To help us provide you with free impartial advice, we may earn a commission if you buy through links on our site. Learn more

Sonos Ace review: A unique, but not brilliant take on ANC headphones

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £449
inc VAT

There’s much to like about the Sonos Ace, but other headphones deliver better ANC for less


  • Slick physical controls
  • Brilliant Sonos soundbar integration
  • Impressive ANC – if you can get a perfect fit


  • Very expensive
  • Earcup foam on the firm side
  • Customisation options are limited

Sonos says a pair of headphones is its most requested product, yet for years the company has resisted, preferring instead to stick with speakers and soundbars. In 2024, however, its resolve finally crumbled and, at long last, we have the Sonos Ace – a pair of over-ear, noise-cancelling headphones it hopes can take on the likes of Sony’s WH-1000XM5, Apple’s AirPods Max and Bose’s QuietComfort Ultra Headphones.

That’s quite the challenge given how long its rivals have been refining their headphones – and refinement is, in the end, what these otherwise rather lovely headphones lack. But, surprisingly, they’re not far behind on sound quality and noise cancelling, and they also manage to pack in some unique features along the way.

Sonos Ace review: What do you get for the money?

The Sonos Ace certainly don’t lack style and shouldn’t at £450, but they’ve achieved this in an understated rather than ostentatious fashion like the Apple AirPods Max. They’re only available in white or black and the design is minimalist and clean, the hinge hidden beneath the surface of each cup, just like Sony’s flagship headphones. For me, they feel more solidly built than the WH-1000XM5, especially the headband adjusters, which slide up and down with a firm, smooth action.

Look hard, though, and all sorts of lovely touches emerge from the Sonos Ace’s otherwise serene surface. The Sonos logo subtly stencilled onto the outside of the right earcup, for instance, neatly lines up with the tactile sliding volume controller, giving you a visual cue as to where the main controls lie when picking up the headphones.

The inside of each earcup is not only labelled with the letters L and R, but they’re also colour-coded to make it obvious – in my black review sample grey on the right and black on the left. The pads themselves are super easy to remove for cleaning or replacement: they simply attach via magnets.

There’s substance to match those good looks, too. The cups are not too big or heavy, not too light, and clamp themselves to either side of your head with a force that’s neither too firm nor too loose. There are different grades of memory foam used in the earcups (firm) and headband (soft) to keep things nice and plush but not too soft. Sonos has a real Goldilocks pair of headphones on its hands here as far as comfort is concerned.

For me, the controls are a triumph, too, and here Sonos has again kept things simple, eschewing fussy touch controls in favour of thoughtfully designed tactile buttons and switches. On the right earcup is a sliding, clickable “Content Key”, which lets you adjust volume, pause and play, with an additional button for toggling ANC and awareness modes just below it; you can also hold this to call on your voice assistant of choice. On the left earcup is a single button for power and Bluetooth pairing.

I’m not a big fan of touch controls, so this setup makes a lot of sense to me, and I was quickly able to get to grips with the Ace’s simple button-based setup. However, I also like to tweak and customise things whenever I can and Sonos doesn’t allow you to do much of this. The only thing you can change about the controls is which modes the right earcup buttons toggle between. You can set it to switch in sequence between ANC on, off, awareness or just two of these in any combination.

Likewise, while there’s some EQ adjustment available – any tweaks you make are done via the main Sonos app – it’s pretty simple, providing controls for bass, treble, balance and loudness. The latter boosts bass and treble at low volume.

Other than this, the only customisation you can make is to refine how the wear detection behaves. By default, the headphones play when you put them on and pause when you take them off, and they go to sleep when you take them off as well. But it’s also possible to enable “wear to answer”, which will answer calls automatically when you put on the headphones, disable the wear-based play/pause feature, and disable the wear function altogether. If you do the latter, you’ll have to remember to manually turn off the headphones if you don’t want the battery to run flat while you’re not wearing them. 

Elsewhere, the Sonos Ace are packed with all the features a flagship pair of headphones needs. There’s active noise cancelling, of course, and as alluded to above, an awareness mode that lets you hear what’s going on around you with the touch of a button.

You get beamforming microphones for phone and video calls and Dolby Atmos-powered spatial audio with head tracking, plus battery life is rated at 30 hours with ANC enabled, while fast charging will get you three hours of extra listening from three minutes connected to the mains.

READ NEXT: Best over-ear headphones

Sonos Ace review: How do Sonos’ home theatre features work?

What makes the Sonos Ace unique amongst their peers, however, is their integration with Sonos’ home theatre audio ecosystem. Pair them with a Sonos Arc soundbar – support for Sonos’ less expensive Beam 2 and Ray soundbars is coming soon – and you’ll be able to switch seamlessly from one to the other for listening late at night.

The head-tracking feature makes the sound appear to come from the TV screen and, even more cleverly, Sonos is bringing a feature to the Sonos Ace later this year that enables the headphones to mimic the way your room sounds. Dubbed TrueCinema, this scans your room in a similar way to Sonos’ existing Trueplay technology so that, when you pop your headphones on to watch a film, it should sound exactly like listening to your soundbar setup.

Not only that, but audio is sent over the link between the soundbar and headphones losslessly too, so for sofa listening sessions you get the very best possible quality.

These features worked perfectly when I tested them at home with a Sonos Arc. You have to go through a pairing process in the Sonos app first, to link the Ace to the soundbar in question, but with that done you can swap sound between the headphones and the soundbar by simply holding down the sliding switch on the right earcup.

It’s a real boon for those times when you want to watch a movie late at night without disturbing the neighbours, your kids or your snoozing partner.

The one disappointment with it is that it will only work with one pair of Sonos Ace headphones at a time. Even if you had the money to afford a Sonos Arc and multiple pairs of Sonos Ace, you can link only one pair per soundbar, which seems a missed opportunity.

Sonos Ace review: What’s the noise cancelling like?

The Sonos Ace utilise eight microphones – three on the outside of each earcup and one internal microphone – to deliver noise cancellation. This is pretty effective but it can’t quite match the best in the business at cutting high-frequency ambient noise, and I found that the firmness of the earcups coupled with my angular jawline meant that gaining a good enough seal against my face to allow the headphones to perform at their best was tricky.

Sometimes I would put the Sonos Ace on and they would instantly kill most ambient noise. Shifting my head position, however, would significantly reduce the effectiveness of that ANC. At their best, they’re extremely impressive, I compared them with a pair of in-ear AirPods Pro USB-C and some OG Bose QuietComfort 35s. They beat both, the latter more convincingly than the former, but that advantage difference vanished as I moved my head around. The effectiveness of that ANC also fell when wearing the headphones with my glasses on.

And although the Sonos Ace are technically advanced in some respects, they have nothing to match Sony’s adaptive ANC. You can’t even adjust the strength of it; it’s either on or it’s off.

The awareness mode is implemented similarly. It works well and doesn’t fall into the trap of over-amplifying your surroundings or making them sound artificial. Tap the circular button on the right ear cup to switch into awareness mode and you can quickly listen out for a railway station or airport announcement, or speak to someone nearby. However, there’s nothing as advanced as conversation awareness here as Apple offers with its AirPods Pro.

READ NEXT: Best Bluetooth headphones

Sonos Ace review: What do they sound like?

In a way, my opinion hasn’t changed much from the first time I listened to the Sonos Ace. Their 40mm drivers deliver well-mannered audio with plenty of detail, atmosphere and low-end grunt and there’s support for lossless audio via AptX Lossless and Apple Lossless codecs, although they aren’t Hi-Res certified.

Their strength lies in the balance of the audio they output. These are supremely competent headphones that deliver just the right amount of bass – not too much or too little – vocals that are clean and clear and not swamped by the low end, and trebles that are not marred by harshness or shrillness.

Indeed, I marched my way through my headphones-testing playlist and, save for a little boxiness in Melody Gardot’s voice at top volume on My One and Only Thrill, I could find nothing to criticise. Even the multi-layered skeins of guitar in Six by Seven’s majestic Eat Junk Become Junk were delivered without muddle. Mozart’s Requiem: Lacrimosa was rendered with a deftness few headphones I’ve listened to have been able to muster while the low end and lead guitar on Joe Satriani’s Thinking of You were kept pleasingly separate.

And yet, the Sonos Ace lack that final ingredient that would elevate them from just very competent to truly great. The spark isn’t quite there, the drive is lacking and I was left yearning for a little more muscularity in the low end.

Sonos Ace review: Should you buy them?

The Sonos Ace are accomplished headphones, of that I have no doubt. The design is well-thought-through, I love the control scheme and the comfort levels. The home theatre functions are great, too, but they have niche appeal.

But for £450, I believe they have to deliver more than this. They have to deliver ANC that isn’t adversely affected by the slightest shift in facial position. They have to bring the best in adaptive ANC and audio customisation.

I like them, but I don’t love them, and our top pick for noise-cancelling over-ear headphones remains the superlatively capable Sony WH-1000XM5, which also happen to be a whole lot less expensive at £279.

Read more