Sonos Ace headphones vs AirPods Max

In May, Sonos decided to enter the headphone market with the launch of the Sonos Ace headphones. The $449 Sonos Ace headphones have some enticing design elements and features you won’t see in Apple’s headphones, so we compared them to the $549 AirPods Max to see which is ultimately better.

In terms of design, both the Sonos Ace and the ‌AirPods Max‌ are over-ear headphones that have a premium look, but the ‌AirPods Max‌ have a more classy feel due to the aluminum material. While Apple opted for brushed aluminum ear cups in a range of colors, Sonos chose recycled plastic in black or white.

Both have a minimal aesthetic, but the lack of aluminum makes the Sonos Ace lighter and more comfortable to carry. The ‌AirPods Max‌ weighs 13.6 ounces and the Sonos Ace weighs 11 ounces. Two ounces may not sound like a lot, but it does make a difference in comfort. The ‌AirPods Max‌ also tend to fit snugly against the head, which the Sonos Ace doesn’t, so it’s generally easier to wear the Sonos Ace with a softer fit.

The ear cups on the Sonos Ace are made of memory foam covered in vegan leather, while Apple’s ear cups are made of mesh acoustic fabric that should conduct sound better than other materials. The soft Sonos Ace earplugs will probably be more comfortable for most people, but it might be less breathable just because of the nature of the fabric. Apple created a U-shaped mesh headband with telescoping arms, while the Sonos Ace uses the same vegan leather material also with telescoping arms.

You can’t stack the ‌AirPods Max‌, and you also can’t stack the Sonos Ace, but Sonos has made a better case. It is thin, light and offers full protection, unlike the unpopular case that Apple offers with ‌AirPods Max‌.

Sound quality is similar, but the Sonos app has an adjustable EQ to tweak the sound to your liking, something that can’t be done on the ‌AirPods Max‌. Both support surround sound and Dolby Atmos, and Sonos’ surround sound is just as impressive as Apple’s. The Active Noise Cancellation and Transparency options perform about equally well, and while Apple has the best Transparency mode, Sonos is close behind.

You can pair the ‌AirPods Max‌ and the Sonos Ace with a TV, but for the AirPods you’ll need a $129 Apple TV, and for the Sonos Ace you’ll need an Arc Soundbar that costs $719. Sonos plans to add Ace integration to its other soundbars, but none of them come cheap.

Both pair with iPhone, iPad and Mac without additional hardware, but you get better connectivity with ‌AirPods Max‌ thanks to quick switching and one-touch pairing. It’s more of a hassle to pair the Sonos Ace because it uses standard Bluetooth without automatic pairing via iCloud, so you’ll have to manually reconnect when you switch devices.

Sonos’ headphones are now a few years newer than the ‌AirPods Max‌, and the battery technology has improved. The ‌AirPods Max‌ offer just 20 hours of battery life with ANC and surround sound on, while the Sonos Ace offers 30 hours of battery life. Apple also hasn’t updated the ‌AirPods Max‌ with USB-C, so they still use the Lightning port, which is being phased out. Unless you want to use the Lightning port for a few more years, your best bet is to get the Ace, another set of headphones, or wait for the ‌AirPods Max‌ USB-C refresh that should arrive later this year.

Sonos listed the Ace $100 cheaper than the ‌AirPods Max‌, but these days it’s pretty easy to find the ‌AirPods Max‌ on sale. If you can live without the quick pairing, automatic switching, and Apple aesthetic, the Sonos Ace offers the same sound quality and ANC, plus it’s more comfortable.

Do you prefer ‌AirPods Max‌ or Sonos Ace? Let us know in the comments below.

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