This is how you improve on a product that was already good. That has consistently been my main conclusion from my time reviewing the new Era 100 speaker, which replaces the Sonos One that was released in 2017.
It now costs $249 instead of the One’s $219 price, which was a hike from the $199 launch price, but the price increase wasn’t made only for show. When it comes to audio performance, the Era 100 outperforms the One in every way: it can now play back stereo audio and has a better bass response.
Yet the way Sonos has expanded its usefulness is the most intriguing feature of Era 100. It is still a smart speaker with additional features like AirPlay 2, can stream music from all music services you can imagine, and supports hands-free voice commands.
All of those statements about the One were accurate, but the Era elevates them by adding Bluetooth playback and line-in audio via the rear USB-C connection.
With the former, guests can easily play their own music through the speaker, while with the latter, you can connect a turntable or other external audio source to your complete Sonos system.
The Era 100 no longer features Google Assistant as a voice platform, thus it’s not a perfect score. The only options left are Amazon Alexa and Sonos’ own music-focused Sonos Voice Control, which is gradually adding timers and other features to its functionality.
Essentially, if you’re a part of Google’s ecosystem, it makes the Era 100 seem less “smart” than its predecessor. Yet, the Era 100 is a definite improvement over the Sonos One, which has long been the company’s best-selling item, in every other respect. This is the understated speaker from the company that you may place in any nook or space where you desire music.
But when viewed from above, the speaker’s form is still not perfectly circular, it is more rounded than a squircle this time. The Era 100 is not very large, however, it is a hair taller and a tiny bit deeper than the Sonos One. Given the One’s size, it is frequently surprising how much sound it produces, and the Era is no exception.
When flanked by the company’s portable speakers, it barely stands above the Roam and is a good deal shorter than the Move. Although it can be seen in some of these photographs, Sonos selected a slightly warmer shade of white plastic for the 100. If I hadn’t pointed it out to you, you probably wouldn’t have noticed.
Improvements in repairability are buried inside the speaker; instead of applying adhesive all over the internal design, the manufacturer now employs screws whenever possible.
This is true for both Era speakers, which will make it simpler to disassemble and repair them, though Sonos is holding off for now on releasing a self-repair program. We’ll have to wait and see how much demand develops for that.
It’s also important to note that the Era 100 contains a good proportion of recycled plastic and consumes less power while not in use than the One (between 40 to 50 percent).
With the top controls on the Eras, Sonos adopted a novel strategy in comparison to its previous speakers. There are specific track controls (swipe motions are no longer necessary), and a separate indented bar controls volume.
You can tap either side to make more precise volume changes or drag your finger across to make fast adjustments. Retraining myself from this new system took longer than I had anticipated, but I managed to do it in a matter of days.
There is a button behind the top surface that you can press to temporarily deactivate your preferred voice assistant. A new toggle switch is located on the back of the speaker and can be used to completely disable the built-in microphones. When it’s flipped down, the Era 100 cuts power to its microphones.
The bottom button is a privacy safeguard for privacy zealots who want to turn off voice conversations; the top button is primarily for momentarily halting voice interactions. The hard switch is the closest thing you can get right now since there isn’t a “Era 100 SL” yet.
The other new button on the back is for Bluetooth pairing; to pair a new device, simply press and hold the button. The Era 100 is coming with Bluetooth 5.0 and will soon be upgraded up to 5.2 with a future firmware update.
Music over Bluetooth is nothing particularly fancy, but up until now, Sonos had only used it with its portable speakers. You know precisely what to expect, and it works without a hitch.
The versatility means your guests won’t have to deal with the Sonos mobile app simply to play a song or two, which is a welcome addition to convenience.
The Era 100 now has a USB-C port on the back from Sonos, enabling line-in connections with an additional $19 dongle. The port is exclusively for audio and not for sending or receiving electricity to the speaker.
Plug the dongle into the Era 100, and you can run a record player or another audio source through it and sync everything across your other Sonos speakers. Line-in is not recommended for live TV, according to the business, as there is the latency to take into consideration.
The best way to play TV audio throughout your home is still with a Sonos soundbar. (If you’re curious, it’s unlikely that any USB-C to 3.5mm adapters you already own will function. Sonos does an analog-to-digital conversion instead of the other way around.)
A combo adapter that handles both ethernet and line-in is also available for 39 dollars. The Era speakers do not support SonosNet, a feature that created a private network for the speakers to communicate over whenever one of them was put into ethernet. This has been lamented by some veteran Sonos users.
Sonos appears to think the addition of a Wi-Fi 6 connection, which offers greater connectivity, makes up for that omission. You shouldn’t be concerned about wireless interference if you use Sonos speakers as surrounds for any of the company’s soundbars because they communicate directly via a 5Ghz connection.
I don’t know many people who aren’t technically savvy who have rushed to upgrade their routers to Wi-Fi 6, so I can appreciate some of the frustration. However, while testing Era 300 and Era 100, I haven’t experienced any music pauses or streaming problems.
The Era 100 greatly improves audio performance by switching from mono to stereo driver arrangement, yet being about the same size as the Sonos One.
Now that there are two tweeters, proper left and right channel reproduction is possible. As a result of Sonos sticking with a single mid-woofer, which is now substantially larger than previously, the Era is better able to handle bass power.