The Sonos Era 300 and Era 100 were unveiled this week, and while we only had a very short hands-on session with the two, the new smart speakers certainly have a lot of potential – to the point that we can’t wait to get them in our listening for a good test.
Highlights include completely reworked speaker designs, which Sonos claims will deliver major improvements in audio quality across the board, as well as the addition of Bluetooth and USB-C connectivity to both speakers.
As an added layer of allure, the larger, more expensive Sonos Era 300 even has spatial audio support, making it a direct competitor to the Apple HomePod 2 – one of the best smart speakers we’ve ever tested.
But while we’re excited about testing the new Era speakers soon, of course many readers (and the Which Hi-Fi? team) have already started speculating about what the next step in the pipeline might be. Specifically, whether a new, currently unconfirmed speaker is on the line to succeed Sonos’ most premium offering, the Sonos Five.
To add to the excitement, we’ve rounded up our top five wish lists of things we’d like to see from a potential, legendary Sonos Era 500.
1. An updated design
The Sonso Five is not ugly. It’s just a very utilitarian-looking box of a speaker, where the only real design thriving is the Sonos logo on the front. Our reviewers even went so far as to say, “The Sonos Five is straight as a brick and isn’t so much ‘designed’ as it is ‘carved’.”
That’s why we’d like to see a successor like the rumored Era 500 feature a similar design update to the Era 300 (pictured above). To catch you up, the new 300 speaker has a “cinched hourglass” aesthetic that we thought looked pretty good during our hands-on session at the launch event, keeping our eyes on the ground until the conclusion :
“Its quirky design makes it stand out – in a good way – compared to other traditional single speaker designs on the market.”
2. Better audio – especially with bass handling
The new design would also fit our second big request: improved audio. We didn’t have huge issues with the Sonos Five’s sound quality, but our reviewers found the bass a bit too floppy for serious listening without TruePlay – a tuning technology that only works if you’re streaming from an Apple device.
Moodymann’s play Taken away from a non-Apple device, we found the Sonos Five’s sound to be all too bass-forward and lack definition, with the lower frequencies dominating the rest of the frequency range.
We would like this problem to be solved with every successor to the Five. Fortunately, there is a good chance that this can happen. We haven’t tested the Era 300 to see if the issue has recurred yet, but the good news is that Sonos has been working to improve the audio fidelity of the newer speakers.
Specifically, Sonos loaded the Era 300 with six drivers. There are four tweeters (one front-firing, two side-firing, one up-firing to deliver spatial audio with Dolby Atmos) and two woofers (tilted left and right for stereo reproduction). Each of the six drivers is also powered by its own Class D amplifier.
It would make sense for Sonos to do a similar redesign on every other new Era speaker, like the coveted Era 500.
3. Spatial audio with Dolby Atmos for music and movies
The Era 300 is the first speaker to be marketed by Sonos as custom designed for spatial audio reproduction. This is an immersive audio technology we’re seeing more and more in the music world, which uses Dolby Atmos to create “an atmosphere of sound” – where you can hear the audio coming from all directions, including above you.
The new speaker’s driver arrangement is specifically designed to allow the Era 300 to deliver tracks in spatial audio with Dolby Atmos, but it can also be paired with a Sonos Arc or Beam Gen 2 soundbar to act as Dolby Atmos rear speakers in a home theater system (going to a 7.1.4 Atmos setup with a Sub).
We haven’t had a chance to test it yet, but some of the team are already excited about the addition after hearing how much work Sonos is doing to ensure there’s both music and movies to listen to in spatial audio.
As a result, we’d really like to see the same multi-channel Atmos surround capability also appear on the Era 500, if it ever appears.
4. More Bluetooth please
The new Era 300 and Era 100 are the first home speakers from Sonos to support the Bluetooth 5.0 standard, which supports standard SBC and AAC codecs. This is great news for people who value convenience over the best possible audio, as it means you can quickly and easily stream music to them from virtually any modern electronic device and streaming service.
That’s why we’d like to see the connectivity appear on any subsequent Era or Sonos speaker, including the 500.
5. Wider hi-res audio support
Our last request stems from a minor gripe we have with the Era 300’s connectivity – as it stands, the Era 300 (and Era 100) only supports playback of 24-bit/48kHz hi-res music from Qobuz and Amazon Music.
With many of the team using other streaming services, such as Tidal, as their daily personal music streaming driver, we’d love to see hi-res support over Bluetooth and Wi-Fi rolled out to more platforms on the potential Era 500, and Eraline in general .
Sure, we can’t even begin to speculate on things like pricing (no prices for guessing it might be priced higher than the Sonos Five or Era 300), but a more premium speaker from Sonos with better specs and better audio will certainly have our attention.
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