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Sonos joins personal sound with anticipated Sonos Ace headphones

The innovator in multiroom audio looks set to innovate once again, as Sonos addresses rumours and launches its most requested product: headphones.

Speakers and soundbars may well be the bread and butter of Sonos, but it’s about to enter a different category, and it’s a more personal take on sound.

Specifically it’s headphones, as the company known for connecting speakers around the home in “multiroom” sound systems tries something a little more concentrated on one head. Headphones aren’t exactly known for sharing sound, and yet the Sonos Ace headphones might just make it easier to consumer audio normally meant to be shared.

Picture this: you want to watch a movie on the big screen in the living room, but the kids are asleep. You could turn the volume down and get a half-hearted experience, or just not watch the movie at all.

Alternatively, you could try something different, using headphones with your TV, which is one of the reasons the Sonos Ace exists. They’ll also be useful for music and podcasts, bringing the Sonos audio profile to a pair of headphones with active noise cancellation on board, but the idea has been to build a Sonos experience for personal use.

That starts with the audio design, which is unmistakably Sonos in its use of high-end technology to make the gear stand out. It includes 40mm custom dynamic drivers in each cup, a ported acoustic architecture for deep bass, a head-tracking sensor for spatial audio, support for Bluetooth and USB-C audio, and eight microphones (four on each side) for both calls and the active noise cancellation technology.

“Sonos Ace represents our ambition to create moving sound experiences that are equal to the moment we live in,” said said Maxime Bouvat-Merlin, Chief Product Officer at Sonos.

“It is an exciting new chapter as we embark on what it means to design for personal listening,” he said.

“True to Sonos’ heritage of premium products, each individual detail of Sonos Ace has been expertly crafted, custom designed, and tuned by the world’s leading sound experts to give you a listening experience unlike any other.”

Like every other Sonos device, the Ace headphones will connect to the Sonos app to control and tweak the sound, but unlike Sonos speakers and soundbars, the Ace won’t use WiFi.

Rather, these are Bluetooth headphones primarily, though they can talk to Sonos soundbars to switch the sound in a home theatre to become personal. Initially, they’ll talk only to the Sonos Arc, but later on, you might see support for other Sonos soundbars, too.

Later in the year, they’ll even support a surround sound technology called “TrueCinema” that will map the space of your room and recreate surround sound for one person. Think of it like Sonos True Play with speakers, but for headphones. Expect it to marry head-tracked Dolby Atmos to the shape of your room, delivering a heightened movie experience for one in a living room. Handy for when the kids are asleep.

Granted, it’s only for one person, with the idea being just one pair of headphones working with the private cinema concept, at least for now. Sonos told Pickr that user testing found the most common use case would be a single person listening, but didn’t rule out the possibility of two headphone connections later down the track.

However, cinema sound isn’t the only reason you might consider the Sonos Ace. Being Bluetooth and USB-C, they’ll work with phones, tablets, and laptops, and the active noise cancellation tech will mean a bubble of personal sound will be possible.

What’s more, the sound has been checked and tweaked by the Sonos “Soundboard”, a group of talented musicians and producers including Giles Martin, Chris Jenkins, and Noah Goldstein, with their feedback implemented to make the headphones better.

Then there’s the look, which brings a new design language to the company, evolving the Sonos style with a focus on sustainability. That includes using vegan leather, making sure the headphones use less virgin plastic, and including a felt travel case made from 75 percent recycled plastic bottles.

“Since this was our first wearable product, it gave us an opportunity to evolve our design language,” said Aki Laine, Director for Industrial Design at Sonos.

“At the same time, we were very excited to create something new to the market that would feel fresh, that would capture the essence of the premium feel Sonos is known for,” he said.

“Sonos Ace is really a combination of three years of intensive product development during which the design team worked in collaboration with the various technical teams. To me, it’s a really perfect combination of what makes Sonos a great experience for new and existing users,” he told Pickr.

In terms of pricing, the Sonos Ace are definitely being set as a premium pair of headphones, priced similarly to other high-end noise cancelling headphones with a $699 price tag. That’s lower than the $899 Apple AirPods Max and only $50 more than the flagship models from other rivals, including the Sony WH-1000XM5 and the Bose QuietComfort Ultra headphones.

In short, the Sonos Ace are made to be premium, but hardly out of reach given the price tags of other noise cancelling headphones on the market.

Australians can expect to find the Sonos Ace in stores and online from June 5.

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