Sony WF-1000XM4 vs Apple AirPods Pro: how the best wireless earbuds compare to the best AirPods

We’ve topped the Sony WF-1000XM4 one of the best true wi-fi earbuds you should buy immediately – however how do they stack up towards one of the best AirPods in the marketplace, the Apple AirPods Professional?

In some respects, these fashions are evenly matched, with each providing lively noise cancellation, related battery lives, wi-fi charging, and comfy designs. 

Nonetheless, there are some important variations between the 2, when it comes to audio efficiency and connectivity. So, which wi-fi earbuds are finest for you? So, earlier than you make the leap, right here’s every little thing it is advisable to learn about Sony and Apple’s high noise-cancelling earbuds.

Sony WF-1000XM4 vs Apple AirPods Professional: value and availability

The Sony WF-1000XM4 have been launched in June 2021 and price $279.99 / £250 / AU$449.95. That makes them slightly pricier than their predecessors, the Sony WF-1000XM3, which value $230 / £220 / AU$399 at launch, however are actually often accessible with a reduction. For the reason that WF-1000XM4 are so new, you’re unlikely to search out them for much less proper now.

The Apple AirPods Professional are the older of the 2 pairs of wi-fi earbuds, having launched in 2019 for $249 / £249 / AU$399. Whereas it’s doable to search out offers that reduce the AirPods Professional value slightly, it’s uncommon to search out important reductions. 

Should you’re within the US or Australia, the AirPods Professional are the cheaper possibility right here. Within the UK, nonetheless, there’s no value distinction between the Apple earbuds and the newer Sony WF-1000XM4, except you could find an ideal AirPods Professional deal. 

As we speak’s finest Apple AirPods Professional and Sony WF-1000XM4 Wi-fi Earbuds offers

Sony WF-1000XM4 vs Apple AirPods Professional: design

The Sony WF-1000XM4 and the AirPods Professional characterize the 2 fundamental kinds of true wi-fi earbuds: items that include protruding ear stems such because the AirPods Professional, and those who don’t such because the WF-1000XM4. 

Which kind you favor will typically come down to private choice; some individuals love the design-led look of the AirPods Professional, whereas others will favor the extra delicate look of Sony’s wi-fi earbuds.

Let’s begin with the Sony WF-1000XM4. These buds are smaller than their predecessors, with rounded housings and a alternative of polyurethane eartips. The charging case is sufficiently compact to slide right into a pocket, and is charged by way of the USB-C port across the again – or utilizing a wi-fi charging mat. 

The floor of every earbud is touch-sensitive, permitting you to regulate music playback, and you’ll assign completely different controls by way of the Sony Headphones app. Attainable controls embrace ‘quantity up/down’, ‘play/pause/skip forwards/skip backwards/summon voice assistant’, and ‘lively noise-cancelling on/off/adaptive’.

The AirPods Professional look very completely different from the WF-1000XM4, with protruding stems that characteristic capacitive drive sensors – squeezing these areas will activate noise-cancelling / Transparency mode, or skip and pause tracks. 

In contrast to the unique AirPods, the AirPods Professional are provided with a collection of silicone ideas, making it simpler to discover a comfy match. Just like the Sony earbuds, the slim charging case may be topped up by way of the USB-C port or a wi-fi charging mat. 

Each fashions include an IPX4 water-resistance ranking, which implies they’ll fortunately survive a sweaty exercise – however not a dip within the pool. 

A woman pressing one of the Sony WF-1000XM4 earbuds

(Picture credit score: Sony)

Sony WF-1000XM4 vs Apple AirPods Professional: audio efficiency

When it comes to audio efficiency, the Sony WF-1000XM4s are the winner, hands-down. They characteristic a balanced, driving sound that shows wonderful element and rhythmic agility. 

In addition they incorporate the DSEE Excessive audio upscaling first seen within the over-ear Sony WH-1000XM4 (AKA one of the best headphones you should buy in 2021), which have been designed to extract high-resolution sound from standard-definition digital audio information. 

On that notice, the Sony earbuds assist hi-res audio playback, because of the corporate’s bespoke LDAC codec – though aptX assist is lacking right here.

That’s to not say that the Apple AirPods Professional’s sound is horrible by comparability. Actually, they provide a much-improved audio efficiency in comparison with their predecessors, with a energetic sound and wealthy mid-low frequencies. 

Nonetheless, they simply can’t compete with the Sony earbuds for element or management. As well as,  with no assist for hi-res audio, you gained’t be capable of make the most of high-quality music streams – which is a puzzling omission on condition that Apple Music has simply added hi-res audio to its platform at no additional value to subscribers. 

Saying that, as of a current firmware replace the AirPods Professional do now characteristic Spatial Audio, which brings Dolby Atmos immersive audio to the true wi-fi earbuds.

You’ll want an Apple gadget with iOS 14 or iPadOS 14 to take benefit, as effectively a streaming service that helps 5.1, 7.1, or Atmos. Stereo content material will also be transformed to Spatial Audio so long as the streaming service has enabled a particular plugin for stereo spatialization. 

Whereas the Sony WF-1000XM4 do assist Dolby Atmos and Sony’s 360 Actuality Audio, they lack the built-in accelerometers that permit the AirPods Professional to trace your head actions, which is without doubt one of the causes Spatial Audio is so profitable at replicating 3D sound. 

A closeup of the AirPods Pro in a person's ear

(Picture credit score: Shutterstock)

Sony WF-1000XM4 vs Apple AirPods Professional: noise cancellation

The Sony WF-1000XM4 and the AirPods Professional are pretty evenly matched with regards to noise cancellation. Each units are able to blocking out a good quantity of environmental sound, however neither can beat the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds on this space. 

One trick that the Sony earbuds have up their sleeves is adaptive noise cancellation. Along with your permission, the WF-1000XM4 can study the place you’re utilizing geo-location entry, and apply your most popular stage of noise cancellation or ambient sound passthrough relying on the place you’re. So, for instance, at house you could favor a completely cancelled noise mode, whereas within the workplace you should still need to have the ability to hear voices.

The AirPods Professional, then again, use two microphones for inner and exterior sound evaluation. The previous displays the audio high quality within the ear to see if the music you’re taking part in sounds because it ought to, altering it accordingly utilizing an algorithm. The latter cancels out background sound, and creates a much more serene listening surroundings.

We will’t consider how effectively the algorithm that displays sound inside your ear really works, since there’s no technique to flip it on and off – however the lively noise cancellation has a powerful and noticeable impact. 

Each Sony and Apple’s earbuds include a transparency mode – Sony calls this Ambient Sound Management – that lets you faucet into your environment by mixing outdoors noise into no matter you’re listening to.

A man talking on the phone using the Sony WF-1000XM4 wireless earbuds

(Picture credit score: Sony)

Sony WF-1000XM4 vs Apple AirPods Professional: battery life

Battery life is one other space the place the Sony WF-1000XM4 and AirPods Professional are just about on an equal footing. Each fashions supply a 24-hour battery life, however how that’s cut up between the earbuds themselves and their charging circumstances differs barely. 

The Sony earbuds supply between eight and 12 hours of playback from the earbuds, (relying on whether or not lively noise cancellation is on or off), plus one other couple of fees within the case. 

In the meantime, the AirPods Professional supply 5 hours of listening (that’s with noise cancelling or Transparency mode off; you’ll get 4 and a half hours with it on), or three and a half hours in case you’re utilizing the AirPods Professional as a hands-free mic for making/taking calls.

Neither mannequin affords class-leading battery life, then. The Cambridge Audio Melomania Plus, for instance, ship as much as 45 hours of playback – though these buds lack ANC, which is usually a actual drain on battery life.

A person placing one AirPods Pro earbud in their ear

(Picture credit score: Apple)

Sony WF-1000XM4 vs Apple AirPods Professional: connectivity

The Sony WF-1000XM4 include Bluetooth 5.2 connectivity, and assist for LDAC, SBC, and AAC codecs. The AirPods Professional use the marginally older Bluetooth 5 transmission customary. 

Because of this, the Sony earbuds are the earbuds to decide on if you would like the newest in connectivity expertise – but it surely’s the AirPods Professional which might be the victor when it comes to what they will really do with that expertise. 

The AirPods Professional are completely optimized to be used with different Apple merchandise, with options reminiscent of auto-switching permitting the buds to detect the gadget you’re utilizing and join robotically. They’ll additionally quickly supply the flexibility to announce notifications by way of Siri, which is coming with iOS 15. 

Dialog Increase – one other characteristic that will probably be launched with the newest iPhone working system – amplifies the sound of the particular person you’re chatting with in a face-to-face dialog. It’s doubtlessly a really helpful characteristic for these with listening to impairments, or for anybody attempting to listen to a buddy in a loud surroundings. 


Since we’ve topped the Sony WF-1000XM4 one of the best true wi-fi earbuds you should buy immediately, you may need thought that deciding between them and the AirPods Professional is a no brainer. 

Nonetheless, this isn’t the case. Whereas we imagine the Sony WF-1000XM4 are one of the best all-rounders, there are some situations the place the Apple earbuds stands out as the better option. 

For instance, in case you use quite a lot of Apple merchandise, you’ll profit from the straightforward pairing afforded by the AirPods Professional, in addition to their skill to combine into your wider Apple ecosystem and supply assist for Spatial Audio. 

They’re barely cheaper than the Sony WF-1000XM4 (within the US and Australia, a minimum of), too, with occasional reductions making the AirPods Professional much more reasonably priced than they’d be in any other case. 

If pure audio high quality is the precedence, we’d suggest the Sony WF-1000XM4. Nonetheless, since they’re evenly matched with the AirPods Professional when it comes to ANC and battery life, you’re left with a toss up between sound efficiency and complete connectivity.