Rumors that Sonos will release its own headphones are heating up again: according to Procotol, the company just acquired T2 Software, a Bluetooth audio startup.
T2 Software has reportedly been working on the LC3 codec and Bluetooth LE Audio, a new wireless standard expected to improve sound quality while lowering energy consumption. These are technologies meant for wireless audio products; in particular, headphones.
Stopping short of outright revealing his intentions of releasing headphones, Sonos’s VP of global marketing and communications Pete Pedersen wrote in a LinkedIn post that the company is searching for a marketing agency to help launch “a new category” of product for what will be the “most ambitious projects in our history.”
If this mysterious new category is headphones, Sonos could leapfrog its competition by introducing a pair with Bluetooth LE Audio and the LC3 codec. Not only are these standards meant to improve sound quality, but they support broadcasting signals to multiple endpoints, so you can stream the same music to multiple headphones, much like how you can play a song through multiple Sonos wifi speakers. The LC3 codec also promises to improve pairing and voice assistant integration.
As The Verge pointed out, the Bluetooth SIG has a nifty comparison tool that lets you listen to a song while switching between different codecs at various bitrates. I encourage you to try it with headphones on. I’m no sound engineer, but when listening through my Bose 700 headphones, the LC3 codec at 96 kbps sounded about as good as SBC (its predecessor) at 248 kbps and the non-encoded 1,536 file. Dropping SBC down to 192 kbps muddies the audio where LC3 sounds fine until you drop to 64 kbps.
Sonos was first rumored to be creating a pair of headphones back in 2019 when Bloomberg reported that over-the-ear headphones were in “early development stages” but could launch in 2020. Sonos was expected to target the high-end market with a pair that could cost around $300. However, the years rolled by without any announcement, and the only reassurance we received came by way of a patent filing. Recently, however, a German patent application dated August 2021 was uncovered that suggests Sonos’s rumored headphones could operate over wifi in addition to Bluetooth. Using wifi could enable even better sound quality, but power consumption and connectivity pose challenges.
Sonos has recently been in the spotlight for its financial troubles during the covid-19 pandemic and for its feud with Google, which has seen the two companies trading one lawsuit for another. Should Sonos enter the headphone market, the independent consumer audio manufacturer will compete against the likes of Apple, Bose, and Sony.