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Sonos Ace: excellent headphones for Sonos devotees

For a debut set of headphones, Sonos has leapt to the top-tier consumer range alongside Sony. If you own a Sonos soundbar, it's a particularly attractive option.

Seamus Byrne
Seamus Byrne
5 min read
White Sonos Ace headphones with carry case and cable accessories on a white background.
Sonos Ace

Noise cancelling over the ear headphones are almost a dying breed. Earbuds have taken root, seemingly dominant on store shelves. But for people who want big, full sound on the move, the appreciation for what a full pair of cans offers runs deep.

Sonos, well known for its networked home audio speaker system, has joined the headphone scene with the Sonos Ace. And it's a confident, polished arrival that places itself firmly alongside the great offerings from Sony.

Having spent a few weeks with the headphones, what stands out is a very comfortable wear over long periods with a very nice sound stage that proves the value of real speakers over earbud inserts. There is a difference when done well – and these are done well.

Physical features

The most immediate thing that makes you enjoy the Sonos Ace is its simple use of physical buttons to drive its key features. On the left there is one button to turn them on and off (or long press for Bluetooth connection adjustment). On the right is a large up-down toggle. Press it to Play/Pause or Answer/End a call, slide up or down for volume, double tap for Next and triple tap to Previous. One more button on the right switches noise cancelling on and off. It works very well and there's nothing confusing about it.

The headphones make it simple to see which way around you are meant to wear them. Not always the case. There is an 'L' and 'R' printed inside the cans, but you quickly notice the difference between them is also indicated by a slight colour variation. At a glance it becomes very fast to know you're popping them on the right way around.

The fit is easy to find, too, with a smooth but well controlled adjustment that is hidden inside the head strap. No notches, but a firm squeeze or pull to shift the fit to the right place for you.

The ear cups pop off magnetically to make them easily replaceable. I've had hassles in the past with companies not maintaining a spare parts range beyond the first few years for ear cups, but I have a lot of faith in Sonos to do this better than most given its long term support for its speaker hardware.

The biggest physical disappointment is the carry case. It is admirably made of post-consumer recycled plastics, but it has a fibrous fabric finish that quickly captures dust, hairs, and general detritus. Living in a house with two fluffy cats, I now take a lot of their fluff with me wherever I go with this case.

But overall, the simplicity of the headset and its physical controls are a refreshing design choice.

Battery life is definitely solid, with comfortable performance that lasts a few days of listening if you wear them through most of business hours with noise cancelling switched on. The recharge rate gives 3 hours of listening in just 3 minutes, so they top up very nicely to keep you going. A full charge from 0% is a three hour cruise.

Wear Detection is also a nice quality of life feature, pausing what you're listening to when you lift the headphones off your ears. I've fumbled about often enough trying to pause a podcast to hear what someone is telling me without losing my place. It's not a unique feature, but it's a very useful one.

Sound quality

Going along with the nice hardware choices comes an excellent audio experience. Honestly, it'd been a while for me between times wearing full size wireless headphones, with earbuds having taken over most of my general listening needs. It was great to be reminded of the broader presence here, and why the convenience of earbuds isn't always best if you really want to disappear into great sound.

Along with running over Bluetooth 5.4 with support for connection to two devices for fast switching, the USB-C port will let you use a wired connection if you're on a flight or somewhere else that needs you to jack in. The box comes with the USB-C to USB-C cable suited to both charging and wired connectivity, as well as a USB-C to 3.5mm connector.

The Sonos Ace supports immersive audio formats like Spatial Audio and Dolby Atmos. It offers positional Spatial Audio for all listening, which I found more distracting than immersive when I'm just listening to a podcast or normal music, so I switched it off in most contexts. But if it's your thing, it's there.

These are also very good active noise cancelling headphones, with a good microphone array working hard to dull the outside world. Of course, noise cancelling headphones also need to offer an option to hear the world around you to compete with best in class these days, and the Sonos Ace has that too. Dubbed 'Aware' mode here, it's actually one of the best and clearest I've heard.

There are some rudimentary EQ options in the Sonos app, but overall the out of the box experience didn't feel like it needed tweaking to feel like it was in the right zone for me.

At $699 these would be a hard sell to anyone who has invested in a good set of wireless noise cancellers in the past five years. They're great, an excellent next purchase, but not something to compel an upgrade for anyone happy with their current headphones. Unless...

Sonos integration

Perhaps the biggest reason someone might be considering the Sonos Ace is because they're headphones and they're part of the Sonos ecosystem. If you're keen on that idea because you've made Sonos a big part of your household lifestyle, then there are indeed good reasons to make the leap.

The Sonos app has copped a fair amount of grief in recent times, and not without merit. The big overhaul it received earlier this year made some confusing choices and harder to use in many cases. So we're not saying the Sonos Ace gets an amazing app that sets it apart from the rest.

The number one win for Sonos soundbar users is the ability to very simply switch your TV listening from the soundbar to the Ace within the app. One tap and it switches. Over the years I've used a few headphones with my TV to enjoy movies and shows while the kids were asleep. The Sonos Ace is the easiest and best performing option I've ever used for this task.

My big wishlist feature for Sonos is to let you use two pairs of Sonos Ace on the same soundbar. It's something no one has done before, but for parents of young kids? To sit together and watch TV with full Dolby Atmos support while the house remains silent? It would be a dream option.

I'm always bullish about Sonos adding these kinds of features after it launches a product. It has a grand history of firmware updates that makes its hardware better over time. You don't want to bank on it, but you can expect long-term support for the performance quality of hardware you buy from the company.


As I alluded to above, the Sonos Ace confidently joins the ranks of high-end consumer noise cancelling wireless headphones right out of the gate. Comfortable, highly usable, and nice audio performance sets them right alongside the offerings from Sony, Apple, Bose, and Sennheiser.

At $699, if you're not a Sonos user and don't plan on buying a Sonos soundbar, I'd steer you toward the Sony or Bose offerings for $200 less. And I'd choose these over the Airpods Max which are $200 more.

But if you have been thinking you might want a Sonos soundbar in your living room, then I'd say "yes, definitely do that" and also suggest that these headphones will give you some great bonus use cases in your home when you do.


Seamus Byrne Twitter

Founder and Head of Content at Byteside.

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