Despite the headphone market being more saturated with brands than many other tech categories, choosing the best pair to buy isn’t all that hard of a decision.
The people who notice those little differences in sound depth and detail — and people who can actually tell when noise cancellation is working — know that only a handful of pairs are even in the running (given that you’ve already decided against AirPods, obviously). Sony’s 1000XM3 headphones from 2018 were already competitive with the best from Bose and Bowers & Wilkins.
Every other audio brand was likely shaking in its boots when the Sony 1000XM4 headphones officially came out at the end of August 2020. Now that they’re less than $300 and come with a $25 gift card for Prime Day (at both Amazon and Best Buy), it’s game over.
A head-to-head match with Bose’s newest offering, the Bose 700, was inevitable. Whathifi declared the 1000XM4 as the winner in categories like battery life, sound quality, and AI features. Design and fit and noise cancellation were both draws, and the Bose 700 only won in the category of price — a non-issue during Prime Day sales. (The Bose pair are currently $80 more expensive than the Sony pair. Just saying.) The better overall pick is pretty clear.
The next generation of 1000XM introduces DSEE Extreme: Sony’s propriety Digital Sound Enhancement Engine that automatically upscales compressed digital audio files to dramatically revs sound quality in real-time, depending on the instruments or genre. Sony’s most noticeable sound wins come through in bass and punchy detail that somehow manages to be eloquent at the same time. It’s no aptx HD, but Sony’s support of the LDAC codec allows for triple the wireless data over regular Bluetooth, as well as newfound support for connections on multiple devices.
Like AirPods, the 1000XM4 can sense their position and stop playing when you’ve taken them off. Most headphones have some sort of quick-touch mode that lowers sound during conversations, but the 1000XM4’s Speak-to-Chat feature knows when you’re talking and pauses on its own.