How Sonos wireless headphones could be different from the rest (because they’ll need to)

How Sonos wireless headphones could be different from the rest (because they'll need to)

Sonos is working on a pair of portable over-ear headphones that could be noise-cancelling. Although the company has not verified this, filed trademarks, theories, and stories all point in the same direction.

They could be released as soon as next month – Sonos is having a product launch on March 16th for a ‘portable’ product, but it could just as easily be a smaller version of the Move Bluetooth speaker tucked behind the curtain (also heavily rumored). The Sonos headphones, on the other hand, could launch later this year as the company’s second latest device for 2021. Sonos wireless headphones are almost definitely arriving, regardless of when they appear on our timeline. The concern is whether the rest of the planet needs them.

In a nutshell, we think it can. In any case, the possibility of this unavoidable Sonos extension excites us. However, in a market filled with outstanding wireless headphones, Sonos demands a specific selling point or two, not to mention competitive sound quality. With Apple-centric features and a slightly higher price tag, Apple recently managed to distinguish the AirPods Max from Sony, Bose, and Sennheiser competitors (which we found to be justified thanks to their superior sound quality).

Is Sonos capable of carving out its own niche in the headphones industry and having mainstream appeal? Again, we are persuaded. And here’s how it could go about it.

Check Out: Best wireless noise-cancelling headphone

Sonos headphones ‘swap’

Following the herd isn’t how Sonos is one of the world’s best and most successful audio brands. It basically invented the multi-room speaker industry nearly two decades ago, and it still reigns supreme facing fierce rivalry. It has remained successful due to its constant organisational smoothness, innovative capabilities, and outstanding tone, and it is these attributes of the Sonos community that will need to translate into the Sonos headphones experience.

Since Sonos goods are all about teamwork, it’s hard to picture a beatnik Sonos outsider who lives on the fringe rather than completely submerged in the ecosystem. Users of Sonos would certainly need a pair of Sonos-compatible headphones – otherwise, what is the point? – And it seems that Sonos is on the same side. At the very least, in one sense.

A’swap’ feature is listed in the approved patent, which would allow owners to conveniently move the music playing on their Sonos headphones to one (or more) of their Sonos speakers. “For example, if a certain piece of content is currently playing on a wireless headset, a swap switches the playback to play that piece of content on one or more other playback devices on the local network,” according to the patent.

It sounds identical to how iPhones would ‘hand-off’ music to a HomePod or HomePod mini (and vice versa) by merely positioning the devices next to each other, but this will be the first time such a feature has been introduced in headphones. We think a similar mechanism might operate between a pair of Sonos headphones and a Sonos speaker, except the headphones would have a button or a touch gesture to launch it.

Check Out: Best Over-ear Headphones

When the headphones sense your home network when you walk through the house, the user could set them to automatically transfer music to a certain Sonos ‘zone.’ It would be a good feature (though not a major selling point) that current Sonos customers would certainly enjoy.

Application control

This Sonos system convergence poses the question of a wireless network, which is how the Sonos system interacts with one another. Sonos is unlikely to introduce a pair of wireless headphones without Bluetooth compatibility in the immediate future. Although it’s almost necessary to connect to your computer, tablet, or portable music player while you’re out and about, adding wi-fi access could open the door to even more Sonos features.

For instance, it will encourage you to have the headphones in a Sonos system’s ‘area.’ They may be in your ‘TV’ region opposite your Sonos Beam or Arc, for example, to be used concurrently or as an alternative to your Sonos Beam or Arc. Will they have surround sound encoding (including Dolby Atmos, which the Arc supports) or a patented pseudo-surround sound feature equivalent to Apple’s spatial audio?

The Sonos S2 software, which serves as the puppet master for the Sonos device, may also be used to monitor headphones. Many headphones come with dedicated applications that enable the owner to personalise their set, change the EQ, and check the battery life, but the Sonos software, if compatible with the headphones, could provide consumers access to a slew of streaming channels and outlets – all aggregated in one location rather than through a multitude of apps on their phone – providing a convenient means of monitoring the home setting.

Bluetooth & wi-fi: better sound quality?

There’s also the risk that wi-fi can enhance sound quality. Bluetooth has come a long way in terms of delivering high-quality, wireless audio, with the aptX HD standard (which supports up to 24-bit/48kHz) currently topping the list. However, if owners could connect their headphones directly to a wi-fi home network, rather than just to a phone over Bluetooth, it could mean longer range, a more stable connection, and support for high-resolution audio.

Although we’re well aware of Sonos’ past negligence of the latter, the improved audio bandwidth offered by the Sonos S2 app makes us excited for potential support of hi-res FLAC and probably MQA songs.

Again, such dependency on the network would almost definitely restrict this functionality to the home, but it might make the Sonos wireless headphones the most persuasive best-of-both-worlds option possible.

Sonos Trueplay for headphones

Sonos Trueplay is an auto-calibration technology that adjusts Sonos speakers to produce the optimal sound in the space they’re in. Can Trueplay be used to personalise the Sonos headphones experience?
Can Trueplay for headphones, like ‘adaptive noise-cancellation,’ dynamically adapt their sound to your environment in real-time instead of working to guarantee a speaker sounds amazing tucked away in a corner or sandwiched between a stack of books? Trueplay for headphones may also go the route of helping consumers build a personalised sound profile that suits the headphones’ sonics to their hearing system, as headphones like nuraphones do.

Trueplay deals for Sonos speakers by using the microphones in your iPhone. The Sonos Step is an exception, as it has its own internal microphones. We assume that considering the popularity of wireless headphones with microphones, the addition of such a feature may be a feasible choice.

Price

Although the Sonos wireless headphones have a lot of potential to stand out, they’ll still want to keep up with their competition in terms of common features and competitive requirements. Active noise cancellation, a 20-to-30-hour battery life with USB-C charging (including fast charging), and more popular features like auto-pause and ‘transparent listening’ mode are all part of the kit.

Then there’s the matter of the cost. Bloomberg reports suggest the Sonos wireless headphones would cost about £220 ($300, AU$400), which will keep them well away from Apple’s AirPods Max, undercut Sony’s range-topping class-leaders, the WH-1000XM4, as well as the latest crop from Bose and Sennheiser, and put them more or less in the firing line of still-popular last-generation versions like the Sony WH-1000XM3.

Sonos’ familiarity with driver hardware and audio processing, as well as its near-flawless history of aesthetic and usability design, and, of course, its undeniable mass appeal, places it in a perfect position to not only reach but usefully extend the world of headphones. Let’s hope Sonos takes advantage of the opportunity.