Apple HomePod vs Sonos Era 300: The Best Dolby Atmos Wireless Speakers Go Head-to-Head (2023)

If you talk to anybody in the audio world, they'll likely tell you that spatial audio is the future. Unlike regular stereo that plays two-channel audio, spatial audio tricks your brain into thinking that sounds are coming from all around you. It creates a far more immersive, 360-degree listening experience.

That said, we're still in the early days of spatial audio — especially when it comes to music. That's because even though there are tens of thousands of digital tracks that are rendered for spatial audio and Dolby Atmos (more on the differences between the two below), only three music streaming services actually support them: Apple Music, Amazon Music Unlimited and Tidal.

There are a lot of headphones, soundbars and home theater systems that support Dolby Atmos. When it comes to wireless speakers, though, not so much — or at least they're not able to play it properly. This is because most wireless speakers aren't able to create the virtual high channels necessary to really bring Dolby Atmos content to live. But that's starting to change.

Right now, arguably the two most popular wireless speakers that support spatial audio and Dolby Atmos are Apple's second-generation HomePod ($299) and the Sonos Era 300 ($449). But they're both smart speakers — and that means they work with different apps and devices, and support different music streaming services. Basically, deciding which is best goes way deeper than just "which speaker sounds better?"

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Dolby Atmos Vs. Spatial Audio: What's the Difference?

Apple HomePod vs Sonos Era 300: The Best Dolby Atmos Wireless Speakers Go Head-to-Head (5)

Tucker Bowe

Even if you haven't heard of spatial audio, you've likely heard of Dolby Atmos. The two terms are often used interchangeably, but it's important to know that the two are not the same. Not exactly, at least.

(Video) Sonos Era 300 & Era 100 vs Apple HomePod 2: Head-to-head

Dolby Atmos is a surround sound technology that creates virtual height, side and rear channels so that it seems like sound is coming from all around you. It's a really popular technology for soundbars and home theater systems to support because it really makes it sound like you're in the movie. For music that supports Dolby Atmos, it creates an immersive sound that makes you feel like you're at a live show.

Spatial audio, meanwhile, is a 360-degree audio technology that's very similar to Dolby Atmos — in fact, it piggybacks off Dolby Atmos content (because it's so popular) and takes it one step further. It uses Dolby Atmos's virtual channels, but then also adjusts the sound based on a person's movement within that 3D space.

Spatial audio uses the sensors (specifically, the accelerometers and gyroscopes) in your AirPods Pro, Beats Fit Pro or AirPods Max to adjust sound based on your head's movement. Rather than making it sound like you're at a concert, spatial audio makes it feel like you're moving around at a concert. That's neat.

The catch is that this kind of spatial audio — which Apple calls Spatial Audio with Dolby Atmos — is dependent on having wireless headphones or earbuds that support it. Obviously, wireless speakers, like the HomePod, aren't able to adjust sound the same way because they're stationary and don't move around like headphones do when they're on your head. So when you're talking about spatial audio and Dolby Atmos in the context of playing music on a wireless speaker, they're basically the same thing.

Apple HomePod Vs. Sonos Era 300: The Details

Apple's second-generation HomePod is its new full-sized smart speaker. It's essentially a larger and better-sounding version of the HomePod mini, but it comes with some exclusive features — like support for spatial audio and Dolby Atmos.

The Sonos Era 300, meanwhile, is the company's first standalone wireless speaker that's specifically designed to play Dolby Atmos content — it has an upward-firing tweeter for creating virtual height channels. Aside from that, it works very similar to other Sonos speakers, especially the Era 100.

On paper, the HomePod and the Sonos Era 300 have quite a bit in common. They're both smart speakers. They both support stereo pairing with another of the same model speaker (so two HomePods or two Era 300s). They support multi-room audio, so you can group the HomePod with other HomePods or the Era 300 with other Sonos speakers. And they both can play lossless audio (up to 24-bit/48kHz).

The two speakers are quite a bit different, as well. The HomePod only works with Siri, and requires you to subscribe to Apple Music. The Era 300 can work with either Alexa or Sonos Voice Assistant, and you can select between a number of music services to set as your default. In addition to streaming over Wi-Fi, the Era 300 supports Bluetooth and line-in (via USB-C) connections, both which the HomePod lacks.

As far as listening to tracks that support Dolby Atmos, the HomePod only works with Apple Music. The Sonos Era 300 supports Dolby Atmos tracks on Apple Music or Amazon Music Unlimited. Tidal HiFi is the other big service that supports Dolby Atmos audio, but neither the HomePod or Era 300 can properly play its immersive content.

Which Is the Better Dolby Atmos Speaker?

Apple HomePod vs Sonos Era 300: The Best Dolby Atmos Wireless Speakers Go Head-to-Head (8)

Tucker Bowe

The HomePod makes listening to Dolby Atmos music super simple.

Apple HomePod vs Sonos Era 300: The Best Dolby Atmos Wireless Speakers Go Head-to-Head (9)
(Video) Sonos Era 300 VS Apple HomePod FULL COMPARISON!

Tucker Bowe

Apple HomePod vs Sonos Era 300: The Best Dolby Atmos Wireless Speakers Go Head-to-Head (10)

Tucker Bowe

The HomePod is a smart speaker that's very much tied to Apple's ecosystem — if you don't have an iPhone and you don't subscribe to Apple Music, you shouldn't consider getting a HomePod. But if you do have an iPhone and subscribe to Apple Music, the HomePod works great — especially for listening to spatial audio and Dolby Atmos.

The reason for this is, there really is no effort involved on your part. If you ask Siri to play a song and it's available in Dolby Atmos, Apple Music (and thus your HomePod) will automatically play that version. The same is true if you stream a song from Apple Music to the HomePod from your iPhone. As long as there's a track that's rendered for Dolby Atmos, your HomePod will play that version. That's great.

(Note: In order for this to work properly, you'll want to make sure that you have Dolby Atmos turned on for your HomePod. To do this: open the Home app on iPhone or iPad > select the Home button > select Home Settings > select your profile name > select Apple Music > turn Dolby Atmos on.)

The Era 300 doesn't make Dolby Atmos as easy.

Apple HomePod vs Sonos Era 300: The Best Dolby Atmos Wireless Speakers Go Head-to-Head (11)

Tucker Bowe

Apple HomePod vs Sonos Era 300: The Best Dolby Atmos Wireless Speakers Go Head-to-Head (12)

Tucker Bowe

My biggest gripe with the Sonos Era 300 is that it's a speaker specifically designed for listening to Dolby Atmos tracks...but it's actually not that easy to do this. You can't request a song with your voice with either Alexa or Sonos Voice Control, and you can't stream Dolby Atmos tracks from your smartphone to the Era 300 via AirPlay or Bluetooth. In fact, the only way you can get Dolby Atmos tracks to play on the Era 300 is by going through the Sonos app. You need to open the Sonos app, select the Music tab > select Amazon Music Unlimited (or Apple Music) > select a track that supports Dolby Atmos > and then play it on the Era 300.

As a long-time Sonos speaker owner, this is frustrating because it's not that intuitive — and I rarely ever use the Sonos app. I only use said app for setting up, tuning and grouping my Sonos speakers — and I'm guessing a lot of other people are the same way. To listen to music, I simply stream from my smartphone or use a voice command, but neither of these methods can get the speaker playing Dolby Atmos tracks.

The Era 300 is the bigger, better-sounding Dolby Atmos speaker.

Apple HomePod vs Sonos Era 300: The Best Dolby Atmos Wireless Speakers Go Head-to-Head (13)

Tucker Bowe

(Video) The King and Queen of Atmos Music - Apple Homepod vs Sonos Era 300

It shouldn't come as a surprise that when comparing one HomePod against one Era 300, the latter is the better-sounding Dolby Atmos speaker. The Era 300 is a bigger and more directional speaker — it's front-firing, rather than the 360-degree HomePod — and it crucially has a dedicated upward-firing tweeter for bouncing audio off the ceiling and really helping create those virtual high channels. Let's not forget that the Era 300 is also considerably more expensive.

The HomePod has a less-conventional design. It's a 360-degree speaker, so it can be placed in the center of a room and disperse sounds evenly in all directions. It has the same number of drivers as the Era 300 — six — but lacks a dedicated upward-firing driver and therefore doesn't quite achieve the same height and level of immersiveness as the Era 300.

The HomePod makes up for its lack of a dedicated height speaker with computational audio. It's powered by a special processor (Apple's S7 chip) and has advanced tuning ability to optimize its sound for the room and space that it's in. Since it supports spatial audio and Dolby Atmos tracks, it's also able to adjust itself so that it sounds bigger and more immersive than it probably should.

Both speakers are probably best in a Dolby Atmos home theater.

Apple HomePod vs Sonos Era 300: The Best Dolby Atmos Wireless Speakers Go Head-to-Head (14)

Tucker Bowe

It's one thing to listen to Dolby Atmos music tracks on the HomePod or Era 300, but it's an entirely different thing to integrate them in your home theater. That's because there are far fewer complications to think and worry about.

For example, if you have an Apple TV 4K, you can configure two HomePods (or even just one) as your TV speakers and — boom — you've got a pretty good Dolby Atmos home theater system.

For Sonos, you can configure two Era 300s as rear speakers with an Arc soundbar and you've instantly got a really immersive Dolby Atmos system (pair two of Sonos's Subs and you've got a 7.1.4 system, which is the best Sonos can deliver).

When used in the home theater system setup, there are fewer barriers for the HomePod and Era 300 to work properly. Pretty much everything and anything that you're going to watch, stream or play is going to support Dolby Atmos, and therefore your system — whether it's with HomePods and Apple TV or a Sonos soundbar and two Era 300s — is going to sound its best.

Apple HomePod Vs. Sonos Era 300: The Verdict

Apple HomePod vs Sonos Era 300: The Best Dolby Atmos Wireless Speakers Go Head-to-Head (15)

Tucker Bowe

Apple's second-generation HomePod and the Sonos Era 300 are two of the best-sounding smart speakers you can buy. They also both support Dolby Atmos — a rarity among today's wireless speakers — but play the immersive audio format in different ways. The Era 300 is a front-firing speaker with a dedicated upward-firing tweeter for creating height channels, while HomePod is a smaller 360-degree speaker that uses advanced processing and computational audio.

When it comes to playing music that supports Dolby Atmos, the Sonos Era 300 delivers a warmer, clearer and more immersive sound. It also is significantly louder. However, the HomePod is the clear winner when it comes to ease of use. You can play Dolby Atmos tracks on the HomePod through using "Hey Siri" commands or simply streaming them from Apple Music. With the Era 300, you can only do so through the Sonos app, which can be tedious.

Ultimately, the HomePod and Sonos Era 300 are very much tied to the devices you have and music services you subscribe to. The HomePod feels like a great speaker for anybody under Apple's umbrella; its ability to play spatial audio with Dolby Atmos is a cool thing, but probably shouldn't be the primary reason you buy it. And honestly that makes it an easier sell.

The Era 300 is a different story. It's a speaker that you should only buy if you're dead set on listening to Dolby Atmos audio and you either subscribe to Apple Music or Amazon Music Unlimited. I'd say that it's a more difficult sell than the HomePod, as well, simply because Sonos makes other speakers that are either cheaper or sound better (like the Five). In the end, the HomePod takes the prize for best wireless Dolby Atmos speaker — but not by much.

Apple HomePod vs Sonos Era 300: The Best Dolby Atmos Wireless Speakers Go Head-to-Head (16)

Apple

Apple HomePod (2nd-generation)

apple.com

$299.00

(Video) Sonos Beam (Gen 2) vs 2 x Apple HomePod 2: Head-to-head 🔥
  • It's really easy to listen to Dolby Atmos tracks from Apple Music
  • Significantly more affordable than the Era 300
  • Doesn't support Dolby Atmos on Amazon Music Unlimited
  • Doesn't create as immersive of a sound as the Era 300
Apple HomePod vs Sonos Era 300: The Best Dolby Atmos Wireless Speakers Go Head-to-Head (17)

Sonos

Sonos Era 300

sonos.com

¥69,800

  • Louder, better and more immersive-sounding speaker than the HomePod
  • Works with Apple Music and Amazon Music Unlimited
  • You need to use the Sonos app to play Dolby Atmos music
  • Considerably more expensive than HomePod

Videos

1. Sonos Era 300 Vs Apple HomePod 2 - Which Smart Speaker Should YOU Buy? [2023]
(Best Choice Review)
2. Sonos Era 300 vs Apple HomePod 2 - HomePod Killer?
(Audio Zone)
3. Sonos Rules Dolby Atmos | Sonos Era 300 Review With Arc, Sub
(Digital Trends)
4. Sonos Era 300 Vs Apple Homepod 2
(Smart Home Sounds Shorts)
5. Sonos ERA 100 & 300 vs Apple HomePod - Reviewed by Grammy Nominated Artist!
(Kevin The Tech Ninja)
6. HomePod 2 Review vs. Sonos Arc vs. Dolby Atmos 7.1 Theater
(Stephen Robles)

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