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Sonos headphones: what we know about the rumored Sony WH-1000XM4 rivals

sonos wireless headphones
(Image credit: Future / DPMA)
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It might not be long before we see the first-ever Sonos headphones. The popular wireless speaker giant is expected to branch out into the world of personal audio for the first time in its 20-year history. 

Rumored Sonos headphones features

- Priced at around $300 / £220 / AU$400
- Over-ear design
- Sonos logo on the earcups
- Wireless connectivity (Bluetooth and WiFi)
- Active noise cancellation
- Ability to 'swap' music with Sonos speakers

Rumors about an upcoming pair of Sonos headphones have been circulating for a while now, first emerging in early 2019.

Previous patents have described how the first Sonos headphones would interact with other Sonos speakers, allowing them to seamlessly integrate with existing multi-room audio setups – something that the likes of Sony and Sennheiser can’t offer. 

According to a report from Bloomberg, the headphones will likely have support for multiple virtual assistants, and would focus on competing with Sony, Apple, Bose and Sennheiser by offering high-end audio performance and intergration with the wider Sonos network. 

Bloomberg’s sources also suggested that Sonos could target a price point of around $300 (£200 / AU$400) – slightly cheaper than the Sony WH-1000XM4 – and would launch in 2020. 

Of course, they never materialized, and we're left wondering when the Sonos headphones will appear - though the amount of buzz around the first Sonos headphones at the moment suggests they could launch in 2022. In any case, the rumored headphones could really shake up the audio world if they do emerge with the exclusive features we've been hearing about.

Sonos headphones news and updates

February 2 - Rumored Sonos wireless headphones closer to reality thanks to new acquisition

February 2 - Sonos advertises for an ad agency to help with one of the company's "most ambitious projects"

January 31 - A Sonos patent reveals plans for Wi-Fi headphones

November 11 - TechAdvisor reports that RHA - an audio company recently bought by Sonos - was working on a pair of "premium" over-ear headphones with features that could have rivalled the AirPods Max

Sonos headphones: what you need to know

Sonos headphones release date: That's TBC, but we think a 2022 release date is fairly likely.

Sonos headphones price: It's rumored they'll cost $300 / £220 / AU$400.

Sonos headphones design: Patents suggest we're in for Sony WH-1000XM4-style over-ear headphones (though true wireless earbuds are also possible).

Sonos headphones features: The first Sonos headphones will apparently come with Wi-Fi connectivity, the ability to swap music with Sonos speakers, active noise cancellation, and voice assistant support.

Sonos headphones release date

sonos one

Sonos is best known for wireless smart speakers like the Sonos One (pictured). (Image credit: Sonos)

We don't know for sure when the first Sonos headphones will be released, but a 2022 launch seems likely based on the rumors we've heard. 

Word of a pair of Sonos headphones first came about in 2019, and we've seen a steady influx of patents from the company since then - and the recent acquisitions of audio company RHA and Bluetooth start-up T2 Software suggests Sonos is expanding in preparation for the new cans. 

While Sonos is yet to confirm that it's working on a pair of wireless headphones, we do know that the company tends to release two new products a year - something that CEO Patrick Spence pledged to continue on an earnings call with investors in 2021.

Peter Pederson, Sonos' VP Global Marketing and Communications, has also recently posted to 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.

That sounds very much to us like Sonos is planning to branch out from its existing line up of speakers, amps, and soundbars - and if the company is looking into advertising options, the new product could be on the way very soon. 

Last year's releases came in April with the Sonos Roam and October with the Sonos Beam (Gen 2). If Sonos follow suits again this year, we could be looking at a release date for its first wireless headphones in the next few months.

Sonos headphones price

sony wh-1000xm4

The Sonos headphones could be cheaper than the Sony WH-1000XM4 (pictured). (Image credit: Sony)

The price of the first Sonos headphones is still to be determined, but based on the company's existing products, we don't think they'll come cheap.

Its cheapest speaker, the Sonos Roam, costs $179 / £179 / AU$299, and the company even increased the prices of its already expensive products in 2021.

Bloomberg's sources says that the first Sonos wireless headphones will likely cost about $300 / £220 / AU$400, putting them in direct competition with the likes of the Sony WH-1000XM4 and the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700

If Sonos undercuts these models and delivers on rumored features like Wi-Fi connectivity, the wireless headphones market will be in for a huge shake up – though we aren’t expecting a super budget-friendly price. 

We are, however, at least hoping the first Sonos headphones will cost less than the Apple AirPods Max. Costing $549 / £549 / AU$899, they're among the most expensive consumer headphones on the market (as in, they aren't particularly aimed at hardcore audiophiles or studio professionals). 

Sonos headphones design

Sonos Wireless headphones

Illustrations of the Sonos headphones were released in a patent. (Image credit: Future / DPMA)

The first Sonos headphones are rumored to be a pair of over-ear cans with wireless connectivity, with patent images revealing what they might look like. 

A 2021 filing at the German Patent and Trademark Office offers a glimpse of what looks to be a close-to-final design for the upcoming headphones, and suggests several changes compared to similar design patents from September 2020, which detailed two different wireless models. 

Based on the images in the patent, the Sonos wireless headphones won’t have rods protruding from the headband like the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, as one previous design suggested, but will instead see the rods go straight down into the ear cups like the Sony WH-1000XM4. There’ll also be no additional piece that wraps around the back of each ear cup, which we saw in the other previous design. 

images of sonos headphones

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

These patent images also reveal a Sonos logo on the earcups of the headphones, whereas previous designs featured no such logo. It’s worth noting that much of the design is rendered in broken lines, meaning the placement of certain features could change, but given the amount of time Sonos’ wireless headphones have been in development, we’ll bet this patent offers something close to a final blueprint. 

Another notable difference on this patent is what looks to be an earphone adapter, which could suggest replaceable ear cushions for the headphones. A USB-C port, various buttons and a 3.5mm audio port are also visible in the new drawings.

sonos earbuds

An illustration from a patent for Sonos earbuds. (Image credit: Sonos)

There's no guarantee that the first Sonos headphones will be over-ear cans. In May 2021, we heard that Sonos could be working on a pair of true wireless earbuds, according to a patent discovered by Zats Not Funny(via Pocket Lint). 

The patent describes two different wireless earbuds designs, as well as 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.

Whatever kind of headphones we get, Sonos products typically follow a sleek, minimalist design aesthetic, in black and white color variations. 

We’d expect to see more of the same from the first Sonos headphones, with minimal external hardware and a slick user interface, perhaps making use of touch sensitive housings that allow you to control your music playback without digging your phone out of your pocket.

Sonos headphones features

sonos

The headphones will reportedly integrate with your existing Sonos system. (Image credit: Sonos)

While patents aren't guarantees that a product will see the light of day, the filings we've seen have given us an idea of some of the features we might see from a pair of Sonos headphones. 

The first is wireless connectivity via Bluetooth – we’d imagine that Sonos would opt for the latest Bluetooth 5.2 codec to ensure strong connections, as well as aptX Low Latency for video and gaming. 

Interestingly, the first Sonos headphones could also come with support for Wi-Fi connections. A patent granted to the company last year was spotted by Digital Trends, and it suggests that Sonos is looking at how to implement Wi-Fi connectivity in a similar way to its speakers. 

The patent, which is describes a “cable retraction mechanism for headphone devices” discusses the engineering that would be needed to implement Wi-Fi antennae in a set of headphones. 

As Digital Trends points out, Wi-Fi with a decent range would require an antenna in each earcup - and these would need to be connected to each other with a hidden cabling system running through the headband of the headphones. 

This means the first Sonos headphones could come with a pretty chunky headband. The patent says that, "a cable assembly containing each of the required conductors for the improved wireless headphones discussed in the examples described herein may be greater than 4 mm in diameter. This is almost twice the diameter of a typical headband cable in a Bluetooth-only headphone".

While headphones manufacturers have avoided Wi-Fi in the past due to the extra weight and bulk it requires, it could allow for the first Sonos headphones to deliver hi-res audio and truly lossless streams - something that Bluetooth can't do (unless you count Qualcomm's aptX Lossless codec, which should start appearing in new headphones this year). 

someone holding the sonos roam bluetooth speaker

The first Sonos headphones will apparently be able to swap music with the company's speakers - just like the Sonos Roam (pictured). (Image credit: Sonos)

In any case, the first Sonos headphones are expected to work within the company's wider ecosystem.  In fact, the most interesting feature revealed in the patents we've seen so far describes how the wireless headphones might interact with existing Sonos speakers, with what the company calls 'swapping':

"For example, if a particular piece of content play is currently playing on the wireless headphone, a swap changes the playback to play that piece of content on one or more other playback devices on the local network."

So in theory, 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 certainly an exciting prospect that would really set the rumored headphones apart from the competition - while the Apple AirPods Pro and AirPods 3 are able to do this with the HomePod mini, Apple's audio ecosystem is nowhere near as comprehensive as Sonos.

Plus, we know this technology works. The Sonos Roam and Sonos Move are both able to 'swap' audio to other Sonos speakers, and can automatically switch between Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity.

The patent we've seen also describes noise-cancelling tech, which is an increasingly sought-after feature for over-ear headphones. Hopefully, Sonos will employ adaptive noise-cancelling as seen with the Sony WH-1000XM4; this clever tech adapts the level of noise cancellation to your environment in real time, ramping up for loud environments and turning down for quiet environments. 

The headphones will also apparently come with built-in microphones to allow you to summon your device’s voice assistant – it’s also possible that a voice assistant (either Google Assistant or Alexa) could come built-in to the headphones directly, as with previous Sonos speakers.

As for the audio specs? We simply don't know yet - but if Sonos applies the same level of care to its first headphones as it does to its speakers, you can expect an immersive, powerful sound, with plenty of detail and rumbling bass. And, if we're lucky, they'll come with spatial audio support like the AirPods Max and Sony WH-1000XM4. 

Olivia Tambini
Olivia Tambini

Olivia is TechRadar's Senior Editor - Home Entertainment, covering everything from headphones to TVs. Based in TechRadar's London offices, 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.  In her spare time Olivia likes gardening, painting, and hanging with her cat Ethel and golden retriever Dora.