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Sonos Ace review

Sonos first headphones are here and the results are in...

Sonos Ace review

Sonos has finally done it. After years of hearing from its users that it should get into personal audio department - and months of leaks teasing that it was actually going to do it - it has revealed the Sonos Ace headphones, and they are stunning, in both looks and sound.

ShortList has been using the Sonos Ace headphones for a number of weeks now, at home, on a plane, and during our normal commute. They haven't left our ears - and for good reason.

Given the headphone space is one of the most crowded around, though, with the likes of Bose, Sony and Apple dominating the market, if you are going to launch in this area then sound is all good and well but you also need a juicy USP or two to turn heads.

Sonos has this thanks to its ecosystem, with the new Sonos Ace headphones marrying well with your existing Sonos setup (kind of), while still ticking all the audio boxes when used on the go.

Here are 5 things to know about Sonos Ace…

1. Sonos Ace offer premium design

Sonos Ace review
Image Credit: Future, Marc Chacksfield

Sonos has gone for a number of high-class materials using stainless steel for the slide-adjustable headband. This headband technology is unique to Sonos, in that all of the hinge is hidden within the ear cup, so those with long hair won’t have to worry about any snagging. It’s a really nice, smooth movement too when you do adjust them.

Sonos is using vegan leather for the ear cup cover (Memory Foam is underneath) and a harder version of this for the headband - this offers up a huge amount of comfort when worn. They are light, too, at 312g. These are headphones that have been designed for use for long hours.

Having tried the Sonos Ace headphones out on trains and planes, these are one of the most comfortable headphones for travel. They never gave us ear fatigue and are lovely and light so don't feel heavy on the head.

Looks wise, the Sonos Ace have been designed so they won’t go against fashion trends, proving that this isn’t a device Sonos will want you to be replacing regularly (although we bet it would be happy if you did).
The colour choices on offer reflect this. There’s two on offer: black which is a little shinier and soft white, which is a different shade of white to what Sonos offers on its speakers.
Whatever the colour, the design stays the same with a laser etched Sonos logo on the earcup that holds all the controls.
When it comes to the plastic used in the headphones it’s 70% recycled materials. The cup covers also come off so replacement parts can be used if they become worn.

2. Sonos says no to touch controls

Sonos Ace review
Image Credit: Future, Marc Chacksfield

One of the more interesting design flourishes on the Sonos Ace is the lack of touch controls. Sonos doesn’t believe that touch, in its current guise, is right for adjusting controls on a headphone but has opted for physical controls on the side of the device instead.

When asked about this, Sonos noted that when you've got a blind interaction, there's a bit of a difficulty in terms of understanding what you're pressing. Its solution was to have something that was more interactive and the slider was born.

This slider deals with volume control and a separate active-noise cancellation control button that sits beneath, where you can choose ANC modes as well as switching to Aware mode so you know what is going on with your surroundings.

You can, of course, also control the headphones through the Sonos app but we kept finding that the app took a long time to find the headphones.

When the app worked, the controls are decent, but we were more than happy to use the physical controls on the heaphones to get to our options.

3. Performance is punchy

Sonos Ace review

Sound wise they are premium, too. There are 8 mics in total and 40mm drivers on board which offer rich sound with depth. The soundstage is ultrawide and the ANC is incredibly powerful.
In our initial tests we listened to M83’s Radar, Far, Gone; St Vincent’s Flea; HYAENA by Travis Scott; and Besides April by BADBADNOTGOOD. Each song sounded superb, offering real clarity and the addition of lossless audio is welcomed.

The soundstage on offer through the Sonos Ace is wide and the head tracking feature is fantastic. I listened to Arooj Aftab's Night Reign in three different places to test the headphones: on a plane, train and in a silent room. The results were rich, with some beautiful clarity to Aftab's vocals and the folk sound was incredible.

The headphones have been fine-tuned with the help of a number of musicians, according to Sonos, and this has given them a balanced sound that won't impress the bassheads, but I was happy.

As for the ANC, it was fantastic on a plane, knocking out the ambient buzz associated with flying. I could still hear the announcements faintly but not clear enough to know what was being said. There are no variations of ANC here, it's just on and off but I liked the silence the noise cancelling offered.

4. Battery life is incredibly long

Sonos Ace review
Image Credit: Future, Marc Chacksfield

Battery life on the Sonos Ace is fantastic. Sonos is quoting some 30 hours’ battery life per charge and while the likes of ANC and TV Swap (more on this below) did drain this more, the battery life was still fantastic and up there with the best I have tried.

Quick Charge is also on board, which gives you some three hours’ playback in a three--minute charge. With stats like that, battery worries should be a fear of the past with these things.

5. The Sonos Ace are built for home cinema

Sonos Ace review

Now comes the real USP the Sonos Ace headphones have: they work within a Sonos setup… kind of. It's worth noting that right now, the Sonos Ace headphones don't interact with all Sonos speakers and can't be used as part of a Sonos setup - so you can't listen to music on an Era 100, say, and switch seamlessly to the Ace headphones.
This is a shame, but Sonos wanted to make the headphones more like a standalone pair of headphones and felt this would confuse things.

The way they do interact with other Sonos products, though, is through the Sonos Arc soundbar and a feature called TV swap.

This feature does exactly what you think it does: swaps the sound from the Sonos Arc soundbar to the headphones, so you can listen to a movie on your TV at home through the headphones but still get the home cinema benefits.

Essentially, the Sonos Ace will switch from Bluetooth to Wi-Fi and work with the Arc to offer a fantastic and seamless personal home cinema experience, where the sound of the movie you are watching is beamed to your headphones.

For now that functionality is to the Sonos Arc (but an update for the Sonos Beam is in the works).
We can't wait for it to comes to more soundbars as more Sonos users need to try out this feature. It was superb and seamless; a tap in the app and the TV sound switches from soundbar to headphones and back again.
Another thing that will be coming to the headphones at a later date is something called TrueCinema which gives your headphones the soundstage of being in the room you are in, using Dolby Atmos to recreate a 7.1.4 setup in the headphones.
Sonos reckons the tech doesn’t offer a perfect rendition of the room you are in but a ‘better’ version of the room.
Head tracking is also on board, so no matter where you are looking, the sound will accommodate.

Sonos Ace: Final Verdict

Sonos Ace review
Image Credit: Future, Marc Chacksfield

We have all waited a long time for a pair of Sonos headphones but the wait has been worth it. The Sonos Ace headphones sound superb, look fantastic and have an impressive battery life.

While they don't interact with the whole Sonos range, the TV Swap feature is a powerful USP to have and gives Sonos users a really compelling reason to choose these headphones over their rivals.

I do hope Sonos does add deeper integration into its setup with updates - TrueCinema is yet to come and so is Beam compatibility - but the Ace do work fantastically well as standalone headphones and are a real rival to the likes of the Apple AirPod Max's of the world.

The Sonos Ace cost £449 and launch globally 5 June. Alongside the headphones, you get a carry case, USB-C cable and 3.5mm to USB-C cable.