Sony WF-1000XM5 vs AirPods Pro: There’s one clear winner

If you’ve ever tried Sony WF-1000XM4 or WF-1000XM5 wireless noise cancelling earbuds, you know that they’re among the best earbuds that have ever existed. It’s incredible that Sony managed to pack the best sound quality and the best ANC tech into these compact little earphones. The best comes at a price, though, and Sony’s flagship earbuds are fairly expensive at $200 or $300, depending on which model you get. Whichever Sony earbuds you pick, however, you can rest assured that they’ll blow AirPods Pro out of the water.

I’ve tested every pair of premium ANC earbuds on the market, so I know what I’m talking about. AirPods Pro are great, and I use a pair myself. But these days, I use them mainly for voice calls, Facetime calls, and Zooms since they switch between my Mac and iPhone so seamlessly. When it comes time to listen to music or audiobooks, I pick up my Sony WF-1000XM5 earbuds instead. They have better sound quality, much better active noise cancellation, and even better battery life. And right now, they’re on sale for $248 instead of $300. Or, if you want to spend even less, previous-gen WF-1000XM4 earbuds that still beat AirPods Pro are down to $120 renewed.

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Anyone who knows anything about the headphones market knows that Sony’s wireless noise cancelling headphones are widely believed to be the best in the business. They combine class-leading active noise cancellation technology with phenomenal sound quality.

Sony outclasses all of its rivals, according to so many reviewers and consumers.

That was true with the previous-generation WF-1000XM4 in-ear headphones. And it’s also true with the newer Sony WF-1000XM5 wireless noise cancelling earbuds. This big upgrade features key improvements in every important area.

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Key improvements

Sony WF-1000XM4 CaseImage source: Christian de Looper for BGR

WF-1000XM4 earbuds were already so impressive. It’s actually hard to believe that Sony somehow managed to improve upon them. Yet the newer Sony WF-1000XM5 model offers better sound quality, better ANC performance, and the same great battery life despite being much smaller and lighter.

Here’s a rundown of the key upgrades that Sony WF-1000XM5 earbuds offer compared to the XM4 model:

  • All-new smaller and lighter design
  • More compact charging case that still offers 24-hour battery life
  • Better sound quality with new custom drivers
  • Better bass response
  • Upgraded noise cancelling tech and additional mics
  • Bluetooth 5.3 instead of Bluetooth 5.2
  • Multipoint connectivity for better switching between devices
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Sony WF-1000XM5 deep dive

Compared to the XM4 earbuds, Sony’s new WF-1000XM5 features even better noise cancelling tech, as well as improved sound quality and dramatically improved Passive Isolation. But the biggest improvement is perhaps the design, since the newer XM5 earbuds are so much more compact than the older WF-1000XM4 model. They also have a more comfortable fit.

On the flip side, some people have complained that the newer XM5 ANC earbuds sound a bit more synthetic than the previous-generation model. To my ear, Sony’s WF-1000XM5 have fantastic sound quality. I do find that the bass is a bit fuller on the XM4 earbuds though, which makes sense since they’re much larger in size.

The one change I don’t like very much on the WF-1000XM5 model is the switch to glossy plastic. The matte finish of the XM4 earbuds looks much better to me, especially in black. Thankfully, my XM5 buds are silver, so it’s less noticeable.

Overall, most people agree that the WF-1000XM5 earbuds look, feel, and sound better than the older model. Still, the XM5 model might be a tough sell when you can get WF-1000XM4 earbuds for much less right now. At least the Sony WF-1000XM5 are on sale for $248, so that helps make up some of the difference.

If you want to spend as little as possible, you’ll get renewed XM4 earbuds instead, which start at $120 right now. In either case, rest assured that your new Sony buds will blow AirPods Pro out of the water.

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