When it comes to easy-to-install, multi-room audio, Sonos has long set the standard by which others are measured. However, in an evolving market with more audio options than ever before, does Sonos’ new AUD$749 Era 300 speaker deliver the kind of experience required to keep the brand atop the throne?
While part of the answer to that question requires the acknowledgement that some users will get more out of the Era 300 than others—for example, its Dolby Atmos compatibility won’t do Spotify subscribers much good—overall the Era 300 delivers sound quality, understated style, and convenience in spades. It doesn’t matter if you’re using it as a standalone speaker or looping it into your home’s already established Sonos set-up, I believe you’ll find it ultimately delivers a highly satisfying audio experience. With that out of the way, let’s explore everything that’s packed into Sonos’ Era 300.
Design and Functionality
Unboxing the Sonos Era 300, it’s a rather large (H: 160mm x W: 260mm x D: 185mm), subtly hourglass-shaped speaker. Handsome, if a little unremarkable-looking, I chose to interpret its understated aesthetic as a positive sign that Sonos’ engineers were probably more concerned with how it sounds than how it looks. In fact, with the Era 300’s casing side-stepping the temptation to draw undue attention to itself, it didn’t take long before I stopped even noticing it within my living room, meaning I was able to start enjoying it from a purely sonic point of view. As that’s what I’d prefer, the Era 300’s aesthetics get a thumbs up from me.
As for interacting with the speaker, I’ve always had a preference for physical buttons when it comes to products like this, but I found the capacitive touch controls of the Era 300 work perfectly well as a way to play, pause, skip, replay, adjust volume, and group or ungroup speakers within a Sonos system. That’s if I used them at all. Because more often than not I’d just open up the Sonos app on my Samsung Galaxy Z Fold5 and leisurely control everything from there. Would I prefer physical buttons? Sure. Does their absence significantly impact my enjoyment of the Era 300? Not at all.
Set-up and Connectivity
Setting up the Era 300 is an absolute breeze. If you’re new to Sonos, simply download the app for iOS or Android and it will effortlessly guide you through the whole process. For those who already have a Sonos network set-up in your home, you’ll surely be well aware of how simple it is to add another speaker. It’s all done in-app and I had the process completed in a matter of minutes.
In terms of connectivity, the Era 300 packs Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0. That means you can enjoy faster and more reliable Wi-Fi connectivity—provided you have a compatible router—while the speaker’s Bluetooth functionality offers faster data transfer and a longer range. During my testing, I found the Wi-Fi never lost connectivity once and friends who dropped by and connected to the speaker via Bluetooth never experienced a drop in their connection. You can’t ask for much more than that.
I should also say that the Era 300 features Amazon Alexa, but I have to confess that I’ve never been a fan of digital assistants. I tried it out and it worked fine, but the presence of Alexa was not a key feature for me, just as the absence of Google Assistant and Apple’s Siri did not see me marking points against the Era 300. Saying that, your own enthusiasm for these assistants may impact the Era 300’s ability to meet your needs.
Further, if you’re looking to take a wired approach to connectivity, the Era 300 features a USB-C input, which is handy but does mean you’ll need to buy an adapter if whatever you want to connect to the 300 doesn’t have a USB-C output. That’s not a mark against Sonos, to be clear. It’s just something to be aware of.
To my ears, the Sonos Era 300 sounds phenomenal, particularly when you consider its size and AUD$749 price point. As far as music streaming goes, I tested it out using TIDAL (which supports Dolby Atmos) and Spotify (which does not). Both delivered impressively full audio, but—in news that should surprise no one—the Dolby Atmos makes a significant difference. There’s an added depth and breadth to the experience, while the clarity it delivers had me hearing details in the tracks more clearly than I’m used to.
Whether I was listening to the relaxing sounds of Kruder & Dorfmeister’s DJ-Kicks mix album, a playlist of tracks from The Pharcyde’s ‘90s era, or the Led Zeppelin-aping rock of Rivals Sons’ new DARKFIGHTER album, the Era 300 presented an elevated version of songs I’m very familiar with. While I’ll always choose to listen to Dolby Atmos given the choice, in its absence the Era 300 still delivered a full and entirely enjoyable listening experience. The scope of the audio landscape and the detail contained therein would be comparatively limited, but that just speaks to how good the Dolby experience is. Without having made the direct comparison, the non-Dolby sound would be entirely satisfying to most people’s ears.
The Era 300 can also be used as part of your home theatre set-up, with a pair of them acting as satellite speakers paired with an Arc soundbar and Sonos Sub. While I didn’t get to test that full ensemble of speakers (I’d be happy to if anyone wants to provide the AUD$4,000+ required to do so), I did hook the Era 300 up to my TV to test it with Dolby Atmos-compatible titles on Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV+, Disney+, and Netflix. Again, the sound was impressive, filling my medium-sized living room and adding detail and nuance that unquestionably heightened immersion. If that’s what one Era 300 can do, I suspect the whole set-up might be overkill, but in the best way.
This impressive performance is achieved via the Era 300’s six drivers positioned around the front, sides, and top of the speaker. The design is intended to project sound from one wall to another and from the floor to the ceiling, which helps to explain the depth and breadth I mentioned.
Victrola Stream Carbon ‘Works With Sonos’ Turntable
Before I wrap this review, I also have to give a shout out to this very special piece of kit from the iconic turntable brand, Victrola. The team there kindly loaned me a unit to test in conjunction with the Era 300 and it enhanced the experience for this vinyl enthusiast considerably. Victrola has been making turntables for over a century, but there’s nothing old-fashioned to be found here, both in terms of aesthetics and functionality.
The Stream Carbon Turntable is the best-looking turntable I’ve ever seen (although an honourable mention goes to the Fred Perry x Pro-Ject Record Deck) and it makes for an incredibly stylish way to wirelessly bring records into your Sonos set-up. Crafted from premium materials, it boasts a carbon-fibre tonearm, artfully machined aluminium headshell, and an Ortofon 2M Red cartridge, which all help to ensure it sounds just as good as it looks.
There will be some who want to quibble about whether connecting a turntable to your sound system wirelessly goes against vinyl’s analogue spirit, but to those people I simply say that Victrola and Sonos have provided an effortless and seamless way to play my records throughout my house with a very high level of sound quality and I’m grateful for it. Will it compete with the output from an audiophile’s vinyl-specific set-up that they’ve spent a small fortune on? No, but that’s not the point. This pairing simply makes playing records fun and easy. Plus, it feels futuristic in a way that will make vinyl a more accessible and attractive format to a wider audience going forward. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
The Era 300 sees Sonos continue to deliver the goods, unquestionably maintaining its position as the go-to brand for easy-to-install, multi-room audio. It’s even easier to recommend if your streaming services of choice (both in terms of music and TV/movies) support Dolby Atmos, but with that becoming a more common offering I’d recommend investing in an Era 300 even if your current go-to music platform is Spotify – the sound is still great, just not as great. Overall, the Era 300 combines that high-quality sound, a level of wireless convenience (whether from your smartphone or an impossibly stylish Victrola turntable), and an ease of use that for AUD$749 make it hard to beat.
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