Sonos finally made some headphones

Sonos finally made some headphones

Sonos recently teased that it was set to announce its “most requested product ever.” If you guessed headphones, congratulations. The firm maintains a devoted fanbase, and many people were no doubt eager to see what it would look like were it to apply its expertise to the category.

The answer arrives in the form of the over-ear Ace headphones. The market play is clear from the outset: The $449 headphones are firmly targeted at an audience that would otherwise be purchasing the Bose QC Ultra ($349), Sony WH-1000XM5 ($399) or Apple AirPods Max ($449). These are mostly frequent travelers who don’t mind paying a premium for sound and comfort — no doubt a demographic that overlaps nicely with Sonos’ existing user base.

Image Credits: Sonos

“They’re here! Fans have asked us for years to bring the Sonos experience to headphones — and we knew our first foray into the category needed to champion the type of innovation and sound experience Sonos has become synonymous with,” CEO Patrick Spence noted in a statement.

As for what that means in non-PR speak, the Ace look like a standard set of premium headphones on paper. That’s not a bad thing, but the days of Bose being the only game in town ended a long time ago. There’s stiff competition in the category, particularly at this price point.

The top-line features will be familiar to anyone who’s been shopping the space: lossless audio and spatial audio, active noise canceling/awareness modes, home theater surround sound. The stated 30 hours of battery life is a big plus. That’s the same rating as the Sony MX and a nice improvement over the Bose and Apple, which are rated at 26 and 20 hours, respectively.

There’s a point where additional hours of battery are negligible. Given that the current longest international flight (New York to Singapore) is under 19 hours, I’d say we’re currently operating in that realm. That said, more battery is never a bad thing, nor is the ability to get three hours of listening on three minutes of charging.

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Image Credits: Sonos

It’s also worth pointing out that real-world battery life varies and is based on a lot of factors, though the company handily notes that the “up to 30 hours” is for audio listening with ANC turned on — something that can be a drain on life. The battery itself is 1060mAh, which is a big upgrade from the Bose QC Ultra (750mAh), AirPods Max (640mAh), and a bit less than the M5’s 1200mAh.

The Ace sports two 40mm dynamic drivers and eight beamforming microphones for calls and noise detection. Spatial audio, which debuted on last year’s Era 300 speaker, features head tracking and Dolby Atmos support. Lossless, meanwhile, arrives via Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Sound AptX low latency codec. Again, this all sounds great (so to speak), but I’m holding off any judgement until I’ve had time to review the headphones. The good news is that this is coming sooner than later.

The Sonos Ace absolutely look the part of premium headphones. The headphones delivery a minimalist design, relative to the competition. There’s no unnecessary decorative detail, beyond a subtle Sonos logo on the right cup. The padding is generous on both the cups and band, which should be nice on long trips. As we approach summer, however, I’m curious to see how well they breathe in steamy weather.

Above all, the company is making an ecosystem play here. There’s no doubt a significant portion of the fanbase that trusts Sonos enough to purchase any product it puts its name on. If you’ve come to trust a brand enough to invite it into your home, you’re likely also excited about Sonos finally entering the space.

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Image Credits: Sonos

Given how long it took Sonos to actually release a pair of headphones, it’s safe to say that it didn’t rush into things. The company has high standards when it comes to sound, but whether that translates well into a very different form factor is the kind of thing you can only properly answer after you’ve tried them on for yourself.

Even if they sound great, whether the category needs another pair of $450 headphones is another question entirely. Is whatever portion of Sonos’ loyal fanbase that’s currently in the market for headphones enough to support the product? Likely very few have held off on buying a premium set of over-ear headphones in hope that Sonos would some day enter the market.

Even for a brand as well established in audio as Sonos, these are going to be tricky waters to navigate.

The Sonos Ace will be available starting June 5.

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