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Maybe I had the Sonos Ace headphones all wrong

Phil Nickinson wearing the Sonos Ace headphones.
Phil Nickinson / Digital Trends

We talk a lot about headphones here internally. Sometimes it’s pretty straightforward, just a matter of putting them through their paces and putting what we think into words. Other times there’s a lot more back and forth. What does a particular set of cans or buds mean? Where does it fall in terms of the big picture for a particular company?

That last part has been the crux of our conversation regarding the Sonos Ace headphones. We’ve been talking about these things for years. That’s how far back the rumors and leaks go — and chances are Sonos has been working on them even longer than that.

The Sonos Ace have created a sort of chicken-or-egg paradox for us. As someone who already has a fairly decent Sonos setup — but by no means comprehensive — are the Sonos Ace a must-buy? And if not, does that mean they’re a failed product? After all (and recent software woes notwithstanding), Sonos fans are a pretty passionate bunch, to say the least. And I’ve been among those singing the praises of the wireless speaker ecosystem because, until the past few months, it’s been about as simple — and as good — as it can get. (Yes, Sonos also is a fairly expensive ecosystem. That fact isn’t lost me.)

But the more I’ve used the Sonos Ace headphones, the more I’m convinced I’ve been looking at them backward. Sure, Sonos will be perfectly happy selling a pair to someone already in the Sonos ecosystem.

But that’s not who they’re really for. And Sonos actually said as much.

The Sonos Ace headphones sitting atop the Sonos Move 2 portable speaker.
You don’t have to already have a Sonos speaker or two (or three or four) to enjoy the Sonos Ace headphones. Phil Nickinson / Digital Trends

Here’s CEO Patrick Spence in the company’s second-quarter 2024 earnings call: “We’ve been making healthy investments in innovation. Our investments remain focused on two things. The first is attracting new customers to Sonos, and the second is getting our existing customers to add more Sonos products to their life.”

And that makes perfect sense. If you’re not growing, you’re dying. Sonos wants new customers, and headphones are a new category of product for the audio company that can attract new customers.

Spence continued: “This launch will give us a foothold into a new multibillion-dollar category, expanding the number of categories we play in from five to six and further diversifying our business. This has been a multiyear investment and we expect it to pay off in spades in Q3 and beyond. This will also mark the beginning of new efforts on the marketing front to evolve the Sonos brand and reach new audiences.”

The Sonos Ace are, for all intents and purposes, very good Bluetooth headphones that live alongside the likes of the Apple AirPod Max and the top-end offerings from Bose and Sony (to name but three competitors). What they are not is a specialized set of headphones that requires a larger Sonos ecosystem to work at all, or even to get the most out of them. Yes, there’s the “audio swap” feature that connects with a Sonos Arc to feed TV content to the headphones, but that’s really about it. (And the feature currently requires you to have the $900 soundbar in addition to the $450 headphones.)

So, no. You don’t have to have other Sonos speakers to even consider buying the Sonos Ace headphones.

In fact, Sonos might actually prefer it that way.

Phil Nickinson
Phil spent the 2000s making newspapers with the Pensacola (Fla.) News Journal, the 2010s with Android Central and then the…
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