Sonos Era 300 smart speaker review: Dolby Atmos and Spatial Audio in an amazingly small unit
Sonos’s Era 300 doesn’t just deliver premium playback from all your devices and services – it’s a genuine surround speaker in a box.
⊕ Connect all your digital and even physical sources br>
⊕ Atmos and Spatial reproduction is superbly immersive br>
⊕ Companion app is excellent br>
⊕ Equally reliable for movie playback br>
⊖ Price might be a barrier for some br>
Sonos released the Era 300 alongside the more compact Era 100 and, despite having very different designs, they share a fair amount of DNA in terms of the way you control and interact with them.
READ MORE: Sonos Era 100 review: A compact smart speaker with features to spare
The 300 is a more heavyweight proposition, weighing in at 5kg and priced £200 more than its smaller sibling. A price tag heading towards £500 might seem steep for a smart speaker, but Sonos is really focusing on packing remarkable audio engineering into the unit, blurring the lines between a smart speaker and an audiophile product. And it looks and sounds quite unlike any other speaker around.
The Era 300 is undeniably unusual in design, with grilles on the front and around the rear portion of the body. This is necessitated by the multiple angled drivers that enable Dolby Atmos playback, which we’ll come to shortly.
On the top edge is a touch-sensitive playback strip as well as a number of tiny microphone holes for voice control, which works effectively even when music is playing at volume. You can disable voice control using a soft button on the top or disconnect the mics entirely using a physical switch around the back if you are concerned more generally about devices listening out for voice input. You’ll need the mics on, however, if you want to perform the TruePlay setup, where the speaker plays a series of tones and monitors them, at the same time, adjusting its EQ to suit the space that it is in.
In the excellent Sonos app, you can perform many customisations such as setting up EQ, connecting a range of streaming services for voice control including Spotify, Apple Music and Sonos Radio, and managing multiple speakers and ‘rooms’. You can also configure a physical audio input like a turntable or CD player which you connect to the USB-C port on the rear of the speaker via an adapter (Sonos’s own will cost you £19).
AirPlay 2 is supported and there’s Bluetooth audio playback too, making the Era 300 much more platform-agnostic than, say, Apple’s HomePod. As noted in our Era 100 review, the Sonos app is also able to access local shared media folders in your home or office and stream uncompressed audio files you may have ripped yourself. Between these many available input sources, there’s not much you can’t stream into this speaker.
Internally, the speaker uses six class-D digital amplifiers to power its drivers. There are two woofers angled left and right, two side-firing mid tweeters and one forward-firing mid tweeter, all of which enable stereo playback. Then there’s an upward-firing tweeter that comes into action when playing back Dolby Atmos content, sending sound up toward the ceiling; you can adjust this height in the app to compensate for different spaces.
In stereo mode, the Era 300 produces a beautiful soundstage; rich and detailed and with a smooth yet powerful bass end thanks to clever internal acoustic design. Sonos doesn’t disclose power ratings but, rest assured, it can go very loud if required. Playing back Royksopp’s Profound Mysteries II, the lush production shines through, the speaker kicking out a warm, precise and balanced sound. Thanks to the multiple angled speakers, directionality isn’t really an issue with this product.
In the process of testing, we put on the remastered version of Bob Marley’s classic album Exodus, only to be surprised by percussive elements of the mix appearing to sound above or to the side of the speaker. On investigation – and unbeknownst to us – the album was mixed in Dolby Atmos when remastered and we were experiencing precisely what the speaker has been designed for. At the time of writing, Sonos has also added support for the Spatial Audio format in Apple Music.
The spatial audio experience is fascinating. That a speaker this compact is able to genuinely place elements of a mix outside of the stereo field is a revelation. Used with compatible tracks, the result is a truly 3D experience that’s still musical and better than you get with even a reliable pair of headphones. Multi-speaker surround setups of old never really suited music tracks, but here the effect is incredible; focused yet expansive. You don’t lose the sense that everything is coherent, yet the sound is so much bigger. You can pair two of these speakers for stereo too, if you have deep pockets.
It’s not cheap, but the Era 300 is a superb smart speaker. Regular stereo playback is rich and detailed, and music mixed for spatial is also dynamic, the speaker managing to place sounds and fill space in a way that seems impossible given its size. This same ability makes it an excellent choice for movie playback too. Though it’s a bit of an investment, it can play back pretty much any digital or physical audio source you might ask of it and sound mighty good doing so. Truly, an impressive achievement.
Learn more at sonos.com
Touch, voice or app control
6 class-D amplifiers, 2 woofers and 4 tweeters
Dolby Atmos and Spatial Audio support
Bluetooth and AirPlay 2
Connect a range of streaming services
Mute microphones option
TruePlay room measurement
Aux in via USB-C
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