The Sonos Era 300 is a great-sounding speaker for those with the budget to afford it, although connectivity issues can be frustrating.
Eye catching design
Spatial Audio is excellent
Works across a wide range of services
Sonos app can be a bit… twitchy
Odd shape won’t suit every decor
The Sonos Era 300 is Sonos’ latest premium speaker, joining the smaller and somewhat more affordable Sonos Era 100 as the company’s newest audio Sonos Era 300s.
The Era 300 is both eye and ear-catching, thanks to genuinely unusual design and some superb audio output, as long as your music sources are up to the task.
Sonos has made some really smart decisions for the Era 300, and while its price point will put it out of contention for many, if you can afford it, it’s a great way to really appreciate music, although it can be super frustrating when it decides not to work.
Most speakers, including smart speakers, look for want of a better word, “speaker-y”. Yes, that’s an awful term, but you do know what I mean and have expectations in that regard.
Sonos has gone down the smart-speaker-that-looks-like-that route for the Era 100, but not the Era 300.
It’s a kind of odd sideways mounted blob of a speaker, vaguely reminiscent maybe of an hourglass. This, according to Sonos is in order to accommodate its very precise layout of internal speaker components for optimal sound output.
One design issue that does crop up here is that it’s got to suit your precise décor. I can see that going either way, really; for some who may not want a speaker that just looks like other audio gear it could be a real conversation piece, while others might find its odd angularity to be somewhat off-putting. I rather like it, but tastes can vary.
The other big design change for the Sonos Era 300 is the way that it uses touch controls exclusively. Play/Pause and skip touch sections sit at the top front, just ahead of a finger groove that you use to slide the volume up or down as needed. Behind that you’ll find a voice assistant mute/enable button, depending on your taste in spoken commands.
At the rear there’s power, a USB-C port for connecting up a wired line-in (but you’ll need to pay extra for the adaptor for that) and a switch to mechanically mute the microphones.
All of this works quite well for the most part, though I did hit a few instances on my black Sonos Era 300 review unit where I did try to hit Play/Pause and missed, because it’s a small white accent on a pitch black surface. At those times, I did wonder if life might not be easier with physical buttons.
Setup of the Sonos Era 300 follows the typical Sonos route. Everything these days runs through the Sonos app, and I’m quite au fait with that. You will have to put a little time aside to set up the Era 300 beyond unboxing and finding a power source, however, as like many other Sonos products it can be a bit sluggish when it comes to device discovery.
There are a few new wrinkles to consider as well. Sonos has long offered its TruePlay room tuning solution for its speakers, but only if you were an iPhone user.
Sonos’ position on this when I’ve asked them was to comment that the smaller number of iPhones meant they could logically tune to cover the microphones on those models, whereas the huge variety in Android microphones made the task near impossible.
The Sonos Era 300 can handle TruePlay if you’ve got an Android phone. So did Sonos invest billions listening to the microphones of every Android phone ever?
No, they did not. Instead, there’s now graduated versions of TruePlay.
Advanced TruePlay is the old-school, iPhone-only variant where you wander around the room wiggling your phone around to get the best possible audio from your Era 300.
Quick TruePlay, on the other hand, doesn’t need the iPhone, or indeed an Android phone either. Instead, it uses the Era 300’s own microphones to present a “best guess” scenario around TruePlay settings.
It’s definitely worth doing at least one level of TruePlay tuning, and for smaller areas the differences between both in my experience were slight. For larger areas, if you don’t have an iPhone, borrow one from a friend for best results.
With the Era 300 set up, it was time to get to listening, and this is where it can shine – with the right music sources, that is.
The Era 300 has support for both your basic stereo tracks, whether that’s from simpler streaming sources or those albums you ripped some decades ago (perfectly legal in Australia, fact fans, though those ones you nabbed from Napster during the day still aren’t) as well as spatial audio if your streaming solution supports that.
In not-shocking-news, the Sonos Era 300 is an exceptional speaker, especially with music tailored for Spatial Audio, and that’s largely irrespective of genre.
To give a few examples, one of my go-to tracks for this kind of testing is Louis Armstrong’s What A Wonderful World, largely because good speakers give me a proper sense of the man’s sublime gravelly voice against the more subtle string notes. That one gets a huge pass from me, sounding like he’s right in front of me giving a private concert every time.
Shifting the decades forwards, the remastered version of Prince’s Purple Rain delivers a similarly complex soundscape without losing the depth or emotion of that track.
However, it was not all Starfish and Coffee (look it up) with the Sonos Era 300.
I did hit one intermittent problem during my test period. It wasn’t consistent, but every once in a while, the Era 300 would just start dropping out playback without warning.
It didn’t seem to relate to the choice of music source, using tracks on local systems and Apple Music to stream to, but once it started I’d typically have an hour or so where it’d be quite cranky about whether it was going to play anything at all for me.
Sometimes it would just drop, other times it would at least give me an error code, but these varied – mostly complaining that the song that it was playing mere seconds ago wasn’t encoded correctly, somehow – which didn’t help matters much. Sometimes a reboot of either speaker, app or both would help. Sometimes it wouldn’t.
To further confuse me, this seemed to be a rather specific quirk of the Sonos Era 300, as an Era 100 on the same network at the same time didn’t have these problems.
My best guess is that it was the Sonos App – in my case I was mostly using the iOS and Mac apps – misbehaving, as I could sometimes get tracks to start playing again if I used the touch button controls on the Era 300.
I’m not a big fan of voice controls for music, but you do get a choice here. Not, as with some prior generations of Sonos products between Google and Amazon, but instead between Amazon and Sonos’ own assistant. Again, not to my particular taste, but it does actually work if you prefer speaking to app controls.
Sonos Era 300: Alex’s Verdict
At $749 for a single speaker (or you could go nuts and invest in two plus an Arc soundbar for a trully ear shattering TV setup), the Sonos Era 300 can’t be called inexpensive.
Because they’re not. But like so much Sonos gear, the key market here are folks who really want to experience their music, not just have it flowing through the background like some kind of hum. If that’s you, and your budget and audio sources can match up to it, then there’s a lot of enjoyment to be had here.
That being said, it has to be balanced against the annoyance of having it not work. I’m rather late to the review game for the Era 300, but checking around with other journalists (I can recommend the audio work done by Leigh Stark over at Pickr, for example), it might just be my particular unit. Hopefully that’s the case.
Sonos Era 300: Pricing and availability
The Sonos Era 300 is available now in Australia for $749.
Sonos Era 300: Alternatives
In the Sonos space, you could consider the much less pricey Era 100 if you wanted current models, or the established Sonos Five – a little more expensive – if you wanted built-in line-in and a more conventional speaker look.
Then there’s options like the refreshed Apple HomePod, best suited of course for those living entirely within the Apple Ecosystem.