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Friday, July 12, 2024

Sonos Launches 2 Speakers to Kick Off a New Era

Sonos announced two new wireless speakers today that, both literally and figuratively, denote the start of a new era for the company. Until now Sonos has been concentrating its recent efforts on its range of soundbars. (And let’s be honest: Arc, Beam Gen 2 and Ray are all some of the best pound-for-pound soundbars around.) 

With the announcement of the new Era 100 and Era 300 speakers, though, Sonos has turned its attention back to music—and is, for the first time, embracing technologies both cutting edge and long-since established. It is also sadly abandoning its fabulously clear and concise naming system for, well, something else.

The Era 300, costing $449 (£449), is the bigger, more lavishly specified and more expensive of the two new products. Sonos describes it as being shaped like an hourglass—this seems plausible if you squint, but to us it looks a little more organic. Imagine a portion of a segmented insect, or a wireless speaker as imagined by H.R. Giger. If you were being unkind, you might say the 300 had a whiff of ass about it, even.

The Era 300 is intended to deliver spatial audio sound. Currently it’s restricted to handling Dolby Atmos content streamed from Amazon Music Unlimited via Wi-Fi—which is bad news for those of us who like to get their Dolby Atmos jollies from Apple Music or Tidal, and even less helpful for those who feel Sony’s 360 Reality Audio is the superior spatial audio format. Still, if the past is anything to go by, Sonos will bring other services and formats into the fold eventually.   

The Era 300 is fitted with a total of six speaker drivers, each powered by a discrete block of Class D amplification. Sonos being Sonos, the specific amount of power, along with the size and composition of the drivers, is privileged information—but there are a few things we do know: A mid/treble driver faces forward, two more mid/treble drivers fire from the sides of the cabinet to create some stereo width, and a horn-loaded tweeter is directed upward in an effort to deliver the sonic height that’s an essential on the list of Dolby Atmos audio priorities. 

A pair of low-frequency woofers face left and right, and their job is to provide the necessary wallop and punch to the sound. All six drivers sit behind carefully designed waveguides, in an effort to spread sound as wide as possible and to reduce the impression of a sonic “point source.”  

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Sonos has finally added Bluetooth to the list of home-based connectivity options. Having allowed the tech into its portable Move and Roam speakers, quite why the company has been so resistant to rolling it out for “home” models remains a mystery, but we should probably just be grateful it’s finally included. The standard of Bluetooth, though, and the codecs the Era 300 is compatible with, is a secret because … well, because Sonos. And the Era 300 becomes the only Sonos speaker except for the Five to feature an analogue line in—although you will need a specific Sonos line-in adapter which, inevitably, has a cost attached.

The company has refreshed its physical user interface for its new speakers. There’s a volume slider on the speaker cabinet now, along with Play/Pause and Repeat controls, and there’s also a control to mute the integrated mics. (The Era 300 is compatible with Amazon Alexa voice control and the company’s own Sonos Voice Control.) And a species of Sonos’ admirable Trueplay calibration software is now available for Android users—until now it was purely for the iOS crowd.

As well as being a stand-alone speaker, two Era 300s can be used as rear speakers in a Sonos-centric home-cinema system. Used in conjunction with the Arc soundbar, 7.1.4-channel audio is possible, while 5.1.4 can be achieved when using a Beam Gen 2.

The new $249 (£249) Era 100 speaker, meanwhile,  can also be used as a rear speaker (or two) in a home cinema set-up and, while Sonos suggests it’s a stereo speaker all by itself, two can be paired for a larger sound. But while it includes some of the advancements showcased in the Era 300 (Bluetooth connectivity, Trueplay for Android users), it’s fundamentally an update of the profoundly successful Sonos One speaker. A “remaster” is how Sonos describes it. 

Era 100 features a pair of angled tweeters for greater sonic reach, and a mid/bass driver that’s 25 percent larger than the item in the Sonos One. This means three blocks of Class D amplification, of course—but if you’re expecting any technical details, any at all, you’re out of luck.

Like the rest of the Sonos range, the Era 100 and Era 300 will be available in black or white finishes. Both are on sale from March 28. And you’ll be able to read reviews of both of these speakers here soon.

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