In (largely) eschewing its app, Sonos did the Ace headphones a favor

Sonos Ace in soft white.
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

The thought of Sonos headphones has been round for years. Back into the previous decade, even. And whereas we await the primary Sonos Ace review to reach, it’s value pondering a number of issues.

No, not why Sonos is making headphones. That comes all the way down to primary enterprise methods, and it’s one thing that CEO Patrick Spence has been lots clear about within the months main as much as the Sonos Ace announcement. You make issues to generate income, and Sonos expects the Ace to “drive immediate revenue.” (In different phrases, Sonos expects folks will certainly purchase them.)

Here’s what he needed to say in November 2023, in his first public statements about what would unsurprisingly become the Sonos Ace.

“While current market conditions remain challenging,” Spence stated in Sonos’ fourth-quarter 2023 earnings name, “this is the beginning of a multiyear product cycle where we expect to reap the rewards of our R&D investments. This cycle begins with our entry into a new multibillion-dollar category in the second half of the year that will complement our current offering, delight customers, and drive immediate revenue.”

So the why is the easy half. The how is what actually had me pondering all these months.

Sonos Ace beside Apple iPad running the Sonos app.
You can use the Sonos Ace headphones with the Sonos app — however you don’t must. And that’s an excellent factor for now. Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

Sonos merchandise are distinct in that they’ve all the time leveraged Wi-Fi in ways in which few (if any) firms did in that area earlier than. They aggregated a number of music providers in a single app and made pairing audio system in a number of rooms as straightforward because it may very well be. Yes, different platforms — like (ahem) Google, and naturally Apple — have joined in. But the Sonos expertise nonetheless feels completely different from these different platforms.

So how, precisely, would the Sonos Ace headphones fit the Sonos paradigm? It seems they largely don’t. At least not at first. At launch probably the most Sonos factor concerning the Ace is that they’ll pair with the Sonos Arc soundbar for some “TV audio swapping,” which is nice you probably have an Arc however need to use your Ace headphones to take heed to no matter’s on TV. But headphones can’t be at their greatest solely once they’re tied to a different not-inexpensive product. (The Sonos Arc prices $900.) Headphones — even high-end headphones — are supposed to be easy. They ought to work with any gadget, and so they shouldn’t require an app to take action (other than a music streaming service app, in fact). In numerous methods they’re meant to be comparatively dumb equipment.

And given the state of the Sonos app in mid-2024, that’s perhaps the very best factor concerning the Sonos Ace, a minimum of in these early days. The Sonos app just got a major rebuild that seems to wish some main rebuilding already. That’s not great. And if the Sonos Ace have been required to make use of the Sonos app to merely work as a method to get sound into your ears, that’d be as near a loss of life sentence because the headphones might get.

Fortunately, that’s not the case. As it stands in the present day it’s very very like some other set of headphones in that they’ll work simply fantastic on their very own, however you’ll want the app to do issues like tweak EQ and arrange spatial audio and head monitoring. (And presumably firmware updates.)

But the actually vital stuff — music and audio playback — up to now will be left answerable for the music apps that do it greatest. Sonos did the precise factor in worrying concerning the {hardware} and never attempting to do an excessive amount of with the Ace proper out of the gate and having full Sonos-like integration with the app.

And we most likely ought to be grateful for that.

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