Sony’s expected successor Sony WF-1000XM3 Sony WF-1000XM4 has been launched. But how do they compare to the Apple AirPods Pro?
While the AirPods Pro earned a spot on our best wireless earbuds, the WF-1000XM4 earned a perfect five stars in our review.
Read on to find out how the Sony WF-1000XM4 and AirPods Pro compare and where they differ in terms of price, design, features, and sound quality.
price and availability
The Sony WF-1000XM4 is available from 12 June for a price of £250 / $279 / €280, a £30 increase over the Sony WF-1000XM3.
AirPods Pro was launched in October 2019 for £249 / $249 / €279. If you look around you, you can find them in many places for under £200.
Considering that the AirPods Pro have been on sale for a longer time than the XM4, they’re the cheaper of the two, so that’s one reason to choose the Pro model if you were looking to save money.
How do they compare in terms of design?
The Sony WF-1000XM4 and AirPods Pro have very different designs.
The WF-1000XM4 boasts a rounded, compact design that keeps them from sticking out over the ears like its predecessor. AirPods Pro feature the stem-shape that Apple earbuds are known for.
Both the pairs of earbuds come with ear-tips that provide a tight seal in the ear. Sony comes with new polyurethane noise isolation ear tips (available in small, medium and large), which contain thousands of tiny bubbles designed to disperse noise and mold to the shape of the ear. AirPods Pro small, medium and large come equipped with more standard silicone ear tips that also provide a secure and comfortable fit.
You have two color options with the Sony: black or silver, and it’s a more of a lossy white shade than the AirPods Pro, which we think attracts dirt more easily.
The Sony and AirPods Pro both have IPX4 ratings, which means they can resist some water and rain, especially helpful if you’re a) in wet conditions or b) using them for workouts.
Both the earbuds come in a small charging case, and this helps to make them more convenient and portable.
Whether you like the look of the earbuds comes down to personal preference, but there’s not much here to differentiate each earbud from the other. They are both comfortable to wear, stylish looking and have compact design. We’ll call it a draw.
What characteristics do they have?
The Sony WF-1000XM4 is powered by the new efficient V1 processor that integrates noise cancellation and Bluetooth on a single chip, while the AirPods Pro has Apple’s H1 processor.
An upgrade to the V1 means the Sony XM4 offers the same 24-hour battery life as its predecessor, despite the smaller charging case with the noise cancellation switch turned on. Individually, each earbud packs 8 hours of battery with noise cancellation turned on, or 12 off (36 in total)
The AirPods Pro delivers a less impressive 4.5 hours of battery with ANC and Transparency and 5 hours with these features turned off, but the charging case is the same 24 hours total found in the Sony case, meaning you don’t need to charge Not needed more often the case. So while they’re a match with regards to battery for noise cancellation, the Sony can deliver more battery life overall.
Both the pairs of earbuds feature ANC. The noise cancellation on the XM4 does a decent job of distracting, while the Ambient Mode makes outside noises clearer when you need to hear what’s around you. The AirPods’ noise cancellation is capable of suppressing most everyday sounds, making them an effective choice for commute or use in an office. Of the two, the Sony is better at canceling out most sounds more effectively.
Noise cancellation on the AirPods Pro is limited to two settings – on and off. There’s also a Transparency Mode, like Sony’s Ambient Mode, that lets outside noise in.
The WF-1000XM4 also has a slew of features in Sony’s headphones app. You can adjust the EQ, enable features like Adaptive Sound Control, Speak to Chat and Quick Attention modes, and talk to the Google and Alexa voice assistants.
There’s a new feature in the Headphones Connect app that helps you determine how secure the ear tips are to your ear. Apple offers a similar feature in its own setup process that determines whether you’ve got a good seal with a sound test.
As far as pairing is concerned, Sony supports fast-pairing on Android, while AirPods Pro is suitable for Apple users. That said, both pairs work on either platform, but you’ll get more platform specific features if you’re using the XM4 with an Android smartphone or AirPods Pro with an iOS device.
While both the WF-1000XM4 and AirPods Pro offer ANC, ear tip seal test, and 24-hour battery life in their respective cases, the Sony wins in terms of its own strengths and long battery life.
Which wireless earbud sounds better?
Sony earbuds are hard to beat in terms of audio quality. In our review we commented that they are the “best sounding earbuds” available.
The sound is energetic, weighty and subtle and the tonal balance is natural. The mid-range is excellent and the high vocals are clear, while the bass is varied and effective. Everything seems as it should be.
The AirPods Pro, meanwhile, produces an excellent sound across multiple genres, with a wide soundstage and strings providing plenty of detail in vocals and tracks. They’re also a huge improvement over the standard AirPods, offering deeper bass and a warmer presentation that was absent from their cheaper sibling.
However, despite the Pro’s many improvements, the Sony WF-1000XM4 is the winner when it comes to music.
The WF-1000XM4 offers a compelling package that includes new noise isolation ear tips, nearly twice the battery life in each earbud, powerful noise cancellation, and a slew of features.
While there are benefits to choosing the AirPods Pro, especially for those in the Apple ecosystem, the WF-1000XM4 bests the Apple earbuds for audio and features.