Headphones in 2024: everything we expect to see from Apple, Sony, Sonos and more

Headphone sketches from leaked patents of Sonos, Sony and Apple headphones
(Image credit: DPMA, Apple and Sony)

The best headphones of 2023 really impressed us, including the incredible audio performance of the Edifier Stax Spirit S3 over-ear headphones and the impressive multipoint connectivity of the Technics EAH-AZ80 true wireless earbuds, which both won TechRadar Choice Awards. But what's in store for 2024? 

As always, there will be plenty of surprises throughout 2024 when it comes to new audio tech, unexpected headphone launches and dazzling sound performances. But we've been keeping up with all of the latest leaks and rumors and know that there are several high-profile launches that are likely (though not all confirmed) to be heading our way in 2024. 

So far we know that it could be a bumper year from Apple with updates to all of its headphones and earbuds, Samsung might revamp its Galaxy Buds and Sony could bring us the latest version of its flagship over-ears. We may even see the first Sonos headphones enter the arena. Find out more in our guide below, which features all of the biggest news and rumors about the headphones we can expect in 2024. 

Apple AirPods Max 2

Someone holding the apple airpods max over-ear headphones

We love the Apple AirPods Max, but there are a few key ways Apple could make these headphones even more irresistible.  (Image credit: TechRadar)

Apple shook up the headphone market in a major way when it ventured away from true wireless earbuds and brought out its first pair of the over-ears in 2020, the Apple AirPods Max. And although the AirPods Max 2 haven't been officially announced, the originals were so popular it's likely that Apple will release a second-gen update soon.

Recent predictions from Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo suggest we may have to wait until the end of 2024 or the beginning of 2025. Which is why it's no surprise there haven't been any significant leaks about what we're likely to see from the Max 2. 

However, there are some things currently on our wishlist, including a proper carrying case. This might sound like a small consideration, but almost every other rival has a decent case and the AirPods Max came with a bizarre bra-like design that offered next to nothing in terms of both portability and protection. 

What's more, the AirPods Max are more expensive than many audiophile-grade headphones but they don’t support lossless audio, only Apple’s compressed AAC codec over Bluetooth. We'd love to see lossless audio, as well as an audio cable option for wired listening. 

Apple AirPods Pro 3

Apple AirPods Pro 2 one bud in hand

The Apple AirPods Pro 2 could be getting a design revamp and update in 2024. (Image credit: Future / Lance Ulanoff)

Many of the headphones and earbuds in this list look highly likely to be due in 2024 based on previous release schedules. The AirPods Pro 3 are less of a sure thing in 2024 considering the AirPods Pro 2 arrived on September 23, 2022 and the inaugural AirPods Pro arrived on October 30, 2019, meaning there was three year gap between first-gen and second-gen. With that in mind, 2025 might be a better bet for the AirPods Pro 3, though 2024 is still a possibility.

There haven't been many leaks or rumors about the next AirPods Pro 3 (another sign they might be another year away), but what we'd like to see is better ANC. You might be thinking how considering the noise-cancelling in the AirPods Pro 2 is already fantastic, but what we want is a range of different ANC settings and more customization of sound. 

It would also be good if Apple added device-agnostic multipoint pairing considering true wireless competitors, like the Technics EAH-AZ80 earbuds, have now raised the bar adding multipoint connectivity for three devices at once. What's more, if the AirPods Pro 3 could grant loyal Apple devotees access to Apple Music's Hi-Res Lossless tier, it'd be a home run in our books. 

Apple AirPods 4 and Apple AirPods 4 Lite

The apple airpods 3 true wireless earbuds in their charging case next to an iphone on a wooden surface

The Apple AirPods 4 aren't likely to look too different to the AirPods 3 pictured here, but might come in a Lite version, too. (Image credit: TechRadar)

The Apple AirPods 3 first went on sale in late 2021. Does that mean the Apple AirPods 4 will be with us in 2024? Probably. And although there are no concrete details about release dates, we'd expect to have at least heard about the upcoming buds by the end of the first half of 2024.

The biggest news about the upcoming Apple AirPods 4 is that Apple could release two different versions. Analysts Jeff Pu and Ming-Chi Kuo both referenced a low-cost version of the standard AirPods, which might be dubbed the AirPods Lite, and might hit the US market with a more accessible price of $99. These would be launched alongside a pair regular AirPods 4, which would likely be priced similarly to the AirPods 3 at about $179 / £169 / AU$279.

Respected Bloomberg analyst Mark Gurman detailed ways the two earbuds would differ, suggesting the AirPods 4 would benefit from noise canceling and a case equipped for Find My alerts, whereas the basic option would go without these two features.

Design-wise, Gurman has also already predicted the AirPods 4 will blend the design of the AirPods 3 with the AirPods Pro 2. Although the two are already visually very similar so there won't be major changes, we can expect a more refined look to the next pair of buds.

Sonos headphones

Images of sonos headphone renderings from the Sonos headphones patent.

Two possible designs from the first Sonos headphones patent we saw. (Image credit: Sonos)

Yes, you read that right. The wireless speaker giant is expected to launch its first ever pair of Sonos headphones in 2024. 

Rumors have been circulating about a possible pair of Sonos over-ears for years now, but leaks have been coming in thick and fast over the past 12 months suggesting a pair could be on their way soon. This news seemed to have been all-but-confirmed when in a November 2023 earnings call Sonos CEO Patrick Spence said the company will enter "a new multi-billion dollar category" in the second half of 2024. 

Based on early patents, the Sonos headphones could be a pair of over-ears that look to be following in the footsteps of the Sony WH-1000XM5. What's more, the Sonos headphones will apparently come with Wi-Fi connectivity, the ability to swap music with Sonos speakers, active noise cancellation, and voice assistant support. 

These are all things you'd expect from an already great audio tech company entering the headphone space. But the most exciting thing about a pair of Sonos headphones is how they'll connect up to other Sonos speakers. We've seen patents describing how the first Sonos headphones will integrate with existing multi-room audio setups, which will set them apart from rivals that don't have such a strong presence in that arena. 

Samsung Galaxy Buds 3

A hand holding the samsung galaxy buds 2 in olive

The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 are an impressive pair of true wireless buds, but how will the Galaxy Buds 3 compare?  (Image credit: Samsung)

The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 launched back in 2021 and the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro in August 2022. We did get the launch of the affordable Samsung Galaxy Buds FE in October 2023, but it's about time we at least get one pair of the flagship Samsung Galaxy Buds 3 in 2024, right?

In September 2023, SamMobile reported that photos of the Samsung Galaxy Buds 3 had leaked as part of their alleged certification by regulators in Korea. This suggests they'll arrive soon, maybe in early 2024. Samsung will be holding an Unpacked event in February 2024 for the launch of the Samsung Galaxy S24 range, which means they could be announced then. 

What do we know about the upcoming Galaxy Buds 3 and, possibly, Galaxy Buds 3 Pro? Very little. But judging from the supposed photo leaks above, the design appears to have been tweaked slightly, giving off Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus vibes.

In terms of what we want to see from the next iteration of the Samsung Galaxy Buds, it'd be improvement in all areas. That's not to say the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 and Buds 2 Pro aren't great earbuds, but competition is increasingly fierce. This particularly applies to battery life, the Samsung buds fall behind when it comes to stamina offering only 5 hours in the buds themselves. They need to boost their offerings by a few hours to compete as most rivals now boast at least 7 hours.

Sony WH-1000XM6

The noise-cancelling Sony WH-1000XM5 headphones against a green background.

The Sony WH-1000XM5 over-ear headphones were released in 2022, which means an updated version could be on the way in 2024. (Image credit: Future)

The Sony WH-1000XM5 are some of the best over-ear headphones on the market right now. They have high-end features, excellent noise-cancellation and sound fantastic. But what's next? Sony has a pattern of releasing new versions of its flagship over-ears every two years (often in the summer), which suggests a new pair might be on their way in 2024.

However, there haven't been any rumors or leaks about when they'll be launched or what we can expect from Sony's next over-ear wireless headphones yet – which we can safely assume will be called the Sony WH-1000XM6. 

Having said that, we'd like to see an even more premium design to compete with rivals, like the seriously stunning Bowers & Wilkins PX8. As well as can that fold up again to make them compact and less likely to get damaged – that's how the XM4s worked but the Sony WH-1000XM5 didn't.

We'd also expect a general levelling up in terms of sound quality, noise cancellation and battery life. That's not to say the Sony WH-1000XM5s weren't impressive in all of these areas, but the newest over-ears will face increasingly stiff competition. For example, the Sony WH-1000XM5s only have 40 hours of battery life, which is reduced to 30 hours with ANC on. However, the Sennheiser Momentum 4 boast an incredibly impressive 60 hours – yes, even with ANC deployed.

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Becca Caddy

Becca is a contributor to TechRadar, a freelance journalist and author. She’s been writing about consumer tech and popular science for more than ten years, covering all kinds of topics, including why robots have eyes and whether we’ll experience the overview effect one day. She’s particularly interested in VR/AR, wearables, digital health, space tech and chatting to experts and academics about the future. She’s contributed to TechRadar, T3, Wired, New Scientist, The Guardian, Inverse and many more. Her first book, Screen Time, came out in January 2021 with Bonnier Books. She loves science-fiction, brutalist architecture, and spending too much time floating through space in virtual reality.