The Sonos Ace are here and I have one question: why aren't there more home cinema headphones?

Sonos Ace headphones in black finish close up of logo
(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

This week Sonos lifted the lid on its long-anticipated over-ear, wireless headphones, the Ace. 

On hand at the unveiling, our hi-fi and audio editor, Kashfia Kabir, managed to have a brief listen to the Sonos Ace, which impressed her enough that she reported, “we came away from our demo with a great impression of the Ace’s design and user experience.”

While her positive findings left most of the team debating the Ace's audio chops and if they will be able to match the Award-winning Sony WH-1000XM5 sitting at the top of our best wireless headphones guide, I had a very different first thought. Specifically, why don’t more companies make home cinema-focused wireless headphones?

This happened midway through my read through of our Sonos Ace hands-on, where Kash started describing the headphones' nifty sounding TV Audio Swap and TrueCinema calibration features.

She didn’t get a chance to test either properly during the event, but they both sound as though they could be atypical positives for home cinema fans. Both are powered by a custom wi-fi chip that lets it communicate with the Sonos Arc soundbar.

The TV Audio Swap feature is self descriptive. It lets you switch from the Sonos Arc to the Ace with a single click of a button when watching movies at home. The clever bit is that the chip helps reduce latency in the process, making the experience more seamless, in theory.

TrueCinema calibration is a custom feature that uses the Arc to optimise the headphones’ acoustics to your room. We didn’t get to run the calibration process during the demonstration, but the goal is to make the headphones offer improved surround sound, up to Dolby Atmos-level, on a "similar" level to the experience you get with the Arc. 

Sonos Ace headphones

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

I can’t help but get excited by both features and hope they deliver the goods when we get the Ace in for review.

I’m at a stage in my life where, despite being a night owl who likes watching movies and TV into the wee hours, I have to factor other people into my habits. My wife has told me off multiple times after I have accidentally woken her up to the sound of screams, or chainsaw noises while watching a horror movie downstairs after she has retired to bed.

Others on the team are in a similar position with young children, where loud movie watching on a booming surround sound package is off the table post 7pm.

So having a reliable, good sounding surround sound-capable pair of wireless headphones I can comfortably use is of definite appeal. This is especially true given my movie taste where, as we chronicle in our best Dolby Atmos movies guide, sound truly elevates the experience, adding a level of immersion and tension you simply can’t get with stereo.

This is especially true with the Ace and Sonos’s claims about its surround sound performance. The Arc remains a key benchmark we compare most premium sound bars with. If the Ace manages to get even close to Sonos’s claims then you can colour me impressed.

It would also put the Ace in a unique position as, at the moment, there are woefully few headphones that can offer this experience. The only other pair of note we have reviewed and currently recommend are the Apple AirPods Max, which offer spatial audio surround sound when paired with an Apple TV, iPhone or iPad.

The only downside is that, like the Max, the Sonos Ace’s wi-fi features require specific hardware to work, in this case an Arc. I would love to see a pair of home cinema headphones that aren’t locked into a walled garden. Despite this, given the lack of choice, I can’t help but be a little excited about the Ace's appearance, and I hope it sparks a fresh wave of home cinema headphones.


The best surround sound systems we have reviewed

We rate the best Dolby Atmos soundbars

These are the best headphones we have tested

Alastair Stevenson
Editor in Chief

Alastair is What Hi-Fi?’s editor in chief. He has well over a decade’s experience as a journalist working in both B2C and B2B press. During this time he’s covered everything from the launch of the first Amazon Echo to government cyber security policy. Prior to joining What Hi-Fi? he served as Trusted Reviews’ editor-in-chief. Outside of tech, he has a Masters from King’s College London in Ethics and the Philosophy of Religion, is an enthusiastic, but untalented, guitar player and runs a webcomic in his spare time. 

  • Friesiansam
    What Hi-Fi? said:
    TrueCinema calibration is a custom feature that uses the Arc to optimise the headphones’ acoustics to your room.
    That doesn't make any sense. A pointless feature.