Sonos Ace headphones review — do they ace the test? | Crutchfield

Here they are: the very first headphones from Sonos. I spent a few weeks with the Sonos Ace wireless noise-cancelling headphones…let’s talk about my personal impressions, how they work with other Sonos gear, and whether these are the right headphones for you. Here at Crutchfield,we’ve carried Sonos gear since 2005.

That’s two years before the iPhone was released. There’s been one thing customers have asked about nearly every day since then: When is Sonos going to make headphones? Well, they finally have. These are very good, premium noise-cancelling headphones with dynamic head tracking that can deliver spacious, outside-the-head sound with

a cinematic sense of space. This is a new frontier for the company, and in a few key ways, much different than any other product Sonos has released. These are Bluetooth headphones that do not connect to your home network or appear as a room in the Sonos app. In

other ways, they fit right into the Sonos ecosystem: they share a familiar design language, offer thoughtful controls, and deliver a top-notch performance in everything they set out to do. Music plays wirelessly via Bluetooth 5.4, a newer version that’s stronger and more reliable. It allows for less compression with

certain phones, and lets you stream Dolby Atmos. Battery life is strong; Sonos says you get up to 30 hours of wireless listening with noise cancellation. I’ve only

had to charge it about once a week, plus a 3-minute charge buys you 3 hours of listening. Like most Sonos products,

the Ace headphones sport a look that’s both on-trend and timeless. They feel robust and premium; they feel like Sonos headphones should. The materials and build are on par with the B&W PX8 and the AirPods Max, and I personally find them more comfortable than the Maxes even though they’re

made of heavy-duty parts like these metal yokes and strong plastic ear cups. They feel light on the head ’cause the weight’s distributed well, and the headband and ear pads are well-cushioned. They fit snugly, which some people prefer. They don’t clamp too tightly, because there’s some give where the

metal yoke meets the ear cup, especially helpful for glasses, and they stay in place when I move or nod my head to the music. As someone who tests headphones for a living, I really appreciate this attention to detail: notice how the inside of the ear cups are two

different colors? You can tell which is left and right at a glance. the controls are easy to pick up on, too. Instead of touch controls like you find on some of the other premium headphones, there are tactile buttons on each ear cup for controlling music, calls, volume, and

more. I found there was less of a learning curve, and since I can’t see the buttons I like that they were shaped in a way that my thumb couldn’t mistake one for the other. This slider moves up and down to control volume, and pause your music or podcast

when you press it in. Below that, you can toggle between noise cancellation and “aware” mode that allows you to hear external sounds without removing your headphones or turning off your tune. The noise cancellation might be what surprised me most about these headphones. I found them slightly more effective

at cancelling noise than the AirPods Max, and they’re in the top tier conversation with Bose and Sony. In fact, while the Bose offered more overall quiet, you could also hear them working more, with the out-of-phase white noise louder than the more natural presentation of the Sonos Ace. I

look forward to trying these headphones on a plane, where I think they should cancel the drone of the engine just fine. I did try them on a walk where I listened to a podcast and took some phone calls; voices came through clear and easy to understand for both.

I had the “aware” mode on so I could hear if a bike or someone was coming from behind, and move over to the side of the trail. It was also a very natural blend of the real world and what I was listening to. Inside the Sonos app, these

headphones show up separately from your main Sonos multi-room system. I know some might worry that Sonos is venturing out of their tight-knit system approach to audio, and I don’t want to dismiss those concerns, but after living with the headphones and the app for a while, I never felt

limited. For the most part, my headphone listening was separate from the listening I did through Sonos speakers, especially of course when I was on the go. The app let me adjust EQ, customize the on-ear controls, and turn on the dynamic head tracking for spatial audio. I also activated

the TV swap feature between the Ace headphones and the Sonos Arc sound bar. After a one-time setup in the app, a press of the content button sent the TV audio back and forth from the soundbar to the headphones. I could watch the West Coast games while the kids

were asleep and still get the full sonic impact of the action. For shows and movies, speech remained clear, and atmospheric effects swirled all around. That brings me to the sound. I like the tuning right out of the box. There is a mild emphasis on the bass and treble,

but nothing distracting, and the headline feature here is the super-sized sound presentation, and the special processing for Dolby Atmos and spatial audio. Fortunately, Sonos provides an excellent sense of direction without some of the common pitfalls. I’ve heard headphones where the extra space can be at the expense of

mid-range presence, bass punch, dynamics, or all of the above. Not to worry here. On the Atmos mix of Conway the Machine’s new album, I heard the strong, controlled bass thump you want for hip-hop, and the MC’s vocals cut through with texture and urgency. But certain instrument samples and

ad libs stretched out the scope of the sound stage. The extra spaciousness worked well for live performances, too. On Casey Musgrave’s Apple Music Live set, I had a real feel for the tone and decay of the room. It was especially effective on the song “Nothing to be scared

of,” where she duets with her lead guitarist sitting in a stairwell. With all the reverb and background noise swimming left right and behind me, it was like I was transported there. So judging these purely as wireless noise cancelling headphones, I think they hold their own against the competition.

If you’re already in that Sonos ecosystem, these are a no-brainer. I’m personally excited to see the Sonos-verse expand, so long as they remember what made us fans in the first place.

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