The best Sony headphones in 2023

Sony WH-1000XM4
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The best Sony headphones show one of the most established audio manufacturers at the top of its game. Whether it’s a compact pair of wireless earbuds or a noise-cancelling model that are also the best over-ear headphones on the market, these are Sony’s greatest headphone and in-ear models we've tested.

Even though it has been superseded by the Sony WH-1000XM5, the Sony WF-1000XM4 are still available and continue to be one of the company's most popular noise-cancelling models. 

If you're looking for an alternative to Bose, Sennheiser, or even Apple headphones, read on to discover which Sony model we rate most highly right now.

Sony headphone deals

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Premium ANC over-ear headphones: Sony WH-1000XM5
At the top of our list is the Sony WH-1000XM5, which improve upon their predecessors the XM4 with upgraded active noise cancellation, better call quality, intuitive controls and enhanced connectivity. The category-leading sound and hefty 30-hour battery life are also as far ahead of the competition as ever. (opens in new tab)

Premium ANC over-ear headphones: Sony WH-1000XM5
At the top of our list is the Sony WH-1000XM5, which improve upon their predecessors the XM4 with upgraded active noise cancellation, better call quality, intuitive controls and enhanced connectivity. The category-leading sound and hefty 30-hour battery life are also as far ahead of the competition as ever.

Sony's best-selling ANC earbuds: Sony WF-10000XM4 If you're looking for the earbuds-version of the above headsets, look no further. These are some of the best noise-cancelling earbuds, with exceptional sound, noise cancellation, battery life and customizable features.  (opens in new tab)

Sony's best-selling ANC earbuds: Sony WF-10000XM4 If you're looking for the earbuds-version of the above headsets, look no further. These are some of the best noise-cancelling earbuds, with exceptional sound, noise cancellation, battery life and customizable features. 

Best value Sony earbuds: Sony WF-C500
As some of the best wireless earbuds under $100, this non-ANC model can regularly be found discounted, which makes them even better value. Music sounds punchy and although they might not be as depth-filled as other Sony models, you can expect powerful lows and crisp highs. Battery life runs to 10 hours, with 20 hours from the charging case. (opens in new tab)

Best value Sony earbuds: Sony WF-C500
As some of the best wireless earbuds under $100, this non-ANC model can regularly be found discounted, which makes them even better value. Music sounds punchy and although they might not be as depth-filled as other Sony models, you can expect powerful lows and crisp highs. Battery life runs to 10 hours, with 20 hours from the charging case.

The best Sony headphones you can buy right now

Headphones

Black and ecru (off-white) color versions against a office window

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)
Sony's best headphones overall

Specifications

Weight: 8.8 ounces
Battery life (rated): 30 hours (ANC on); 40 hours (ANC off)
Bluetooth range: 33 feet
ANC: Yes
:

Reasons to buy

+
Articulate and engaging sound
+
Great control options
+
Impressive noise-cancelation

Reasons to avoid

-
Redesign and eco credentials ups the price
-
Gets hot around the ears during longer listening

Sony’s new flagship headphones are the ultimate all-rounders, offering superb noise-cancelling, exceptional sound performance, tons of comfort, intuitive controls and plenty of special features. So, pretty much like the previous XM4s did, then. 

These Sonys are a confident, convincing and enjoyable listen in every respect: low frequencies are muscular but agile, highs are well managed and there's plenty of detail across the range. Noise cancelling — always an XM-series strong point — banishes pretty much all external sound, and the excellent Sony Headphones Connect app allows you to personalize your audio according to taste.

The touch controls and battery life (30 hours with ANC on, 40 with it off) also beat the competition and though the design tends towards the bland, the fact that both the headphones and packaging are made almost entirely from recycled materials is a further mark in its favor. 

The XM4s are still around, and cost less, but the XM5s are the new headphones against which to judge all others. If you're still not convinced then check out our Sony WH-1000XM5 vs. WH-1000XM4 face-off to see how they compare.

Read our full Sony WH-1000XM5 review.

Sony WH-1000XM4

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Tom's Guide)
Still a popular choice and a great value buy

Specifications

Size and weight: 9.9 x 3 x 7.3 inches, 9 ounces
Battery life (rated): 30 hours (ANC on), 38 hours (ANC off)
Bluetooth range: 40 feet (12 meters)
Digital assistant support: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Superb sound quality
+
Effective ANC
+
Customizable through the app
+
Multiple connectivity options (Bluetooth, NFC, Multipoint Technology)

Reasons to avoid

-
Call quality could be higher

Top-quality ANC? Personalized audio via the Sony Headphones Connect app? Outstanding battery life? The Sony WH-1000XM4 has all these and more, for a lower price than its rivals: the Bose 700 and Apple AirPods Max

Sound quality in general is rich, deep and detailed, as you’d expect from the successor of the WH-1000XM3 headphones. Sony has fine-tuned the sound signature even more for this latest model, and integrated a motion sensor into the left ear cup for smart gesture controls. It’s a brilliantly complete package, and easily the best headphones Sony has ever made. Find out how to get the best sound from your Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones

Read our full Sony WH-1000XM4 review.

Best Sony headphones: Sony WH-1000XM3

(Image credit: Sony)
Still a great Sony buy

Specifications

Size and weight: 10.4 x 7.3 x 2.9 inches, 9 ounces
Battery life (Rated): 30 hours (NC on); 38 hours (NC off)
Bluetooth range: 30 feet (9 meters)
Digital Assistant Support: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Exceptional sound quality
+
Top-tier noise cancellation
+
Stronger battery life than Bose ANC models
+
Intuitive features and touch controls

Reasons to avoid

-
Weak call quality
-
Aesthetics don't seem premium

Since they've been replaced by the outstanding Sony WH-1000XM4, the WH-1000XM3 can no longer claim the top spot, but it's still a great set of cans that pumps out well-balanced sound highlighted by dynamic bass response. You're also given the option to customize the sound profile via the Sony Headphones app, though we're confident you'll enjoy the default sound setting. 

The inclusion of Sony's QN1 processor elevates not only sonic performance but also noise cancellation, effortlessly silencing most high-frequency noises such as crying babies and police sirens. One of its most underappreciated features is the touch panel on the right ear cup, which operates responsively through the use of slide gestures. Lastly, the cans spoil you with a solid 30 hours of wireless listening with noise cancellation on. 

Read our full Sony WH-1000XM3 review.

Earbuds

The Sony WF-1000XM4 displayed over a tropical backdrop

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)
Great balance of useful features and top sound

Specifications

Size: 1 x 0.8 x 0.8 inches
Weight: 0.2 ounces
Battery life (rated): 12 hours (ANC off); 35 hours (with charging case)
Bluetooth range: 30 feet
ANC: Yes
Water resistant: Yes (IPX4 rated)

Reasons to buy

+
Balanced and enjoyable sound
+
Excellent ANC
+
Decent battery life

Reasons to avoid

-
Fit may not be good for all
-
Weak call quality

The Sony WF-1000XM4 improves on just about everything about the old WF-1000XM3, from reworking the design to enhancing ANC and tweaking the sound signature for better frequency balance. That all comes with a higher price, but the WF-1000XM4 sounds good enough to deserve. 

This is also a particularly well-featured set of wireless earbuds. There's LDAC support for higher-quality music, a highly customizable ambient listening mode, support for all three of the big digital assistants and full EQ customization. Want to bring back the WF-1000XM3's bass-heavy sound? No problem.

Read our full Sony WF-1000XM4 review.

Best Sony headphones: Sony WF-1000XM3

(Image credit: Sony)
The best Sony true wireless earbuds

Specifications

Size and Weight: 0.9 x 0.9 x 1.2 inches, 0.3 ounces
Battery Life (Rated): 8 hours, 24 hours (with charging case)
Bluetooth Range: 30 feet (9 meters)
Digital Assistant Support: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Remarkable sound profile
+
Excellent noise cancellation for true wireless buds
+
Extended battery life
+
Classy, sharp-looking design

Reasons to avoid

-
Touch controls don't work well
-
Call quality needs work

Although the Sony WF-1000XM4 is likely on the way, it's absolutely still worth picking up Sony's current-gen flagship earbuds. It remains on our best wireless earbuds list for good reason.

The WF-1000XM3 blends together spacious sound with the feature we once never thought could be done properly on a truly wireless model: noise cancellation. Sony adding a second mic to each bud helps optimize noise neutralization for peaceful listening on the go. Screeching train tracks and shouting passengers will go unheard. Crisp, full-bodied sound will channel through the ear canal. The buds are even capable of improving the fidelity on low-res recordings. Up to 6 hours of battery life with noise cancellation on is a blessing, too, while disabling the feature allows an extra 2 hours of use.

Read our full Sony WF-1000XM3 review.

Best Sony headphones: Sony WF-SP800N

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Tom's Guide)
A long-lasting pair of workout earbuds

Specifications

Size and Weight: 1 x 0.8 x 1 inches, 0.3 ounces
Battery Life (Rated): 9 hours (ANC on); 13 hours (ANC off)
Bluetooth Range: 30 feet (9 meters)
Digital Assistant Support: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Good battery life
+
IP55 water resistance
+
Active noise cancellation
+
Loads of app features

Reasons to avoid

-
Can be buggy
-
Bulky design

While its ANC effective doesn’t match that of the  WF-1000XM3, the WF-SP800N could still be the better option if you want something sporty and long-lasting. Very long-lasting indeed: Sony rates them for 9 hours of ANC playback, and we got 8.5 hours in our testing. That’s an excellent performance considering most true wireless earbuds tap out around 4-5 hours with noise cancelling on.

The IP55 rating also ensures enough water resistance and sweat-proofing for strenuous exercise, and there are plenty of other features besides, from digital assistant support to Sony’s 360 Audio: a kind of digital surround sound effect.

Read our full Sony WF-SP800N review.

The Sony WF-C500 displayed on a concrete surface

(Image credit: Alex Bracetti/Future)
Upmarket features and sound quality at a great price

Specifications

Size: 1.2 x 1.1 x 0.9 inches (per bud)
Weight: 0.2 ounces (per bud)
Battery life (rated): 10 hours; 20 hours (charging case)
Bluetooth range: 70 feet
ANC: No

Reasons to buy

+
Powerful bass
+
360 Reality Audio and DSEE support
+
Lengthy playback time
+
Works with Sony Headphones Connect app
+
Strong connectivity

Reasons to avoid

-
Lacks some features found on Sony's upmarket models
-
Charging case only holds two additional full charges
-
No touch controls

Sony's WF-C500 earbuds may not wow you with their looks, but arguably these are the best wireless earbuds under $100. Music sounds punchy and although their profile might not be as depth-filled as Sony’s WF-1000XM4, you can expect powerful lows and crisp highs, along with under-emphasized mids. Should you want to tweak the sound, there’s the Equalizer feature in the Sony Headphones Connect app to manually adjust frequencies or select from nine presets that prioritize different sonic elements, depending on the music genre or content.

The WF-C500 isn’t perfect, though, with slightly impractical controls that can inflict some discomfort when attempting to activate, and mediocre capacity from the charging case. However, these are trivial complaints when factoring in the level of sound Sony has managed to engineer into these tiny buds, and they're a bargain-priced model that really shouldn't be overlooked.

Read our full Sony WF-C500 review.

How to choose the best Sony headphones for you

Many factors come into play when shopping for the best headphones, but your decision should always come down to intended use. That being said, you’ll want to take the following categories into account before settling on any pair.

Design: Are you looking for in-ear, on-ear or over-ear headphones? Wired or wireless? Luxury or sporty? Since these are headphones that will be used for multiple occasions, you want something that suits your lifestyle. Whatever type you choose, make sure the headphones are well built, easy to carry, and comfy to wear for about 1 to 2 hours daily.

Sound quality: Different models offer different sound, and since you’re buying a pair to enjoy music individually, it’s important to find headphones that match your sound preference, be it heavy bass or distinctively clear to where you can hear the littlest nuances in recordings. Some models offer personalized sound via companion app, which allows the user to create their own profiles and tweak EQ levels to their hearing.

Battery life: Sony's battery life has stayed pretty consistent over the years, and offer some of the strongest playback times we've seen across the over-ear and earbuds sectors. Wireless over-ears typically manage around 30 hours of playback time with ANC, while wireless earbuds can last 10 to 12 hours but offer extended playtime with their bundled charging cases.

Accessories: It's disappointing spending money on a new pair of headphones only to find that you need to buy the accessories separately. For wired models, the manufacturer must include the aux cable, and any headphones that come with a carrying case, charging cable, user guide, and extra ear cups or tips are solid purchases.

Pricing considerations: Obviously, price is a big consideration when looking for the best headphones. Although there are always exceptions, big-name brands will typically command a bit extra, but generally speaking, the less you spend on a pair of headphones the greater the chance that sound and features will be compromised. Going for a budget option isn't always the best choice, as any money you save on your purchase won't do you much good if you're constantly needing to recharge your audio gear, or the sound quality is poor. 

As the saying goes: timing is everything; and right now it's worth checking out our best headphone deals to help you pick up a pair of Sony headphones for less.

How we test the best Sony headphones

In determining the best wireless headphones and wireless earbuds, we consider fit, battery life, sound quality, design and value (are they worth the price?). We also factor in features like how well the controls work and how easily the earbuds pair with phones.

In terms of audio, we listen to many sample tracks that span a number of genres, including hip-hop, rock, jazz, classical and R&B, while evaluating volume, clarity and fullness. We also make phone calls to assess both call quality and microphone performance.

Find out what we listen for during our testing process and how to get the best headphone sound for you.

During the testing phase, our reviewers wear each pair of headphones for hours at a time throughout the course of a week. Reviewers will make note of battery life and how well it matches the rated battery life provided by earbud makers. 

We evaluate earbuds based on our five-point system (1 = worst, 5 = best). If a product hits nearly every mark, it’s awarded an Editor's Choice badge. 

For more information, check out our how we test page for Tom's Guide.

Contributions from Alex Bracetti, James Archer, Simon Lucas

More: Here's how our audio editor made Sony's headphones sound even better.

Next: Check out the best Bose headphones right now, and the best headphones overall, tested and ranked. 

Lee Dunkley
Audio Editor

As a former editor of the U.K.'s Hi-Fi Choice magazine, Lee is passionate about all kinds of audio tech and has been providing sound advice to enable consumers to make informed buying decisions since he joined Which? magazine as a product tester in the 1990s. Lee covers all things audio for Tom's Guide, including headphones, wireless speakers and soundbars and loves to connect and share the mindfulness benefits that listening to music in the very best quality can bring.