Article updated on June 3, 2024 at 6:00 AM PDT

Sonos Ace Review: A Top Headphone With Some Small Caveats

Sonos' first headphones are rather pricey at $449, but feature a swanky design, impressive sound quality and excellent noise canceling. Should you buy them over models from Bose, Sony and Apple?

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David Carnoy
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David Carnoy Executive Editor / Reviews
Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable reviewer of mobile accessories and portable audio products, including headphones and speakers. He's also an e-reader and e-publishing expert as well as the author of the novels Knife Music, The Big Exit and Lucidity. All the titles are available as Kindle, iBooks, Kobo e-books and audiobooks.
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8.5/ 10

Sonos Ace headphones


  • Well-designed and comfortable
  • Excellent sound and noise-canceling
  • Strong voice-calling performance
  • Spatial audio with head-tracking
  • USB-C audio
  • TV Audio Swap feature for Sonos users


  • Quite pricey
  • Not Wi-Fi headphones
  • TV Audio Swap feature only works with Sonos' Arc sound bar at launch (and can be glitchy)

Several years in development, Sonos' new Ace headphones are finally available, and they're mostly very impressive, though they aren't without a few downsides, including a rather high price tag of $449 and some glitches with a key feature.

Bluetooth headphones first and foremost

Like I said in my initial first take of the Ace, a lot of people expected Sonos' first headphones to be able to stream lossless audio over Wi-Fi in your home and then use Bluetooth outside your Sonos home network. However, Sonos reps told me that listening to music over Wi-Fi would greatly reduce the headphone's battery life and the company opted to leave that feature off. So even though they're equipped with a Wi-Fi chip, they're not really Wi-Fi headphones and are first and foremost noise-canceling Bluetooth headphones.

Unlike Sonos' Roam and Move speakers, which stream music over Wi-Fi on your Sonos multiroom system and double as Bluetooth speakers off your home network, these headphones only use Wi-Fi to tap into your Sonos soundbar to create a personal home theater experience. More on that in a minute.   


The Ace headphones on top of their case.

David Carnoy/CNET

Sonos Ace design 

$449 is certainly a lot to spend on a pair of headphones – and with tax, of course, the price is well over $450. You'd therefore expect the Ace to have a premium design that's on par with other headphones in this price class, such as the Sony WH-1000XM5, Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones and Apple's AirPods Max, which list for $549 but recently dipped to as low as $449. And like other Sonos' products, the Ace do have a swanky design that leaves no doubt they're premium headphones.

Watch this: Sonos' New Headphones Mostly Ace Our Tests

Weighing in at 11 ounces or 312 grams, they're not as light as the 250-gram Sony or the 253-gram Bose, but they're considerably lighter than the 385-gram AirPods Max and quite comfortable to wear.

They have cushy memory foam ear pads covered in high-end faux leather, and their chrome metal yoke allows the headphones to swivel in multiple directions (the hinge is hidden). The ear cups adhere magnetically like they do on the AirPods Max and they're replaceable, which is good. And it's easy to tell the right ear cup from the left as the the inside of the ear cups are different colors. 

The Sonos Ace ear cups adhere magnetically

The ear pads adhere magnetically and are replaceable. The inside of the left and right ear cups are different colors so you can easily tell left from right. 

David Carnoy/CNET

I also appreciated that there was a relatively small gap between the headband and my head. The headphones hug your head nicely with just the right amount of clamping for the ear pads to create a good acoustic seal.

Additionally, they come with a nice felt carrying case and their controls are well implemented. They have a rocker switch for volume adjustments that doubles as a universal control button – you press it once to pause your music, for example, and double press it to advance tracks forward. Underneath it, you'll find a button that allows you to toggle between noise-canceling and a transparency mode that lets sound into the headphones. The power button is on the left ear cup.

Alas, like other over-ear headphones, these will steam up your ears a bit when you're using them in warmer environments. I can't say I loved wearing them in the streets of New York in 85-degree heat. I usually switch to earbuds when the temp goes over 75 degrees. 

Enlarge Image

The Ace headphones also come in black.

Numi Prasarn/CNET

Sonos Ace noise-canceling performance and other features

As far as features go, the Ace are pretty loaded. They do have top-notch noise-canceling along with a natural-sounding transparency mode that's pretty close to being on par with the AirPods Max's excellent transparency mode.

I spent some time comparing the Ace's noise-canceling performance to that of the Bose QC Ultras, Sony XM5s and AirPods Max. I used the headphones in the streets of New York City (and the subway), and they're all able to reduce the noise around you by about 85% to 90%. Voices and higher-pitched sounds still cut through (albeit at reduced volumes), but lower frequencies are really tamped down. With music on, I could barely hear the train arriving at my subway stop as I stood on the platform.

The Ace is right there with these top noise-canceling headphones when it comes to ANC performance. You can argue about which of the four models has the best noise canceling (the Bose QC Ultra is perhaps slightly ahead). But in the end, they're all very close in terms of ANC performance.

The Ace are equipped with Bluetooth 5.4 and support AAC and Qualcomm's AptX Adaptive audio codec along with AptX Lossless if you have a capable device, like certain Android smartphones.

If you want to go the wired route, you can connect your USB-C smartphone with the included USB-C cable to get a digital lossless connection. The other wired option is to connect to a headphone port using the included USB-C-to-3.5mm cable. Using that 3.5mm cable, you can also listen to lossless music on a device like a computer or music player. 


The microphones have a metal mesh covering to cut down on wind noise. 

David Carnoy/CNET

The Ace has wear-detection sensors that automatically pause your music when you take the headphones off your head and resume playback when you put them back on. And there's an equalizer in the Sonos app that allows tweaking the sound profile.

Not to be outdone by the AirPods Max, the Ace has a spatial audio feature that Sonos says delivers a "hyper-realistic three-dimensional sound, including an industry-leading Dolby Atmos experience and dynamic head-tracking, from supported services and devices." You can turn it on or off in the Sonos app and it did work with both my iPhone 15 and Google Pixel 7 Pro. 

One of the key selling points for Sonos users will be the TV Audio Swap feature. At launch, Sonos says it will work only with its high-end Arc sound bar (and it can only be set up with Sonos' iOS app at launch), but it's eventually coming to all its Beam and Ray soundbars too. It's really designed for folks who want to watch something on their TV at night and don't want to disturb others in their household who might be asleep. Instead of using your soundbar for sound, you hit a button in the app or hold down the slider button on the headphone itself and the sound is switched from the soundbar to the headphones, with the soundbar decoding the Dolby Atmos stream.

The result is similar to watching a movie using Apple's spatial audio feature, with dialog fixed to the middle of the screen in front of you even when you move your head. However, I should note that I initially couldn't get the feature to work when I tried using my Ace review sample with my Arc sound bar at home. Sonos has had a number of issues with the rollout of its revamped Sonos app, so I wasn't totally surprised that I had some problems. But I did have to contact Sonos customer support to troubleshoot the TV audio switching to get it to work. I also had some moments where the audio glitched and I had to swap back and forth between the headphones and sound bar to get the sound working properly again in the headphones. Hopefully, you won't have the same experience, but the feature did seem a little buggy. 

Sonos does say the headphones' home theater experience will get better with time. Its new TrueCinema technology is coming later this year and it's supposed to precisely map your space, then render a complete surround sound system for a listening experience that's "so realistic you'll forget you're wearing headphones." We'll see.

Selfie of David Carnoy wearing Sonos Ace headphones on a New York sidewalk

Testing the Sonos Ace headphones in the streets of New York.

David Carnoy/CNET

Sonos Ace voice-calling performance

The headphones have eight beam-forming microphones for "noise control and voice targeting." I made several test calls with the headphones and they did a very good job reducing background noise in the noisy streets of New York. When I was using the Sony WH-1000XM5, which offer best in class voice-calling performance, callers said my voice sounded slightly more natural and less digitized (you can hear your voice in the headphones as you talk, which is good). But the Sonos was close. And when I wasn't talking, background noise was completely eliminated. To hear a sample call I recorded, check out my companion review video.

Sonos Ace battery life

As for battery life, Sonos says the Ace are rated for up to 30 hours of use on a single charge at moderate volume levels with noise canceling on. That's solid – the Sony XM5s are also rated for 30 hours, while the AirPods Max are rated for up to 20 hours. A quick-charge feature gets you three hours of playback time from a three-minute charge, and the headphones require about two hours to fully charge. 


The Sonos Ace fold flat but don't fold up.

David Carnoy/CNET

Sonos Ace sound quality

Sonos says the headphones have custom-designed 40mm dynamic drivers and, like I said in my intro, I was impressed with the Ace's sound quality. Well balanced, they're clean sounding with nice detail and sparkle in the treble along with punchy, powerful bass that doesn't get boomy. Vocals sounded natural and the headphones have a relatively wide soundstage.

For testing, I mainly leave the equalizer at the default flat setting. I paired the headphones with an iPhone 14 Pro, iPhone 15, Google Pixel 7 Pro and Asus ROG 6 Android smartphone that supports AptX Adaptive (Google and Samsung phones do not). I used a few streaming services, including Apple Music, Spotify and Qobuz to listen to tracks and I plugged the USB-C cable into my MacBook Pro and a couple of smartphones to have a listen in wired mode. (I only noticed a very slight bump in sound quality in wired mode). 

I ran through the usual tracks I use for testing headphones – it's an eclectic mix. Tracks included Spoon's Knock Knock Knock, Athletes of God's Don't Wanna Be Normal, Orbital's Dirty Rat, Bjork's Hollow, Drake's Passionfruit, Pixies' Vault of Heaven, Florence and the Machine's Choreomania and various Foo Fighters tracks. Like the Bose QC Ultras, the Ace headphones seem well-suited for listening to a variety of music genres. 

These aren't quite up to the level of even higher-end headphones like the Focal Bathys, but they're pretty articulate and accurate – there's good separation between instruments and you can hear little details in tracks you won't hear with lesser headphones. I thought they measured up well against the Bose QC Ultras, the Sony XM5s and the AirPods Max.  

The Sony's are a little warmer and accentuate the bass slightly. I personally preferred the Ace because I like more revealing headphones. I thought they were very close to Bose QC Ultras and a very small step ahead of the AirPods Max.


The Ace links with Sonos' Arc sound bar. 

David Carnoy/CNET

Sonos Ace final thoughts

Of the three models I compared them to, I'd say the Sonos may have a slight edge, particularly if you're a Sonos user. The Bose are a very close second, while the Sony and AirPods Max are just a touch behind. The Sony XM5 may be due for an upgrade, and there's chatter that the AirPods Max 2 may be coming later this year, so that's partially why I'd go with the Sonos or Bose at this moment. And for Android users anyway, the AirPods Max just aren't a good option.

Headphones like the Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless and Sennheiser Accentum Plus cost less and also sound very good. So do several other headphones, including the Beats Studio Pro, which sometimes get discounted to $200. They're better values, especially when they go on sale, but overall the Ace deliver a more premium listening experience, as well as better noise-canceling and voice-calling performance. 

On the downside, I was disappointed that the Ace aren't capable of really being a Wi-Fi headphone, allowing you to use them as a speaker on your Sonos system at home. It's also not ideal that the TV audio switching feature only works with the Arc sound bar at launch. (Note that I lowered my review rating a bit due to the glitches with the TV Audio Swap feature and will raise my score if I see Sonos users aren't having any issues with it.) 

On the plus side, not only are the Ace headphones really well designed, but they also sound excellent, have top-notch noise canceling and very good voice-calling performance. I also appreciated that they have USB-C audio and spatial audio with head-tracking. And for Sonos users, the TV Audio Swap feature is an appealing option – when it's working properly – that may just be the thing that makes you willing to drop $450 on them.