The latest true wireless earbuds from Sony have arrived and we think they are the best earbuds the company has ever delivered.
But are they the best noise canceling earbuds on the market? Despite the huge increase in noise canceling true wireless in recent years, the battle for supremacy really comes down to Bose and Sony.
Bose launched its true wireless effort in 2020, while Sony followed in 2021. They both appeal to the same market, and both have received five stars, so this is really a clash of the true wireless titans.
So, Sony WF-1000XM4 vs Bose QuietComfort Earbuds which one is the true wireless you should be spending your money on?
price and availability
The WF-1000XM4 was launched several months after Bose at a price of £250 / $280 / €280 / CA$399 / AU$499.
The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds were also priced at £250 and $280 / €279 / CA$349 / AU$399 at launch in the UK.
So while in the UK, US and Europe, Bose and Sony are priced the same, elsewhere Bose is cheaper. We’ll call it a draw, but if you live in Canada or Australia, Bose has a price advantage.
What is the difference in design?
The designs of the WF-1000XM4 and Bose QuietComfort Earbuds speak to each company in different ways.
Sony is better than the previous WF-1000XM3. Their shape is more ergonomic, they bulge less and they are 10% smaller. Comfort is improved and these earbuds stay in place, which helps create the tight seal needed for noise cancellation.
They pack new polyurethane ear-tips that adapt themselves to the ear canal for a tighter fit, so while you might use other ear-tips, the noise isolation won’t be as effective. There’s a clear ‘postage’ to the touch controls, and they’re responsive, offering little feedback in terms of its smooth and rubbery feel.
Like the earbuds, the charging case has been reduced in size to make it more pocketable and convenient – both the earbuds and the case are a true feat of design – and the WF-1000XM4 is very stylish with its gold accents .
The Bose earbuds are big, but that’s not a huge factor due to the Stehair Max ear-tip design. It uses a wing-tip type design to insert itself into the ear, and the result is a very rigid and stable fit. Every part of the wing-tip surface that touches the inside of the ear is soft silicone, and that makes them comfortable to wear for long periods of time.
It’s a decision that also makes them good for workouts and running, as they rarely move during more active bouts of a fitness regime.
Their looks, perhaps not quite as stylish as the Sony, but they are surprisingly slim and big for their size. You have touch controls, and like the Sony they cover all the basics aside from skip ahead, which you need to enable via shortcuts. Unlike the Sony, Bose covers the volume changes, while the WF-1000XM4s force you to choose whether you want it over the other touch controls. This is a slight inconvenience.
The size of Bose’s charging case is one area where the WF-1000XM4 has an advantage. The QuietComfort case is huge and will definitely stay in a tight trouser pocket.
We’d say it’s a draw. They’re both great in terms of comfort, and while the Sony is more stylish, the Bose offer a better fit/seal than the get go.
What is the difference between feature sets?
Let’s start with what Sony and Bose have in common. They both feature an IPX4 rating, which enhances their use for workouts and running. You’ve also got wear detection, which recognizes when the earbuds have been taken out of the ear (or put back) and pause/play music accordingly.
Both the apps are good to use and easy to navigate. The Sony Headphones Connect are more jam-packed with details, but not in a cluttered way, while the Bose Music app is simple and easy to follow. It’s a bit annoying how the Bose app loses connection if you switch to another app away from it.
The Sony has Bluetooth 5.2 compared to Bose’s 5.1, which is a slight edge but not a massive one. The WF-1000XM4 has native support for digital assistants, while the QuietComforts support assistants, but they aren’t built-in.
Noise cancellation we’ll get to in the next section, but otherwise Sony dwarfs Bose where features are concerned.
Speak to Chat is carried over from the Sony WH-1000XM4, and it cleverly pauses music when you start speaking without taking out the earbuds for someone to listen to.
Battery life is 8 hours per charge; A total of 24 hours with noise cancellation and 36 hours with noise cancellation. Bose made a comeback with 6 hours per charge, but the total 18 hours (noise cancellation) seems low considering the price.
Both support SBC and AAC codecs, but the WF-1000XM4 goes one further with an Android phone with LDAC support (for high-quality streaming over Bluetooth).
Other features of the WF-1000XM4 include Android Fast Pair and Find My feature, so you can track where you left off last time if you’ve lost the earbuds. There’s EQ customization (Bose doesn’t have it), and support for the 360 Reality audio format that turns the sound into a more 3D effect. There is also an ear-tip sizing test to ensure that the earbuds fit optimally.
The WF-1000XM4 are great winners. You get a lot of bang for your buck, especially if you own an Android smartphone.
Which earbuds have better noise cancellation?
Both brands are topping each other with full-size headphones, and this is the first time we’ve had recent true wireless pairs to compare. And we would say that Bose surpassed Sony.
Each earbud also has an ‘Ambient Mode’ and both are very effective and natural in how they sound. Sliding through the noise cancellation/transparency levels never gets old and both are very effective.
The Sony feature improved noise cancellation over the previous model, thanks to new noise isolating ear-tips and the V1 processor chip that suppresses loud sounds to an even better degree than before. It does so without tinting the sound or adding a distinct tone, which is really impressive.
However, to get that ‘optimal’ noise-canceling performance, you’ll need to do an ear-tip sizing test. This feature is available in the Sony Headphones companion app, and plays a sound to measure how tight the seal is between the earbuds and your ear. If you see ticks next to the earbud it’s airtight, and the WF-1000XM4’s noise cancellation is the most optimal.
In contrast, the fit of the Bose QC earbuds means there’s no need to find out if the seal is good. The wing-tips ensure that sufficient ambient sound is blocked before the noise cancellation works. And the noise cancellation is extremely impressive. It suppresses the surrounding noise to produce an effect that is extremely quiet.
Sony comes pretty close, but we can’t get over them better. In terms of how they deal with certain sounds, they’re on par, and the Sony fares better in terms of wind noise, but overall the Bose are extremely impressive.
Is there any difference in sound?
Yes, there is a difference in audio performance from Bose and Sony, and that’s a win for the Sony WF-1000XM4.
They are by far the best sounding true wireless earbuds we have come across. They’re surprisingly eloquent and happy to play any track you throw at them, from old classics to recent pop, they’re wonderfully versatile.
The XM4 displays more maneuverability than the Bose, which comes across as a bit flat (surprisingly). Voices on Sony are punctuated with emotion, and while the Bose QC earbuds deliver superb clarity, Sony’s dynamism with voice and a more measured sense of prowess make them more engaging to listen to.
Bose goes for neutrality, but the Sony delivers a richer, more musical performance. Dynamically they’re both great, but with LDAC support on Android, the Sony outperforms with higher quality music streams.
There’s a lot of power and impact in both – Bose can actually have a bit more in the power department – but the WF-1000XM4 sound smoother and pulls out more detail – especially if the DSEE Xtreme features music as close to high-resolution as possible. For quality.
The treble performance is evenly matched in terms of clarity (the Bose appears slightly brighter in tone), and in terms of soundstage, the Bose’s sound is big but not the Sony’s. It’s a choice that makes Bose’s ‘sound’ more impressive and powerful at times, but we’d prefer Sony’s refinement and naturalism.
Both sound great, but the Sony sounds great. Like many other earbuds, Bose has to fall behind the WF-1000XM4 in terms of audio quality.
The Sony WF-1000XM4 is easily one of the best earbuds around, though this match-up against Bose shows they aren’t the best in all categories.
Bose are a bit better in our estimation in terms of noise cancellation, with the fit/seal a bit more suitable for a wider range of ears. But Sonys are more stylish (if you care about that), pack in a lot more features and they look exceptionally good.
which one is the best? The Sony gets our vote overall because the main point of the earbuds is sound, and the Sony sounds great. Bose gets our nomination for noise cancellation, and they sound great to boot, but Sony upped the level of true wireless sound.