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Home Tech The best-sounding smart speaker is the Sonos Era 100, according to a review in The Guardian by Sonos.
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The best-sounding smart speaker is the Sonos Era 100, according to a review in The Guardian by Sonos.

Photo by Zachariah Smith on Unsplash

The new compact smart speaker costs £249 ($249/A$399), making it the mid-range option in the company’s speaker line after the firm’s collaboration with Ikea starting at £99.

With a similar aesthetic to the outgoing One, it is only 2cm taller and 1cm deeper, making it pretty compact and easy to place on a cabinet or bookshelf. It requires just a power cable, connecting to your router via wifi 6 for streaming music from more than 100 different services, including Spotify and BBC Sounds, controlled from the Sonos app on your phone.

In a first for Sonos’s non-portable speakers, it also supports Bluetooth 5 for impromptu streaming from guest’s phones or other Bluetooth devices, which works great.

A button on the top turns the voice assistant on or off. There’s a choice of one or both of Sonos’s own local voice assistant for playback control and Amazon’s Alexa, but not Google’s Assistant.

If all you want to do is control the speaker, Sonos’s voice assistant is the best, working faster and without having to connect to Amazon. A switch on the back of the speaker can disconnect the mics entirely if not needed.

Dimensions: 18.3 x 12 x 13.1cm

Weigh: 2kg

Speakers: two tweeters, one midwoofer

Connectivity: wifi 6, Bluetooth 5, USB-C, AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect

The Era 100 might be a compact speaker but it packs surprisingly big, room-filling sound. It has a 25% larger woofer than the One and a pair of tweeters angled left and right to create stereo sound.

We’re not talking the new spatial audio capability like Apple’s offering or the more expensive Era 300, but the result is a much wider audio with more bass that makes the speaker sound a lot bigger than it is. The stereo effect is not bad at all when facing the speaker straight on but quickly merges togetherwhen you move to the side.

It sounds really good, packed with detail, with warm mids, crisp highs and plenty of bass. It can hit all but the deepest of notes when pushed and has excellent separation of tones while maintaining a good balance even when blasting out tracks up to about 90% volume. Vocal clarity is excellent and it handles a wide variety of music genres better than many competitors. It occasionally has a bit too much mid-bass thump for my liking in some tracks, but that was easily adjusted with bass, treble and “loudness” settings in the app.

The Era 100 also supports Sonos’s room-tuning Trueplay feature for the first time on Android, previously it was an Apple exclusive. Using the “quick tune” option the speaker blasts out a tone and uses its built-in microphones to tweak the sound to best suit your room. The option for the more laborious full tuning, waving an iPhone or iPad around a room, is still available, but I’m not sure it’s necessary here.

If one isn’t enough, you can pair two Era 100s for stereo sound, or use them as rear surround sound speakers with one of Sonos’s soundbars.

The Era 100 is generally repairable by Sonos. The company commits to a minimum of five years software support for feature updates after it stops selling a product, but has a track record of much longer, including bug and security fixes for its legacy products.

It draws about 1.5W when idle and less while sleeping overnight, up to 4-11W at 50% volume and a maximum of 24W at 100% volume.

The speaker contains 48% recycled plastic and is designed with disassembly in mind for repair, refurbishment and recycling. It offers trade-in and product recycling, and publishes annual responsibility and sustainability reports.

The Sonos Era 100 comes in black or white costing £249 ($249/A$399).

For comparison, the Ikea Symfonsik line starts at £99, the Sonos One line costs from £179, the Era 300 costs £449, the Apple HomePod costs £299, the Amazon Echo costs £99.99 and the Google Nest Audio costs £89.99.

The Era 100 is Sonos’s best-sounding small speaker, and takes the crown as the new top smart speaker for music.

Its compact frame hides powerful, room-filling and high-quality sound with plenty of bass, adding to the winning formula of its popular predecessor. It won’t manage any spatial audio tricks, but produces a nice and wide sound or surprisingly good stereo if you sit directly in front of it. Pair two of them for even better sound.

Additions of Bluetooth, line-in capability and modern wifi 6 are most welcome upgrades, as is progress on repairability and sustainability. Sonos’s excellent multi-room audio platform continues to set the standard, compatible with a massive range of streaming services while being kept continually updated with a very long support life. The recent addition of its own voice assistant that controls playback processed locally on the device for speed and privacy is great, and you use it side-by-side with Amazon’s Alexa too.

It isn’t exactly cheap, costing twice or more than some smart speakers bought from Google or Amazon, but it isn’t tied to their ecosystem, sounds better and has much greater compatibility to use your favourite music services.

Cons: comparatively expensive, no Google Assistant support, no spatial audio support/Dolby Atmos.

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