Sonos Ace Headphones vs. AirPods Max

Sonos in May decided to get into 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 thought we'd compare them to the $549 AirPods Max to see which is ultimately better.

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

Both have a minimal aesthetic, but the lack of aluminum makes the Sonos Ace lighter and more comfortable to wear. The ‌AirPods Max‌ are 13.6 ounces, and the Sonos Ace weigh 11 ounces. Two ounces might not sound like a lot, but it impacts comfort. The ‌AirPods Max‌ also tend to clamp tightly to the head, which the Sonos Ace don't do, so it's just easier overall to wear the Sonos Ace with the gentler fit.

The ear cups on the Sonos Ace are made from memory foam covered with vegan leather, and Apple's ear cups are made from a mesh acoustic fabric that's supposed to better conduct sound than other materials. The soft Sonos Ace ear cups will probably be more comfortable for most people, but there might be less breathability 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 fold the ‌AirPods Max‌, and you also can't fold the Sonos Ace, but Sonos made a better case. It's slim, light, and offers full protection, unlike the unpopular case Apple offers with the ‌AirPods Max‌.

Sound quality is similar, but the Sonos app has an adjustable EQ for tweaking sound to your liking, which is something that can't be done on the ‌AirPods Max‌. Both support spatial audio and Dolby Atmos, and Sonos' spatial audio is just as impressive as Apple's. The Active Noise Cancellation and Transparency options perform close to the same, and while Apple has the best Transparency mode, Sonos is right behind.

You can pair the ‌AirPods Max‌ and the Sonos Ace to a TV set, but for the AirPods you'll need a $129 Apple TV, and for the Sonos Ace, you'll need the Arc Soundbar, which is $719. Sonos plans to add Ace integration to its other soundbars, but none are cheap.

Both pair to the iPhone, iPad, and Mac with no additional hardware, but you get better connectivity with the ‌AirPods Max‌ thanks to fast switching and one tap pairing. It's more of a hassle to pair the Sonos Ace because it uses standard Bluetooth with no automatic pairing via iCloud, so when you're changing devices, you'll need to manually reconnect.

Sonos' headphones are several years newer than the ‌AirPods Max‌ at this point, and battery technology has improved. The ‌AirPods Max‌ only offer 20 hours of battery life with ANC and spatial audio turned on, while the Sonos Ace offer 30 hours of battery. Apple also hasn't updated the ‌AirPods Max‌ with USB-C, so they're still using the Lightning port that's being phased out. Unless you want to have to use a Lightning port for several more years, it's best to go with the Ace, another set of headphones, or wait for the ‌AirPods Max‌ USB-C refresh that's supposed to be coming later this year.

Sonos priced the Ace $100 cheaper than the ‌AirPods Max‌, but it's pretty easy to find the ‌AirPods Max‌ at a discount these days. If you can live without quick pairing, automatic switching, and the Apple aesthetic, the Sonos Ace offer the same sound quality and ANC, plus they're more comfortable.

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

Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with Best Buy. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us keep the site running.

Tag: Sonos

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Top Rated Comments

cjamescook Avatar
3 weeks ago
"Sound quality is similar". That's it? The key feature of any pair of headphones is the sound quality. This review details ever other feature except the sound. Where's the sound test? What instruments did you evaluate? At least publish sound curves.
Score: 35 Votes (Like | Disagree)
bunce66 Avatar
3 weeks ago
the Airpods Max are so overdue for an update, it's laughable at this point.
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
spamabyss Avatar
3 weeks ago
It's definitely curious that most early "reviews" mentioned the sound quality in a sentence like "sound quality is good". Really? 449$ headphones and that's all there is to say about the sound quality? I'm glad that some of the more recent reviews go a bit more in depth. Because even though sound quality is fine on all the flagship headphones, I was surprised how much more I personally liked the Airpods Max when i tried them in the store compared to my Bose 700 and the Sony WH1000XM5 I also tried.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
torontotim Avatar
3 weeks ago
"Sonos' headphones are several years newer than the ‌AirPods Max‌ at this point, and battery technology has improved. The ‌AirPods Max‌ only offer 20 hours of battery life with ANC and spatial audio turned on, while the Sonos Ace offer 30 hours of battery."

This is the lamest bit of writing I've seen in a while (at least since this morning). The changes in battery technology over the last handful of years in general, likely has absolutely nothing to do with a 50% longer battery life in the Sonos vs. AirPods Max. Do you really think the Sonos is rocking some cutting edge battery that allows it a 50% improvement?

You know what other headphones have a 30 hour battery life? Sony XM3 launched 6 years ago (1200 mah)

Did Apple sponsor this comparison?

The 50% longer battery life is more likely attributable to the (golly gee!) 50% larger battery. Absolutely software, battery tech, power management blah blah blah all play into it, but fundamentally:

* Sonos has a 1060 mah battery based on multiple sources easily found
* AirPods Max has a 664 mah battery - also easily researched

Crappy comparison, lazy writing and making excuses for Apple's overpriced, underperforming headphones doesn't win you any points.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
ISignedUpToAskThis Avatar
3 weeks ago
The reviewer said you need Apple TV to pair APMs with a TV. Am I understanding that right?

I use my APMs all the time with my LG C3, it just paired via Bluetooth and connects automatically now, no Apple TV.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
turbineseaplane Avatar
3 weeks ago
It would seem that nobody is actually doing reviews anymore
Nearly everything is just affiliate related marketing spam pretending to be a "review"

What a sad future we've ended up in
Thanks "advertising"
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)