Sonos’ Era 100 offers excellent sound and wide compatibility in an all-round superb speaker package.
Bluetooth or WiFi streaming
Sonos Assistant works well
Supports a variety of streaming sources
Touch controls can be tricky to use
Distorts a touch when it gets REALLY LOUD
Of its two new speakers — the Sonos Era 300 and the Era 100 — I did not expect that I’d like the Sonos Era 100 more.
Sonos Era 300 Review
That’s because the Era 300 are, at just about every technical level the better speakers, albeit the more expensive ones by a fairly wide margin.
By comparison, the Era 100s felt like a logical enough evolution of the old Sonos One design; something that I might use to replace my Sonos Ones when they finally ascend to silicon heaven, but probably not before that.
However, while the Sonos Era 300s gave me a degree of grief when it came to maintaining an audio connection, I’ve had no such issues with the Era 100s. It’s been a rock-solid music speaker during my review period, and an easy recommendation if you want a smart speaker for a smaller area like a home office or a bedroom.
The Sonos Era 100 drops the semi-square design of the older Sonos Ones in favour of a straight up cylinder design, measuring in at 182.5x120x130.5mm and 2.02kg.
It’s a compact design that does make it decent for placing in most home décor settings, bearing in mind that you’ve got to accommodate a power cord into that setup somehow. If you want actually wire-free Sonos fun, look instead towards the Roam or Move speakers.
The Era 100 comes in either a simple white or black finish; for review Sonos loaned me a black unit, which does a good job of hiding away nearly anywhere I’ve chosen to place it.
The one catch here is that it uses touch controls, and if you’re not looking directly at them they can be a bit tricky to make out against the black frame of the speaker.
Like the bigger Era 300, you get touch controls at the top front, with a ridged groove behind it for volume control, acting like a slider up or down the volume scales as you see fit.
There’s a smaller speech bubble control towards the back that enables or disables voice control once it’s set up, but if you prefer a mechanical mute, there’s also a switch for that at the back.
There’s also a USB-C port at the back for line-in duties, but you do need to pay extra for an adaptor if you fancy hooking up a turntable or other external audio source that way. Sonos didn’t provide one for review, so I can’t speak to how well that works.
The Era 100 does require setup via the Sonos App. As is the style these days that’s through a smartphone interface for either Android or iOS phones.
It used to be the case that the iOS version of the App was the way to go for Sonos speakers, because that was the only way that you got support for Sonos’ exemplary TruePlay tuning.
Sonos’ contention here was that Android phones were too varied and it was essentially impossible to account for microphone differences across so many handsets to make it all work.
It basically still is, so Sonos’ solution here is a twin model, with “Advanced” TruePlay working like “Classic” TruePlay, requiring an iPhone for tuning. “Quick” TruePlay doesn’t rely on an Android phone – or any other phone, if you’re still rocking Windows Phone (you weirdo) – because it relies instead on the Era 100’s own microphones to get a more approximate view of the best sound settings for the given environment.
Either is definitely worth doing, but Advanced TruePlay still gives a slightly better sound, I feel.
While the Era 100 more or less replaces the Sonos One, it’s not just the same speakers in a different shaped tube. Far from it, with the Era 100 adding Bluetooth to its bag of tricks, something that Sonos has previously only offered on its mobile speakers for obvious reasons.
You also get a reconfigured array of speakers to deliver a markedly better sound when used as
a standalone speaker. That’s all I had of the Era 100, so I can’t speak to how well they work as stereo pair, or indeed as rear surrounds combined with a Sonos soundbar. That’s certainly an option for you if you want to go down that route, however.
You also get voice assistants, but this is where some older Sonos owners might end up feeling just a touch let down. Amazon’s Alexa is still present, but Google Assistant is not. That’s most likely a legal matter; to say that Sonos and Google don’t see eye to eye these days is putting it mildly, but I can’t afford the kinds of lawyers either company uses, so I’ll say no more on that score.
Instead of Google Assistant you get Sonos’ own Voice Assistant, which does work at a basic level for music playback and not much else.
If you wanted a smart speaker to be smart and you’re not in the Alexa world, the Era 100 really doesn’t cut it. I also hit some issues with the Era 100 specifically around microphone pickup. It’s a circular speaker that sounds very good from most angles for music, but there’s a definite preference for microphone pickup from the “front” (where the Sonos embossed logo is) if you want it to pick up commands.
Still, the point of music speakers like this is music enjoyment, and on that score the Era 100 is a very impressive little unit, best suited for smaller rooms.
Like many smaller speakers if you really do want to engage your inner Technotronic and pump up those jams, you may hit a little distortion at maximum volume. Equally, in larger rooms you will lose some of the effectiveness of the speaker, but that’s to be expected.
Sonos Era 100: Alex’s Verdict
The Era 100 is a $399 speaker, and that puts it rather in the premium space for a smart speaker. If you’re more keen on home automation than music quality, this isn’t the route for you to go down.
If you’re reading this review though, I’m going to guess you are more keen on the music output than whether it can open your garage door for you.
Here the Sonos Era 100 really impressed me, with none of the dropout issues I encountered with the Era 300 to bother me. Older Sonos users might bemoan the loss of Google Assistant – and I think they’d have a point – but these are otherwise an excellent upgrade from the Sonos Ones they’re replacing in the lineup.
Sonos Era 100: Pricing and availability
The Sonos Era 100 speakers are available now in Australia for $399.
Sonos Era 100: Alternatives
The Sonos-specific speakers that sit in this kind of price range are Sonos’ more mobile offerings; the Roam and Move respectively. They’re rather specifically mobile, however, where the Era 100 sits as much more of your classic “Bookshelf” speaker.
Then there’s options like the refreshed Apple HomePod, best suited of course for those living entirely within the Apple Ecosystem.