(Pocket-lint) – Sonos is known for its excellent multiroom speakers but it’s been rumoured for some time now that the company will expand into other areas of audio, with headphones looking like it could be top of the list.
We first heard back in early 2019 that Sonos was considering stepping into the headphone market. Since the first murmerings, a few things have happened that have added some fuel to a fire that shows no signs of burning out.
Here’s everything we know so far about the potential Sonos headphones.
What will Sonos headphones be called?
So far, there has been no speculation as to what Sonos might call its headphones should it enter this category. We’d expect a simple name, nothing too complicated and nothing with too many numbers or letters, which would be a nice change from traditional headphone naming in the current market.
Sonos Headphones, Sonos Head, Sonos Listen, Sonos Aura, Sonos Personal, Sonos Muse, Sonos Go, Sonos Ear, Sonos Free? That’s the best the Pocket-lint team could come up with so far.
Release date and price
- Sometime in 2021?
- Possibly around $300/£229
Sonos typically does a couple of product launches a year but unlike Apple and Samsung, there isn’t a specific week every year where the launches take place.
Sonos CEO Patrick Spence has said Sonos is looking launch a product in March 2021, and to “stay tuned for details”, though it’s not clear if the new product will be headphones or possibly a smaller Bluetooth speaker, or maybe even the mic-free Sonos Arc that has also been rumoured.
Given the increase in rumours at the end of 2020, it wouldn’t be too surprising to see Sonos announce headphones before the end of 2021. In 2019, Bloomberg said to expect them before the end of 2020, but 2020 was a strange year so perhaps they were delayed. At the moment, nothing is confirmed.
In terms of price, Bloomberg reported the Sonos headphones would cost somewhere in the region of $300 in the US, or £229 in the UK.
- Wireless, over-ear
- Two potential designs
- Touch controls
- USB Type-C, line-in
A very detailed patent gives us some idea as to what the design of Sonos headphones could look like, though there are two designs shown and as with all patents, there’s no guarantee either design will be final or appear at all.
If the patent is anything to go by though, the Sonos headphones will be over ear. In one design, the headphones are relatively traditional, with a cup either side and a wide band across the top.
The second design is a little different however, with stems on the outside of the cups and talk of microphones at the tips. The patent also says wireless and there’s talk of ANC control with the potential for a rotating knob, suggesting Active Noise Cancellation could be adjustable.
Additionally, the patent mentions touch control on the outside of the earcups, offering different functions based on the activity, such as a call or music playback. There’s also talk of gestures, such as swiping up to increase volume, down to decrease volume, and left or right to skip tracks.
Other controls discussed in the patent include a power button for turning the headphones on or off, or indicating battery status with a long press. A pairing button is also mentioned and a status LED indicator light which would be blue when connected to Bluetooth – like the Move – and white when connected to Wi-Fi.
The charging port mentioned in the patent is USB Type-C and there is also talk of a line-in port.
- Work with Sonos system
- Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
- Google and Alexa voice assistants
- “Swap” feature
Sonos CEO Patrick Spence told Pocket-lint in an interview in September 2019 that if it were to enter a different category, it would have to be connected to the Sonos system and offer something unique. “We’re not just going to slap a battery on or slap our brand on something. We want it to be connected to the system and to bring something unique to that space”.
We therefore know that if Sonos makes headphones they will work with the Sonos system, as you would expect.
The patent mentions Bluetooth and Wi-Fi however, so it’s likely you’ll be able to send content directly from your smartphone to the headphones over Bluetooth too, like you can with Sonos Move, bypassing the Sonos app if you want to.
The patent also describes the ability to “swap” content playback between the headphones and other devices on a local network by tapping and holding a button. We take this as being able to listen to content on the headphones, pressing and holding a button and transferring it to the last Sonos speaker you used perhaps, or the last group of Sonos speakers you played content on and vice versa.
Sonos speakers allow you to press and hold the play/pause button to bring a speaker into a group so we suspect this swap feature will work in a similar way.
There’s also talk of voice assistants in the patent. As Sonos offers a choice of both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant on its smart speakers, we would expect both on the headphones too. As mentioned in the design section above, there’s also talk of adaptable ANC and gesture touch controls. Whether all or none of these features appear though is currently unclear.
- Left speaker driver
- Right speaker driver
The Sonos headphone patent reads: “In one embodiment, a wireless headphone includes a left earcup comprising a left speaker driver and a left earcup housing; and a right earcup comprising a right speaker driver and a right earcup housing; a processor; a microphone; user controls including: a voice assistant activator control; a volume slider; a play control slider; a play-pause control; and instructions configuring the processor to: commence a voice assistant recognition routine when sound received by the microphone matches a wake word, and perform an action based on instructions returned from the voice assistant; update a current volume of the headphone to a higher volume when the volume slider receives a swipe; skip to a next track of a current media content when the play control slider receives a swipe; and toggle playback of the media content when the play-pause control is activated.”
Of course, as the patent is just that, a patent, it might be that any headphones that Sonos launch are nothing like what has been mentioned in terms of specifications, features or design so bear that in mind.
Sonos headphones rumours: What’s happened so far?
Here’s what we have heard about the Sonos headphones so far.
10 February 2021: Sonos confirms it’ll launch a new product in March
Sonos CEO Patrick Spence announced Sonos is preparing to launch a product in March 2021. Spence said on an earnings call: “We remain committed to launching at least two new products per year and are well on track as we look at our fiscal 2021 product roadmap. We are excited to introduce our newest product next month. Stay tuned for details.”
Though the product could be the Bluetooth speaker that surfaced on FCC, Sonos headphones are still possible.
1 September 2020: Sonos headphones patent presents potential design and features
A very detailed patent, which was filed in September 2019 – the same time Sonos announced Move, its first battery-operated portable speaker – was granted in August 2020 and it not only offers information on what we might be able to expect from the design of Sonos headphones, but also how they could work. You can view the full patent here.
4 September 2020: Sonos CEO tells us there is a lot of opportunity in all the audio categories
When asked about Sonos expanding its portable offering following the launch of Move and entering the headphone market, Patrick Spence, Sonos CEO told Pocket-lint in an interview: “[We] learned a lot about Bluetooth and battery [from Move] which I think opens new doors for the future.
“As we think about this first step outside of the home, we think there is a lot of opportunity in all the categories of audio.” Like headphones, we asked. Laughing, Spence repeated, “There’s a lot of opportunities in all audio categories”.
24 January 2019: Sonos is talking to manufacturers about making wireless headphones
Bloomberg reported Sonos is talking to manufacturers about making wireless headphones. In January 2019, the headphones were rumoured to be in early development stages and could be launched in 2020 for around $300 in the US or £229 in the UK.
The report suggested the headphones would work with multiple assistants, multiple music services and focus on audio quality.
Writing by Britta O’Boyle.