It’s been a long while since we saw a proper refresh of Sonos’ wireless speakers. Not new soundbars. Not something portable. We’re talking about the bread-and-butter of what made the company so popular in the first place. Wireless speakers that are simple to set up and play damned near anything you want.
And it just so happens we’ve got two new speakers on the way. The Sonos Era 100 and Sonos Era 300 effectively replace the aging Sonos One (released in October 2017, refreshed in 2019, and still available while supplies last) and the already-defunct Sonos Play:3, which was discontinued way back in 2018 after a seven-year run.
The Sonos One retailed for $199. The Play:3 launched at $299. That wasn’t inexpensive then, and their replacements cost even more, with the Era 100 landing at $249, and the Era 300 hitting a whopping $449. That’s a 50% increase on the latter, which is not an insignificant change.
And while we’ve seen headlines bemoaning the prices, that doesn’t mean the Era 100 and Era 300 cost “too much.”
Those last two words there are in quotation marks because cost is relative. What’s too expensive for me may be just fine for folks in a higher tax bracket. Or sometimes I’m willing to spend money on things the rich and famous find superfluous. That’s just the way it works.
Sonos speakers have never been what most anyone would call “affordable.” That’s partly by design. Sonos is a luxury brand. Like Apple. Or Mercedes. And like those two companies, you get one hell of a product for your money. Sonos speakers have always sounded really good (I’d go so far as to say “great,” but I fear I’m already poking a pretty big bear here, so let’s be conservative). They’ve always been easy to set up, and made the experience of having multiple speakers in multiple rooms about as simple as it can be. And I say that as someone who remembers running his fair share of speaker cable through walls back in the 1980s so his music-loving father could listen to his newfangled CDs in whatever room he wanted.
No, the Sonos speakers I’ve purchased have been well worth the money. They’ve changed the way I enjoy my pool deck, for instance (in a three-bedroom 1980 ranch-style home, lest anyone think I’ve got a butler typing this for me). And to Sonos’ credit, it did a decent job of spreading performance across price points, from the Sonos One (and Play:1 before it), to the mid-level Play:3 and the larger and louder Sonos Five. That you can mix and match is a feature. You probably don’t need a pair of Fives as rear speakers, but you can do it if you want (and if your wallet supports $1,000 worth of rears).
Just because you can’t afford them doesn’t mean they’re overpriced.
I’ve always been of the mind that the entry-level Sonos One (and the Play:1 before it) always boxed above its weight. A single speaker is surprisingly loud, and a stereo pair makes things that much better. Cheap? No. But, for me, worth it. And our first impressions of the new Sonos Era 100 and Era 300 note how they solve some problems. Android users are no longer shut out of Trueplay tuning. They’ve finally added Bluetooth.
The only reason to say the new Era 100 and Era 300 are “overpriced” or cost “too much” is if they go so far as to emulate Apple and do their best impression of a HomePod. That is if they do their jobs pretty well, but price themselves out of the market. The HomePod did that in its first iteration and had to go on vacation. And it remains to be seen whether Apple’s recent reincarnation will be successful.
If Sonos doesn’t sell enough, perhaps they were overpriced.
All this early moaning — the speakers are available for presale now and will be in stores on March 28 — also forgets one other thing. Companies can always bring the price down.
For what it’s worth, that’s what I think may happen. At least I hope it is. Because I haven’t preordered an Era 100 yet. It just costs too much.
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