Sonos Era 100 review: A compact smart speaker with features to spare
The Era 100 packs a lot of punch and lets you connect your wired and wireless music collections effortlessly. What’s not to like?
⊕ Excellent voice and physical control features
⊕ Connect your local music libraries
⊕ Bluetooth and aux line inputs
⊕ Disable mics for greater privacy
⊖ Stereo, but with limitations
The market for smart speakers is in rude health and Sonos is one of its biggest names, producing a range of home cinema systems and portable wireless speakers with a reputation for excellent audio fidelity. The new Era 100 is its latest tabletop model; a remarkably solid, yet compact unit with a premium feel.
It’s priced at £249, which is £50 less than Apple’s newly-updated HomePod, though both have a fairly similar set of features. As you might expect, the HomePod has more Apple-specific software abilities, while the Era 100 has a bunch of its own unique capabilities.
Download the Sonos app for your smartphone or tablet and you’re into the setup process, which begins by creating a Sonos account. You then name the speaker based on where it is – bedroom, living room and so on – and start to add services. Sonos Radio is included of course, with a mixture of music and original content. You can also link your Apple Music account, Spotify and a whole host of other streaming services.
The Sonos app is feature-packed and allows you to access local media in a way that isn’t often available with smart speakers. It’s possible to set up local music libraries stored in shared folders on wirelessly-connected hard drives or computers and also specify compressed or uncompressed streaming. This will – literally – be music to the ears of audiophiles who may have ripped CD or vinyl collections to uncompressed or FLAC files. There’s a modicum of setup involved initially, but it works well.
Another handy feature is less technical; on the rear of the speaker is an audio line in port, in USB-C format. This requires an adapter to convert from a 3.5mm mini-jack (Sonos sells one for £19) but lets you connect your turntable or other audio hardware, with options in the app to manage the connection. Bluetooth streaming and Airplay 2 are also supported, thankfully.
The app encourages you to use TruePlay to tune the speaker’s EQ to the space it’s in – it does this by playing a preset signal and monitoring it, adjusting for nearby reflective surfaces and the like. You can also use the app to pair a second speaker for full stereo operation or add a sub if you are looking to create more of a home cinema setup. Manual EQ adjustment is possible in the app as well as a volume limit option and a bunch of other customisations. Unfortunately though, the EQ section does not at present seem to allow for presets. We hope Sonos amends this in the future for an easier EQing process.
The Era 100 uses a mid-woofer as well as two angled tweeters to help with stereo separation. Meanwhile, three class-D digital amplifiers as well as clever acoustic design contribute to enhancing the sound. The low-end output of the unit is really remarkable; it’s much bigger and tighter than you might expect from a speaker of this calibre. The stereo effect isn’t hugely noticeable in truth, but it’s better to have it than not.
Overall, the sound is seriously impressive, though a little directional – a consequence of its compact design. It’s also capable of outputting extremely loud audio and doesn’t particularly lose focus when you do so. Mid and high frequencies come across with vibrance; even without using the EQ, the soundstage is rich and balanced.
Playback and control of the speaker are possible using the touch bar on the top surface and also using your voice, which most people will probably opt for. Interestingly, for the privacy-conscious, there are two ways to turn this off. Pressing the speech bubble button will disable the voice assistant while not affecting other mic-enabled functions, while the hardware switch on the back disconnects power to the microphones entirely.
Given their similarities, it’s worth quickly comparing the Era 100 with the new HomePod. If you’re in Apple’s ecosystem, the HomePod is appealing; it works as a smart home hub, can play tracks from iTunes Match (which non-Apple devices cannot), has Dolby Atmos support and is able to hand off playback from your Apple devices. On the other hand, it doesn’t have Bluetooth playback or a line input. The Era 100 is £50 cheaper and does have those two things, plus the ability to use local music libraries and more streaming services, including playing back Sonos Radio natively rather than via AirPlay.
If you’re wanting to use your smart speaker with both Apple and non-Apple devices, you’ll get more mileage out of the Era 100. Voice pickup and control is excellent and the sound, though somewhat limited in width due to the unit’s physical size, is nonetheless rich and powerful. The ability to hook up more or less any device is the proverbial cherry on top.
Learn more at sonos.com
Woofer and two angled tweeters
Three class D amplifiers
Multi-mic array with beamforming
TruePlay room tuning
Stream from many online services or access local music libraries
Bluetooth and USB-C aux inputs
Get the latest news, reviews and tutorials to your inbox.Subscribe