(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 wireless 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 wireless headphones.
What will Sonos wireless 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 2023?
- 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.
Despite the increase in rumours at the end of 2020, which have continued through 2021 and now 2022, there is still no sign of Sonos headphones. That said, CEO Patrick Spence did say in an earnings call in November 2022: "While we are always cautious when talking about our product roadmap, we are investing in products that will allow us to enter four new categories, one of which we expect to announce in fiscal '23.".
He didn't specify headphones but it does suggest we may see some appear in early 2023 as this would be a new category for the company.
In 2019, Bloomberg said to expect them before the end of 2020 so we've been waiting a while now. Sonos took a controlling stake in British headphone manufacturer RHA Audio in October 2021, and it also acquired Bluetooth start up T2 Software in November 2021, both of which further add to the speculation Sonos headphones are coming.
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 from September 2020 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 September 2020 patent is anything to go by though, the Sonos headphones will be over ear - though there have been rumours of in-ear too. In one design from the September 2020 patent, 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 Roam - 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.
A different patent also surfaced in February 2021. This too shows an over-ear design with a rounder finish than the design shown in the September 2020 patent, as well as the Sonos logo. The Febraury 2021 patent also shows a USB Type-C port, possibly a 3.5mm jack and there seem to be some buttons around the rim of the earcups, too, likely for touch control. The headphones also might have removable earpads.
In terms of the in-ear patent, there were several images that show two design styles of earbuds and three charging case methods, inlcuding what appears to be USB Type-C, along with detachable battery plates. One of the earbud designs seems a little more normal, while the other appears to be a bit odd on first glance.
- 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 September 2020 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 and Sonos Roam, bypassing the Sonos app if you want to. With Sonos Roam the transition happens automatically, which will likely be the case for any headphones too.
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 - this is essentially the Sonos Swap feature, which launched on the Sonos Roam Bluetooth speaker. You can read more about Sonos Swap in our separate feature, but in theory, we assume you would be able to listen to content on the headphones, pressing and holding a button and transferring it to the nearest Sonos speaker, as you do on Roam.
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 - there's been talk of a Sonos voice assistant in rumours too though. 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 and right speaker driver
The Sonos headphone September 2020 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.
17 November 2022: Sonos to enter four new product categories in 2023
Sonos' CEO Patrick Spence is said to have said on an earnings call in November 2022 that the company will enter four new categories in 2023. He said: "While we are always cautious when talking about our product roadmap, we are investing in products that will allow us to enter four new categories, one of which we expect to announce in fiscal '23".
2 February 2022: Is Sonos' latest acquisition more evidence it is working on headphones?
According to Protocol, Sonos has confirmed it acquired Bluetooth audio startup T2 Software. The company claims to develop and license software for current- and next-generation audio solutions based on Bluetooth LE Audio, Bluetooth Classic, and even the power-efficient Bluetooth codec LC3. It also provides custom software development services for embedded and wireless applications.
27 January 2022: Sonos VP suggests new category coming on LinkedIn post
Pete Pedersen, Vice President of Global Marketing & Communications at Sonos posted on LinkedIn looking for a marketing firm for "one of the most ambitious projects in our history".
The firm is required to have two case studies that cover two or more of "launching a new brand/product/service in an established category, creating a new category for an established brand, targeting a new audience/consumer segment".
30 October 2021: Sonos takes over RHA Audio: Sonos headphones coming soon?
Sonos has reportedly taken a controlling stake in UK headphones maker RHA Audio, according to documents from Companies House (as first noticed by Forbes).
If you read between the lines, perhaps Sonos wants to use RHA and its audio technology to produce new headphones.
24 May 2021: Is Sonos working on earbuds as well as headphones?
A patent filing discovered by Zatz Not Funny - who has previously uncovered Sonos products in the past - shows a number of earbud options and some slightly unconventional charging approaches, suggesting in-ear and over-ear headphones could both be in the works.
9 March 2021: Sonos Roam Bluetooth speaker announced
Sonos revealed the Sonos Roam Bluetooth speaker during an event on 9 March, but no headphones. The Roam speaker does offer some features that could transfer to future headphones though, like Sonos Swap.
17 February 2021: Sonos event confirmed for 9 March, headphones or Bluetooth speaker incoming?
Sonos sent out invites for a special event on 9 March. The invite doesn't give much away, though suggests it will be a product that can be taken on the go so perhaps headphones, or the smaller Bluetooth speaker that has also appeared in leaks.
17 February 2021: Latest Sonos patent reveals possible final design of its upcoming headphones
A design patent for a pair of Sonos headphones surfaced via the German Patent and Trademark Office, providing a better look at what the Sonos-branded cans could look like.
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.