Sony’s anticipated successor to the Sony WF-1000XM3 has launched in the Sony WF-1000XM4. But how do they compare against the Apple AirPods Pro?
While the AirPods Pro have earned a spot on our best wireless earbuds, the WF-1000XM4 earned a perfect five stars in our review.
Read on to discover how the Sony WF-1000XM4 and the AirPods Pro compare and where they differ when it comes to price, design, features and sound quality.
Price and availability
The Sony WF-1000XM4 are available from June 12 for the price of £250 / $279 / €280, which a £30 increase from the Sony WF-1000XM3.
The AirPods Pro launched in October 2019 for £249 / $249 / €279. If you look around you can get them for under £200 in a number of places.
Given the AirPods Pro have been on sale for much longer than the XM4, they are the cheaper out of the two, so if you were looking to save money then that’s one reason to opt for the Pro model.
How do they compare in terms of design?
The Sony WF-1000XM4 and the AirPods Pro feature very different designs.
The WF-1000XM4 boast a round, compact design that prevents them from bulging out of the ears as much as their predecessor. The AirPods Pro feature the stem-shape the Apple earbuds have become known for.
Both pairs of earbuds come with ear-tips to provide a tight seal in the ear. The Sony comes with new polyurethane noise isolation ear tips (available in small, medium and large) with thousands of little bubbles designed to dissipate noise and mould to the contours of the ear. The AirPods Pro are fitted with more standard silicone ear tips in small, medium and large that also offer a secure and comfortable fit.
You’ve got two colour options with the Sony: black or silver, and that’s one more than AirPods Pro lossy white shade, which we feel attracts dirt more easily.
Both the Sony and the AirPods Pro have an IPX4 rating, which means they can resist some water and rain, particularly helpful if you’re in a) wet conditions or b) using them for a workout.
Both earbuds come in small charging cases, and that helps to make them more convenient and portable when carried around.
Whether you like the look of the earbuds comes down to personal preference, but there’s not much to distinguish each earbud from the other here. They’re both comfortable to wear, stylish-looking and have a compact design. We’d call this a draw.
What features do they have?
The Sony WF-1000XM4 are powered by the new efficient V1 processor that integrates noise cancellation and Bluetooth onto one chip, while the AirPods Pro feature Apple’s H1 processor.
The upgrade to the V1 means the Sony XM4 offer the same 24-hour battery life as their predecessor with noise cancelling switched on, despite the smaller charging case. Individually, each earbud packs 8 hours of battery with noise cancelling on, or 12 turned off (36 in total)
The AirPods Pro offer a less impressive 4.5 hours of battery with ANC and Transparency on and 5 hours with these features switched off, but the charging case carries the same 24 hours total found in the Sony case, meaning you shouldn’t need to charge the case any more often. So while they’re a match with regards to battery for noise cancellation, the Sony can offer more battery life in total.
Both pairs of earbuds feature ANC. The noise cancellation on the XM4 does a great job of cancelling out distractions, while the Ambient Mode makes outside sounds clear when you need to hear what’s around you. The AirPods’ noise cancellation is capable of suppressing the majority of everyday sounds, making them an effective choice for commutes or for use in an office. Out of the two the Sony is better at cancelling most sounds more effectively.
The noise cancellation on the AirPods Pro is limited to two settings – on and off. There’s also a Transparency mode, like the Sony’s Ambient Mode, that lets outside noises in.
There are also plenty of WF-1000XM4 features to be found in Sony’s Headphones app. You can adjust EQ, enable features like Adaptive Sound Control, Speak to Chat and Quick Attention Mode and speak to Google and Alexa voice assistants.
The Headphones Connect app has a new feature that helps you determine how secure the ear tips fit in your ear. Apple offers a similar feature in its own setup process that determines whether you’ve found a good seal with a sound test.
As far as pairing goes, the Sony supports fast-pairing on Android, while the AirPods Pro are suited to Apple users. That said, both pairs work either platforms, but you’ll gain more platform specific features if you’re using the XM4 with an Android smartphone or the AirPods Pro with an iOS device.
While both the WF-1000XM4 and the AirPods Pro offer ANC, ear tip seal tests and 24 hours of battery in their respective cases, the Sony win in terms of their abundance of features and longer battery life.
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Which wireless earbud sounds better?
In terms of audio quality, the Sony earbuds are tough to beat. In our review we commented that they “the finest-sounding earbuds” available.
The sound is energetic, weighty and subtle and the tonal balance is natural. The mid-range is excellent and the high tones clear, while the bass is varied and effective. Everything sounds as it is supposed to.
The AirPods Pro, meanwhile, produce an excellent sound across many genres, with a wide soundstage and plenty of detail to be found in vocals and tracks with strings. 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 are the winner when it comes to music.
The WF-1000XM4 offer a compelling package that includes new noise isolation ear tips, nearly twice the battery life in each earbud, powerful noise cancellation and a larger array of features.
While there are benefits to opting for the AirPods Pro, especially for those in the Apple ecosystem, the WF-1000XM4 best the Apple earbuds for audio and features.