Sonos Ace Review: Do They Live Up to the Hype?

Published on June 3, 2024

The First Headphones from Sonos Offer Comfort, Sound Quality, and Unique Features — But Are They Worth the Hype?

Sonos is navigating a rocky period, especially with its redesigned app receiving mixed reviews. Many believe the app was released prematurely to meet the launch date of the company’s first-ever headphones. Priced at $449, the Sonos Ace headphones are now available.

So, was the rush worth it?

First Impressions and Design

In my initial review of the Ace, I praised their hardware design and premium feel. After extended use, my admiration remains. Sonos has excelled in style, fit, and comfort, making it easy to forget these are the company’s debut headphones. They deliver impressive sound quality, effective noise cancellation, and a transparency mode that rivals Apple’s in realism.

Key Feature: TV Audio Swap

The standout feature of the Ace headphones is TV Audio Swap. This allows users to transfer audio from a Sonos Arc soundbar to the headphones with a single button press. This private listening mode, which includes spatial audio and head tracking, works with any device connected to your TV, including Apple TV, Roku, and gaming consoles.

However, the Ace headphones can be buggy. TV Audio Swap isn’t always flawless and is currently only available to those who own an $800 soundbar and use an iPhone or iPad, with Android compatibility expected later this year. For Android users, the Ace are simply high-quality noise-canceling headphones, disconnected from the Sonos ecosystem. Additionally, the Ace cannot be grouped with other Sonos speakers, limiting some functionalities.

Credit: Sonos
Credit: Sonos

Solid Hardware and Comfort

The Ace headphones make a strong first impression. They come in a felt-covered case made from recycled plastics, which is flat and travel-friendly. Inside, a magnetic pouch holds the USB-C and USB-C-to-3.5mm cables. The design of the Ace blends elements from the 1000XM5 and Apple’s AirPods Max, offering a stylish yet understated look. The stainless steel slider arms ensure a precise fit, and the magnetic memory foam ear cushions are replaceable. The pleather headband’s durability remains to be seen, but overall, the build quality is excellent.

Weighing 0.69 pounds, the Ace headphones are lighter than the AirPods Max but slightly heavier than Bose’s QuietComfort Headphones. They are comfortable for extended wear, even with glasses, though they lack water resistance.

User-Friendly Controls and Features

The Ace headphones have physical controls, preferred over touchpads and swipe gestures. The Content Key on the right ear cup adjusts volume, controls playback, and activates TV Audio Swap. A button below toggles between noise cancellation and transparency modes. The left ear cup houses the USB-C port and power/Bluetooth pairing button. The headphones support multipoint Bluetooth, on-head detection, and have a battery life of up to 30 hours.

Sound Quality

For music, the Ace headphones use Bluetooth rather than Wi-Fi. iPhone users get the AAC codec, while some Android devices can utilize Qualcomm’s AptX Adaptive for near-lossless quality. The headphones favor balanced sound with an expansive soundstage, performing well across various genres. EQ adjustments and a “loudness” feature are available in the Sonos app.

Credit: Sonos
Credit: Sonos

Noise Cancellation and Transparency Modes

While the active noise cancellation is good, it doesn’t surpass Bose or Sony. However, the transparency mode is exceptional, offering natural-sounding ambient awareness. This feature is particularly useful for travel and brief interactions.

TV Audio Swap Performance

TV Audio Swap allows seamless audio transfer from a Sonos Arc soundbar to the Ace headphones and back. This feature, supporting spatial audio, enhances the cinematic experience but currently only works with the Arc soundbar. Latency is minimal, making the Ace suitable for gaming.

Dynamic head tracking is less compelling for now but may improve with the forthcoming TrueCinema feature, which will customize the surround effect based on your environment.

Here’s a table comparing the good and bad features of the Sonos Ace headphones:

AspectGood FeaturesBad Features
Design & Comfort– Premium feel– Slightly heavier than Bose’s QuietComfort Headphones
– Stylish, understated design– No water resistance rating
– Magnetic memory foam ear cushions are replaceable
– Comfortable for extended wear, even with glasses
– Travel-friendly flat case made from recycled plastics
Sound Quality– Balanced sound with expansive soundstage– Lacks Sony’s LDAC Bluetooth codec for high-resolution audio
– Good performance across various genres
– Adjustable EQ and “loudness” feature in the Sonos app
Noise Cancellation– Adequate noise-canceling capabilities– Not as effective as Bose or Sony’s ANC
– Exceptional transparency mode for natural ambient awareness
Controls & Features– Physical controls for easy use– Buggy TV Audio Swap feature
– Multipoint Bluetooth support– Dynamic head tracking feature currently less compelling
– Long battery life (up to 30 hours)
– On-head detection for automatic pause
TV Audio Swap– Seamless audio transfer from Sonos Arc soundbar– Feature currently only available with Arc soundbar and iOS devices
– Supports spatial audio and head tracking– Inconsistent performance; sometimes requires restart to function properly
– Low latency suitable for gaming
Compatibility– iPhone users get standard AAC codec; some Android devices support Qualcomm’s AptX Adaptive– TV Audio Swap not available for Android users until later this year
– Ace headphones cannot be grouped with other Sonos speakers, limiting some functionalities
– Requires the priciest soundbar (Arc) for full feature utilization
Overall Performance– Solid build quality and premium design– Feels rushed; could have benefited from additional development time
– Comfortable and good sound quality– Android users and those without the Arc soundbar can’t fully utilize unique features

Final Thoughts

The Sonos Ace headphones, despite their strengths, feel rushed. Android users and those without the Arc soundbar can’t fully utilize their unique features. While the hardware is impressive, the premature launch and ongoing app issues suggest they could have benefited from more development time. The Ace headphones are a solid entry into the market, but their full potential is yet to be realized. Sonos is betting on this gamble to pay off, and only time will tell if it was worth it.

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