Sonos Finally Has Headphones and We’re Excited

It’s true that “before the pandemic” is a hazy time, an era in which it’s difficult to pin down chronology with any certainty. So while the rumors of Sonos headphones definitely began before the pandemic, who knows exactly how long we’ve been waiting for them? Four years? Ten?

That’s all academic now: They’re here. Sonos isn’t the first company to promise to disrupt a particular sector of the consumer electronics market, and it won’t be the last, yet for once this much-devalued word might be appropriate. The Sonos Ace wireless over-ear active noise-canceling headphones are specified to go toe-to-toe with the established market leaders from the likes of Apple and Bose, and they’re priced to match at $449 (£449/€499/AU$699).

So what does that price tag actually get you?

Quiet Luxury

Visually, you get an elegant and notably slim pair of over-ear headphones in either a black or “soft” white matte finish. Thanks to a light 312-gram weight, and with some very well-judged clamping force and a clever hanger arrangement that conceals the hinged yoke inside the body of the ear cups, it means all-day comfort.

Photograph: Sonos

The combination of memory foam, vegan leather, and stainless steel is equally beneficial where comfort and aesthetics are concerned. Branding is restricted to one ear cup, and it’s laser-etched, so it manages to be understated while still catching the eye. Where the Apple AirPods Max shout “look at ME!,” the Sonos Ace enunciate it quietly and precisely.

The Ace are supplied in a slender, nicely tactile travel case that features a magnetically attached pouch for a USB-C and 3.5-mm cable. The case is made from 75 percent recycled plastic bottles.

As far as performance is concerned, you get all the bells and whistles you’d expect. Wireless connectivity is via Bluetooth 5.4, and they have SBC and AAC codecs, allowing the Ace to be compatible with ALAC and Qualcomm Snapdragon Sound aptX Lossless. Sound is delivered by a pair of custom-designed 40-mm dynamic drivers. Sonos is characteristically coy about frequency response, but from my brief listen at a recent press event in London, they were full-range enough for real bass. Ported acoustic architecture allows for optimum low-frequency extension.

Spatial audio is available via those streaming services that support Dolby Atmos and/or Sony 360 Reality Audio, and Sonos’ Intelligent Motion Processing with Dolby Head Tracking dynamically follows your head movement to provide an even greater sensation of immersion and envelopment.