Sonos Ace Review: The Most Comfortable Headphones for Travel

As soon as you want to hear the same music in multiple rooms, you understand why so many people love Sonos. When it comes to set-it and-forget-it multiroom audio, the company makes the hardware and software experience easier than anyone. From speakers to soundbars (and even turntables and networked amps), Sonos has taken over the homes of everyone who doesn’t want to drop oodles of cash on a “real” custom-installed system with wires running through walls. In a roundabout way, this makes a somewhat-costly Sonos system feel affordable.

The same can be said about its first pair of headphones, the $450 Sonos Ace. They might ride the high-water mark of the price set by Apple’s AirPods Max, but they also work seamlessly within Sonos’ ecosystem, albeit over Bluetooth rather than Wi-Fi.

Sonos has dabbled in portable speakers like the Roam and Sonos Move 2 to extend its in-home sound to patios and beach blankets, but the Ace headphones mark a real mobile turning point for the company, and they’re largely great. They might not perfectly match the expectations of audio nerds who have been begging for Wi-Fi-based Sonos headphones for a decade, but the Ace are a fantastic pair of Bluetooth over-ears that go toe to toe with the best from Bose, Sony, and Apple. If you’re shopping for premium wireless headphones, these should be on your short list.

Going Mobile

The Ace feel incredibly well-made. Pop open the included hard case—something the Airpods Max notably, and very oddly, lack—and you’ll see a sleek pair of over-ears with shiny metal bands and supple leather around the headband. They’re round, traditionally shaped headphones that do nothing to grab anyone’s attention—they look a lot like Sony’s WH-1000XM5.

The simple design is timeless, sleek, and professional, so as never to seem out of place. It’s a design language borrowed from the “I didn’t see you there” styling of its speakers, and a welcome one in the world of flashy modern cans. Like the speakers, they come in matte white or black.

Left Black overtheear headphones in a hardshell case. Right Black overtheear headphones laying on top of a hardshell...

Photograph: Parker Hall

You have two tones of gray inside the ear cups to tell you which is right and left (darker is left, lighter is right, which makes these great for people who are colorblind or have low vision), and they have three basic buttons on the outside, set between a large assortment of mesh-covered microphones. The replaceable ear cups use magnets to attach and come with a built-in mesh cover that helps keep gunk out of the headphones’ drivers, and there is also a slot for a USB-C cable on the bottom left.

The main thing you’ll use to control the headphones, apart from the app and your smartphone, is the volume slider on the right ear cup, which allows you to play and pause music with a press; you can slide it up or down for volume control. On the bottom of the left cup is the power button, and there is a similarly sized button on the bottom of the right that adjusts active noise canceling between on and transparency mode (which pipes in sound from the outside world). Inside the Sonos app, you can also set this button to turn off ANC and transparency entirely, but that isn’t the default option.

Other settings you can change in the app include basic bass and treble EQ, and whether you want the headphones to pause when you remove them, or to answer calls when you put them on.

All-Day Listening

The fit is astonishingly comfortable, thanks to the Ace’s 11-ounce weight. and there’s an excellent design choice where the headband attaches to the ear cups. It links up at the center of the cup, which gives the headphones a nice, center-directed clamping force. This means less headband fatigue and better comfort when wearing glasses, something I experience with the AirPods Max, which are heavier and have a higher clamping force on my head.

It’s headphone-reviewer hyperbole, but I genuinely did forget I was wearing the Ace on a few occasions. They’re that comfortable, and the included transparency and associated mics are so good that they have a weird ability to trick your brain into feeling like you have nothing on your head at all. I found none of the weird boxy sensations I get from other headphones with transparency turned on. I had full conversations with the headphones on, which I’ve usually felt too awkward to do with other over-ears. (I still think it’s rude to not remove your headphones when chatting.)

As far as noise reduction, I was genuinely astounded how the Ace immediately offers some of the best noise canceling on the market with a press of a button. Turning on ANC mode feels like turning the volume of the world from a 9 to a 1 on some global volume dial. HVAC noises all but disappear, cars on roads are reduced to nothing, and even my clacky mechanical keyboard sounds like a light tap of a pen on a pad. The noise reduction is easily on par with the top brass, with Bose still narrowly edging out the competition on high frequencies.