A wireless speaker that delivers a fine Dolby Atmos presentation, the Sonos Era 300 delivers a crisp, clear, and balanced sound, and in doing something different from its price comparable peers, it’s made the speaker a more exciting and interesting effort in the wireless speaker market.
- Expansive Dolby Atmos presentation
- Clear, detailed, and balanced audio
- Quick Tune Trueplay
- Noteworthy looks
- Doesn’t support Atmos playback from Tidal
- Some will find it too expensive
- Adapters are optional extras
- Dolby AudioSupports Atmos 3D sound
- Set-upCan be used independently or within home cinema set-up
The Sonos Era 300 has the potential to be a game-changer. While there have been a few Dolby Atmos speakers in the Amazon Echo Studio and Apple HomePod 2 to hit the market, the Sonos has the spec to do it justice.
This is a Dolby Atmos speaker with upfiring speakers that can function independently or within a Sonos home cinema system to provide a true hemisphere of sound to wrap the listener within. And though the competition is cheaper, the consistency and performance of Sonos’ previous speakers give it a great hand to play with.
The Era 300 feels like the new era Sonos is promising with its range of speakers. It has undoubted promise, the lingering question mark is whether it can fulfil it.
The Sonos Era 300 goes on sale on April 7th, for $449 / £449 / €499 / AUD$749.
That’s £100 less than the Sonos Five’s RRP, though that speaker is currently selling at the same price as the Era 300 currently is, in fact you can currently find it at similar prices to the going rate for the Era 300 when it launches.
- Interesting design
- Can be disassembled for self-repair
- Not as big as you might think
Adhering to Sonos’ ‘Industrial’ appearance that’s consistent across its range of speakers and soundbars, the Era 300 makes an effort to be one of Sonos’ more striking speakers. Its form is a concave, hourglass shape that’s only suited to being positioned on its belly. On its underside are feet to keep it level and stable on whichever surface it’s placed on – tip the speaker pointing vertically and it’ll stop playing audio altogether.
At 4.46kg it would seem to be on the heavy side of weighing scales for a wireless speaker but isn’t as big as you might expect – its proportions are in fact smaller and lighter than the Sonos Five.
The front of the speaker has an appearance not unlike a flower blooming out, and inside that front section is a waveguide inside to help distribute the sound out towards the listening space. Around its rear are a series of woofers and tweeters to help produce the Atmos sound. Some may find the design ‘odd’, but I like it. Rectangles and squares are boring, and this Sonos speaker at least attempts something different from the established norm.
Everything else in terms of buttons and switches that’s present on the Era 100 makes its way to the Era 300. At the bottom rear is a toggle switch (the hardware solution) for completely deactivating the speaker’s built-in microphones; or you can use the touch button behind the volume slider to disable any hands-free voice control (the software solution).
Buttons can be found in the front section with playback, track skipping and a slider for volume. Like the Era 100, an LED indicator is positioned at the top of the speaker’s front-facing grille to show its status, and if you want it can be deactivated within the Sonos app.
There’s a USB-C port to connect products via aux, Lightning adapters or an Ethernet adapter to connect to a router for a hardwired connection. Like its smaller sibling, no adapters are included in the box and that feels even more galling considering the added cost, and that a similarly priced wireless speaker such as the Bluesound Pulse M can spare an optical adapter along with the rest of the box contents.
This new era has resulted in a new approach from Sonos in terms of its sustainability. If it gets damaged the new Era speakers can be serviced by the customer themselves as it’s easier to disassemble. Colour options include matte white and black finishes.
- Dolby Atmos from Amazon and Apple Music
- Supports stereo pairing
- Adds Bluetooth
The addition of Bluetooth 5.0 along with AirPlay 2 and Spotify Connect casting over Wi-Fi has aided the new Era speakers in being more accessible to more customers. Then there’s Dolby Atmos, the immersive object-based audio format that produces a larger sound than a stereo set-up can muster.
While Amazon Music, Apple Music, and Tidal support Atmos audio, you can only pipe spatial audio from the first two here. I’ve asked why Tidal hasn’t made the cut and will update the review once there’s an answer. Searching for Atmos in the app isn’t as accessible as it ought to be, there were no curated playlists in the Sonos app so in my experience, I’ve had to look for it by typing ‘Dolby Atmos’ in the search bar.
It should be stated that you can’t play Dolby Atmos audio over Bluetooth or AirPlay 2, meaning the best way to do so is through the Sonos app.
The Sonos control app is, perhaps, the best of its kind although BluOS runs it close. The app provides the ability to customize settings, initiate updates, adjust the EQ (treble, bass, and loudness), fiddle with the height settings for the Atmos performance and access music streaming services from the likes of Tidal to Pandora and Deezer.
Tucked away in the Android version of the Sonos app is a new variant of Trueplay called Quick Tune. This version doesn’t require the use of an iPhone’s microphone to calibrate its performance for the space it’s in.
All that’s required is a tap to trigger the process, and the speaker’s onboard microphones will assess and measure the acoustics of the room and calibrate the speaker. If you want to use the more advanced and (according to Sonos) accurate version of Trueplay then that is possible for those who have the iOS version on an iPhone.
In the app, you can associate the Era 300 with a Sonos Sub and you can connect two of them together to form a stereo pair. And as it features upfiring speakers, there’s genuine Atmos audio from the rear surrounds, the best configuration is to use the Era 300 with a Sonos Arc and Sub to get a 7.1.4-channel set-up.
Sonos has added support for DTS soundtracks but only the most basic ones with DTS:X missing from the spec list. Though who knows, with DTS beginning to pick up the pace with streaming services (DTS audio is expected to be supported by Disney+), that might change if there’s enough interest in customers in including it – that’s just speculation on my part.
For voice operation there’s Amazon Alexa and Sonos Voice Control, the latter is just for controlling music. Google Assistant won’t be supported by the Era speakers as Google has changed the requirements for third-party devices. Sonos is placing the issue at Google’s feet, and I wouldn’t imagine the court cases these past few years have helped the relationship. What’s clear is that if Google’s voice assistant were to come to the Era 300, the onus is on Google to make it viable.
With Sonos Voice Control, say “Hey Sonos” and you can ask it to play music, or specifically ask for a song, album, radio station or track from a compatible streaming service. It’s not compatible with all the services I tried – just Amazon Music so far – and if you choose US English (enabled by default) or French in the settings, the voice of the speaker is none other than Giancarlo Esposito who played Gus Frings in Breaking Bad, and more recently was in the first two seasons of The Mandalorian.
- Measured, balanced presentation
- Expansive Atmos sound
- Safety-first approach to treble
In the Era 100 review I mentioned that the speaker was tuned for a weightier, firmer presentation with more of an emphasis on bass. That’s not the case with the Sonos Era 300, which has much more in common with the Sonos One SL in delivering a crisper, clearer and defter sound.
With Nick Mulvey’s Nitrous streaming from Qobuz, it’s a less bass-heavy presentation than I found it to be on the Era 100. There’s more insight proffered into the midrange, and tonally it strikes a more natural tone to my ears, but then again it does have more drivers at its disposal with four tweeters, a forward-firing mid-tweeter and two side-firing woofers.
It’s hard to compare against other speakers at the Era 300’s price simply as there aren’t many that do what it can do, but perhaps a direct comparison in terms of its presentation is the Bluesound Pulse M, and that speaker strikes a richer tone with bass and midrange, with more brightness and bright in the upper regions of the frequency range. Of the two, the Pulse M presents more of a ‘hi-fi’ sound.
Like the Era 100, the Era 300 takes on a safety-first approach to describing the treble, but it is furnished with crispness and detail, bringing out the piano in Immanuel Wilkin’s Grace and Mercy. Overall, the balance is more even across the frequency range. Bass is big with a track such as Mikhala Jené’s Black Love, varied and with plenty of depth to sink into, giving genres such as Rap, Hip Hop and R&B more impact.
Trueplay tuning refines the bass to give it more weight but not at the expense of midrange clarity, and I find the Era 300 to be a good listen even at lower volumes. La Queen’s pop-infused Ser Quien Sos’ upbeat tempo and energy still plays well when the volume is reduced, but there is more dynamism and impact to be had raising the volume up.
It’s capable of stereo action with sweeping guitar sounds in Jon Bon Jovi’s Without Love, though with stereo music, audio is played within the margins of the cabinet. With Dolby Atmos content the Era 300 performs its best trick.
Your taste for Atmos may differ given the varying level of approaches to it. Some go for separation, other tracks are happy to sound bigger with more depth, and others have some neat width and spatial effects. I feel with Atmos music has a looser sense of definition, I can place where the sound is within the soundstage, but it doesn’t feel ‘attached’ to the speaker as it were, escaping the confines of the cabinet and in all cases sounding bigger.
With Blondie’s Call Me the most obvious Atmos effect is the guitar slung out wide and roped back in the track’s opening moments. With Gregory Porter’s Mona Lisa, the overall effect is a soundstage that’s comfortably bigger than the stereo mix: his voice sounds larger, and I can hear more of the acoustics of the space he’s singing in, resulting in a reverberating tone in the Atmos version that’s not present in the stereo mix. There’s more dynamism to the swells of the orchestras, along with energy to the Atmos version.
With Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On there’s a better feel for how expansive the track is, as if it’s been opened up. Definition is better as the instruments are separated from each other, the drum in the background of the track is more audible when it starts up, and the crowd noise at the beginning and end of the track takes on a much bigger and clearer presence; aspects that in the stereo mix I lose a sense of.
The performance is less directional with spatial mixes. Sit off to the side and the guitar extending in Call Me is less obvious. The best performance is often had sat plonked directly towards the speaker, though there are virtues in having a greater sense of space that a stereo mix just can’t replicate. Bluetooth is similar to the Era 100 in that the volume needs to be turned up to the max to hear music. It also doesn’t sound as clear or as detailed.
While I wasn’t supplied with other Sonos products to test the Era 300 within a home cinema set-up, the demo I had of it pre-announcement is still a good advertisement for what it can do. The “coffin corner” clip from Tom Gun: Maverick highlighted the effects of fighter jets and missiles flinging across the soundstage, panning from the front to rears added immersion and discrete effects like the counter measures deployed by the fighter to immerse.
That does come at a steep price for simply having the Sonos branding on it, and for some a system such as the Samsung HW-Q990B will offer up much better value.
Should you buy it?
You want a Dolby Atmos speaker in your life: The Sonos Era 300 produces an expansive performance with Atmos content with some neat spatial audio tricks. There aren’t any Atmos wireless speakers about, but this is a fine example of it.
If you subscribe to Tidal: Tidal Connect is supported but for whatever reason Atmos content from Tidal doesn’t appear to be supported. Let’s hope that changes in the future.
The Sonos Era 300 is a very tempting speaker. It sounds very good, and with Atmos content it generates a big, expansive performance that escapes the dimensions of the speaker in a convincing manner, but it is worth the cost with more affordable Atmos wireless speakers available?
I think for Sonos owners it is, and that it can pull duties as a surround speaker should help its appeal for those looking to build a Sonos-centric home theatre set-up. There’s no doubting the expense but I’d say the Sonos Era 300 matches it with its performance. A new era has begun and based on the Era 300; I’m interested to see what else is in store.
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Tested across a week
Tested with real world use
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Sonos has described the Era 300 as more sustainable, made with post-consumer recycled (PCR) plastic, packaged in 100% sustainably sourced paper (so you can put it into the recycling once unpacked), and it’s been engineered to reduce power consumption in its sleep mode, so it draws less power when not in use.