Sony has revealed its WF-1000XM5 flagship wireless earbuds, its latest attempt to dominate the true wireless field. And as always with a new entrant in the market, we seek to compare to it another pair of headphones.
In this case it’s the Apple AirPods Pro 2. While you might not say that both are direct rivals (Apple is iOS, Sony leans towards Android), for some, picking a new true wireless may mean a choice between these two options, especially if you’re an iOS user.
With that in mind, continue reading on to see how the Sony WF-1000XM5 fare against the AirPods Pro 2.
The Sony WF-1000XM5 are available from August 24th for the price of £259 / $299 / €320.
The AirPods Pro 2 have been out for longer having launched in 2022 for £249 / $249 / €299, but if you have a look around you can find them for £199.
There are obvious savings on getting the AirPods Pro 2, though more often that not they can be found for £239, so the difference in price between the two wireless earphones isn’t as big as some might hope.
The WF-1000XM5’s design nestles inside the ear while the AirPods Pro 2 utilise a stem-shape that both sits inside with the stem perching next to the ear. Both are comfortable to wear with each bud weighing less than 6g each, though of the two, the Sony earbuds are easier to use with their touch controls.
We still find the AirPods Pro 2’s stem sensor to be fiddly and not always the most precise, whereas we didn’t have any issues with the WF-1000XM5’s controls. Both cover volume control so you won’t have to take your smartphone out the pocket to control volume levels.
Both are rated IPX4 to guard against some water and sweat, and both also come packaged with extra small ear-tips to help find the best fit and seal for the ear (Sony packs noise-isolation tips, Apple includes silicone ear-tips). Colour options are black and white for the Sony, while the AirPods Pro 2 come in a glossy white colourway which can attract dirt more easily in our minds.
In terms of design, we give the win to the WF-1000XM5 mainly because its controls are easier to use. The fiddly nature of the force sensor is not an aspect we enjoy about the AirPods Pro 2, but if you’re someone who’s at ease with those types of controls, you may feel the Apple earbuds are the preferred choice.
The AirPods Pro 2 pack Apple’s H2 processor (and the U1 chip in the MagSafe case). The H2 processor aims to power the noise-cancellation and a more three-dimensional sound, with an Adaptive EQ that tunes music in real time to deliver clean high notes and deep, rich bass.
The WF-1000XM5 adopt a similar line of thought. They use the newly developed Integrated Processor V2 and HD Noise Cancelling Processor QN2e, that latter suppresses sounds with greater precision than previous Sony true wireless.
Battery life on the Sony is eight hours per earbud (24 in total) with noise-cancellation, while with the Apple it’s six hours and up to 30 with the charging case. Fast-charging and wireless charging are supported by both.
Noise-cancellation on both these pairs is fantastic. The XM5 performs well at suppressing general ambient noises and people’s voices, and also minimises wind noise on the Underground. The AirPods Pro 2 are arguably just as good with their adaptive ANC and on the tube they effectively quell the racket in the carriage to much calmer levels.
Both come with a transparency mode, though the Sony offers more control over both noise-cancellation and ambient modes, allowing for a finer degree of control over both. The Apple uses adaptive tech, i.e. it adjusts the strength of the noise-cancellation automatically. One feature it has that the Sony doesn’t is that when in Transparency mode it can reduce the impact of loud noises you encounter during the day.
There’s more customisation available with the Sony headphones, which can be found in the Headphones Connect app. From adjusting the EQ to playing with the noise-cancelling modes, switching voice control services, tweaking the wireless performance and more, the WF-1000XM5 gives users a much wider degree of control over their experience. Apple is quite strict by comparison with very little control over the experience.
The AirPods Pro 2’s Bluetooth performance is excellent with barely any audio drop outs during use. The Sony are a little prone to drop outs depending on the mode they’re in, in particular their LDAC mode. The support for LDAC is only available on Android devices, otherwise on iOS, both these headphones allow for AAC Bluetooth streaming.
Call quality on the Apple buds is excellent, while it’s a little mixed on the WF-1000XM5, as it can leak in noise when you’re speaking.
We’d call this one a draw. We reckon the Sony might be better for noise-cancellation but not by a huge amount, and while the WF-1000XM5 have longer battery life, the Apple buds have more in reserve with the charging case. Call quality is also better in the AirPods Pro 2, but you do get a much wider range of customisation over the experience with the Sony earbuds.
The AirPods Pro 2 present music with a richer tone but still offer plenty of detail and clarity to pick out with music. They manage bass excellently, ensuring that it doesn’t overwhelm the rest of the frequency range.
Vocals are warm, smooth but also very clear in how they’re presented. They’re a very confident-sounding pair of true wireless earphones.
The Sony WF-1000XM5 have adopted a more balanced approach to sound than previous generations. Tonally they’re more even, with perhaps less bass output than the AirPods Pro 2, but they sound very clear and detailed with high and low frequencies, and vocals are given plenty of fine detail.
In this case, we would say it depends on what type of sound you prefer. The Sony WF-1000XM5 sound more balanced, while the AirPods Pro 2 have a richer character.
In terms of which wireless earbud is best, we’d give it to the Sony WF-1000XM5. Its feature count is massively more expanded and they offer an experience that can be customised to how you want it. Its ease of use in terms of controls is better than the fiddly force sensor on the AirPods Pro 2.
But the Apple buds offer better call quality, and if you’re heavily invested in the iOS ecosystem, they’re probably the better choice give the iOS specific features they offer. Both are excellent true wireless, though we would say that the Sony WF-1000XM5 have a wider appeal that the AirPods Pro 2’s more specific iOS approach does not.