Sonos Ace review: comfort and quality that crushes the competition

Sonos' first-ever headphones are here – not only do they sound super, they're supremely comfortable

T3 Platinum Award
Sonos Ace review
(Image credit: Future / Mike Lowe)
T3 Verdict

Sonos' long-awaited headphones debut fully deliver on the hype. From the immense comfort and beautiful design to the active noise-cancelling (ANC) and battery life, irrelevant of whether you're a Sonos user or not, you'll find these highly appealing over-ears. Some day-one feature absences limit TV Audio Swap personal home cinema experience compatibility (Arc only and no Android – but that'll be rectified via updates). But overall Sonos really has brought the fight to Apple, Bose and Sony – and it's paid off.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Simply the most comfortable of over-ear headphones

  • +

    Big sound with spatial audio and app-based EQ support

  • +

    TrueCinema/TV Audio Swap is a fun personal cinema experience

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    TV Audio Swap not on full Sonos range or Android at launch

  • -

    The included case just isn't up to standard

  • -

    Bose a better travel headphones option

Why you can trust T3 Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

With the headphones market already bustling with great options, it's a rarity to obtain a new pair that are surrounded by so much hype. But that's exactly the case with Sonos Ace: the audio brand's first-ever pair of headphones have been years in the making, with various rumours in circulation for at least as many. Now they're here, however, does this long-awaited debut truly deliver on that hype?

Since the Sonos Ace was delivered I've been using these headphones almost nonstop. In addition to testing them in relation to a Sonos Arc – for the new TrueCinema and TV Audio Swap personal home cinema feature, as explained here – I've spent 12 days (thus far) using them in the office, when on a commute, at the gym (despite them not really being designed for that – there's no IP rating here), and even on long-haul plane journeys. 

That's been a great way to test out the Sonos Ace's comfort levels, battery life, active noise-cancelling (ANC), and overall sound quality – all in context to real-world environments (and with a pair of Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones also in tow for comparison). So has Sonos done the unthinkable and managed to deliver the best headphones on its first try? In some respects, yes, but there are at-launch frustrations and other foibles to consider too...

Sonos Ace: Price & Availability

The first of which is the Sonos Ace's not inconsiderable asking price: when it goes on sale from 3 June it'll carry a £449 tag in the UK, $449 in the USA, and AU$699 in Australia. That's a clear statement of intent, lining up Sonos' entry against similar high-end rivals.

That said, given that Apple's AirPods Max were £/$549 a launch, the Sonos offering may seem like a relative bargain by comparison. It's on par with the aforementioned Bose QC Ultra Headphones, too, so I think it's a fair pitch for a product that should last you for many years to come. 

Sonos Ace review: What's new?

Sonos Ace review

(Image credit: Future / Mike Lowe)

As these are the first-ever Sonos headphones, the 'what's new?' summary is fairly straightforward – because it's everything! The Ace has been built from the ground up, so everything about these Sonos over-ears is brand new to the brand's product catalogue.

A more pertinent question would perhaps be 'what's unique?'. That's where the new Sonos TrueCinema and TV Audio Swap feature – the ability to switch sound from your Sonos Arc soundbar and into your ears (TV Audio Swap), but in a way that mimics the specific in-room sound profile (TrueCinema) – is something no other headphones can offer. It's Sonos ecosystem-specific, of course, but if you're a Sonos user then it might be an ideal solution for those quiet at-home movie sessions. 

But that feature is also one of the first shortcomings in another regard: at launch other Sonos soundbars aren't compatible (Beam and Ray are in the pipeline though, Sonos has confirmed), and it's an Apple iOS-only feature initially (Android is in the works, just no launch date set for that right now) as the new Sonos app continues to receive updates

Sonos Ace review: Design & Comfort

Sonos Ace review

(Image credit: Future / Mike Lowe)

When first introduced to the Sonos Ace at an event many weeks ago – a behind-closed-doors preview, as prelude to this review – the brand's message of intent was that these headphones should create "the Sonos experience outside the home". Not only that, the company's design and comfort goals were to deliver headphones that "wouldn't feel like you're wearing them." 

Now, I suspect it would be impossible to not know that a pair of headphones were sat atop one's head. But I must say: I'm convinced the Sonos Ace represent the single most comfortable pair of headphones I've ever worn.

The material feel is on point – with a memory foam headband that only gets more comfortable over time. The clamping force is perfectly judged – there's no 'squeeze', but it's in no way 'loose' either. And I can't understate enough just how important this aspect is in helping the Sonos Ace towards a well-deserved 5-star score. 

Some of the comfort aspects are derived from design brilliance too. Take, for example, that the hinges are within each earcup and not visible – you'll have no hair-pulling or finger-pinching experiences here. So a practical positive to take-away from a feature that also makes the Ace look so seamless and suave. These are really visually stunning over-ears.

Of course, this does mean the Ace are not folding headphones. That might make you look elsewhere for a pair of the best travel headphones, perhaps, and I would still suggest that the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones, due to the folding earcups, are more practical for storage reasons.

Which brings me to one of Sonos' only design letdowns. Well, actually, it's not regarding the headphones, rather the included carry case. The zip on this thing can get caught against the case too easily. In a supposed respect for sustainability what the case is made from (75% recycled bottles) doesn't travel all that well – as it squashes in on the zipper to excess. The semi-fluffy exterior can mark and scratch too easily, as I've found out after little more than a week of proper use.

But let's get back to the headphones themselves and yet more design positives. Being a Sonos product you'd expect black or white finish options – which is precisely what you get here, albeit with the latter called 'Soft White' – and both options are subtly judged. The earcups' lustre-like finish resist fingerprints successfully (although they're not entirely scratch-resistant – there are subtle marks on mine if you look closely at the pictures on page), banishes the very thought of any intensely glossy sheen, and avoids any gaudy overhyped logo – there's a single laser-etched one on the right earcup only.

Physical controls – and if your digits get lost then that logo's subtle deboss can help guide your fingers – are an up/down toggle that makes for easy volume adjustment (and other controls), with an ANC mode-toggle button beneath this. On the other earcup is where you'll find the Bluetooth connectivity button, sat next to the exposed USB-C charging port. Now, some might prefer touch-based controls – I'm used to that on Bose's headphones – but a physical control is a failsafe, really, and it works very well here. So no complaints, only preferential differences. 

In summary, then, the Sonos Ace hit all the right notes when it comes to design (save for the separate carry case). They're almost impossibly comfortable to wear. They look stunning thanks to hidden hinge mechanisms. And the physical controls are a breeze to use. Few headphones can compete with this kind of class.

Sonos Ace review: Sound Quality

Sonos Ace review

(Image credit: Future / Mike Lowe)

When it comes to sound quality Sonos has used its many years of experience to deliver a solid sound profile too. Nestled behind the earcups – which, by the way, are magnetically attached and easy to remove for cleaning (or potential future replacement) – are custom 40mm drivers, taking charge of the sound delivery.

However, when I first popped the Ace over my ears, while I was immediately enamoured by the comfort factor, the sound quality left me with with a few question marks. This is often the case when moving between different brands, as different precedence is given to different sound profile and equalisation bands – but, for me, a little extra treble was needed to uplift some flatness to the Ace's profile. That's easily done in the app, however, with a bass/treble EQ offering a simple +/-5 for the low and high frequencies.

Sonos Ace app

(Image credit: Sonos / Future)

While the app is an assistive part of the Ace experience, I was actually expecting it to do more. With Sonos being synonymous with the best multi-room speakers it's a bit peculiar that the headphones live quite separately to a home setup within the app. Not to mention they're really, really slow to appear each time. I had anticipated features such as auto-handover when, say, arriving back home and taking the headphones off. But that's not the case – it's only the TV Audio Swap aspect that can leverage one of Sonos' soundbar products (for now).

The app has updated a number of times since I've received the Sonos Ace for review, though, and we know additional features are coming (Android, wider soundbar compatibility) – so yet more could be added in the future. You'll need the app to activate head-tracking for spatial audio, while a loudness booster can also be applied to get more dynamism out of lower volume listens. There's support for aptX Lossless, AAC and SBC – not that the source material's quality is revealed in playback – which means decent wireless quality from relevant sources.

Sonos Ace review

(Image credit: Future / Mike Lowe)

Speaking of spatial audio – which has been implemented here with Dolby collaboration, the very makers of Dolby Atmos three-dimensional audio – I've been fairly impressed by relevant tracks and movie sound mixes in giving that additional level of an all-encompassing listen. Using head-tracking provides additional motion and movement, which makes sense in these 7.1.4 upmixes (but can be switched off if you prefer). 

However, the head-tracking is pointless to activate with traditional stereo music – and not a patch on how Bose's version will upmix tracks – as it'll just dizzyingly veer off in various directions related to your motion. Again, I'd be game for a future app update that reserves head-tracking automation for TV Audio Swap connections specifically, as for standard music playback – which is principally what people use headphones for, right? – it's just overkill.

Not that you need head-tracking activated to listen to music. With the volume cranked there's no distortion – although I do feel these headphones needed a little breaking-in period beyond others I've seen in recent years (initially a little sibilant and 'crunchy' – which has since ceased owed to use) – and a good thrum of bass and mid- and high-frequency separation. There are wider soundstages out there, perhaps from the best wired headphones, but the Sonos Ace do sound accomplished.

Sound quality is dependent on whether ANC is activated, just as it does in any pair of the best noise-cancelling headphones available. I'm firmly in the camp of leaving it always on. It's easy to toggle it into Ambient (passthrough for listening to surroundings more easily) or completely Off if you prefer. Or you can remove any possibility of switching from a preferred mode from within the app.

Sonos Ace review

(Image credit: Future / Mike Lowe)

At my initial Sonos Ace preview session – where I listened to Ed Sheeran (among others) with a bit of white noise in the background of the room – I wasn't then convinced that Sonos had created world-beating ANC. But oh how my mind has drastically changed by putting these headphones to task in many real-world conditions.

In my local gym – where the staff do love to blast out various (questionable?) tunes – I was astonished how I could drown that external sound out with the Ace's ANC on. Walking down the street I've experienced no wind tear like so many other headphones suffer, too. And on a long-haul flight – a mere 14 hours from Hong Kong to London, yawn – the background hiss and general engine noise was all but muted. It's really excellent ANC. Less 'strong' than some – here's looking at you, Bose – but very accomplished for various settings. 

That long-haul flight also helped to highlight how decent the Sonos Ace's battery life is. With a quoted 30 hours of use, my loud-volume-level listening sessions suggest that's on absolutely par with expectations. The app shows percentage level accuracy, although I'd like this to be visible at all times without needing to open it. Fast-charge is said to give 10% juice from a dead battery in just 3 minutes, for up to 3 hours of listening.

Sonos Ace review: Verdict

Sonos Ace review

(Image credit: Future / Mike Lowe)

So back to the original question: does Sonos' long-awaited headphones debut deliver on the hype? It's an enthusiastic 'yes' in very many areas, from the immense comfort and beautiful design to the accomplished active noise-cancelling (ANC) and battery life. I think that, irrelevant of whether you're a Sonos user or not, you'll find these highly appealing over-ears.

The day-one on-sale date does come with some lackings though: the TV Audio Swap feature is only for Sonos Arc and Apple iOS products (more soundbars and Android will follow, Sonos promises, but this might be enough to delay your purchase decision). I also think the carry case isn't up to task, given its bothersome zip. And, as this is a Sonos product, I still think there's further room for additional multi-room feature integration, geo-location, family accounts and yet more to add even more unique ecosystem appeal.

Overall the Sonos Ace's cheeky punt on their name has paid off (tempting as it was to riff on a sports pun headline, of which I'm sure you'll see many). These headphones are almost impossibly comfortable to wear, sound superb (with some in-app EQ tweaks), and the sheer quality of design, materials and build makes them worth the lofty cover price. Sonos really has brought the fight to Apple, Bose and Sony with aplomb – and it's paid off. 

Also consider

That said, I'd still pick the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones for travel purposes. The ANC is even more powerful, the folding design makes for a smaller footprint, and the carry case is just better. Arguably the sound profile is preferable too. 

As a marginally cheaper option with stellar sound and ANC, Sony's superb WH-1000XM5 remain an excellent pair of headphones for outright value. Not cheap, of course, but when every penny counts the Sony make a strong case. 

Or, if you're fully embedded in Apple's ecosystem, then the pricey AirPods Max will make potential sense – as the only other headphones which can compete with the TV Audio Swap spatial audio Dolby Atmos listening experience (albeit in a different way and arguably with greater fenced-off restrictions regarding sources).

Mike Lowe
Tech Editor

Mike is the Tech Editor at He's been writing about consumer technology for 15 years and, as a phones expert, has seen hundreds of handsets over the years – swathes of Android devices, a smattering of iPhones, and a batch of Windows Phone too (remember those?). But that's not all, as a tech and audio aficionado his beat at T3 also covers tablets, laptops, gaming, home cinema, TVs, speakers and more – there's barely a tech stone unturned he's not had a hand on. Previously the Reviews Editor at Pocket-lint for 10 years, he's also provided work for publications such as Wired, The Guardian, Metro, and more. In addition to his tech knowledge, Mike is also a flights and travel expert, having travelled the globe extensively. You'll likely find him setting up a new mobile phone, critiquing the next MacBook, all while planning his next getaway... or cycling somewhere.