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Gadget of the Week

Gadget of the Week: Sonos aces its headphone debut

The brand best known for its speakers now wraps audio round the head, in style, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

What is it?

The new Sonos Ace headphones wrap around the head like a luxury spa treatment. Not that I am in the market for such treatments, but I imagine it provides a similar sensation of being looked after and pampered.

Sonos is a name synonymous with high-fidelity home audio systems, and the Sonos Ace headphones represent its first venture into the personal audio market. 

That is brave, but also strategic, marking an aggressive expansion for a company known for high-end, multi-room audio systems and wireless speakers. It is clearly an attempt to capture a share of the rapidly growing and highly competitive personal audio segment, traditionally dominated by brands like Bose, Sony, and Apple. More than merely broadening Sonos’s product range, it also aims to leverage the brand’s reputation for delivering superior audio quality in a new, portable format.

The sense of luxury is delivered by a sleek, modern design with premium materials that ensure comfort for extended listening. The headphones boast advanced audio technologies, including active noise cancellation (ANC), adaptive EQ, and high-resolution audio support, positioning them as a premium option in the market.

Ultimately, the success of such premium positioning is a factor of build quality, and here we can see Sonos craftsmanship at work, with a combination of metal and high-grade plastics that exude a sense of luxury and durability. The ear cups are cushioned with soft memory foam, providing a snug fit that minimises sound leakage and maximises comfort.

A fascinating choice made by Sonos was to allow for detachable ear cushions, which offer tremendous advantages over fixed devices. Over time, ear cushions can accumulate sweat and dirt, and detachable cushions make it easier to clean or replace them. They also allow users to customise their headphones with different types of cushions, and to replace the parts that tend to wear out faster than any other due to regular use and skin contact, without needing to replace the entire headphone.

That Ace experience begins when one fits the headphones over the ears, as the outside world is silenced before the music begins – or even before the headphones are switched on.

The sound profile of the Ace is well-balanced, offering crisp highs, detailed mids, and deep, punchy bass. The ANC reduces ambient noise quite very effectively, making it ideal for noisy environments. The adaptive EQ automatically adjusts the sound based on the user’s environment, ensuring consistent audio quality. This technology is particularly useful for frequent travelers.

Integration with the broader Sonos ecosystem is both a standout feature of the Ace headphones and an irritation. Setting up the headphones via the Sonos app demands logging in to a Sonos account, when one just wants to turn them on and start listening. Fortunately, Bluetooth connectivity is instant and allows one to enjoy the Ace without resorting to the app, if you happen to use it for the first time while on the road, as in my own case.

That said, one can connect the headphones to existing Sonos speakers, creating a unified audio experience across all devices. At that point the Sonos app is essential, as it manages such integration, with controls that offer intuitive navigation and customisation options. The integration allows for easy transition between listening on speakers and headphones, maintaining a kind of audio continuum.

The Ace headphones support voice assistants like Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, adding voice commands for hands-free control of playback, volume, and other functions. Minimalist touch-sensitive controls on the ear cups provide an alternative method for managing playback and other functions. Sonos aces the elegant design of these controls.

The headphones are a pleasure, but the price is not. The premium positioning extends from the materials to the cost of the device, which does not compare well with other high-end models from established brands. 

The battery life does not stand out in a market where brands compete, to some extent, on their  extended  playback times. The Ace headphones promise up to 30 hours of playback with ANC or Aware mode enabled. Our experience was closer to 20 hours, which is great for daily use but inadequate when travelling long distances, either on road trips or long-haul flights with multiple connections.

The Sonos Ace supports lossless tracks, with spatial tracks available in Dolby Atmos or Sony 360 Reality Audio from Apple Music, Amazon Music, Tidal, and Deezer.

What does it cost?

The Sonos Ace headphones are available in black or white at a recommended retail price of R12,999. Find a dealer by visiting distributor PlanetWorld at

Why does it matter?

The Sonos Ace headphones offer a compelling package of comfort and high-quality audio, with seamless integration into the Sonos ecosystem. They do not disappoint in sound performance, design, or user experience.

The headphones are a solid Sonos entry into personal audio, and will be my default headphones while I continue reviewing them. They are almost certainly the most comfortable headphones I’ve used.

What are the biggest negatives?

  • Obviously, the premium pricing will deter potential buyers looking for more affordable options.
  • Battery life and playback time is decent, but not quite on a par with high-end alternatives – a shortcoming that only becomes an issue during lengthy travel.

What are the biggest positives?

  • They provide a well-balanced sound profile with crisp highs, detailed mids, and deep bass.
  • The active noise cancellation reduces ambient noise very effectively, making them suitable for noisy or variable environments.
  • The headphones stand out for their high-quality materials and a sleek, modern design, delivering a sense of luxury and style.

* Arthur Goldstuck is CEO of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Follow him on social media on @art2gee.

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