Sonos Era 100 Lightning Review: A Sonos One With Stereo
The Sonos Era 100 is officially in our lab and at a glance, it is in more ways than one, it’s an homage of sorts to the brand’s earlier One speaker that launched back in 2017. So, let’s blaze through what’s new with this speaker and what makes it far superior to its predecessor.
What Is It?
As I mentioned the Era 100 is an homage to the One, but to be more precise, this home speaker is a reworked and revamped version of the latter. Where the One is a mono speaker, the Era 100 is stereo and even comes with new innards to back it up, plus other a couple of other physical fixtures.
Is It Any Good?
So, let’s be clear about the capabilities of the Era 100. Like all Sonos speakers, the brand still recommends that the speaker be tethered and connected to your home’s Wi-Fi, giving you the ability to play your favourite song or media content from anywhere in the house. However, what is new – and truly, a first for a Sonos speaker – is the dedicated Bluetooth button at the back of the speaker. That’s right, for the first time, and besides the Roam, this is a Sonos home speaker that is capable of steaming via Bluetooth connectivity. Having said that, you can still do the traditional thing and directly connect your media device to the speaker, line-in style, which is what the USB-C port at the back of it is for.
For another matter, the top of the Era 100 is packed with touch-based sensors, including the navigation buttons and Voice Assistant sensor. The volume slider is a little unique too, in that it prompts you with how loud or soft the speaker is through the beeps that come out when you slide your finger left and right. To be clear, there are no haptic sensors beneath the surface, and every action is prompted by sound. There’s also a switch in the back of the Era 100 that you can use to mute the built-in microphone, assuming you don’t want to the speaker’s Voice Assistant to pick up on your conversation and get smarter.
But above all other features that the Era 100 has to offer, it would have to be that its auto-tuning function, Trueplay, is finally available via its dedicated app and is no longer exclusive to Apple devices only.
The Sound Quality. Talk To Me.
When set up in a room with ample open space, and running Trueplay at least once, the mids and highs produced by the Era 100 come off as warm, albeit just ever so slightly constricted, muted even. They still have a good range across multiple genres; jazz pieces like Yoko Kanno and the Seatbelts’ Digging My Potato produce crisp highs when the harmonica peaks, and in the live rendition of Chihiro Onitsuka’s Gekkou, you can hear each octave in her voice and sound staging is relatively accurate but again, still constricted. Still on the subject of vocals, the same audio quality is also present when I listen to Jane Monheit’s rendition of Over the Rainbow.
As for the lows of the Era 100, I’ll say this: if you don’t activate Trueplay and let the function work its magic, you’re going to find this particular pitch falling a little flat. Play it after tuning, though, and the difference is like the sun and moon. To be fair, it’s still not as soul-touching as other high-end speakers that I’ve had the privilege to review, but the pitch sounds deep, distortion is non-existent, which makes songs like Nina Simone’s Feeling Good and Stacey Kent’s Venus de Melo sound an absolute treat.
The Bad Stuff. Tell Me.
As impressive as the listening experience is on the Era 100, it still feels a bit lacking overall. As I mentioned, the overall range of the speaker feels slightly constricted. There are some songs, such as the main theme song from Cowboy Bebop, Tank!, that has a score of different instruments and sometimes, it just can’t replicate them. If I am to be critical, perhaps getting two units and pairing them could improve the experience, vastly even.
I should also mention that connecting the Era 100 to my Wi-Fi network wasn’t a walk in the park for me. The initial stage of the setup was fairly straightforward but when it comes to waiting for it to complete the connection, the entire app hangs on me. It’s only after I reset the app and entered it again that I find out that the speaker was, in fact, already connected. Sonos, you may want to take not of this.
The last hurdle of the Era 100? It retails for RM1599, making it one of the more expensive home speakers on the market.
Should I Buy It?
At RM1599 a pop, the Sonos Era 100 is not a home speaker you can simply just walk into the store on purchase on a whim, although you can most certainly do that from a non-financial standpoint. However, if you do decide to purchase it, it is safe to say, as is the case with the majority of Sonos speakers we’ve tested in the past, that you’re going to be treating your home to a very warm and relatively rich listening experience, whichever room it is placed in.
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