spotify so that their mobile apps can play their music directly on the Era 100. Alternatively, users can now choose and register their music streaming service (Apple Music, Amazon Music…) in the Sonos app and control playback from there.

APPLICATION


Like the Sonos 1, the Sonos Era 100 can be used in a multi-room setup, where multiple speakers play different music tracks or the same music simultaneously. This is possible with AirPlay 2 or Sonos technology. Using the Sonos app, you can pair two Sonos Era 100s for stereo listening, pair a Sonos Sub or Sonos Sub Mini with a speaker, or even set up a home theatre system with one of the company’s soundbars (Sonos Ray, Sonos Beam, Sonos Arc), two Sonos Era 100 rear surround speakers, and even multiple speakers.

Sonos Era 100 4

SET-UP


The Sonos app guides the installation of the Sonos Era 100 for iOS and Android. The app immediately detects the speaker and assists the user in connecting to the home Wi-Fi network.

As soon as the speaker is switched on, it is immediately detected and even chimes, and if there is an update, it is automatically offered.
After installation, TruePlay acoustic calibration is offered. The procedure is different depending on whether you are using an Android smartphone or an iPhone. On Android, the speaker plays a short series of sounds and then indicates that it is calibrated.


The Sonos Era 100 is designed to adapt to the room you’re listening in, and the iPhone can be used to do this calibration, which involves moving the iPhone around the room.
With an iPhone, the calibration process is more time-consuming and requires the smartphone’s standard microphone and the user to walk around the room with the smartphone in hand. We’ll talk about the gains later.

VOICE ASSISTANTS


Voice control of the speaker is offered through two assistants, Alexa or Sonos Voice Control, the latter being limited to choosing music tracks and controlling playback (volume, pause, next track, etc.). To find out the weather or the latest news, you’ll have to choose Alexa. The experience could be more satisfactory in practice, as the microphones need help understanding voice commands. It is often necessary to repeat the process twice and force your voice to be heard, especially in a kitchen where the hood and gas cooker is used. There’s nothing new under the sun, and the Sonos One was already a bit temperamental. The comparison with the Apple HomePod 2 – to which one can almost whisper – is cruel.

Sonos Era 100 5

OPERATION


Sonos advertised a 47% faster processor than the Sonos One, and the Sonos Era 100 is a little faster than its predecessor. While voice assistant responses and music playback are faster, there are still some delays when playing AirPlay 2 or launching a track from the Sonos app. This is nothing to write home about, but with Sonos chasing the Apple HomePod, there’s still some way to go in terms of responsiveness.

POWER CONSUMPTION


As the speaker is destined to be powered permanently and to “listen” constantly if called upon, its power consumption must be controlled. The good news is that in network standby and assistant mode, the Sonos Era 100 consumes only 2.3W. That’s a significant improvement over the Sonos One, which used about 3.5 watts, but almost two and a half times as much as the Apple HomePod 2, which uses only a small amount of watts on standby. At moderate listening volumes, for soft background music, the Era 100 requires only 5W and must be played very loudly to exceed the 10W mark.

Sonos Era 100 6

AUDIO


For this test, the Sonos Era 100 was listened to in different rooms (kitchen, living room, bedroom, office) in which it was calibrated. There were few changes after calibration, except for a slight accentuation of the high bass frequencies.

SOUND SIGNATURE


The Sonos Era 100 is the worthy heir of the One and offers its listeners a sound signature that is well-studied and always well-balanced. The bass is generous, its extension adequate for the size of the speaker, but above all, the midrange – particularly the voices – is reproduced with great density. The high frequencies are less directive than with the Sonos One, which improves the width of the sound stage (we’ll come back to this). The maximum volume is also significantly higher, as shown in the curve below.

Comparing the response curves of the two speakers, we can see that they are almost twins from the subwoofer to the midrange, which is impressive when the main transducer has changed! This is acoustic haute couture, or at least the mark of Sonos’s care to adhere to a specific sound aesthetic. Although evident in this graph, the differences in treble behaviour are largely blurred at normal volume. The only real difference is the hump at 3kHz in the Sonos One, which gives it a harshness at times in the midrange that is completely eliminated with the Sonos Era 100, which is, therefore, softer.

The Sonos Era 100 has a sound signature that varies according to the volume level. Sonos has implemented dynamic equalisation to boost the low frequencies at the lowest volume and compensate for the lack of sensitivity of our ears. This bass boost, audible up to about 40% of the volume (blue curve), is centred on 40-50 Hz, which gives depth to the bass sounds. It is automatically reduced as the volume is increased so as not to exceed the mechanical capabilities of the main transducer and the amplification.

Further up on the right-hand side of the curve, the nervous peak at 100 Hz impacts percussion, and the 200-400 Hz accents enhance the presence and detail of human voices.

Sonos Era 100 8

CONCLUSION

Mission accomplished for Sonos! The Sonos Era 100 improves the performance of the One while preserving its sonic DNA. More powerful and spacious, it retains a balance that’s hard to fault and is an absolute pleasure to listen to. Moreover, the Era 100 can now auto-calibrate itself according to the room in which it’s being heard. The speaker gains an analogue line-in but loses the Google Assistant and Google Cast protocol. You’ll have to rely on Alexa to answer general questions or the Sonos Voice Control assistant to request music or control the speaker. For streaming on Android, the Deezer, Spotify, and Tidal apps detect the speaker and allow you to use it directly.

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5/5 (1 Review)

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Richard Garrett

Richard Garrett

As an expert on the latest techy stuff, the primary focus is PCs and laptops. Much of his time is split between smartphones, tablets and audio, focusing on the latest devices.
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