Home Smartphones Sony headphones showdown: an affordable new challenger takes on the champ. Sony wh 1000 xm3

Sony headphones showdown: an affordable new challenger takes on the champ. Sony wh 1000 xm3

Sony headphones showdown: an affordable new challenger takes on the champ

Can these new over-ears stand up to the lauded WH-1000XM3?

Credit: Reviewed / Jackson Ruckar

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Sony’s excellent WH-1000XM3 over-ear, noise-canceling headphones are currently our favorite pair of headphones available. They’re super comfortable, sound awesome, and deliver some of the best features and noise canceling around. The drawback? Even on sale, they still cost over 200, which is just too much money for a lot of folks.

While there’s no shortage of cheap headphones, we were still jazzed when Sony launched the WH-CH710N in 2020. In our evaluation, we discovered an excellent alternative to the lauded-but-pricey WH-1000XM3, widely available for close to 100. But which is the best buy? We stacked them up in several categories to help you decide.


As we noted, the newer Sony WH-CH710N have the obvious price advantage over Sony’s flagship model.

The WH-CH710N are roughly half the price of the top-tier WH-1000XM3.

While you can regularly find the WH-1000XM3 for around 180 at certain retailers on sale, its MSRP is 350, while the newer WH-CH710N start around 200, but can often be found as low as 110.

For everything that you get with the WH-1000XM3, finding it for less than 200 is a great buy—but the WH-CH710N can be had for so much lower, it’s an easy win.

Our pick: Sony WH-CH710

Battery life

As wireless headphones go, battery life is one of the most important features. If you have to charge your headphones every night like a two-year-old smartphone, something ain’t right. Fortunately, neither the WH-1000XM3 nor the WH-CH710N have this problem—but they do perform a bit differently.

During our review and hands-on testing, we measured around 30 hours of battery life on a single charge on the pricier/older WH-1000XM3, which is definitely a solid amount of playback time—it’s about 10 hours more than you’ll get, on average, from the Bose QC 35 II, which might be its staunchest competition.

You could probably eke out more battery life from the XM3 if you turned off all their special features—like Adaptive Noise Canceling—but that’s also a big reason to buy them in the first place, so it feels a bit self-defeating.

Much to our surprise, the more affordable—but also much newer—Sony WH-CH710N actually offer slightly longer overall battery time compared to the WH-1000XM3. At 35 hours total, it’s not a ton but it’s still a great result, especially for what you’re paying.

Our pick: Sony WH-CH710N


Where features go, there’s a degree of similarity between the WH-1000XM3 and the WH-CH710N, but overall the former is the more robust of the two. With the more affordable WH-CH710N, you are still getting noise canceling, but not the “Adaptive” kind you’ll find with the flagship WH-1000XM3.

You can read all about the WH-1000XM3’s expansive feature set in our full review, but the gist of it is that the WH-1000XM3 is simply much more customizable in terms of equalization and the degree/efficacy of noise canceling.

The WH-1000XM3 has expansive, highly useful features.

The WH-1000XM3’s noise canceling isn’t just pound-for-pound better than the WH-CH710N’s, it’s more efficacious across a range of scenarios. For example, you can scan for changes in barometric pressure to help with transitions during flights (which will be useful again some day, we promise), and the “Adaptive” function will automatically calculate whether you’re sitting, walking, running, or commuting and adjust your noise canceling intensity appropriately.

One other cool feature is the ability to place your palm over the left ear cup’s touch-capacitive buttons to momentarily activate the exterior microphones, hearing what’s going on around you. These kinds of specialty features—which, far from being for power users only, alleviate many common pain points for headphones—are a big justification for the WH-1000XM3’s increased price point.

Our pick: Sony WH-1000XM3

Sound quality

To be clear right up front: sound quality is always important, no matter what kind of headphones you’re buying or how much you’re willing to pay. A pair of headphones’ primary function is playing music—or, at least, playing audio—and if they can’t do that right, they’re not worth your time.

For all their other features and uses, the best thing about the WH-1000XM3 is how great they sound.

Fortunately, as you could probably guess, both of these models deliver good sound quality, but at the end of the day the WH-1000XM3 outperform their cheaper, in-house rival.

If you’re keen on the more affordable WH-CH710N in this scenario, you’ll be glad to know they still sound great. They’re not going to blow anyone away (the WH-1000XM3 just might), but their bass, midrange, and treble registers are well-balanced and robust for what you’re paying.

Our pick: Sony WH-1000XM3

Wireless connection

One thing you’re definitely getting with the more affordable WH-CH710N is a bit of “technology parity” where stuff like Bluetooth connectivity is concerned. The WH-CH710N may be more affordable, but they still sync up just fine with the Sony Connect app (the same one the WH-1000XM3 use), and have roughly the same level of consistency and wireless range as the pricier pair.

Our pick: Tie

Design and fit

No matter what you’re paying for your headphones, comfort is of chief importance. And fortunately, both the WH-1000XM3 and WH-CH710N are plenty comfortable.

That said, while the WH-CH710N over-ears are comfortable enough to wear for a few hours without complaints, the WH-1000XM3 might be the most comfortable pair of headphones I’ve ever used. They’re pillowy soft, and despite all the tech Sony stuffed into them, surprisingly lightweight. It’s easy to forget they’re even on your head.

The WH-CH710N deliver a smooth, rounded exterior with on-set buttons and decent (but limited) comfort padding.

Unless you’re extremely sensitive, I can’t imagine having any complaints about the fit and feel of the WH-CH710N, but there’s no question that the WH-1000XM3 are the more comfortable of the two.

Our pick: Sony WH-1000XM3


It’s not hard to claim a clear winner here. The WH-CH710N are around half the price of the more robust WH-1000XM3, but that’s their only real advantage.

That said, there are good reasons to go with either option. The decision comes down to what you “need” in a pair of headphones. If you just want a great set of over-ears that are comfortable enough, sound good enough, and cancel enough noise for the basics (air travel, a busy office, etc.), the WH-CH710N are a perfectly respectable option, and their price is great.

However, if you want what’s essentially one of the best pairs of consumer-facing headphones to hit the market in the last five years, we can’t recommend the WH-1000XM3 enough. They offer peerless comfort, amazing sound, and some of the best noise canceling you can buy.

Winner: Sony WH-1000XM3

Sony WH-1000XM4 vs WH-1000XM3: What’s the difference?

We compare the differences between the Sony WH-1000XM4 and XM3 over-ear headphones to help you decide which to buy.

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When it comes to wireless noise cancelling headphones, Sony has been at the top of its game for a number of years now.

Its 1000X series took many by surprise when first introduced, but are now considered to be among the best.

The latest generation, the Sony WH-1000XM4, comes with the most advanced features, but if your budget isn’t great is it still worth shopping around for the previous generation instead?

We compare the differences between the two to help you make that decision.

What’s different?

Visually, both the XM3 and XM4 headphones are very similar. However, there are some design tweaks for comfort, a new chip to improve active noise cancellation, and a few additional features that make it easier to interact with the outside world.

Support for a wider range of music technologies also makes a difference.

Design and build

Determining the differences between the Sony WH-1000XM4 and XM3 headphones visually is tough. They come in the similar colour options and share the same design notes.

But, the XM4s are more comfortable to wear. The earpads are 10 per cent larger, so softer. And the headband has slimmed to reduce weight, albeit fractionally.

There is also a smaller gap between the earcups and the arms, to ensure less audio bleed.

In all other regard, though, they are peas in a pod. Well built, robust and easy to wear for long periods.

Battery and charging

  • Sony WH-1000XM4: Up to 30 hours (NC), 38 hours (NC off), full charge in 3 hours, 5 hours worth in 10 minutes
  • Sony WH-1000XM3: Up to 30 hours (NC), 38 hours (NC off), full charge in 3 hours

Claimed battery life is the same on both headsets. up to 30 hours with noise cancelling switched on, 38 with it off. although the MX4 handles things a little differently that will make life easier.

Both can be charged from flat to full in around three hours, using USB-C. But, the XM4 is capable if being recharged for around five hours of playback with just 10 minutes of charge time.

In addition, the XM4 comes with a proximity sensor in the left earcup that, when coupled with internal motion sensors, can pause playback when you remove the ‘phones. Music will start again when you put them back on.

Alternatively, if you leave them off for 15 minutes, they will power down entirely.

Audio tech and ANC

  • Sony WH-1000XM4: 40mm dome type drivers, DSEE Extreme, QN1 processor, Bluetooth Audio
  • Sony WH-1000XM3: 40mm dome type drivers, DSEE HX, QN1 processor, aptX and aptX HD support

Both models use similar 40mm dome type driver units, but the way audio is processed is slightly improved in the new heaphones. especially when it comes to compressed file types.

While the WH-1000XM3s utilise DSEE HX tech to analyse and enhance MP3s and the like, making them sound closer to high-res, lossless alternatives, the XM4s up the ante by including the latest standard, DSEE Extreme. This uses Edge AI technology to better assess the parts of a track that have been affect due to the compression process and approximate the missing elements.

In short, while you might not notice unless really concentrating on each track, lossy tracks should sound better on the 1000XM4 over-ears.

In addition, while the QN1 processor returns to drive the adaptive noise cancellation tech, it is joined in the new model by a Bluetooth Audio SoC (system-on-chip) that is more accurate in determining external ambient noise and countering it. And, it is capable of making adjustments at 700 times per second.

Weirdly, it’s worth pointing out in the negative column that the XM4s do not support aptX and aptX HD for lossless streaming, favouring Sony’s proprietary LDAC instead.


  • Sony WH-1000XM4: High-res Audio support, 360 Reality Audio, Speak-to-chat, multipoint Bluetooth connectivity Sony WH-1000XM3: High-res Audio support, 360 Reality Audio

High res audio is supported by both sets of headphones, as well as 360 Reality Audio. Sony’s own virtual surround sound file type. And both devices are compatible with Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri voice control. However, there are several additional key features available on the 1000XM4.

Adaptive sound control is enhanced. While it can adjust the noise cancelling modes on both models automatically depending on your situation, you can now set favourite locations whereby the sound signature with adjust depending on GPS. For example, you can have the headphones automatically switch to ambient sound control when you reach work.

Speak-to-chat is only available on the MX4 too. It means that music playback will pause whenever you speak out loud. That allows you to have a conversation without having to remove the headphones first.

Finally, multipoint connection debuted on the 1000MX4. which supports Bluetooth 5.0 instead of Bluetooth 4.2 on the previous model. This means you can link the new headset to two separate devices at once and switch between them easily. And, if a call is received on the other, the headphones will automatically switch and prioritorise it.

Sony WH-CH710N

Price and conclusion

The Sony WH-1000XM4 retails for £350 in the UK, 350 in the US. the same price the previous model was originally launched at.

However, this could make the biggest decision for a purchase. deals on the WH-1000XM3 can make it more than £100/100 less, so while there are plenty of upgrades and enhancements available on the latest version, your budget might lead you to considering the former instead.

Either way, you are getting an excellent pair of ANC wireless headphones that will do you proud

Sony WH-1000XM4 vs Sony WH-1000XM3: Master or apprentice?

Sony has been high atop the active noise-cancelling (ANC) throne for years now, and it’s mainly thanks to the Sony WH-1000XM3. Competitors launch every few months with an eye on the crown, though none have dethroned Sony. Now it’s time to see if Sony’s latest flagship headset, the Sony WH-1000XM4, has the power to claim the top spot.

The two headsets look nearly identical — Sony hasn’t been too adventurous on that front — but the incremental improvements are not to be overlooked. Changes come with sacrifices, so you may ultimately find yourself reaching for the classic instead of the new hotness. Let’s break down both pairs to see which emerges on top.

About this versus: This comparison comes from the audio experts at our sister site SoundGuys. Check out their in-depth take on the Sony WH-1000XM3 vs Sony WH-1000XM4.

The Sony WH-1000XM4 offers the same features as the WH-1000XM3, and then some

Both pairs of noise-cancelling headphones offer touch controls on the right ear cup that let you play, pause, adjust the volume, and skip tracks with a series of taps and swipes. Controls have stayed largely the same, though the sensitivity is night and day. Where the Sony WH-1000XM3 was extremely sensitive and often suffered from accidental inputs, the WH-1000XM4 is the opposite. Adam Molina, our reviewer, found the touch controls unresponsive, so much so that he avoided them when possible.

Both headsets are tied when it comes to software features afforded by the Sony Headphones Connect app (available on iOS and Android). You may create EQ profiles, or use presets, and can tap into Sony 360 Reality Audio. Sony’s app is also a must-have if you want to create noise-cancelling profiles for different environments or prioritize connection stability over sound quality.

One of the new tricks we referred to is the speak-to-chat function, which pauses your playback any time you speak. It works well — maybe too well — as playback often paused if Adam laughed too hard at a joke on a podcast. This may be disabled in the app if you find it interrupts media playback too often.

The Sony WH-1000XM4 also features a bevy of added sensors that detect whether or not you’re wearing the headset. Playback stops as soon as the sensors recognize that you’ve removed the headset, which turns out to be the quickest way to stop the music.

The Sony WH-1000XM4 differs on connectivity

While the features are mostly the same between the Sony WH-1000XM3 and WH-1000XM4, the connectivity options offer a real head-to-head. The new pair is updated with Bluetooth 5.0 firmware and supports multipoint connections and high-quality AAC and LDAC codecs. Unfortunately, multipoint only works with AAC — not Sony’s own LDAC — but at least it’s easy to switch between devices.

Sony’s older WH-1000XM3 is stuck back on Bluetooth 4.2, though it supports the aptX codec, which is a plus for Android users: it’s more consistent across devices than LDAC. Despite that handy perk, multipoint is nowhere to be found, so if you want to switch devices, you have to do so manually by disconnecting from one before connecting to the next.

Deciding which pair wins the connection quality battle relies on what phone is in your Apple users will probably prefer the Sony WH-1000XM4 for the multipoint connectivity, and aptX isn’t a necessity for iPhones. However, Android users may be tempted to grab the older WH-1000XM3 as AAC isn’t great on non-Apple devices.

Both headsets pair via NFC, so you should be able to update your connection by holding your phone up to the ear cup. Sony also kept the 3.5mm jack on both pairs so you can listen without worrying about battery life.

The Sony WH-1000XM3 leads in battery life

Sony boasts that both pairs can achieve an impressive 30-hours of battery life — and we found this to be not quite true in either case. We found that the new Sony WH-1000XM4 clocked in at shy of 20 hours, which is still solid playback. Not to be outdone, the older Sony WH-1000XM3 lasted 24 hours on a single charge to take the crown. Our tests are performed with playback set to a 75dB output with noise-cancelling intensity maxed out.

While Sony may have slightly exaggerated the battery life, remember that you can squeeze a bit more playback out of either pair by deactivating ANC or listening at a lower volume. Either way, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a pair of wireless earbuds that last 20 hours.

Which pair offers superior noise-cancelling?

The Sony WH-1000XM3 held down the fort for several years with a combination of active noise-cancelling and a good ear cup seal. For the WH-1000XM4 to outperform them, it would indicate that Sony made the best even better. The true test is how well headphones filter out low-end sound, as most high-frequency sounds can be counteracted by passive isolation.

Our tests found that the Sony WH-1000XM4 does indeed offer superior noise-cancelling. It peaks around 200Hz, which means that it should offer great — or, as Adam put it, pristine — noise-cancelling if you often find yourself commuting on a bus or plane.

Accurate sound or consumer-friendly comfort?

Don’t get us wrong, both the Sony WH-1000XM3 and WH-1000XM4 sound great. They’re accurate across the entire sound spectrum, and just about any music will sound spot-on and accurate. However, the two pairs are not identical in their sound emphasis. The WH-1000XM4 offers a neutral-leaning sound, while the WH-1000XM3 boosts the bass by around 5dB, which makes a perceptible difference. Ultimately, this means that drums and bass guitars will sound a bit louder on the older pair, and it might be the go-to for EDM lovers.

We’re not complaining about the difference at all, just highlighting that the sound profiles cater to different listeners. The bass boost might lend itself to the average consumer, especially if you don’t feel the need to tinker with each and every setting. Audiophiles may lean towards the neutral sound of the WH-1000XM4, but you can always set up a custom EQ in the Headphones Connect App. Doing so, though, defaults you to SBC streaming.

The Sony WH-1000XM3 microphone may have been once and done

We were impressed by the WH-1000XM3 microphone when it launched, but it wasn’t perfect. In all fairness, internal microphones sacrifice sound quality for a compact design. Unfortunately, Sony seems to have forgotten what it did right as the WH-1000XM4’s mic system sounds more pedestrian.

The new headset de-emphasizes the bass range while boosting the high-frequency sounds, which means that deeper voices will come through on the quiet side. It’s likely an attempt to thwart the proximity effect, but we miss the older microphone setup.

If you’re just planning to make phone calls, it should be fine, but we’d have liked to see another good microphone. This is something Sony could improve with future software updates, as we saw Shure do with its Aonic 50 headset. Give each pair a listen down below and decide for yourself:

Sony WH-1000XM4 vs. WH-1000XM3: Which noise-cancelling headphones win?

The Sony WH-1000XM4 is the best noise-cancelling headphones set, but is it that much of an upgrade from the WH-1000XM3?

The Sony WH-1000XM4 sits atop our list of the best noise-cancelling headphones for good reason. It’s the complete package, combining effective active noise cancellation (ANC) with top-quality sound, a comfortable design and long battery life.

Is it, however, enough of a step up from the Sony WH-1000XM3? This, too, was perched among the best ANC headphone money can buy, and you can still pick up a pair for a lower price today. Is that a wiser course of action than buying the newer model, even the limited edition WH-1000XM4 Silent White model?

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This WH-1000XM4 vs. WH-1000XM3 face-off breaks down all of the significant changes and hallmarks of Sony’s flagship headphone lineup. We tested the two models over the span of three weeks to determine whether the WH-1000XM4 is a massive upgrade from its predecessor, and if it’s worth spending the extra cash.

Blind Test: Sony WH-1000XM4 vs Sony WH-1000XM3

Sony WH-1000XM4 vs. Sony WH-1000XM3 specs

PriceColorsBattery life (rated)SizeWeightProcessorSpecial features
349 (currently 284) 349 (currently 199)
Black, Silver (White from May 2021) Black, Silver
30 hours (ANC on), 38 hours (ANC off) 30 hours (ANC on), 38 hours (ANC off)
9.9 x 7.3 x 3 inches 10.4 x 7.3 x 2.9 inches
9 ounces 9 ounces
Active noise cancellation, adjustable ambient listening, Smart controls, tri-digital assistant support, multipoint technology, Speak-To-Chat functionality, customizable EQ, NFC, High-res Audio support, Sony 360 Reality Audio Active noise cancellation, adjustable ambient listening, Smart controls, tri-digital assistant support, customizable EQ, NFC, High-res Audio support, Sony 360 Reality Audio

Sony WH-1000XM4 vs. WH-1000XM3: Price and value

Both the Sony WH-1000xM4 and WH-1000xM3 technically have the same MSRP of 349. But the WH-1000XM3 is now seeing far deeper discounts. At the time of writing, you can grab a pair for just 199 from Walmart.

If you’re in a position to splurge, then spending extra on the WH-1000XM4 is the best investment you can make on noise-cancelling headphones. On affordability alone, however, the WH-1000XM3 has a clear advantage.

Winner: Sony WH-1000XM3

Sony WH-1000XM4 vs. WH-1000XM3: Design

Place these two headphones right next to each other — with or without the box — and you’re likely to mistake one for the other. But when worn and felt in hand, you’ll see the Mark series design has been slightly enhanced on the WH-1000XM4, while maintaining the original’s sophisticated silhouette.

Solid materials make up the latest version, from the durable aluminum extenders to the refined leather on the headband and earpads that provide cozy comfort for all-day listening. Sony claims it redesigned the WH-1000XM4’s ear cups to provide 10% greater surface for more contact with the head. The extra room adds another layer of comfort, while offering more ventilation to prevent moisture buildup.

Some of you will notice the difference in texture on the ear cups, which was more plasticky on the WH-1000XM3 compared to the soft-touch rubber finish on the WH-1000XM4 that also staves off scratches and scuffs better. Small details like the copper accents, embossed Sony logos, and laser-etched model number above each extender are elegant touches as well.

These two headphones are a bit on the hefty side at roughly 9 ounces, though neither really feels like it when worn on the head or around the neck. I would recommend limiting listening times to about 3 hours before fatigue starts setting in.

Fit is marginally better on the WH-1000XM4, which can be attributed to the slimmer headband. It applies less pressure to the skull and ears, plus the padding is gentler on the skin, though it’s barely noticeable when compared to the WH-1000XM3.

Winner: Sony WH-1000XM4

Sony WH-1000XM4 vs. WH-1000XM3: Smart controls

One of the WH-1000XM3’s biggest strengths was its Smart controls. The WH-1000XM4 adds more intelligibility into the mix, while retaining the smooth-operating functions of the previous version.

Each model has highly intuitive touch panels that accept swipe, slide, and tap gestures for seamless playback and call management. Competitors like the Bose 700 have copied this feature, but haven’t done it as well as the Mark series. Quick Attention returns as well, letting you pause music by placing your hand over the right earcup. I detected some slight latency when enabling it on the WH-1000XM3 versus the WH-1000XM4.

The WH-1000XM4 has a couple of unique advantages. The first is on-ear detection. Internal motion sensors allow you to automatically pause music when taking off the headphones and resume play when placing them back on your head. It’s accurate and highly responsive to motion.

Another unique function on the WH-1000XM4 is Speak-to-Chat, which also pauses music whenever you speak. It uses the built-in mics and advanced signal processing to recognize your voice and immediately stop playback. It works a lot better than you might think and demonstrates great speech recognition.

These two models also support the big three assistants: Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri. You won’t have issues calling on any of these digital assistants to execute common tasks (e.g. create calendar invites, open emails, speech-to-text) since the mics pick up vocals well and register commands quickly.

Winner: Sony WH-1000XM4

Sony WH-1000XM4 vs. WH-1000XM3: Active noise cancellation

Based on testing, I could barely tell the difference in noise neutralization between the two models. What I do know is that the WH-1000XM4 and WH-1000XM3 are equally excellent for minimizing ambient noise at the highest level.

The monstrous duo of Sony’s Dual Noise Sensor technology and HD Noise Cancelling Processor QN1 are legit, enhancing ANC and audio processing to enjoy music distraction-free.

Each set of headphones can handle different frequencies across the audio spectrum, so you’ll be able to block out everything from cat meows to crying babies, airplane engines to police sirens. Any perceptible noises you hear will sound like background effects on songs. And even when dealing with numerous high-frequency sounds at once (e.g. picture walking through a construction site), it isn’t distracting enough to pull you away from the music.

Sony also programmed its own Ambient Sound mode into the two sets of headphones and has 20 levels that can be adjusted in the Sony Headphones app. However, it seems like more of a consolation prize when compared to the Bose 700’s 10 levels of active noise cancellation, but with the feature being more common these days, it’s an underrated bonus that works very well to keep tabs on what is happening around you.

The difference in ANC between the two models is imperceptible, though I felt it was slightly stronger on the WH-1000XM4. I turned on Ambient Sound in my co-occupied office with my fiancée sitting several feet away and could hear everything she was chatting about during her Zoom calls.

Winner: Sony WH-1000XM4

Sony WH-1000XM4 vs. WH-1000XM3: Audio quality

If loud, clear, and energetic sound is your desire, then these two headphones are right up your alley. True audiophiles or those with fine-tuned hearing may pick up on the tiniest enhancements in audio quality, but the WH-1000XM4 and WH-1000XM3 have the same hardware underneath their hoods to pump out dynamic, head-pulsating sonics.

Sony’s 40mm dome type drivers and QN1 chip are the driving forces behind the two concurrent Mark models. You can expect a wide soundstage with amazing detail and depth, along with bass that doesn’t hold back, nor damage your hearing. Sony has done a stellar job balancing sound on both headphones, providing plenty of boom and room to hear subtle nuances in complex records. Having ANC mode enabled doesn’t hinder performance either, with mids and highs still sounding crisp.

The bass levels are slightly raised on the WH-1000XM4, which you’ll notice most on hip-hop songs; kicks and snares have more oomph to them. Jumping into more melodic genres like Classical and Jazz, performance is similar between the two over-ear headphones. You can feel the impact and hear the distinction in certain instruments, resulting in accurate reproduction.

Listening in wired mode is just as rewarding. Sony includes a headphone cable with purchase; it’s the same cable no matter which headphone you choose. Plugging it into any compatible audio source will slightly increase the bass and volume levels.

Winner: Sony WH-1000XM4

Sony WH-1000XM4 vs. WH-1000XM3: App and special features

Most of the features on the Sony Headphones Connect app are available on either set of cans, but the WH-1000xM4 has access to a few new ones. You still get a customizable EQ with 9 different (and well-engineered) music presets, 3D Reality Audio support, adjustable ambient levels, Adaptive Sound Control, NC Optimizer to modify noise cancellation, Sound Position Control to emphasize sound in different positions, and toggle controls.

What’s new? Aside from the aforementioned features (e.g. Speak-to-Chat, NC Optimizer), and multipoint technology (more on that in the connectivity section), nothing else. The mobile app remains easy to navigate and looks cleaner with the latest update. There’s also the possibility of extra features being added in the future via firmware updates, though Sony hasn’t confirmed whether this will apply to both models.

Winner: Sony WH-1000XM4

Sony WH-1000XM4 Review & WH-1000XM3 Comparison

Sony WH-1000XM4 vs. WH-1000XM3: Battery life and charging

The beauty of the best Sony headphones is that they don’t short-change the listener on playtime. These two models are exemplary. At full charge, the WH-1000XM4 and WH-1000XM3 offer 30 hours with ANC on, which is really about 28.5 hours when factoring in loud volume, listening modes, heavy streaming and video calls. Turning off ANC gets you up to 38 hours. It’s also cool that you can use either pair of headphones in wired mode, with the listening modes activated.

That’s pretty impressive, especially since both models have different charging methods: micro-USB (WH-1000XM3) vs. Type-C (WH-1000XM4). It takes 3 hours to fully charge either pair. Quick charging is also rated the same. A 10-minute charge yields you 5 hours of playtime.

After three weeks of testing, there were no distinctions. Both models charged and sucked up juice at the same rate.

Winner: Tie

Sony WH-1000XM4 vs. WH-1000XM3: Call quality

Call quality is the one area the Mark series continues to struggle with most. Despite the WH-1000XM4 being a step in the right direction, Sony still needs to put more work in to create a great calling headset. Precise Voice Pickup makes voices sound louder and more audible, but not so crisp; whoever is on the other end will notice some muffling when you’re speaking. The headphones do work better for video calls, mainly indoors since the volume levels aren’t very high.

Avoid phone calls on the WH-1000XM3 due to these same issues, and poor wind resistance. The mics pick up breezes and any other sounds around you, creating an unbearable whooshing effect that is harsh on your ears. Even being in my office during a video chat with the rotating ceiling fan set at the lowest level created unwanted noise.

Winner: Sony WH-1000XM4

Sony WH-1000XM4 vs. WH-1000XM3: Connectivity

Sony stuffed an NFC chip into each model, letting you connect either headphone through a simple touch and pair process that requires placing the left earcup on the back of any compatible smartphone. It’s instantaneous, saves you a few steps, and will automatically turn on Bluetooth when disabled.

Being the newer model, the WH-1000XM4 benefits from having Bluetooth 5.0, while the WH-1000XM3 has Bluetooth 4.2. Interestingly enough, there is very little difference in wireless performance. You’re getting strong connectivity between devices and stable range (35 to 40 feet) to stream Spotify and take calls when roaming around the house.

But there is one deciding factor in this round: multipoint technology. It’s exclusive to the WH-1000XM4 and works very well. I loved being connected to my MacBook Pro and Google Pixel 3 XL simultaneously, while switching audio programs from one device to another without the headphones getting all buggy on me. It’s also great to see which devices you’re connected to directly on the Sony Headphones app.

Winner: Sony WH-1000XM4

Sony WH-1000XM4 vs. WH-1000XM3: Verdict

Granted, the changes made to the WH-1000XM4 are minimal, But they’re certainly beneficial to the overall experience, and worth the added expense if you’re seeking headphones that offer the best 1-2 punch for sound and noise cancelling.

Audio on the WH-1000XM4 is unmatched by any model in the category, producing dynamic and lively sound that lends itself perfectly to any music genre. Sony’s active noise cancellation, which gives Bose a run for its money, is also remarkable at silencing environmental fracas. But it’s the small upgrades that give the WH-1000XM4 a leg up over its older sibling, which includes the redesigned frame, multipoint connectivity, Precise Voice Pickup technology, and yes, the bearable call quality.

All that being said, the WH-1000XM3 shares many of the same hallmarks as the WH-1000XM4, at least on the ANC, battery life and sonic fronts. Scoring a pair for less than 250 should be a no-brainer. However, the incremental advancements Sony applied to its next-gen headphones, along with the likeliness of new features to come via firmware updates, make the WH-1000XM4 the more future-proof option and justify the higher price tag.

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