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Before You Buy the New ‘Sonos Ace’ Headphones

June 3, 2024 11:59 pm in by

The wireless headphone market is filled with major brands doing battle for your dollar and is dominated by the likes of Apple and Sony especially. So why would a company like Sonos want to dip their toe in the water?

The answer is simple. It’s by far their most requested product by fans. So rather than dive in, they patiently worked on, then tested again and again, until they were sure that they had a product worthy of attention, the Sonos Ace.

The Experience

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From the moment of unboxing the device you experience an insight into the minds of the design team, the box is made from recycled materials, as is the travel case, which includes what they call “post-consumer recycled plastics”. It feels weird to praise a carry case, but if you’ve ever had the post purchase annoyance of trying to cram your product back into a travel case, you’ll certainly appreciate how the Sonos Ace fits back in flat perfectly and then the two cables that come with the device roll up back into the smaller magnetically attached inner case. It then zips back up effortlessly to slide into a backpack or bag without being too bulky. It’s called a travel case after all, not a backpack.

The two cables it comes with are a USB-C to USB-C charging cable which will also connect to devices for listening and an interesting USB-C to 3.5 mm cable. The latter I’m not sure I’ve seen prior to this and it works really well for plugging into devices that don’t have a wireless connection like the entertainment system on a long flight. 

Clarity of Sound

Sound is a quality that comes first and the minute you put on the Sonos Ace headphones you hear the clarity and control that they have been famous for right across the range. For years I’ve had friends recommend the speakers to me and I’ve only recently started exploring the range but there is no doubt that the sound is second to none. 

The use of Dolby Atmos, Spacial Audio and the Dynamic Head Tracking gives you precise control over your experience. It’s so weird hearing the different elements of the music you love as you move around the area, good weird. 

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Listening to other content like podcasts and movies give a really special clarity to voice that shouldn’t be understated as well.

Music is what made me really smile though. I’ll admit that I’d forgotten what music was meant to sound like. For years I’d become accustomed to “lazy listening” through phone speakers and small smart speakers with zero fidelity. So when you put on a pair of headphones like this that give you massive control over the EQ you realise what it is to hear those individual sounds created by the world’s leading musicians.

The Ed Sheeran track Shivers is a perfect demo with split listening allowing you to take in all the instruments and highlighted vocal track. Hearing even the fingers on the strings or the breaths in a track like Billy Eilish’s What was I Made For.

Sound can be subjective (and I’m happy to be corrected) but the way I hear it is that adjusting the bass on the Sonos Ace doesn’t just increase the “mumble” or “bass drones” but instead increases the actual bass. Meaning that when I’m listening to a favourite track I’m hearing those bass notes so much clearer than before. It’s an EQ system that gives you a more accurate clarity of every sound. 

Features

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The features on the Sonos Ace impress with the combination of Active Noise Cancellation and Aware mode. The ANC cleverly cancels out any background noise allowing you to hear your product without disruption. There’s also little to not ANC mumble with it on as well. Aware mode lets the outside world in, so you can take phone calls with your bluetooth connected phone without constantly shouting to hear and also be aware of things around you on a walk. 

This is where I found testing to be incredible. I have a dog that is a barker while we are walking (yes we are working on it) but while we were out for a stroll I thought I’d test the difference between ANC and Aware and it was mindblowing how the noise of her barking was cancelled out and then at the press of a button on the back of the right ear piece it all came back. This button is also programmable in the app to go with a third option of turning the ANC off completely, but I found setting it to just the two was fine. 

A small but handy feature is the smart sensing, that basically stops playback when you take the headphones off and then will resume when you put them back on. Sometimes it’s those little thoughts that have the biggest impact.

Impressive Design

I can’t speak highly enough of the design of the Sonos Ace as they look and feel like a high end sports car. The soft vegan leather cushions your ears with a design that actually minimises the contact, while the headband seamlessly expands to fit the top of your skull with little to no pressure. 

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This is important to me, as a gamer and audio/video editor I spend hours wearing headphones, and constantly suffer from (I’m going to get disgusting here) ear sweats and a sore head. You know those pictures you see with headphone indents in people’s skulls.. That’s me. This headset is so well designed I want to say that I forget that I’m wearing them, but that would be an over exaggeration, it’s more like I don’t care that I’m wearing them. It’s a comfort that makes you stop and think about the time that has gone into creating it and after a conversation with the team at Sonos I discovered that they had extensive testing with hundreds of people of all walks of life to find the perfect fit for all. 

If you’ve owned over ear headphones before you’d know that there comes a time where the ear cushions will need to be replaced. Being in touch with human sweats for long periods of time will inevitably do some damage to the leather. I had a pair of old Sennheisers that I used to love and couldn’t find the replacements for so I wore them til they were electronic stumps and every time I took them off I was covered in tiny bits of black plastic. When I eventually found some replacements I snapped the teeth holding them on and they were a superglue knightmare after that, never the same.

The Sonos Ace has replaceable ear cushions that attach magnetically so you wont feel like you are going to accidentally snap them while removing to replace. There’s no weird click and twist either, they just pull off, but the strong magnets hold it firm so they don’t move around with no fear of them falling off and getting lost. This also gives you more longevity to your headphones, they are designed to last. The eco sensitive team wants you to own them for a long time and to cut down on e-waste.

There’s only a choice of two colours black or soft white, both are timeless with the style, but I leaned towards the soft white for that “new tech” distinctiveness. The surface wipes clean easily and as yet I have no discolouration or dirt marks. The matte finish is superb and the use of different colour inner mesh on left and right reminds you which way they go as you put them on and becomes a muscle memory.

Unboxing

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@doccydarko Unboxing @Sonos Ace Wireless Headphones #review #technology #audio ♬ original sound – DoccyDarko

Buttons

The control system on the headset has a basic layout letting you handle more detailed manoeuvres on the device you are playing content from. On the left ear is a multipurpose on/off/bluetooth button, the usb-c connection and a coloured LED to let you know what your device is doing. On the right ear you’ll find a round button for adjusting the level of Active Noise Cancelation and a silver content key slider that you press for play/pause or for taking calls or slide up and down for volume. A long press will activate the seamless swap of audio with a Sonos Arc (only available with Arc at launch, but it is likely other sound bar support will follow). There’s no “tapping the side of the headphone twice to cook an egg sandwich” type feature here, just exactly what you need to control the basics of your content. 

I think this is done to give you a more powerful reason to use the Sonos app. The app has just had a massive makeover and gives you more control than ever, you’ll also use it to link to your favourite listening apps like iHeart Radio and others.

Sonos is pretty well integrated with most platforms now and it’s here that you also have control over the EQ and the seamless switching from watching a movie on your TV with sound through a Sonos Arc to the Sonos Ace. The Sonos system has great integration across your living space, unless you have another brand in the mix somewhere. It’s really a case of go all Sonos for the best experience. 

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Battery

The battery overall gives you around 30 listening hours with Active Noise Cancelling enabled which means you just forget to charge them and just assume it’s charged, so when it does get low down to those 2% or even 1% levels you find yourself running the gauntlet in the same way you do when your petrol light starts flashing on your car. “I can get home, go to the shops, pick the kids up, then get petrol” is always a fun game. The same goes for these although unnecessary with the rapid charge that will give you 3 hours of listening with just 3 minutes of charge.

Testing Connectivity

As a Sonos product you know it will work well with other Sonos products but finding what you can connect to outside the ecosystem is a bit hit and miss. The bluetooth connection does allow for nearly every device, given that most Sonos speakers run on WiFi its interesting that they didn’t go the same way with the headphones. Size was probably a consideration here. 

The real surprise was with the Nintendo Switch that now supports Bluetooth headsets, and I was really impressed with the clarity of sound when playing animal crossing with the wireless headphones. 

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Linking to other devices like laptops was really easy and then connecting back to your phone is simple enough the best experience overall is via the Sonos app or with other Sonos products like the Arc.

Final Thoughts

The Sonos Ace Headphones are exactly what fans of the brand have asked for for years. The simple yet effective use of on set buttons with the big features in the app makes perfect sense for modern listening. The sound clarity is second to none, it’s easily the most beautiful clear and yet powerful sound I’ve heard in over ear technology ever.

Top all that off with the most comfortable design choices and style, it’s a product that looks as good as it sounds, and it sounds perfect.

The price point of $699 in Australia is on par with other headphones in the same category but is a little steep at the same time. Until you remember, it’s a premium product with premium ideas, designed for people who understand what a premium sound should be.

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