Sony WF-1000XM4 vs AirPods Pro: which wireless earbuds should you buy?
Are Apple's premier earbuds better than the outstanding Sony WF-1000XM4 buds? We took a closer look to help you make the right purchase.
Wireless earbuds are a must-have tech accessory right now. Music, podcasts, and calls on the go are made easier than ever — and if you want a good pair, you could do much worse than the Apple AirPods Pro or the Sony WF-1000XM4 earbuds. But which is better?
They're both top-rated pairs of earbuds that have impressed our experts during testing, but there are one or two key differences that will make them more, or less, suited to your needs. We'll be dissecting these in detail and helping you find the latest deals on these well-loved earbuds.
First off, it's worth noting that — as ever with Apple — the AirPods Pro work best when used alongside other Apple products. To get all of their features to work straight out of the box, you'll need to pair them with an iPhone, iPad, or other Apple device.
Bear in mind also that these are both premium sets of earbuds. If you're looking for something more affordable, check out our best budget wireless earbuds page. That said, both pairs of earbuds have seen significant discounts since November last year, thanks to the price slashing that took place in the Black Friday sales. Some of those reduced prices stuck and currently both the AirPods Pro and the Sony WF-1000XM4 are available for less than the circa £250 they both originally demanded.
More like this
- AirPods Pro vs Sony WF-1000XM4: key differences at a glance
- AirPods Pro vs Sony WF-1000XM4: features
- AirPods Pro vs Sony WF-1000XM4: sound quality
- AirPods Pro vs Sony WF-1000XM4: value for money
- AirPods Pro vs Sony WF-1000XM4: set up
- AirPods Pro vs Sony WF-1000XM4: design
- Which wireless earbuds should you buy?
- How to buy
- AirPods Pro are more feature-packed when used in conjunction with other Apple products, like the iPhone 13.
- The Sony WF-1000XM4 offer some of the best sound quality available from any wireless earbud on the market.
- AirPods Pro only come in white. The Sony earbuds are available in black or silver.
AirPods Pro vs Sony WF-1000XM4 in detail
Both have active noise cancellation (ANC) and that's often an elevating feature for top-end earbuds, but increasingly some affordable buds carry ANC too. For example, the Earfun Free Pro 2 cost just £69.99 and have ANC, but can't boast quite the level of sound quality we see in these offerings from Sony and Apple.
Both sets of earbuds also have touch controls, silicone ear tips, and an IPX 4 rating sweat resistance — making them solid companions for going running. In more sophisticated news, both sets of buds also offer settings that can analyse the shape of your ear and tailor your listening experience to suit — to some extent.
In terms of battery life, the AirPods Pro manage 4.5 hours on a single charge (reducing to 3.5 if you're heavy on calls) and the Sony buds offer a much more impressive 8 hours on a single charge — that's a clear win for Sony.
The Sony WF-1000XM4 are some of the best wireless earbuds we've heard in terms of sound quality. They're an absolute joy to listen to, rendering bass, mid-tones, and top-end frequencies with equal accuracy and vigour. They're perfect for music and podcasts and work well in both ambient and ANC mode. For more detail on the sound quality of the Sony earbuds take a look at our full Sony WF-1000XM4 review.
Comparatively, our reviewers said they were "pleasantly surprised" by the sound quality of the AirPods Pro. That's obviously positive, but not exactly what you want to hear when you're paying around £200 for a pair of wireless earbuds.
Both sets of earbuds have a good volume range and perform well across different genres, but the Sony buds definitely had the edge in terms of crisp, accurate, well-rounded sound.
As we've already discussed, these are both premium-end options, so neither of these sets of earbuds is cheap. That doesn't mean they can't be good value though. As mentioned in the sound quality section, the Apple and Sony earbuds both deliver impressive sound, to a level not available from many manufacturers.
If you're pairing your earbuds with an iPhone then set-up is a crucial win for the AirPods Pro. It just couldn't be simpler. You'll have them out of the box and paired in seconds. With an Android phone, it takes a few moments longer and some button pressing, but there are no major issues.
Conversely, the Sony earbuds require you to install a dedicated app and go through a comparatively lengthy set-up process. However, it's still pretty simple and the app does gift the user some extra settings and customisation to play around with when it's all sorted.
We liked the design of both of the cases of these earbuds. Compared to some more tacky-feeling competitors, there is obvious build quality and a tangible, satisfying feeling of quality to both sets of buds. They're both small enough cases to be easily pocketable too.
Of course, the actual look of the earbuds is very much a subjective decision as to which you prefer. We liked the styling of the black Sony earbuds but thought they stuck out a little oddly from the ears when in use.
Conversely, the bright 'look at me' shade of white on the AirPods Pro won't be for everyone, but they sit in the ear in a slightly more conventional way.
That said, when it comes to the in-ear fit of the earbuds — which is far more important than their looks if you plan to listen to them for extended periods — both excel. We found the AirPods Pro to be snug and compact and while the Sony buds were less compact, they fitted fantastically well during testing. Both are ideal for work-outs and can manage reasonably well on runs, despite the lack of a wing-tip fitting.
However, our reviewers did find that the AirPods Pro became slightly uncomfortable after about three hours of listening. This will vary from user to user, but we experienced no such issues with the Sony buds.
AirPods Pro vs Sony WF-1000XM4: which should you buy?
Overall, we have to favour the Sony WF-1000XM4 thanks entirely to their catchy name.
We jest, but they are the best pair of earbuds in this head-to-head. They stand well ahead of the AirPods Pro in terms of sound quality and battery life, which are arguably the two most important elements when it comes to a pair of wireless earbuds. Elsewhere, there are no clear wins for the AirPods Pro over the Sony offering.
The only real reason to pick the AirPods Pro over the Sony WF-1000XM4 is if you're a dyed-in-the-wool Apple fan and already have several Apple devices. If so, the AirPods Pro will work seamlessly with them. However, our recommendation is the Sony buds – it's worth spending that little bit extra.
Thankfully both sets of earbuds have tumbled in price, down from the £249 both the Apple and Sony buds released at. Take a look at the links below for the latest deals on both options.
- Sony WF-1000XM4 |
£250£186.67 at Amazon
- Sony WF-1000XM4 | £229 at Currys
- Sony WF-1000XM4 | £229 at Argos