Sonos Era 100 Speaker Review: Versatile and Compact

PRICE $249

Surprising upper bass accuracy
Bluetooth or Wi-Fi
Privacy controls
Minimal stereo Imaging
Compressed sound

Who says you can't improve on perfection? The Sonos Era 100 is the new replacement for the much heralded Sonos One speaker. Does it offer improvements? Absolutely! With Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connections, voice assist and extremely loud playback, the Era 100 lives up to the usual Sonos hype with sound that delivers.

Move over Sonos One—there’s a new kid on the block and its time has come. The Era 100 is one of two new products from Sonos, the other being the larger, pricier Era 300. The Era 100 boasts an array of features that address many complaints from earlier products.

Most notably, the Era 100 offers “stereo” playback, Bluetooth 5.0, an optional line-in USB-C jack for a turntable or CD player with the Sonos adapter,a 25% larger midwoofer than the One, and finally, Trueplay playback calibration for Android users. Why the quotes around stereo? Unlike a system with truly discreet left and right speakers for each channel, the Era 100 uses a single mid-range woofer and relies on two angled tweeters and wave guides to supply the stereo imaging by dispersing the treble frequencies, each powered by its own Class D amplifier.

While far from ideal, this does give the Era 100 a much wider soundstage than any single mono speaker could ever hope for. It is possible to pair two Era 100 for true, discreet stereo playback, and grouping speakers is simple in the Sonos app. A wall mount or speaker stand is available for the Era 100.

The slightly squared off cylindrical speaker is available in black or white. The power cable connects neatly on the bottom, there isn’t a battery, but the speaker is small and light enough to carry around, as long as AC power is nearby. I auditioned the Era 100 in high-desert country, but it is resistant to humidity.

The top of the speaker has a touch slider volume control that is really a treat to use. Slide to continuously adjust, or tap to quickly jump to a new volume. There are play/pause and track advance controls as well, so you aren’t 100% reliant on an app, be it Sonos or something like Spotify.

The Era 100 has what I feel is a very important feature. The voice-assist commands are compatible with Sonos Voice Control and Alexa, while notably missing legal foe, Google Assistant. Through the app, users can access Spotify, Tidal, Qobuz, and utilize built-in Apple AirPlay 2. There is a touch-control button on the top that defeats or activates the voice-assist microphone (while still having it active for Trueplay tuning), but for added security, there’s a switch on the back of the 100 that completely disconnects power from the microphone. There is also a button to switch from WiFi to Bluetooth.

Setting it up in the app is exactly the same as any other Sonos product, intuitive and easy. Plug in the speaker, open the app, bring your phone close to the unit and look for the “+ Add Product” under your system settings. The app walks you through the rest of the setup.

There is an option to add a Sonos sub or set up a stereo pair. Basic treble and bass EQ settings are available, as well as a loudness control that enhances the bass at lower listening levels. And I am truly pleased to share that the Era 100 has Trueplay support for Android that uses the 100’s microphones to tune the playback response to your listening room. It runs a series of tones to adjust the playback response, and as long as the microphone is active, will continue to adjust as it is used. iOS users have advanced Trueplay that, in addition to the speaker’s microphone, uses the microphone in the iPhone to further calibrate playback.

I’ve had the pleasure and privilege to audition quite a few Sonos speakers. With that experience, I’ve come to expect a certain level of fidelity. The Era 100 does not disappoint. I am enthralled with Hozier’s latest, “Francesca”, based on Dante’s “Inferno.” His voice is achingly rich but its upper clarity gets lost in the distorted guitars that over-power the mix and he sounds a bit strained on higher notes. During the massively powerful outro, the mix starts out muddy and details get lost, but as it gets sparser at the very end, the nuances hauntingly shine.

The bass is surprisingly solid, albeit constrained. It lacks deep bass extension, but the accuracy and control of the bass that is present is never overbearing. Once I added in the Sonos Sub Mini, the bass response was fantastic, with little gap where their responses crossed over. I found the high treble to feel a bit stressed, but I was blown away by the low-end sonics.

The Era 100 certainly can play loud - I could never get anywhere close to its maximum level on this track. But it sounds compressed if driven too hard, with a definite harshness in the upper high end. And even with the wave guides and stereo tweeters, the sound is localized to the speaker, with the imaging barely extending beyond the chassis. I would absolutely recommend pairing two Era 100 speakers for an accurate stereo image.

I have to say that I’m a fan of the Sonos ecosystem. I find the Sonos app easy to navigate, and it makes playing music across a variety of platforms intuitive and concise, along with the ease of Sonos’ multi room options. The Era 100 fits right into my world as a good little speaker that behaves itself as long as you don’t try to push it too hard. For a bigger room, I would absolutely recommend pairing two Era 100 speakers or springing for the Era 300. All in all, for the price, the Era 100 is a solid speaker whose time has come.

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