There is no shortage of great true wireless earbuds you can buyBut Apple’s AirPods Pro and Sony’s WF-1000XM4 are among the best. Sony’s headphones are only slightly more expensive at $ 280 (£ 250, AU $ 450) compared to $ 250 (£ 249, AU $ 249) for the AirPods Pro, so the decision really comes down to which phone. you have and your main phone. case of use. Are you looking for headphones primarily for listening to music or are you looking for a pair that does it all?
I’ve been wearing both sets for over a month to help you determine which one is right for you. I compared them in different categories such as sound and quality of calls, how comfortable they are to wear for long periods, and overall battery life.
Lexy Savvides / CNET
Sony headphones offer excellent sound quality and one of the strongest noise cancellations you can find in a pair of true wireless headphones. You can also stream high-resolution Bluetooth audio on Android. The controls are fully customizable, and the battery lasts longer than the AirPods Pro. But they are substantially heavier than Apple’s earbuds and smaller ears may have to experiment to find ear tips that provide a secure fit.
The AirPods Pro do everything very well: calls, music playback, noise cancellation, and transparency mode. They don’t have as much bass as the Sony WF-1000XM4, or a battery that lasts that long, but they are a good option for iOS users who want quick switching and spatial audio for music and movies. They can also be more comfortable for some ears than Sony headphones, and you can usually find them for less than $ 200.
One month with Sony WF-1000XM4 and AirPods Pro
AirPods Pro are more comfortable, especially for smaller ears
These headphones couldn’t be more different in design. The Sony WF-1000XM4 are round, while the AirPods Pro have a short stem that protrudes from the ear. Apple headphones are significantly lighter and fit my little ears better than Sony headphones, especially for extended wear. Larger ears should have no problem with Sony headphones, but as always, the fit varies from person to person.
Sign up for the CNET TVs, Streaming and Audio newsletter to get the best of our home entertainment coverage.
Both pairs have three ear tip sizes to help you get a perfect fit. Sony tips are a hybrid foam blend, while Apple tips are silicone. While most people should be fine with the included tips, I actually found that I had to switch to different tips on both. I use third party foam tips from Comply on the AirPods Pro and Sony silicone tips from the old WF-1000XM3. The tips provided with the Sony headphones are not small enough for me and I really wish there was an XS size in the box.
I highly recommend using the ear fit test on these two buttons to help you get the best seal and optimal sound quality. You can find this in the iOS settings for AirPods Pro or within the Headphones Connect app on the Sony WF-1000XM4 (iOS and Android).
The WF-1000XM4 have touchpads that can change tracks, activate noise cancellation, or even accept a call, while the AirPods Pro have clickable stems that perform the same tasks. Only Sony headphones allow you to adjust the volume from the touch panels. Both support a voice assistant for hands-free control: Siri for AirPods Pro on iOS; Google Assistant and Alexa for the WF-1000XM4 on Android; Google Assistant, Alexa or Siri for the WF-1000XM4 on iOS.
You will also be able to use both earbuds in the rain or during a sweaty workout as they are rated IPX4 which means they can withstand splashing water. However, the charging cases are not waterproof.
Lexy Savvides / CNET
Sony WF-1000XM4 dynamic and bright sound
Listening to music with Sony headphones is a real pleasure. Definition across all frequencies is excellent, with voices sounding clear and crisp. The bass is prominent without being overpowering. It gave me the creeps to hear some of my favorite tracks in a variety of genres, from rock to hip-hop to classical. The AirPods Pro sound great too, but they aren’t as dynamic in the default settings and don’t have as great a bass response as Sony’s headphones. I preferred receiving calls and podcasts on AirPods Pro because the sound profile is more neutral and balanced for solo voices in general.
AirPods Pro have an adaptive equalizer, so it constantly changes the sound profile automatically. You can further adjust the sound using an equalizer in your favorite music app, or use the Headphone Fittings feature in iOS settings. Sony’s headphones have an in-app equalizer, although I found that I didn’t need to use it much as the default sound profile worked very well in a variety of music genres.
Lexy Savvides / CNET
Sony headphones also support LDAC, a high-resolution audio codec for Bluetooth headsets on Android phones. I listened to several songs in Tidal’s HiFi and Master streaming quality, noticing a bit more definition than the same track with AAC streaming. Unless you’re an audiophile, I don’t think you’ll be able to tell much of a difference, especially since Sony’s DSEE Extreme scaling is really good and makes lower bitrate streams sound great.
You can listen to microphone samples in the video on this page for both pairs, recorded on iOS and Android. In general, I found that the AirPods Pro worked better for calls than the Sony WF-1000XM4, both for phone calls and in Zoom or Google Hangouts.
Spatial audio on AirPods Pro is more robust than 360 audio
That’s because it’s available for music and movies in a wide range of apps, from HBO Max to Apple Music, Disney Plus, and Apple TV Plus, just to name a few. It’s plug-and-play too, so simply place the AirPods Pro in your ear, turn on spatial audio in iOS settings, and then watch or listen to your content. Sony 360 Audio only works for music playback in a smaller number of apps like Tidal and Nugz.net. It also takes a bit longer to set up, which involves taking photos of your ears.
Sony wins noise cancellation crown, but AirPods Pro wins transparency mode
Both headphones have active noise cancellation to block out sounds from the outside world and do an excellent job of drowning out constant sound across a range of frequencies. To my ears, Sony takes advantage of low frequencies like traffic, commuting, or rumbling engines to create more of a cocoon of silence than the AirPods Pro.
Each pair also has an ambient sound mode, or what Apple calls transparency mode, to let in sound and stay aware of your surroundings. The WF-1000XM4’s surround mode has 20 levels of adjustment to fine-tune the effect. You can also choose to focus on voices over other sounds, which works great. It doesn’t sound as natural as the transparency mode on the AirPods Pro, which to my ears is the best of its kind and almost feels like you’re not wearing headphones at all.
Lexy Savvides / CNET
The WF-1000XM4 battery will last you all day
I couldn’t believe the Sony buttons would get me anywhere near the 8 hour rating on the box. But in my test of listening to music at a moderate volume with ANC, I was able to use them for 8 hours and 10 minutes before they ran out. However, there is a downside: if you transmit with LDAC, the battery life will be reduced to around 5 hours. AirPods Pro last up to 5 hours with ANC or transparency mode in my tests under the same conditions.
Each case also has an additional charge, up to a total of 24 hours for both pairs. The cases also support wireless charging, or you can upgrade them with USB-C for Sony and Lightning for Apple. Something other reviews might not mention is that Sony’s charging case (at least the black version I’ve been using) shows every bump, drop, and scratch I’ve thrown at it over the last month.
The AirPods Pro is the only pair that offers quick switching, so you can seamlessly move between different Apple devices with the same Apple ID. The Sony WF-1000XM4 doesn’t offer any multipoint capabilities, so if you want to move between your phone and laptop during work hours, for example, you’ll have to go into the Bluetooth settings and switch manually each time.
Sony WF-1000XM4 or AirPods Pro?
Both headphones offer an excellent balance between performance and audio quality. There is no one-size-fits-all pair, as they have strengths in different areas. Buy AirPods Pro for the best experience on iOS and Apple devices thanks to fast switching, spatial audio, and excellent call quality. Get the Sony WF-1000XM4 for high-resolution Bluetooth LDAC streaming on Android, long battery life, and noise cancellation that rivals on-ear headphones.