Sonos Ace challenges Apple’s AirPods Max with superior headphones

Stepping into the highly competitive personal audio market, Sonos launches the Ace, their first over-ear headphones. In a landscape dominated by heavyweights like Apple’s AirPods Max, the Sonos Ace aims to be the brand’s ace in the hole, promising to deliver an unparalleled listening experience. Crafted with precision and care, these headphones are designed to combine high fidelity sound with exceptional comfort and a sleek, timeless design. The Ace better live up to its name, offering a compelling alternative in a market where excellence is the baseline expectation.

Sonos Ace in Black and Soft White

Designer: Sonos

Reflecting a meticulous design process that spans over three years, the Sonos Ace emerges as a product of intense collaboration across technical and creative disciplines. Aki Laine, director of industrial design at Sonos, described the Ace as a pair of headphones that feel as good as they look. Available in two sophisticated colors, Sonos Black and Soft White, these headphones were carefully selected to ensure inclusivity and appeal. The headphones use flexible plastics for a lightweight feel and sturdy metals for structural integrity. The ear cushions and headband are covered in vegan leather, providing a durable yet soft touch that supports extended wear.

Sonos Ace in Black

Sonos Ace Soft White

Sonos Ace Soft White

Aki Laine emphasized the importance of comfort in the Ace’s design, noting, “The lightweight memory foam and vegan leather ensure comfort for long-term use.” The headband and ear cushions are padded with memory foam, designed to conform to various head shapes and sizes. This attention to detail ensures a secure fit without exerting excessive pressure, even accommodating accessories like glasses and earrings. The design also incorporates visual and tactile cues, such as the textured logo and color-coded ear cups, to help users quickly orient and operate the headphones. Comfort is a key focus for the Sonos Ace, ensuring that users can wear the headphones for long periods without discomfort. Extensive testing was conducted to achieve the right clamping force and weight distribution, making sure the headphones are stable and provide a snug fit without causing hotspots. The ear cups are designed to accommodate various ear sizes and shapes, enhancing overall comfort.

Engineered to deliver a high-quality audio experience, the Sonos Ace excels in acoustic performance across different media types. Each ear cup houses custom-designed 40mm dynamic drivers, providing precise and accurate sound across all frequencies. With eight microphones, four on each side (three external and one internal), the Ace delivers advanced active noise cancellation. The external microphones detect ambient noise, while the internal microphones monitor and adjust the sound in real-time to optimize the listening experience. This setup ensures that whether you’re immersed in music, podcasts, or movies, the audio remains clear and immersive.

Controls on the right ear cup: Slide the Content Key up or down to adjust volume. Press it to pause or resume content and take calls. Another button lets you quickly switch between ANC and Aware mode.

Reverting to an analogue hardware user interface, the Sonos Ace enhances ease of use without relying on visual confirmation, and I’m so delighted that they did. The tactile, mechanical slider—dubbed the Content Key—allows users to adjust volume, skip tracks, and manage calls with ease. It provides a reliable and intuitive alternative to touch controls, which can be prone to errors. This thoughtful design extends to the headphones’ connectivity options. The Ace supports both wireless and wired connections, making it versatile for various use cases. Multipoint connectivity allows the headphones to connect to two devices simultaneously, enabling effortless switching. Additionally, a single button press lets the Ace connect with Sonos home theater systems, offering an immersive Dolby Atmos experience with dynamic head tracking.

Integrating several eco-friendly features into the Ace supports sustainability. The headphones incorporate 70% post-consumer recycled plastic in their construction. The carry case, made from 75% recycled polyester derived from plastic bottles, complements this commitment to sustainability. Additionally, the ear cushions are easily replaceable, extending the product’s lifespan and reducing waste. Aki Laine highlighted Sonos’s dedication to creating long-lasting products, saying, “At Sonos, we are committed to creating products that last. The Ace incorporates 70% recycled plastic and features replaceable ear cushions, aligning with our sustainability goals.”

Boasting impressive battery life and convenient charging options, users can enjoy up to 30 hours of listening with active noise cancellation enabled. A rapid charge feature provides three hours of playback with just a three-minute charge, ensuring you never miss a beat even when time is short. The smart power management includes auto-pause sensors that stop playback when the headphones are removed, conserving battery life.

Sonos Ace is perfect for remote work