Sonos Era 100 review: the new default smart speaker

That is the way you comply with up on what was already a very good product. Over the course of my time reviewing the brand new Period 100 speaker, which succeeds the Sonos One launched in 2017, that’s been my constant takeaway. It’s gone up in value barely — now $249 in comparison with the One’s $219 value (itself a rise over the $199 launch value) — however that improve wasn’t only for the sake of it. The Period 100 outperforms the One in each class in terms of sound: it’s now able to stereo playback and has improved bass response.

However essentially the most thrilling side of the Period 100 is the best way Sonos has broadened its performance. It’s nonetheless a wise speaker that may stream from each music service you’ll be able to consider, helps hands-free voice instructions, and consists of further options like AirPlay 2. These issues had been all true of the One, however the Period steps as much as one other stage by tacking on Bluetooth playback and line-in audio through the rear USB-C port. The previous lets anybody who comes over simply play their very own music on the speaker, whereas the latter means that you can run a turntable or different exterior audio supply by your total Sonos system. 

It’s not a flawless report card: the Period 100 now not gives Google Assistant as a voice platform. As a substitute, you’re left with Amazon Alexa and Sonos’ personal music-focused Sonos Voice Management, which is slowly increasing its potential with timers and different capabilities. Basically, that leaves the Period 100 feeling much less “good” than its predecessor should you’re tied into Google’s ecosystem. However in each different approach, the Period 100 is a transparent improve over the Sonos One, which has stood as the corporate’s bestselling product. Inside the firm’s lineup, that is the unassuming speaker that you could put in any nook or room the place you need music. 

The speaker’s design is extra rounded than a squircle this time, although it’s nonetheless not completely round when seen from above. The Period 100 is a hair taller than the Sonos One and ever so barely deeper, but it surely’s not large by any stretch. It’s usually shocking how a lot sound comes out of the One given its dimension, and the Period is not any totally different.

When flanked by the corporate’s transportable audio system, it barely stands above the Roam and is an effective deal shorter than the Transfer. Sonos used a barely hotter shade of white plastic for the 100, which comes by in a few of these photographs however is a type of belongings you wouldn’t discover if I hadn’t instructed you.

The Period 100, at proper, isn’t a lot bigger than the Sonos One it’s changing.

Contained in the speaker hidden from view are repairability enhancements: the corporate has moved away from sticking adhesive all through the product’s inner construction and now makes use of screws wherever potential. That is the case for each Period audio system and can make them simpler to disassemble and repair, although Sonos is stopping short of rolling out a self-repair program for now. We’ll need to see how a lot demand arises for that over time. Additionally price noting is that the Period 100 makes use of much less energy than the One when idle and comprises a good quantity of recycled plastic (between 40 to 50 %).

In comparison with its previous audio system, Sonos took a brand new strategy with the highest controls on the Eras. There are devoted monitor controls — no want for swipe gestures anymore — and a separate indented bar that handles quantity. You may slide your finger throughout for fast changes or faucet both facet for extra granular quantity adjustments. It took extra time than I anticipated to retrain myself to this new association, however I bought there inside a few days.

There at the moment are devoted monitor controls, which the One lacked.

In the back of the highest floor is a button for briefly disabling your chosen voice assistant. If you wish to shut off the built-in microphones altogether, you are able to do so with a brand new toggle change on the again of the speaker. When it’s flipped down, the Period 100 cuts energy to its microphones. The highest button is supposed extra for briefly pausing voice interactions, whereas the latter is a measure for privateness diehards who need them off off. There’s no “Period 100 SL” in the meanwhile, so the onerous change is as shut as you will get.

The opposite new button round again is for Bluetooth pairing: simply press and maintain to pair a brand new machine. The Period 100 is transport with Bluetooth 5.0 and can ultimately be bumped as much as 5.2 with a future firmware replace. There’s nothing significantly fancy right here — it’s music over Bluetooth, however till now, it was one thing Sonos reserved for its transportable audio system. precisely what to anticipate, and it really works with out a hitch. I recognize the added comfort, and the flexibleness means your company gained’t need to cope with the Sonos cell app simply to play a track or two.

Sonos has additionally added an supposed bar for quantity changes.

The Period 100 helps Bluetooth audio playback.

You may disable the built-in microphones with a flick of this change on the again.

Sonos has added a USB-C port to the again of the Period 100 to permit for line-in connections through an elective $19 dongle. The port is for audio solely and never supposed for energy to or from the speaker. Plug the dongle into the Period 100, and you’ll run a file participant or one other audio supply by it and sync the whole lot throughout your different Sonos audio system. The corporate advises that line-in isn’t a very good match for reside TV since there’s latency to account for. A Sonos soundbar continues to be one of the simplest ways to play TV audio all through your own home. (In case you’re curious, USB-C-to-3.5mm adapters you might have already got are unlikely to work. Sonos does an analog-to-digital conversion as a substitute of the opposite approach round.)

It’s also possible to buy a $39 combo adapter that helps each ethernet and line-in. Some longtime Sonos clients have bemoaned that the Period audio system don’t help SonosNet, a characteristic that created a non-public community for the audio system to speak over each time one among them was plugged into ethernet. Sonos appears to imagine the inclusion of extra sturdy Wi-Fi 6 connectivity makes up for that omission. Understand that should you’re utilizing Sonos audio system as surrounds for any of the corporate’s soundbars, they impart straight over a 5Ghz connection, so that you don’t want to fret about wi-fi interference in that state of affairs. I don’t know many non-techies who’ve run out to improve their routers to Wi-Fi 6, so I can perceive a few of the frustration. However I’ve but to note any music cutouts or streaming points whereas testing the Period 300 and Period 100.

Regardless of being an identical dimension to the Sonos One, the Period 100 actually steps up audio efficiency by transferring from a mono to stereo driver configuration. There at the moment are two tweeters, enabling correct left and proper channel replica. Sonos caught with a single midwoofer, but it surely’s considerably bigger than earlier than, and consequently, the Period is more proficient at dealing with bass output. 

It’s straightforward to suit the Period 100 wherever you wish to take heed to music.

The Period is a small single-unit speaker, so it’s unrealistic to anticipate a lot stereo separation or a vastly vast soundstage. However with every monitor I examined, the audio of the 100 was clear, detailed, and full-bodied. You don’t need to accept sure devices or vocals being drowned out within the combine, which might occur with the mishmash produced by mono audio system. The sound is wealthy, stays constantly sturdy throughout genres, and there’s simply extra room for the whole lot to breathe. I’ve little doubt there are “audiophiles” who will simply preserve rolling their eyes on the notion of a Sonos speaker sounding superb, however that is objectively a considerable leveling up in comparison with the Sonos One.

The Period 100 sounds fairly respectable out of the field, however like different Sonos gear, Trueplay will help it attain most potential. For the primary time, Sonos is supporting its Trueplay tuning characteristic on each iOS and now Android. Android customers can run a brand new “fast tune” process within the Sonos app that makes use of the Period 100’s built-in mics to gauge a room’s acoustics and optimize the sound for that atmosphere. This course of can end inside a matter of seconds, I’ve discovered, though Sonos says it could possibly take as much as a minute. Both approach, that’s faster than the superior tuning that continues to be current on iOS. With the latter, you continue to need to stroll across the room waving your iPhone or iPad round and use that microphone for a extra thorough studying of the acoustics. 

Sonos claims that the superior strategy will finally produce superior outcomes and is finest for bigger areas, however a minimum of Android clients lastly have some measure of Trueplay help. (iOS customers have the choice to make use of fast tune as nicely in the event that they don’t wish to fuss with the longer walkabout model.) One factor I’ve noticed is that Trueplay can produce different-sounding outcomes even when a speaker hasn’t moved. In case you’re not loving the preliminary changes it makes, it’s price attempting the method once more (and making certain that your cellphone’s mic holes are clear).

The Period 100 helps hands-free voice instructions with Amazon Alexa or Sonos Voice Management.

Earlier than overlaying voice, I ought to preface that I’m not large on voice assistants. Like so many different folks, I largely stick with climate inquiries, setting timers, and taking part in a track or playlist on demand. My residence is neither stuffed with good residence devices nor deeply wired into Alexa (or Google Assistant for that matter). However in the course of the evaluate interval, I’ve made an effort to repeatedly use each Alexa and Sonos Voice Management to play music and depart my cellphone in my pocket. That have has been optimistic, and even at reasonable quantity ranges, the far-field microphones do a very good job of recognizing your voice (and the “Alexa” or “Hey Sonos” hotwords) over no matter music is taking part in. 

However make no mistake: there’ll inevitably be potential consumers disenchanted about Google Assistant being not noted of the social gathering. Sonos claims Google has made it extra technically burdensome during the last yr to incorporate Assistant on third-party audio system and says this has nothing to do with the continued authorized battle between each firms. Regardless of the reasoning, it’s customers who lose out in the long run. Hopefully, an answer may be reached that brings Assistant again into the equation for many who’ve constructed their good properties round it. 

As with the Sonos One, you’ll be able to stereo pair two Period 100s for wider, extra immersive listening or use them as rear surrounds for any Sonos soundbar. Simply remember that every speaker switches over to mono in residence theater mode; you’ll get devoted left and proper rear channels however not the multidimensional encompass (with Atmos top results) supplied by the a lot pricier Period 300. It’s also possible to pair a Sonos Sub or Sub Mini with the Period 100 if you wish to lend extra energy to its already sufficient bass response.

It improves upon the Sonos One in a number of significant methods.

It’s straightforward to purchase a inexpensive good speaker like the Nest Audio, HomePod Mini, or Amazon Echo. Anybody on the lookout for a wise residence controller first and music speaker second will nonetheless discover some enchantment in these units. 

However with the Period 100, Sonos has succeeded in its objective of remastering and bettering the Sonos One. It sounds nicer than lower-cost rivals. From principally any perspective (outdoors of voice assistant choices), this speaker is a winner. It sounds higher and is more true to stereo music than the Sonos One. The onboard controls are extra complete. And Sonos has improved upon the One’s formulation by including genuinely helpful new options like Bluetooth and line-in.

Even when it could possibly’t go head-to-head with the $299 HomePod in audio constancy — Apple’s speaker takes that victory — it’s way more versatile in how one can take heed to music. You’ll get loads of enjoyment out of the Period 100 on day one, which isn’t as straightforward to say concerning the pricey Period 300 and the uneven early displaying of spatial audio that Sonos is betting so closely on.

Pictures by Chris Welch / The Verge

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