AirPods Pro 2, Sonos headphones, and the Sony WH-1000XM5: all the cans we’re hoping for in 2022

a silhouette of the apple airpods max headphones
(Image credit: TechRadar)

2022 could be a hugely exciting year in the world of headphones if all the rumors about upcoming releases are to be believed. 

Apple is expected to launch the AirPods Pro 2 later this year, the successors to the most popular noise-cancelling wireless earbuds on the planet. We’ve also heard rumors that the company’s working on the over-ear AirPods Max 2.

In fact, the over-ear wireless headphones market could see a few new and exciting additions in 2022. Sony recently filed a patent for a new pair of noise-cancelling cans, which could relate to the Sony WH-1000XM5 - the follow-up to the best headphones you can buy today. 

Not only that, but rumors of the first pair of Sonos headphones have been circulating for a while now, and if the company sticks to its schedule of releasing two new products a year, a release date could be in sight. The wireless speaker brand, which is well known for its multiroom audio connectivity, could even furnish its first pair of headphones with Wi-Fi connectivity, which would really shake up the competition. 

None of these releases have been confirmed by the companies involved, but the number of patents and rumors surrounding these products makes us think they could all be launched this year. And if they are, 2022 could be the best year ever for audiophiles. 

AirPods Pro 2

AirPods Pro

The Apple AirPods Pro. (Image credit: Future)

The AirPods Pro 2 are rumored to be the next noise-cancelling earbuds from Apple, picking up where the AirPods Pro left off. 

We’ve heard that they’ll launch in late 2022; however, there’s an Apple event supposedly taking place on March 8, which means the AirPods Pro could be revealed even sooner. Having said that, initial AirPods Pro 2 rumors pointed to a 2021 release date, which of course, never materialized - so, take this release date with a pinch of salt. 

If the AirPods Pro 2 do launch this year, they could be the most advanced wireless earbuds we’ve ever seen. Rumored features like biometric fitness tracking, support for lossless audio, optical connectivity, integration with Apple’s Find My network, and gesture controls all suggest that the company’s next earbuds could be extremely high spec. 

It’s also possible that the AirPods Pro 2 will be the first earbuds in the AirPods range to deviate from the instantly recognizable stem design, with Apple looking into more streamlined builds for its next model. 

We’re very excited to see what direction Apple takes the AirPods Pro in this year. They may not be our favorite true wireless earbuds (that would be the Sony WF-1000XM4), but there’s no denying their popularity - and any improvements Apple can make will be most welcome. 

AirPods Max 2

apple airpods max

The original Apple AirPods Max. (Image credit: Apple)

The AirPods Pro 2 aren’t the only new headphones Apple is rumored to be launching soon. It’s been nearly two years since the AirPods Max over-ear headphones were released, and a number of new Apple patents suggest the company is looking to upgrade its first wireless over-ears. 

One patent pertains to a pair of over-ear headphones with touch-sensitive housings. Unlike the AirPods Max, the headphones in the patent don’t appear to feature the Digital Crown dial that is used to control music playback. 

Apple has also filed a patent for a pair of wireless earbuds that are capable of transmitting audio via an optical connection, rather than Bluetooth. This would provide the bandwidth necessary for lossless audio - and while this particular patent doesn’t mention over-ear headphones, the lack of lossless audio support is a particular sore spot for the AirPods Max. They were marketed as audiophile headphones, but users have to make do with highly compressed files that don’t offer the same level of detail as hi-res audio files - despite Apple Music coming with lossless audio content.

That would be fine if the AirPods Max could be used with a wired connection - but the lack of a 3.5mm audio port makes this impossible. We think Apple will want to address this with any future version of the AirPods Max, and unless it gives the AirPods Max 2 an audio port, optical transmission could be the way forward. 

How likely it is that the AirPods Max 2 will launch in 2022 is unclear - while Apple’s patents show the company is looking into how it can improve its over-ear headphones, rumors are nowhere near as pervasive as they are for the AirPods Pro 2. 

Sony WH-1000XM5

a man wearing the sony wh-1000xm4

The Sony WH-1000XM4. (Image credit: Aakash Jhaveri)

For the last four years running, Sony has released a new pair of noise-cancelling headphones in August - and it’s rumored that the company is working on the successors to its excellent Sony WH-1000XM4 wireless headphones

A patent for what could be the Sony WH-1000XM5 has been filed. It describes a pair of noise-cancelling over-ear headphones that come with oval-shaped earcups, and what looks like a slimmer headband. 

The patent also reveals a larger battery, which means the XM5 could improve upon the 38-hour battery life of their predecessors. As the patent’s confidentiality agreement is set to expire in August 2022, we’re fairly confident that the headphones described within are the next model in the WH-1000X series.

Any improvements upon the Sony WH-1000XM4 would be very exciting indeed; they’re our pick for the best headphones you can buy today, even though they launched back in 2020. However, while their excellent noise cancellation, exceptional audio quality, and brilliant features make the Sony WH-1000XM4 an easy choice for any audiophiles that want to listen to music on the go, there are a few upgrades we’d like to see for the next model. 

These include support for the aptX codec, which would provide more comprehensive hi-res audio support. Right now, the XM4 come with Sony’s own LDAC codec, which can handle high-quality streams but only works with a few compatible devices. 

We’d also love to see a water-resistance rating of IPX4 or above. This would allow users to wear the headphones in the rain - or while working out - without needing to worry about drizzle or sweat breaking them.

Sonos headphones

images of sonos headphones

Images from a Sonos patent that describes possible wireless headphones designs. (Image credit: Sonos)

Wireless speaker giant Sonos is rumored to be working on its first pair of wireless headphones - and if the company sticks to its rigid two-products-a-year release schedule, we could see them launch in 2022. 

We’ve seen a number of patents related to a pair of over-ear headphones from Sonos, and they could be the most advanced headphones we’ve ever seen if some of the features described in these patents come to fruition. 

The most exciting rumored feature we’ve heard about is the ability to ‘swap’ music from a pair of Sonos headphones to Sonos speakers. That means you could be listening to music on your Sonos headphones and swiftly switch that music over to your Sonos Bluetooth speaker, whether it's part of a multi-room audio system or a standalone smart speaker like the Sonos One or the Sonos Move.

It’s a feature that works well with the Sonos Roam portable speaker; you just need to hold it close to another Sonos speaker for your music to swap between the two devices. 

While most of the patents relating to a pair of Sonos headphones describe over-ear cans, it’s also possible that Sonos will launch a pair of true wireless earbuds. A patent describing two different wireless earbuds designs was revealed in May 2021, showing three options for charging cases with some novel approaches to extend playtime, including detachable battery plates.

The fact that Sonos recently acquired RHA - a company that specializes in in-ear headphones - lends credence to the idea that the first Sonos headphones will be a pair of true wireless earbuds. In any case, the company is clearly looking to branch out into more product categories, and 2022 could be the year that Sonos enters the headphones market for the first time.

Which of these headphones are most likely to launch in 2022?

Out of all of these headphones, we think the AirPods Pro 2 are the most likely to launch this year. That’s because we’ve been hearing rumors about them for about two years now, with respected analysts like Ming-Chi Kuo saying they’ll be released in late 2022. 

We think the Sony WH-1000XM5 are also quite likely to launch this year, as it’s been two years since the company upgraded its flagship range of noise-cancelling headphones. Sony has been at the top of its game for a few years now, and it won’t want to be left behind by rivals like Bose, Sennheiser, and Apple. 

We weren’t as confident that the first Sonos headphones would launch in 2022 until we saw a post from the company on LinkedIn, asking for ad agencies to apply to work on "one of the most ambitious projects in our history". The job listing specifies that applicants must have experience in launching a new brand/product/service in an established category, creating a new category for an established brand, and/or targeting a new audience/consumer segment. 

A new category for an established brand like Sonos? That sounds like a pair of headphones to us. 

The AirPods Max 2 are the least likely to launch this year. The number of patents and leaks surrounding a new pair of Apple over-ear headphones is small compared to the AirPods Pro 2, and Apple tends to take its time upgrading existing product lines. The original AirPods Max 2 launched in December 2020, so we haven’t had two full years with the noise-cancelling cans yet. In the past, Apple has upgraded models in the AirPods line every three years, so we may be waiting until very late in 2022 - or even 2023 - for the next AirPods Max headphones. 

Olivia Tambini

Olivia was previously TechRadar's Senior Editor - Home Entertainment, covering everything from headphones to TVs. Based in London, she's a popular music graduate who worked in the music industry before finding her calling in journalism. She's previously been interviewed on BBC Radio 5 Live on the subject of multi-room audio, chaired panel discussions on diversity in music festival lineups, and her bylines include T3, Stereoboard, What to Watch, Top Ten Reviews, Creative Bloq, and Croco Magazine. Olivia now has a career in PR.