Bose 700 vs. Sony WH-1000XM5: Which are the best noise-canceling headphones?

This Bose 700 vs. Sony WH-1000XM5 face-off is just what you need if you're trying to shop for the best noise-cancelling headphones money can buy. Active noise cancelling is a must-have feature for many headphone buyers, but which brand offers the best experience overall?

As you'll see in our Bose 700 review, these headphones deliver superior noise cancelling for both music and phone calls in a very sleek design, complete with intuitive touch controls. On the other hand, our Sony WH-1000XM5 review is proof that Sony knows how to to deliver great audio along with super long battery life. 

Both models have stellar sound, adaptive listening modes, strong wireless performance, and premium price tags, but only one can be the winner. I spent a week of side-by-side testing for this full Bose 700 vs. Sony WH-1000XM5 comparison, and I'm about to show you which flagship ANC titan comes out on top.

Sony WH-1000XM5 vs. Bose 700 side-by-side on a window seat

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Bose 700 vs. Sony WH-1000XM5: Specs compared

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Header Cell - Column 0 Bose 700Sony WH-1000XM5
Price$379 / £349 / AU$599$399 / £379 / AU$649
Size8 x 6.5 x 2 inchesNot specified
Weight8.95 ounces8.8 ounces
Battery life (rated)20 hours (ANC enabled)30 hours (ANC enabled)
Companion appYesYes
Special featuresTransparency mode, adjustable ANC, smart controls, tri-digital assistant support, multipoint technology, Bose AR-enabledAdjustable ambient listening, smart controls, tri-digital assistant support, multipoint technology, customizable EQ, NFC, Sony 360 Reality Audio

Bose 700 vs. Sony WH-1000XM5: Price and availability

The best ANC performance doesn't come cheap, and both the Bose and Sony flagship models are some of the more expensive models in our best headphones guide right now.     

Available in black or platinum silver color options, the Sony WH-1000XM5 launched in 2022 at $399 / £379 / AU$649. By comparison, the refreshed design and eco credentials bumped up this next-gen flagship by $50 over the Sony WH-1000XM4 it replaced. 

The longer running Bose 700 was expensive for an ANC headphone when it launched in 2019, but today is the more affordable model of the two ANC flagships at $379 / £349 / AU$599. It's available in black and luxe silver.

Bose is known for its market-leading ANC performance, while the Sony continues to offer a mind-bending feature set, and despite the price increase, the Sony WH-1000XM5 really does look like the better priced model overall. 

Winner: Sony WH-1000XM5

  • Both models are regularly discounted by online retailers, so bookmark our best headphone deals page to keep track of the latest bargains.

Bose 700 vs. Sony WH-1000XM5: Design

Sony XM5 in there fold-flat case

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Both headphones stand out for their luxe styling, and you're sure to get noticed with either of these upmarket headphones on your head or draped around your neck when on your travels.

Overall, I preferred the Sony WH-1000XM5 with their slim headband for long-term listening, along with its larger earpad cutouts that have extra room.

Both models look better in their silver finishes over the non-descript matte black versions. The silver versions also seem to wear better than black, and the Sonys in particular are prone to showing scuffs and sticky finger marks.

The Sony WH-1000XM5 vs. Sony WH-1000XM4 sees the new design opting for a slimmed-down chassis, narrow synthetic leather headband and simpler earcups.

Best headphones

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Tom's Guide)

Despite being a few years old, the Bose 700 still have ultra modern flair, highlighted by a gorgeous unibody design and sleek aesthetics. The earcup padding of both model rest nicely on the ears without applying unwanted pressure. They have similar weights too and are incredibly light for noise-canceling headphones. 

The clamping force on the Bose 700 was slightly more noticeable in my tests, but this was only really an issue when worn for several hours at a time. Overall, I preferred the Sony WH-1000XM5 with their slim headband for long-term listening, along with its larger earpad cutouts that have extra room for my larger ears. Despite the nod towards earcup ventilation to prevent moisture buildup where the earcups rest, the Sonys still managed to make my ears hot during longer listening sessions.

Winner: Sony WH-1000XM5

Bose 700 vs. Sony WH-1000XM5: Controls

Sony XM5 closeup of earpiece controls

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There are numerous control options for both models and they all work well.

On the Sony, the capacitive touch-surface on the right earcup deals with ‘play/pause’, ‘volume up/down’, ‘skip forwards/backwards’ and ‘answer/end/reject call’ in a consistent and reliable manner. The left earcup has a physical button that allows you to cycle through your noise-canceling options.

Amazon Alexa is built in, and the mics handle voice-assistant commands clearly and consistently. OK Google with full wake-up word detection is very well implemented, and puts them ahead of the Bose. 

Bose 700 worn by Alex wife

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Bose has its own set of intuitive controls to work with. Its mic system demonstrates superior speech recognition and the Bose 700 has strong digital assistant performance with Amazon Alexa. Each of the buttons produced great tactile feedback as well. Tap and slide gestures are responsive for the most part, but you can only execute them on the right ear cup. The touch panel is also smaller than the Sony.

Winner: Sony WH-1000XM5

Bose 700 vs. Sony WH-1000XM5: Sound quality

Sony WH-1000XM5 and Bose 700 headphones side-by-side on a stone floor

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When it comes to sound delivery, the Bose 700 and Sony WH-1000XM5 are both excellent headphones. Although each has its strengths and your preference for one or the other will come down to personal taste, the Sony WH-1000XM5 give the stronger presentation across a wide range of music styles.

Listening on my morning commutes, Sony's XM5s really put a spring in my step.

The Sonys give you the option to manually adjust the equalizer in the Headphones companion app, but the default setting is pretty nicely balanced to begin with. Listening to Christine and the Queens "Tilted" on the Sonys, frequencies from the bottom of the range to the top are even and smooth. Listening on my morning commutes, Sony's XM5s really put a spring in my step. Bass levels are strong, and my only criticism is that upper treble details lack a little expression. 

Nevertheless, there's exceptional layering of the upper bass and mid frequencies while listening to "La Ritournelle" by Sébastien Tellier, and the orchestral elements give a perfect sense of acoustic space with a wide and enjoyable soundstage. 

Sony WH-1000XM5 with iPhone on a wooden desktop

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I’m a fan of the Bose 700’s sound quality as well, which is mostly warm and delivers fairly balanced results, but the default setting sounds a little too bright in the upper registers for my ears. Also, don’t expect the same level of bass that the WH-1000XM5 pump out.

The clean vocals on Oh Wonder's “Livewire” were pleasant to hear, though the bass didn’t have the usual depth I know this track to have and didn't blow me away. On more acoustic tracks like Jack Johnson's "Good People" the bass guitar is assertive but the vocal and fret work on the acoustic guitar playing lacks the refinement that the Sony delivers.

Winner: Sony WH-1000XM5

Bose 700 vs. Sony WH-1000XM5: Active noise cancellation

Bose 700 worn by reviewer testing ANC outside

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The main reason why we've pitted these two headphones together is to see which have the better ANC performance. Sony's WH-1000XM4 put up a strong fight against the Bose 700, but are the newer WH-1000XM5 headphones even better?

Rarely have I heard ANC so effective from the Bose 700, allowing me to luxuriate in my favorite music without distraction.

Noise canceling is enabled permanently on the Bose 700, which uses an adaptive eight-mic system. Six of those mics are used to cancel out the majority of ambient sound and they do so superbly. Bose developed smarter algorithms, along with 10 levels of noise cancelation that can be adjusted to control the amount of noise entering the soundstage. It’s a winning combination that makes daily work chatty fellow passengers on my commutes and noisy office co-workers nonexistent.

During our original testing, we tried out the Bose 700 on a flight. We were mightily impressed by how successful the ANC are at blocking out the sound of aircraft engines and noisy fellow travelers to make the flight journey more relaxing and enjoyable.

Sony XM5 headphones in ecru (off white) placed outdoors on a garden table

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The simple tweaks Sony implemented to its ANC performance on the WH-1000XM4 was enough to give the Bose 700 a real run for their money, and the news regarding active noise-canceling for the Sony WH-1000XM5 is even better. Without leaving any trace of how hard the ANC circuitry is working, the XM5 banish pretty much all external sound and leave a nice dark background against which your music can do its thing. 

It really is a close race between these two flagship ANC models, but despite the Bose 700 being around for a few years already, they retain the crown as the most powerful noise neutralizing headphones you can buy. Rarely have I heard ANC so effective, allowing me to luxuriate in my favorite music without distraction.   

Winner: Bose 700

Bose 700 vs. Sony WH-1000XM5: Call quality 

Bose 700 worn by reviewer's wife making a call

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The Bose 700 are the best calling headset for working from home for multiple reasons. The advanced mic system not only makes the speaker’s voice loud and clear during chats, but also does a fantastic job of filtering out unwanted noises. We used them as work-from-home headphones during the pandemic and continue to receive great feedback during Skype sessions; friends and colleagues always mention how crisp I sound. Wind resistance is another key trait that goes overlooked, as these headphones perform very well in gusty conditions.

The Sony's impressive mic array systems ensure that the XM5 achieve the kind of call quality best described as "exemplary." Wind-noise is kept to a minimum, and both ends of a conversation prove clear and easy to follow on any calls I took. However, it is Sony’s Transparency Mode that steals the show, granting up to 20 levels of ambient attenuation, and was strong enough to pick up conversations happening around me with ease.

Winner: Bose 700

Bose 700 vs. Sony WH-1000XM5: Battery life

It's a shame that Bose didn't manage to achieve better battery life when it launched the 700 flagship in 2019. Although a respectable battery life figure for the time, it maxes out at 20 hours with ANC on (and you can’t turn it off), which looks mediocre by today's standards. It’s an adequate amount to keep any frequent flyer entertained to and from their destination, though depending on what part of the world they’re headed, they will need to rely heavily on quick charging (15 minutes for up to 3.5 hours) to get some extended playtime on the Uber ride home.

The WH-1000XM5 are good for 30 hours between charges if you keep active noise-cancelation switched on, and that will rise to as much as 40 hours if you turn it off. The XM5 need a leisurely 3.5 hours to go from ‘flat’ to full when charging via the USB-C input on the right earcup, and can retain an hour’s-worth of power after 10 minutes or so. The XM5 are also USB-PD (Power Delivery)-compatible, and charged in this way can get three hours of power after just three minutes.

Winner: Sony WH-1000XM5

Bose 700 vs. Sony WH-1000XM5: Verdict

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Header Cell - Column 0 Bose 700Sony WH-1000XM5
Price and value (5)44
Design (15)1313
Controls (10)89
Sound quality (20)1820
Active noise cancelation (20)2019
Special features and apps (15)1215
Call quality (5)54
Battery life (10)79
Total Score (100)8793

If sound quality is the goal, the Sony's WH-1000XM5 are the outright winner. They're also the more compelling set of cans overall. The progressive changes that Sony has made to its ANC technology with each new generation means these are the new king of the headphone market. 

For $20 more than the cost of the Bose 700, the Sony has broader smart features/controls and greater battery life. Plus, I appreciate how light they feel to wear on my head, the effectiveness of the ANC, and the engaging sound that puts a spring in my step.

If you really do just want the best-in-class noise cancellation for a long-haul flight, though, the Bose 700 should still be your go-to choice. These svelte-looking cans are engineered to handle ambient sounds across the entire frequency spectrum, while delivering great (but not stellar) sound and overall functionality.

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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.