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Sonos Era 300 is close to a perfect smart speaker. But it has one big drawback

  • April 11, 2023

A well-engineered speaker can take your audio experience from easily-dismissible background music to an immersive journey that stimulates the senses. The Sonos Era 300 is the latest smart speaker to prove its worth in the sub-$500 market, with new features like spatial audio support to up the listening experience of Vienna Philharmonic, The Beatles, or insert your favorite song and artist.

I spent the past few weeks testing the Era 300 and can safely say that it’s been a near-euphoric experience. No matter what I played, or what room of the house I played from, I felt like I was in a live studio witnessing the birth of the track I was listening to. 

That said, while the audio quality of the Era 300 is exceptional, there’s more to the latest flagship speaker than its raw sound, and Sonos still has some rough edges to smooth out.


What’s new with this model

The Sonos Era 300 is a sizeable, hourglass-shaped smart speaker, with both Sonos Voice Control and Amazon Alexa built-in, and fits squarely as a median between the new Era 100 and the existing Sonos Five, though nothing about it is midrange. Here’s what’s new with the latest Era speaker. 

1. Touch controls and improved connectivity

The Sonos Era 300 does away with physical controls in favor of touch controls.

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

Doing away with button controls, the Era speaker features touch controls for the volume and to play, pause, skip, and replay. There’s also a Bluetooth button on the back to pair a new device, and a mic switch to mute your speaker’s microphone.

The touch controls modernize the Era 300’s design, but I wouldn’t say that they’ve fully convinced me to step away from physical buttons. Are the touch sensors responsive? Sure. But nothing beats the tactility and instant feedback that pressable buttons provide.

Also: The 6 best Wi-Fi speakers

Speaking of modernizing, the Era 300 supports Wi-Fi 6, and it also has a USB-C port to connect a Sonos line-in or ethernet adapter. Though Apple AirPlay 2 support is maintained from previous Sonos smart speakers, the Era lineup still doesn’t support Chromecast.

2. Truly immersive spatial audio

The Sonos Era 300 weighs just shy of 10 pounds.

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

Sonos uses Trueplay, a software that leverages the speaker’s built-in far-field microphones to measure your room’s acoustics, to fine-tune the equalizer. Essentially, once you place your Sonos speaker where you want it, it will play a series of laser sounds, and listen to how each one echoes through the furniture, walls, and ceiling in the room, optimizing the audio experience along the way.

The speaker’s architecture is built to put you right in the middle of your music, and it succeeds resonantly. Within the hourglass housing, there are two woofers angled left and right for the ultimate stereo experience and balanced bass. They’re widely spaced and engineered to minimize vibration and rumbling, though the houseplant that sat next to the Era 300 while I tested higher volume levels would probably disagree.

Also: The best stereo speakers you can buy

Plant-battling woofers aside, the speaker also has four tweeters to fire off high and mid-range frequencies in different directions, including an upward-firing tweeter to bounce sound off the ceiling. That’s essential for a truly enveloping spatial audio experience.

The Sonos Era 300 is not only the company’s first speaker to support spatial audio from Apple Music, but also the first third-party speaker to do so. Amazon Music Unlimited‘s spatial audio library is also supported, but it’s worth noting that this feature is only available for music played from the Sonos app, not Bluetooth or Apple AirPlay 2.

The hourglass shape allows the speaker to achieve its spatial audio experience.

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

I’ll note that high-quality spatial audio tracks are few and far between within streaming services, so the feature support shouldn’t be the primary reason you grab an Era 300. 

Still, I love that the Era 300 delivers on its spatial audio promises, with a radiant, powerful sound that keeps the track’s vocals uncreased and at the forefront, no matter the volume. As a video (and sometimes audio) editor, closing my eyes and listening to the ethereal clarity of a song allowed me to visualize the different audio tracks layered on top of each other to create the final piece.

Also: Hear me out: Sonos Era 100 is the best smart speaker under $300

No matter where I stood in my living room, the music felt rich and clear. The speaker projects spatial audio sound so persuasively that you sometimes can’t tell where it’s coming from.

3. The home theater experience

You can even pair the Sonos Era 300 with an Arc soundbar and Sonos Sub.


I enjoy a good home theater. It’s something I came to appreciate during the pandemic, and continues to be a safe haven experience for my family. And after watching a few too many movies at home, I can’t fathom just how important a competent audio system is to the immersion of the films. One that can reproduce booming sound effects, rich melodies, and clear dialogues can make the experience that much better, and that’s exactly what the Era 300 achieves.

Also: The best soundbars you can buy right now

For example, two Sonos Era 300 speakers can be paired together and used with a Sonos Arc or second-generation Beam soundbar for the ultimate 7.1.4 Dolby Atmos entertainment experience — no overhead speakers needed. In fact, even if you invest in just one Era 300 speaker, I’ve found its audio performance more than reliable for all genres of content. 

What I’d like to see in the next model

The Sonos Era 300 is a fantastic, all-around speaker, but there are some quirks that can use some fixing going into the next generation.

1. Better Android/Google compatibility

The Sonos Era 300 and Era 100 don’t support Google Voice or Chromecast.

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

As mentioned above, the Era lineup of speakers does away with Google Voice Assistant; the speakers are only compatible with Amazon Alexa and Sonos Voice Control, though the older Sonos smart speakers on the market that already supported Google voice control will continue to do so. 

Aside from Google Voice Assistant getting the boot, I was hoping that Sonos would add Chromecast support with this line of smart speakers, but that’s not the case with the Era 300. This detracts from the experience for Android users, as they can’t cast to the speaker like iPhone users can with AirPlay, though Bluetooth and the Sonos app are still available.

2. Improved user experience with the Sonos app

The Sonos app has never been a strong point with its smart speakers, which is unfortunate given the necessity of seamless, digital interactions. The mobile app is not intuitive or user-friendly, making it confusing at times to figure out where to access certain features and settings. Even searching for music can be frustrating. 

Also: Sonos Era smart speakers now available to buy: Here’s what’s new

The biggest problem I have with the app, however, is how slow it is. It’s slow at setup, loading, controlling the speaker, you name it. Fortunately, this is all a problem with the app and not the speaker itself. With some software patches here and there, Sonos can easily tidy up the experience. It just needs to act on it.

3. A more dust-resistant coating

A dusty Sonos Era 300 — it hasn’t even been here a week.

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

As soon as I took the speaker out and started testing it, I could tell the matte black finish was not the best choice for me. The material is highly prone to showing finger smudges and dust, especially on the capacitive touch controls at the top. 

This is, admittedly, a pet peeve I have with things around my home, and I find myself wiping the Era 300 clean often. If you don’t want your speaker looking dusty, I’d recommend the matte white option instead.

Bottom line

The Sonos Era 300 speaker retails at $449 which, while $100 cheaper than the older Sonos Five, is still a lofty asking price. But even as a penny-pinching consumer, I consider the Era 300 the best standalone Dolby Atmos speaker available, making its price justifiable. The audio quality, including spatial audio support, sets the Era 300 apart from all other speakers I’ve tested in its price range.

And with this speaker, Sonos has created a device that elevates the immersive listening experience, catering to a growing demand for wider audio format support.

Should I buy one?

The Era 300 is recommended for those who want a one-stop-shop speaker, especially if they can live without the Google Voice Assistant and Chromecast capabilities. The speaker is also future-proof, with Wi-Fi 6 and spatial audio support, so the investment goes a long way. But if you’re shopping on a dime or expect yourself to play music via Google’s wireless connection services, then look elsewhere.

Alternatives to consider 


Sonos Five

The pricier, higher-end Sonos Five is a great alternative for high-fidelity stereo sound, and if you’re not looking for spatial audio capabilities. 


Denon Home 250

The Denon Home 250 is a fantastic wireless speaker with AirPlay 2 and Google Assistant, though there’s no support for Amazon Alexa.


Apple HomePod (2023)

While not as powerful as the Era 300, the Apple HomePod supports multi-speaker pairing and fits seamlessly into an Apple Home ecosystem. 

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