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While Sonos has become a household name for whole-home Wi-Fi speaker systems, a new report reveals the company is expanding its audio ambitions with plans to enter the high-end wireless headphone market.
According to Bloomberg, insiders have revealed that the company already has wireless, over-ear headphones in the early development stages that could be ready to launch as early as next year. As one would expect from a company of Sonos’ reputation, the headphones are expected to be at the higher end of the scale, likely costing $300 or more, and competing with manufacturers such as Beats and Sennheiser.
Other than trading on its reputation in the home speaker ecosystem, it’s unclear exactly how Sonos plans to distinguish itself in an already crowded wireless headphone market, but reports are that the company will focus on audio quality and integration with multiple music services and digital assistants. The latter suggests that Sonos may also bring its rich experience with streaming Wi-Fi speakers to bear in creating standalone headphones capable of streaming music directly via Wi-Fi rather than relying on a paired Bluetooth device.
While adding such a feature would allow Sonos to bring something unique to the table, the need to use a Wi-Fi connection for direct streaming would make such headphones impractical for use on the go, making it likely that the headphones would still support traditional Bluetooth, regardless of whatever other ambitions Sonos may have.
Sonos declined to comment on the report, with a spokesperson saying simply that the company doesn’t comment on future product plans. However, Sonos telegraphed a move like this in a recent letter to shareholders, where the company announces its intention to expand into the broader music listening market, since half of music listening now occurs outside of the home.
We plan to push our boundaries by investing resources to make the experience of Sonos outside the home a reality.Sonos, in a letter to shareholders
While it’s unclear exactly what Sonos means by “the experience of Sonos,” with the company having a long history of producing a tightly integrated system of speakers, it’s possible that its wireless headphones could also be capable of joining into the Sonos environment when at home and simply transitioning to Bluetooth on the go — perhaps even seamlessly. With Sonos speakers also having recently gained AirPlay 2 support, the company could even be preparing to release the first-ever AirPlay-compatible headphones.
Several reports last year also revealed that Apple is working on its own over-ear headphones, and while few specific details have surfaced, with Apple already owning the extremely popular Beats brand, it would seem that the iPhone maker is also poised to bring something unique to the market. The company has reportedly been struggling to find a direction for the new headphones, however; analysts originally pegged them as simply a premium alternative to the Beats brand, but they’ll presumably need something more than sound quality and the Apple name to position them in that space.
There are no shortage of premium high-end wireless headphones available, but most companies simply iterate on previous designs each year. Even Beats’ headphones have evolved very little since Apple originally acquired the company several years ago. While some higher-end manufacturers are pioneering new acoustic technology, there is an untapped market for improving upon connectivity and the overall user experience — something Apple has done with the W1/W2 chips in its AirPods and Beats headphones. However, few headphone manufacturers have the wealth of experience that Sonos has with Wi-Fi and streaming technologies, so it will be interesting to see what the company comes up with.