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IIf you pay attention to the music industry, you’ve probably heard of spatial audio. The promise is that the music will envelop the user from all directions without needing a room full of speakers to achieve the effect. Apple has pushed it a lot in recent years, in Apple Music, its line of AirPods headphones and the latest HomePod speaker. Amazon’s streaming service also offers spatial sound, and its Echo Studio speaker can play compatible tracks.
Sonos has also paid attention – its recent Arc and Beam soundbars support Dolby Atmos for movies, and now the company is launching its first music speaker designed for spatial audio, era 300. This beast is tall and has an unusual shape to accommodate all the drivers needed to achieve those room filling effects. At $450, you’d expect this speaker to sound great whether it’s playing spatial audio or not, but support for this new format is what sets it apart from other speakers. As such, the big question that concerns me is whether this feature is a game changer, a gimmick, or somewhere in between?
- Excellent sound quality
- Simple setup
- Trueplay tuning is easier than ever
- Bluetooth and line-in options
- Works with just about any music service
- Spatial audio experience can be hit or miss
- Seems a little weird
- More Google Assistant support
There’s nothing in the Sonos range to compare the Era 300 to. Size and weight wise it’s a large speaker, similar to the Sonos Five, but its unusual shape immediately sets it apart . Seen from the front, its oval reminds me of a race track, but any other angle reveals a distinctive imprint. If you look at it from the top, it is thinner towards the middle than towards the ends; the best way i can describe it is a flipped hourglass.
This is to accommodate the complex array of drivers inside the Era 300. There’s one tweeter that pops out of neutral and two more that send audio to the left and right sides. Finally, there’s a fourth tweeter inside an upward-pointing directional horn; Sonos says it’s at a specific angle optimized for spatial audio. Two woofers, always on either side of the enclosure, complete the set.
The Era 300 reminds me of most other recent Sonos products. It’s well built, extremely sturdy, and generally looks like a product that justifies its high price tag. That said, its physical appearance is decidedly more unusual than that of the company’s other speakers. I agree it’s functional, but the combination of its size and odd tapered shape makes it stand out more than you’d like.
Many of the new features and changes from the Era 100 carry over to the Era 300 as well. This includes a redesigned set of top panel touch controls, a USB-C port for line-in and Ethernet (provided you shell out for the optional adapters), a Bluetooth toggle and a switch to physically disconnect the microphone on the back. To learn more about these features, I’ll direct you to the relevant section of my Era 100 review. Almost everything I said applies. That said, for $450, it’s a little disappointing that Sonos requires an adapter for line-in or Ethernet. The $550 Sonos Five has both built-in. I’m sure the company has the data showing that a small percentage of owners use these features so I’m glad they weren’t completely removed, but it would certainly be nice if they didn’t require an adapter .
Setting up the Era 300 is fairly simple, even if you don’t yet have a Sonos system. You will need to download the Sonos app to your phone and create an account. from there the app will search and see if there are any speakers to add. You will also need to connect to the audio services of your choice. If you want to try spatial audio, you’ll need Apple Music or Amazon Music Unlimited. You can find and play music through the Sonos app, but there are plenty of options too if you prefer to stick with the music apps you’re used to. You can use AirPlay 2 to record audio from Apple Music and other services on the iPhone directly to the Era 300, or use Spotify Connect without having to go through the Sonos app. That said, it’s worth noting that if you want to play tracks in spatial audio, you need to use the Sonos app.
Gallery: Sonos Era 300 test photos | 10 Pictures
Gallery: Sonos Era 300 test photos | 10 Pictures
There are a few optional but useful things you can do while you’re setting up the Era 300. The first is Trueplay, a feature that adjusts your speaker’s output based on where it’s placed in your room. . Trueplay has been around since 2015, but in the past you had to have an iPhone. You would have to walk around your room slowly lifting and lowering the phone while the speakerphone played a test tone. The Era 300, however, can use its built-in microphones to listen and optimize its output – this process is much simpler and faster than the old technique, and Android users are not left out either.
I’ve been extremely happy with the results of Trueplay in the past, so I’d recommend everyone give it a try. That said, I found the old manual tuning process to yield slightly better results. So while I appreciate the ease of use of the new Trueplay system, I’ll probably still walk around my room waving my phone, but I won’t judge you if you take the easier route.
If you like using voice commands, you can also add a voice assistant to the Era 300. Amazon’s Alexa has been supported since One launched in 2017, and Sonos last year added its own music-focused assistant. Setting up the Sonos Assistant is a little easier than Alexa, as you don’t need to link your Amazon account, but both are pretty straightforward at this point. One thing to note: older Sonos speakers with microphones also worked with Google Assistant, but that’s no longer the case. The Era 100 only works with Alexa and the Sonos Assistant, likely due to ongoing patent battles between Google and Sonos. Personally, I prefer Google Assistant over Alexa, so that’s a bit disappointing. But I also mostly talk to my speaker to play music, so the Sonos option works quite well.