Sonos Ace

Sonos Ace Review: TV Audio Swap is the Stand-Out Feature

If you have a Sonos system, perhaps just a soundbar, you were probably excited to hear that the company has finally launches its first pair of headphones. Called the Sonos Ace, the over-ear Bluetooth wireless headphones offer premium features like active noise cancellation (ANC) and Aware Mode, customizable EQ, and more. The biggest question fans have, however, is how do they sound? What’s more, how do they work within the Sonos ecosystem? The latter is really the shining star of these ‘phones.

What Are the Sonos Ace Wireless Headphones?

Sonos Ace
The Sonos Ace headphones are the brand’s first-ever pair, boasting features like ANC, Aware Mode, Dolby Head Tracking, and more.

The Sonos Ace premium over-the-ear Bluetooth headphones offer lossless audio playback and spatial audio support. Available in black and soft white for $599 in Canada, the headphones boast two custom designed drivers.

Central to the Sonos experience is being able to seamlessly control music playback from an ecosystem of speakers, soundbars, and yes, now these headphones. If you have a compatible Sonos soundbar like the Sonos Arc, you can swap sound from one to the other. Think switching from speaker to headphones when you want to continue watching a loud action movie or playing video games once the kids have gone to bed. Or conversely, maybe you want to share your music with others.

Spatial audio via Dolby Atmos also includes dynamic head tracking that keeps the action centered regardless of how your head is moving or positioned. Coming later this year, Sonos’ TrueCinema technology will be able to precisely map your space then render a complete surround sound.

Thanks to ANC technology, these headphones are great for travel, cancelling out distracting ambient noises, like the hum of an airplane or train engine. Activate Aware Mode when you want to be more aware of your surroundings, like while walking down a busy city street or to hear the flight attendant.

The headphones run for up to 30 hours per charge thanks to the extended energy-efficient battery. They also support ultra-fast charging so you can get an additional three hours after a three-minute charging boost, when using the included USB-C cable. A 3.5mm cable, also included, can be used for connecting to an in-flight entertainment system or when a wired set-up is preferred.

Unboxing and Aesthetics

Sonos Ace
The headphones are made with soft memory foam, vegan leather, and are lightweight and comfortable to wear, even for long periods of time.

The Sonos Ace have a clean, simple look to them that blends metal accents with a sleek, matte finish. The lightweight premium materials include soft memory foam wrapped in vegan leather.

Sonos Ace
The hidden hinge creates a sleek look and won’t catch on long hair.

A custom headband and ear cups hide the hinge to create both a favourable acoustic seal and to prevent them from catching on hair, a welcome detail for those with longer locks (like me).

Sonos Ace
The earcups are different colours inside to make it easy to determine which way to put them on, though it’s not easy to see in really dark rooms.

Contrasting colours inside the ear cups are designed for you to know which way to put them on. But since the colours are relatively dark, it’s not as easy to see if you aren’t in a nicely lit room.

Sonos Ace
The tactile buttons are easy to feel for and use to do things like activate TV Audio Swap, answer/ends calls, pause/play tunes, adjust volume, and more.

The tactile buttons offer easy control of music playback and answering and ending calls. Wear detection pauses the music automatically when you remove the headphones from your ears, which helps conserve battery life.

These headphones aren’t going to win any design awards, but they aren’t ugly either. Most importantly, they’re really, really comfortable. I was able to wear them through a few-hour late-night binge TV session and never felt pressure or discomfort. I’d happily wear these for a long flight.

Sonos Ace
The headphones come with a convenient hard shell carrying case with a storage pouch for cables, too.

Speaking of travel, they come with an attractive carrying case in which they fold flat for storage and transport. The zippered hard case has a section to hold the included charging and 3.5mm cables. It’s larger than you might like but will fit easily in a carry-on suitcase or backpack.

Sonos Ace app setup
Setting up the Sonos Ace headphones in the Sonos app is super simple.

I paired them easily with my phone, added them to my existing Sonos app, then got to listening.

Audio Sound Quality

Sonoe Ace
The headphones sound great when listening to all types of tunes, but they aren’t the best you’ll find at the price point. For those who love Sonos speakers, though, they’ll fit right in.

I went through my usual playlist of songs like Radiohead’s “Creep.” For comparative purposes, I pit these against a pair of Bose headphones that come in at a similar price with similar features, including ANC. I found that vocals were more pronounced and clearer, and sound overall more balanced with the Bose headphones. But when it comes to detail, the Sonos Ace excelled in that department. For bass-heavy tunes, you can expect an immersive experience as you crank up the tunes to bop your head while walking down the street or enjoying a bass-pumping action movie – all without disturbing passers-bys or waking up the fam-jam.

Music from the Sonos Ace does have a hollower sound to it overall, something that I have noticed with most Sonos speakers. It’s a cuppy, slightly unnatural effect that those who are accustomed to Sonos sound might not notice, but others may find off-putting. Bottom line: if you have Sonos speakers at home and you love them, you can expect a similar sound profile from the headphones and will love them as well. If you’re a hifi enthusiast, you’ll notice this instantly.

Sonos Ace
Noise cancelling works well, but the most impressive feature is Dolby Head Tracking with sound that moves with you.

I also tested noise cancelling by wearing the headphones while the family was watching TV. It surprisingly worked as well as my Bose noise cancelling headphones. I could sit and work in the quieter environment, despite the TV (and surrounding conversation) being on high volume. In a local coffee shop where I work a few times a week, the headphones worked well, too, reducing the hustle and bustle of background sounds, including nearby conversations and music.

The Game-Changer Feature: TV Audio Swap

Sonos Ace with Sonos Arc soundbar
TV Audio Swap is the defining feature of these headphones, allowing you to seamlessly swap audio from a compatible Sonos soundbar (right now just the Arc) and the Ace headphones, and vice versa, to enjoy private listening when desired.

The stand-out feature with the Sonos Ace is TV Audio Swap, which you can use to swap audio between the headphones and a compatible Sonos soundbar and vice versa. Sure, it’s a simple option but it’s really useful. Sonos is working on expanding compatibility with other soundbar models but for now, that’s limited to the Sonos Arc. Nonetheless, this feature is where these headphones really shine.

Sonos Ace audio swap app setup
Once you set up your Sonos Ace headphones for TV Audio Swap, you can swap audio back and forth between soundbar and headphones. Note that I did run into some sync issues that required a reset here and there, however. But these kinks will likely be worked out via software updates over time.

Once set up in the app (after connecting both the Ace headphones and the Arc soundbar to the Sonos app), it’s a simple press and hold of the content button to switch audio back and forth between soundbar and headphones. Note that I was not able to connect my LG Magic Remote to the soundbar to control volume, so I had to do this from the unit itself (or the headphones when listening through them). I couldn’t figure out the issue, but you might not run into the same thing.

Sonos Ace audio swap app
Enjoy Spatial Audio and Head Tracking as part of the TV Audio Swap experience with the Sonos Ace headphones and Sonos Arc soundbar.

The app and/or soundbar also dropped the connection a few times so I had to turn the headphones on and off, shut down the app and re-open, unplug the soundbar and plug it back in, or a combination of all three to get Audio Swap to work on a few occasions. But once it works, it’s a really handy feature. And the audio quality is really immersive and enveloping.

From footsteps shuffling along the ground to loud booms and bangs, I watched an episode of the Amazon Prime Video series Fallout and it was absolutely wonderful. Dialogue was crystal clear and every subtle nuance of sound was perfectly replicated. What’s most impressive, however, is the dynamic head tracking feature. I could move my head from one direction to the other and the audio followed me perfectly. I never felt like I was missing out on a moment, even if I popped over to the kitchen to grab a snack. To me, Head Tracking and TV Audio Swap are the big selling points of these headphones and what sets them apart from others.

Sonos Ace
I love being able to crank the volume and listen to TV shows or other content loudly while the rest of the family is tucked away in bed. I don’t have to worry about constantly turning up the volume to hear dialogue then turning it down when there’s a louder scene.

When would you use this? It’s a great way to watch TV late at night while others are doing something else in the same room or have already headed to bed. If you run into the same issue I do, you’re constantly turning the volume up and down when background noises get glaringly loud but then dialogue becomes too quiet. With the headphones on, you can leave the volume as loud as you like.

For couples where one loves to watch TV in bed while the other is ready to get some ZZZs, this is also a good solution. It’s also great for those who are hard of hearing but don’t want to raise the volume to deafening levels. With the sound right in their ears, it’s amplified and thus makes the TV viewing experience more pleasurable without disturbing others in the home.

Should You Buy The Sonos Ace Headphones?

Sonos Ace
The Sonos Ace headphones are an ideal option for Sonos speaker owners who want something that will work seamlessly as part of their ecosystem. But this only makes sense if you’ll be using the TV Audio Swap feature and/or if you prefer using the Sonos app.

If you’re a lover of everything Sonos and have a Sonos system at home, you know exactly what you’re getting when it comes to audio quality with these headphones. They’re a solid option for commuters, work-from-homers, and others who want to be able to enjoy private listening. They are ideal for the living room when paired with a compatible Sonos soundbar, and I firmly believe this is the big selling point for these headphones.

With that said, these aren’t the best-sounding headphones in their price range. The JBL Live 770NC headphones I reviewed last month blow them out of the water when it comes to overall audio performance. And they’re half the price! But Sonos is an ecosystem, akin to Apple or Samsung, Alexa or Google. If you love everything Sonos, have Sonos speakers in your home, and you’ll use the TV Audio Swap feature, they’re worth getting.

Sonos Ace
The headphones are expensive, so you’ll have to decide if they’re worth the price of entry.

The price is steep, however, for what it is. I’d suggest waiting for a sale or for them to come down in price before you dive in to add these headphones to your overall Sonos system.

Get the Sonos Ace headphones for $599.