7 things Sonos’ first headphones will need to get right

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Sonos headphone patent diagram.A headphone sketch from a Sonos patent application. Sonos/USPO

If nan galore rumors, leaks, and teasing by nan CEO are true, Sonos is connected nan cusp of releasing its first wireless headphones successful 2024, and nan benefits to Sonos’ customers could beryllium considerable. Being capable to usage 1 group of headphones for travel, office, and location usage — that besides merge pinch nan Sonos ecosystem of whole-home wireless speakers — would beryllium convenient.

And, assuming nan caller headphones activity pinch Wi-Fi (like nan remainder of nan company’s products), they will beryllium among nan first wireless headphones to present lossless, hi-res audio without nan request for special codecs, cleanable wireless conditions, aliases an accessory for illustration a headphone DAC/amp.

Still, nan occurrence of imaginable Sonos wireless headphones is acold from assured. It’s a very mature marketplace pinch cutthroat competition. If Sonos hopes to make this merchandise a must-have for its customers, location are respective pitfalls nan institution needs to avoid.

Comfort is king

Simon Cohen wearing nan Hed Unity.The Hed Unity are nan world’s first Wi-Fi headphones. They’re besides very comfortable. Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

It should spell without saying, but headphones request to beryllium comfortable. Any unit points caused by a mediocre fresh aliases a mediocre prime of materials will limit really agelong you tin deterioration them earlier fatigue sets in.

Even companies that person been creating headphones for years tin inadvertently build a merchandise hampered by an uncomfortable design. This was surely nan lawsuit pinch nan Shure Aonic 40, a fantastic-sounding group of cans that I simply couldn’t deterioration for much than an hour.

When you see that Sonos has nary history of designing products for illustration headphones, earbuds, aliases different devices that request a beardown ergonomic component, there’s a consequence that its first effort won’t deed nan bullseye.

Home and away

Sonos Move 2 successful achromatic connected greenish parkland bench.The second-generation Sonos Move. Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

Wireless headphones person go our changeless companions, whether we’re utilizing them to perceive to podcasts connected our regular commute, artifact unwanted distractions astatine nan agency aliases section java house, aliases return sound and video calls from anywhere. In short, they spell wherever we go.

Sonos headphones request to connection each of nan elasticity and portability that we’ve travel to expect from brands for illustration Sony, Bose, and Sennheiser while away, positive a seamless modulation to our Wi-Fi web erstwhile we get home.

Sonos has a bully way grounds truthful far. The Sonos Roam and Sonos Move 2 speakers tin beryllium utilized distant from location — acknowledgment to built-in batteries and Bluetooth connections — and past re-join nan web automatically erstwhile you return. This will beryllium a must-have capacity for Sonos’ headphones.

Where Sonos has proven weakest is its deficiency of app support erstwhile its devices are successful Bluetooth-only mode. It whitethorn not matter that you can’t usage nan Sonos app erstwhile your Sonos Roam speaker is distant from location — Bluetooth speakers only person a constricted number of adjustments. Wireless headphones are a different story. We’re utilized to having full power complete settings for illustration progressive sound cancellation (ANC) and EQ each of nan time. Sonos will person to set its app to make that happen.

Peace and quiet

Once upon a time, it would person been acceptable for a institution for illustration Sonos to waste wireless headphones without ANC. But that’s ancient history. Today, you’ll find highly effective ANC connected $60 wireless earbuds. Sonos will person to connection ANC that is astatine slightest successful nan aforesaid ballpark arsenic Apple, Bose, Sony, and Sennheiser, moreover if it fails to hit them.

The aforesaid is existent for transparency mode — an arguably overmuch harder feat.

Multiple uses, aggregate devices

As I said earlier, we’re arsenic apt to usage our wireless headphones for Microsoft Teams meetings arsenic we are to perceive to nan latest Olivia Rodrigo album, truthful it’s not capable for nan audio to sound bully to america — we request to sound bully to our callers.

That intends Sonos’ headphones must person capable microphones to seizure our voices intelligibly while besides blocking retired unwanted outer sounds.

They will besides request to support Bluetooth Multipoint truthful we tin beryllium connected to 2 devices simultaneously.

Killer spatial audio

 Earcup/logo close-up.Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones person fantabulous spatial audio. Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

With its Beam Gen 2, Arc, and Era 300 speakers, Sonos has proven that it understands nan value of spatial audio, whether it’s Dolby Atmos for shows and movies aliases Dolby Atmos Music for streaming euphony services.

Still, spatial audio for speakers is simply a very different point than spatial audio for headphones. With headphones, complications abound: Do you usage Dolby’s exertion for binaural rendering aliases rotation your own? Do you connection virtual spatial audio, which attempts to springiness immoderate root of stereo a much immersive experience, aliases do you instrumentality pinch conscionable contented created for Dolby Atmos aliases different 3D audio formats? Finally, do you see head tracking — a sensor-based exertion that Apple has been heavy promoting connected its AirPods and Beats family of wireless earbuds and headphones?

It’s amazingly difficult to get this right. Apple has chosen to activity only pinch Dolby Atmos contented (with and without caput tracking) without virtual spatial audio. Depending connected nan source, it tin sound great. Bose has taken nan different route, letting you virtualize immoderate audio into a 3D version, again pinch and without caput tracking. It has besides been successful.

But I was little impressed pinch Jabra’s type of spatial audio connected its Elite 10 earbuds, and pinch immoderate products, for illustration nan Soundcore Liberty 4, it feels very overmuch for illustration a gimmick.

Gotta beryllium existent TV

A spectator uses AirPods Max headphones to acquisition Spatial Audio connected nan caller Apple TV 4KAirPods Max headphones supply an fantabulous spatial audio acquisition connected an Apple TV 4K. Zeke Jones / Digital Trends

Currently, if you person a Sonos soundbar for illustration a Ray, Beam Gen 2, aliases Arc, you’ll get nan champion imaginable Dolby 5.1 aliases Dolby Atmos awesome from your TV via HDMI aliases optical. If you want to stock that sound pinch different Sonos speakers successful your house, you tin do that by grouping them.

However, your grouped speakers — moreover if they are besides soundbars — will only get a downmixed, stereo type of nan TV audio pinch nary low-frequency transmission (subwoofer) info.

That’s not going to alert pinch Sonos’ headphones. They must connection parity pinch nan Apple AirPods Max, which tin wirelessly sync pinch an Apple TV 4K, and get a afloat head-tracked Dolby Atmos position of compatible content.

Moreover, if location are aggregate Sonos headphones successful 1 household, each needs to get this aforesaid precocious level of audio quality.

Battery blues

Sonos knows that artillery life matters. One of nan astir awesome things it changed erstwhile it debuted nan second-gen Sonos Move, was a much than doubling of nan speaker’s stamina from 11 hours to 24 hours.

It’s that benignant of reasoning that Sonos will request to use to its headphones. Wi-Fi is traditionally much power-hungry than Bluetooth, and pinch nan further demands of processors, sensors, and microphones, modern wireless cans tin request a batch of juice.

The Hed Unity — nan first Wi-Fi headphones connected nan marketplace — are a cautionary tale. Even erstwhile utilizing Bluetooth alone, they’re only rated for astir 8 hours of use. That mightiness beryllium acceptable for headphones that are destined to enactment home, but a group of travel-friendly cans will person to do acold better.

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