The battle of the ANC titans is officially on, as the Sony WH-1000xM4 has finally launched with its crosshairs set on the long-standing champion, the Bose 700.
Between their elite noise cancellation, stellar sound, adaptive listening modes, strong wireless performance and expensive prices, the Bose 700 and Sony WH-1000xM4 have much more in common than you may think. However, depending on your priorities, you’re likely to pick one over the other.
After a week of testing, we've pit these two high-end cans against one another to see which one takes the title of best noise-cancelling headphones overall. Here is our full Bose 700 vs. Sony WH-1000xM4 breakdown.
Bose 700 vs. Sony WH-1000xM4: Specs compared
|Bose 700||Sony WH-1000xM4|
|Price||$399.95; $429.95 (with charging case)||$349.99|
|Size||8 x 6.5 x 2 inches||9.94 x 7.27 x 3.03 inches|
|Weight||8.95 ounces||8.95 ounces|
|Battery life||20 hours (ANC on)||30 hours (ANC on), 38 hours (ANC off)|
|Special features||Active noise cancellation, transparency mode, adjustable ANC, smart controls, tri-digital assistant support, multipoint technology, Bose AR-enabled||Active noise cancellation, adjustable ambient listening, smart controls, tri-digital assistant support, multipoint technology, customizable EQ, NFC, Sony 360 Reality Audio|
Bose 700 vs. Sony WH-1000xM4: Price and value
You will be spending top dollar on either pair of these wireless headphones. The Bose 700 has the higher MSRP ($399.99) and is available in four colors: Black, Luxe Silver, Soapstone, and a limited-edition Black/Copper version with bundled charging case ($449.95). The Sony WH-1000xM4 is currently listed at $349.99 and only comes in Black or Silver.
The question is which of the two offers the most bang for your buck. Answer: the Sony WH-1000xM4. Sony’s insane feature set and spec sheet scream so loudly that they practically echo in your mind upon reading them. At the same time, you do get what you pay for in the Bose 700, which is unbeatable noise cancellation.
Note: Bose and several online retailers have the Black and Luxe Silver versions marked down to $339.95, and the Soapstone version for $229.95 as part of a “special offer.” Is this a coincidence heading into the Sony WH-1000-xM4 launch on August 18? We think not.
Winner: Sony WH-1000xM4
Bose 700 vs. Sony WH-1000xM4: Design
These are two attractive, luxe headphones that you’ll find sitting in first class or around the neck of your favorite celebrity. As chic as each pair looks, I must give the edge to the Bose 700 for its ultramodern flair, highlighted by a gorgeous unibody design and sleek aesthetics.
Even though it has most of the same materials and silhouette as the WH-1000xM3, Sony’s newest cans retain the elegant and sophisticated design of the Mark series. The cozy, refined leather used on the headband and earpads feels plush, while the rubberized matte finish is a huge step up from the plastic construction of the previous model. Some of the finer details stand out as well, including the copper accents, embossed Sony logos, and laser-etched model number located above each extender.
Regarding comfort and fit, the Bose 700 and WH-1000xM4 are at the top of their class. The earcup padding of each model feels fluffy and rests soothingly on the ears without applying unwanted pressure. Both also feel incredibly light for noise-cancelling headphones, though the WH-1000xM4 is the wider of the two.
Let’s start with the body, which looks as if it was modeled entirely from one piece of metal. Upon further inspection, notice how there is not one screw, nor any seams of threading exposed. The arcs below the earcup and integrated extenders are striking details too, the latter operating on a tracking system to easily adjust length. We also love the multiple colorways Bose has released since launch, specifically the Black and Copper version that remains an Apple.com exclusive. The Bose 700 is a beauty worthy of all the attention in the room.
Clamp force is more noticeable on the Bose 700, with the headband applying pressure on the skull to cause some slight discomfort, but it’s only an issue when worn past the 3-hour mark. I preferred the WH-1000xM4’s slimmer, cushiony headband for long-term listening, along with its wider earpad cutouts that grant extra room for larger ears and ventilation to prevent moisture buildup.
Winner: Bose 700
Bose 700 vs. Sony WH-1000xM4: Controls
Each pair of cans comes with physical and touch controls, plus on-ear detection to let you pause music when taking off the headphones and resume play when placing them back on the head. Which noise-canceller does this trio the most service? The WH-1000xM4.
The touch controls were already flawless on the WH-1000xM3, meaning all Sony had to do was transfer them over. The touch panels are smooth operators that make playback, volume, and phone calls a breeze to manage, thanks to responsive tap and swipe gestures. Activating the listening modes (ANC, Ambient) or the digital assistant is simple too, depending on how you map out the control scheme. Users can assign certain commands to either touch panel, or the Custom button located behind the left ear cup. But it’s the lesser known functions that shine on the WH-1000xM4 such as Quick Attention and Speak-to-Chat, which, respectively, pause music when placing your hand over the right ear cup or when speaking out loud.
Bose has its own set of intuitive controls to work with. Its mic system demonstrates superior speech recognition and gives the Bose 700 better digital assistant performance. Each of the buttons produce great tactility 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, and the built-in extender often gets in the way when performing certain slide gestures.
Winner: Sony WH-1000xM4
Bose 700 vs. Sony WH-1000xM4: Audio quality
Bose and Sony are responsible for some of the best-sounding headphones in the category, but the WH-1000xM4 is a different beast. Sony’s monstrous 40mm drivers and QN1 are a dominant tag team that help to deliver loud, vibrant, and detailed sonics; distortion-free. Best of all, the WH-1000xM4’s default signature sounds great as is, though you can fine-tune it in the companion app (more on that later).
To test the WH-1000xM4’s ridiculously powerful bass, I pulled up Bell Biv DeVoe’s “Poison,” which placed me in a head-nodding trance with its infectious rat-a-tat production. The jazz-throbbing bassline and suave harmonizing don’t clash, nor does the latter get lost in the rhythmic-thumping soundscape. It was also rewarding to hear the WH-1000xM4 reproduce the pounding drums and snare effects on Prince’s “Gett Off” without masking the singer’s nonchalant vocals.
Sony even added support for its 360 Reality Audio platform that works with several hi-res streaming services (e.g. Deezer, Tidal) to create a spatial audio soundscape. Having tested the feature in the past, I can say it offers a unique experience that makes most listening sessions sound like private concerts. You get a free trial with the purchase, but once it ends, you’re required to have a premium tier subscription for your streaming service of choice.
I’m a fan of the Bose 700’s sound quality as well, which is mostly warm and delivers balanced results. Just don’t expect the same hair-raising level of bass that the WH-1000xM4 pumps out. The clean vocals and enticing horns on Earth, Wind & Fire’s “September” were pleasant to hear, though the bass response didn’t blow me away. This was mainly attributed to the tamed volume levels, which diminished the record’s assertive percussion and bass guitar presence.
Winner: Sony WH-1000xM4
Bose 700 vs. Sony WH-1000xM4: Active noise cancellation
To call these two headphones ANC powerhouses would be an understatement. They are easily the top two in their class. As much of a magnificent sound-silencer the WH-1000xM4 is, this is a category the Bose 700 refuses to lose.
Underneath the Bose 700’s ingenious design is an adaptive eight-mic system. Six of those mics are used to cancel out high amounts of ambient sound and they do so superbly. Bose developed smarter algorithms, along with 10 levels of noise cancellation that can be adjusted to control the amount of noise entering the soundstage. It’s a winning combination that makes common sounds like doorbells and loud co-workers nonexistent, while silencing high-frequency noises such as crying babies and police sirens. Having flown with these headphones in the past, I can attest to how well ANC performs on flights; engine droning noises become an afterthought.
The leap in ANC performance from the WH-1000xM3 to the WH-1000xM4 isn’t gigantic. Luckily, very little needed changing, as the simple tweaks Sony implemented was enough to give the Bose 700 a run for its money. Sony’s Dual Noise Sensor technology, HD Noise Canceling Processor QN1 processor, and two feedforward mics work together to make even the loudest distractions sound like subtle peeps. For good measure, Sony also added a Noise-Canceling Optimizer that automatically adjusts ANC to your environment for maximum noise reduction; it works surprisingly well.
Despite not being able to test Sony’s headphones in-flight, I did so in multiple settings to analyze ANC quality. The results were fantastic. Indoors, the WH-1000xM4 was capable of blocking out household noises such as loud TVs, fax machines, and smart cooking device timers. I barely heard cars whisking down the street or the sanitation trucks collecting trash on the front lawn. Overall, the headphones do an exceptional job filtering out unwanted noises, though the Bose 700 performs slightly better against high-frequency sounds.
The Bose 700 and WH-1000xM4 come with their own ambient listening modes. Each one is well engineered and provides great awareness of surroundings without having to take off the headphones. I’m partial to the WH-1000xM4’s ambient mode since it offers 20 levels of ambient sound and picks up the slightest details, while amplifying sound to identify specific noises around you.
Winner: Bose 700
Bose 700 vs. Sony WH-1000xM4: Apps and special features
Sony wins on variety alone. The Sony Headphones Connect app is loaded with sound customization options that enhance the listening experience in multiple ways. Let’s start with the EQ, which can be adjusted to create your own sound profile or switched out for one of several preprogrammed presets that lend themselves well to multiple music genres. You can also enable the DSEE Extreme feature that upscales compressed digital music files to hear recordings the way they were meant to be heard.
The Sony Headphones Connect app is cleaner and more organized than the previous version, so you’ll find it easier to navigate and locate special features like NC Optimizer and Ambient Sound Control. Make your way to the System tab and notice the many toggle controls, including some for automatic software updates, on-ear detection, and touch panel functionality just to name a few.
The WH-1000xM4 also has more connectivity options, including Bluetooth 5.0, NFC, and Android Fast Pair, which instantly pairs the cans and doubles as a Find My Headphones feature; it plays a sound through the headphones to locate them. All of them make connecting to your smartphone seamless, especially NFC, which automatically enables Bluetooth on your compatible Android device and pairs the headphones when placed on top of the right ear cup.
One new feature added to the WH-1000xM4 that is available on the Bose 700 is multipoint technology, so you can pair the headphones to two devices at the same time. The Bose 700 allows up to three devices simultaneously. It’s an underrated feature that makes switching between your smartphone and laptop an effortless task. I prefer it on the WH-1000xM4 for two reasons: it’s less buggy and the Connect app shows you right on the homescreen which two devices are connected.
Bose Music is nowhere near as extensive as Sony’s app. It does let you adjust noise cancellation and save three ANC levels that you can cycle through directly on the headphones, along with toggle controls, firmware updates, and an Auto-Off feature to put the headphones in sleep mode when inactive for a certain amount of time. There is a Self Voice mode as well that will increase/decrease the volume of your voice on phone calls.
Winner: Sony WH-1000xM4
Bose 700 vs. Sony WH-1000xM4: Call quality
The Bose 700 is our favorite calling headset in the category for multiple reasons. Its 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. I’ve been using it as my work-from-home headphones since the pandemic started 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.
Call quality has been the Mark series’ worst attribute, and very little has changed on the latest model. Precise Voice Pickup and Sony’s mics are great for Siri and Google Assistant, but not so much when using WH-1000xM4 for phone calls. Clarity remains the issue; my fiancée mentioned how muffled I sounded on calls. Also, voices on the opposite end aren’t very loud, meaning you’ll have to make and take calls in quiet settings to engage in audible conversations.
Winner: Bose 700
Bose 700 vs. Sony WH-1000xM4: Battery life
The WH-1000xM4 wins with nearly 30 hours of playtime in ANC mode, 38 hours with the feature disabled. I’ve tested the headphones for 3 hours daily during a week span and have still yet to unravel the bundled USB-C charging cable. I feared indulging in the headphones’ multiple features would drain the battery fast, but that wasn’t the case. Those who constantly forget to juice up their headphones will also be ecstatic to hear the WH-1000xM4 can generate 5 hours of playtime on a 10-minute charge (this requires a 1.5-A or more AC adapter).
Bose left battery life untouched when transitioning from the QuietComfort 35 II to the 700. That means you’re only given a max of 20 hours with ANC on (and you can’t turn it off). 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.
Bose knows it dropped the ball in this area, which is why it decided to release a charging case for the headphones to give users 40 additional hours. Right now, it’s about $50 cheaper to purchase the case as part of a bundle than separately, but the fact you need to spend extra on portable power to earn more playtime is not cool.
Winner: Sony WH-1000xM4
Bose 700 vs. Sony WH-1000xM4: Verdict
There is a new noise-cancelling sheriff in town, and it's the Sony WH-1000xM4. It didn’t require many upgrades for Sony to win this battle, just the right ones. Audio quality is excellent. The tiny, yet progressive changes made to Sony’s ANC technology make a difference in noise neutralization. And the basic improvements made to the design, along with the addition of more wireless connections and features, elevate this noise-canceller above all others in the market. Had Sony managed to get call quality right, the WH-1000xM4 would have received a perfect score in our full review.
|Bose 700||Sony WH-1000xM4|
|Price and value (5)||3||4|
|Audio quality (20)||18||20|
|Active noise cancelation (20)||20||19|
|Special features and apps (15)||12||15|
|Call quality (5)||5||2|
|Battery life (10)||7||8|
|Total Score (100)||87||88|
Still, if you want best-in-class noise cancellation, then the Bose 700 should be your go-to choice. These svelte-looking cans are engineered to handle ambient sounds across the entire frequency spectrum, while delivering amazing sound and overall functionality.
At the same time, the WH-1000xM4 matches the Bose 700 in nearly every category and offers a lot more for a cheaper price. And that's why Sony’s headphones are the new category leader.