It’s been months since we heard anything about the arrival of the first pair of Sonos headphones, but speculation is heating up over the kind of wireless tech the rumored headphones could possibly support.
Although we're not anticipating an imminent launch of the Sonos headphones, details continue to trickle out on what we might expect to see when they do finally arrive. At the top of the list is the inclusion of Wi-Fi connectivity.
It's not unreasonable to anticipate that Sonos may be moving into headphones that connect to your home Wi-Fi network. It has successfully developed a reliable ecosystem of networked audio products built around a series of multi-room speakers, including the Sonos One smart speaker, along with its Beam and Arc soundbars, and Move and Roam portable speakers.
So the introduction of a networked headphone model offering better audio handling capabilities for hi-res audio fans would seem like a logical step. It could even include the same Sound Swap hand-off tech found on its Roam portable to transfer playback to and from other Sonos devices connected via a home network.
Sonos headphones: Why Wi-Fi is better
Bluetooth has revolutionized the way we listen on the best wireless headphones or the best wireless earbuds, releasing music fans from being tethered to playback devices by cumbersome cables. But the ubiquitous wireless tech has limited audio capabilities when it comes to delivering true hi-res audio.
Sophisticated codecs such as aptX HD and Sony's LDAC aim to maximize audio data delivery by using compression for better audio signal handling within the limitations of Bluetooth's capabilities, but it still falls short in delivering the maximum amount of data for the very best sound quality.
Wi-Fi connected devices don't suffer from the same audio signal handling compromises. Audio data streams remain intact, meaning audiophiles get to hear their favorite music in full CD-sound-quality or glorious better-than-CD high-resolution.
Rumors of a pair of wireless headphones from Sonos first began circulating in 2019, but designing a Wi-Fi headphone could face some challenges and may be the reason for the long delays to the launch.
One of the biggest challenges the headphones would need to overcome is power consumption. Battery life is one of the biggest issues for wireless headphone and earbud designs today. Although Wi-Fi standards have become less demanding on connected devices, those networks tend to be significantly more power hungry than Bluetooth connections, and can deplete batteries more quickly.
Another conundrum could be how to improve Bluetooth signal handling for the best sound quality when users are away from a wi-fi network. It appears that Sonos is also working on including Bluetooth connectivity, but there's no information on what codec support might be offered to maximize audio quality delivery.
Audiophile headphone boom
Although Sonos is yet to give any clear commitment on the launch of its first pair of headphones, a release for later this year is looking increasingly likely. This being the case, Sonos would join the growing number of headphone brands that we're eagerly anticipating new models from.
In fact, 2022 is shaping up to be a big year for audiophile headphones, following an influx of leaks suggesting the imminent arrival of the Sony WH-1000XM5. These will undoubtedly include support for Sony's LDAC codec to deliver the highest quality audio over Bluetooth, and we're anticipating more news on this and an imminent launch early next month.
Lastly, the highly anticipated AirPods Pro 2 earbuds is expected to be announced at Apple's September event, and could see the new version support of Apple’s own ALAC (Apple Lossless Audio Codec) format.
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As a former editor of the U.K.'s Hi-Fi Choice magazine, Lee is passionate about all kinds of audio tech and has been providing sound advice to enable consumers to make informed buying decisions since he joined Which? magazine as a product tester in the 1990s. Lee covers all things audio for Tom's Guide, including headphones, wireless speakers and soundbars and loves to connect and share the mindfulness benefits that listening to music in the very best quality can bring.