The Sonos Era 100 is an unsurprisingly high quality smart speak with a couple of surprising shortcomings. As a compact home speaker it delivers superb audio – if you jump through it’s hoops to get there.
the good bits
Premium feel and build quality
Deep, room filling sound
Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity
the not so good bits
Requires dongles for ethernet and line-in
No Google Assistant supporpt
Sonos Era 100 Bookshelf Speaker
As the demand for smart speakers has grown, so has the expectation of what they’re capable of. A simple Amazon Echo Dot will do the job, but if you’re looking for a better musical experience you’ll want to look elsewhere.
A name that’ll likely catch your eye is Sonos and in particular, the Sonos Era 100 bookshelf speaker. An evolution of the super popular Sonos One, the Era 100 combines Sonos’ audio expertise with digital assistant integration and the debut addition of Bluetooth connectivity.
Sonos have an impressive reputation for building premium home speakers and the Era 100 is no exception. Available in black or white, this matte monotone pillar oozes quality and delivers a surprising amount of sophistication for such a simple looking device.
Standing just over seven inches tall and five inches wide, the Sonos Era 100 commands its fair share of shelf space. However the rounded corners and softness brought by the matte finish mean despite being a solid (in the case of my unit) black lump, it doesn’t feel dominating and happily retreats into its surroundings. Like the Sonos Beam Gen 2 soundbar, there’s no fabric mesh here either – instead the Era 100 is wrapped almost entirely front to back in a smooth polycarbonate grille that offers a sleeker finish as a result.
You’ll find the far-field microphone array across the top, along with four touch capacitive buttons covering playback controls and to mute voice control functions. A smooth ditch breaks up the top panel and acts as a very nifty touch bar for volume control. There’s something immensely satisfying about swiping your finger along this channel and the subtle audio feedback it offers too, very nice. Around the back there’s a Bluetooth pairing button, USB-C input and toggle to completely disable the microphone hardware for privacy which is a touch the most privacy conscious will appreciate.
What some may not appreciate however is the purpose of that USB-C port. It’s not for playing your own local media, it’s simply an option for Sonos to sell you adapters for functionality that I’d have liked to have seen included on a £249/$249 speaker. If you want to hardwire your network connection or feed audio directly via line-in – you’re looking at up to £39 for the privilege. Really?
Thankfully top shelf performance is far from an optional extra with the Sonos Era 100, for a speaker of this size it sounds incredibly good. This shouldn’t really come as a surprise of course, audio you want to show off to your friends is the core of what Sonos does and the Era 100 is the next in a line of big hitters.
Setup was simple through the Sonos app and it passed the ‘do I think my mum could do this without asking for help’ benchmark test with ease. The app nearly instantly found the Era 100 and walked me through the setup, including the rather unique Trueplay calibration. I didn’t expect to start waving my phone around like a burning sage stick trying to banish bad audio spirits from my living room when I first unboxed this speaker, but I’m glad I did.
The benefits of this Trueplay calibration aren’t as notable as I found with the Sonos Beam Gen 2 soundbar but that’s to be expected given there’s no directional or Atmos tech at play here. Despite this, the Sonos Era 100 still manages to provide room-filling, embracing audio that does a good job of hiding exactly where it’s coming from.
There’s a notable lack of Google Assistant support with the Era 100 which is strange given it’s welcomed on board most other devices in the range, including the Gen 2 Sonos Beam. Thankfully I’m an Alexa household though and integration was seamless. The result is essentially a supercharged Echo device, all the benefits of an Echo Dot with the audio performance of a proper speaker – win win.
Playing music through Spotify was a joy, each song I requested was delivered with an intense richness and an incredibly full sound that slightly took me aback at first. Closing your eyes and listening to what the Era 100 pumps out you find yourself picturing a far larger speaker than what’s really sat in front of you. High ends are sharp with clear, crisp midtones offer a load of detail with a punchy, heavy bassline rounding everything out. I’m no audiophile but I know a gorgeous wall of sound when I’m hit with one.
Truth be told, I’m not surprised the Sonos Era 100 is an impressive smart speaker. You don’t generate the reputation for quality audio that Sonos holds without consistently delivering and the Era 100 is another winner. What I am surprised about though is just how incredibly good it is. I was expecting it to sound good but I wasn’t expecting it to sound this good.
The only drawbacks come in the form of strange decision making. Having already paid beyond £200 for a speaker it seems odd to need to pay another £40 to connect to it. Likewise, if Google Assistant is present across the rest of the range, where is it here? These are my only quirks though, and in the grand scheme they’re certainly minor. If sound quality in a small form factor is your primary focus, you’ll struggle to do better than the Sonos Era 100.