Tech is riddled with rivalries when it comes to Apple versus Microsoft, Xbox versus PlayStation and in the headphone world, Sony versus Bose. No matter how much praise one of their headphones gets, Sony and Bose audio devices are always compared to their competitors’ equivalents.
This brings us to the conflict between their latest offerings. For Bose, it’s the acclaimed QuietComfort 45 headphones, which launched in late 2021; while Sony’s are the brand new WH-1000XM5 headphones.
So let’s take a look at how these two noise canceling headphones stack up against each other and help you decide which one is best for you.
Sony WH-1000XM5 v Bose QuietComfort 45: price and availability
The new Sony WH-1000XM5 will be available in late May for £379 / $399 / AU$649. No matter what continent you’re on, you can expect to pay a decent sum to get your ears stuck in a pair of these.
When the Bose QuietComfort 45 hit shelves last September, it would have set you back £329 / $329 / AU$499. Nowadays you can instead expect to pay no more than £269 / $299 / AU$419 – a whole lot less than the new Sony cans.
Over time, we expect the Sony WH-1000XM5 headphones to see a similar drop in price (as we expect night follows day), but if you’re looking for a pair today, then Bose has the SOny Beta in the price range .
Sony WH-1000XM5 v Bose QuietComfort 45: Design
Sony has redesigned a bit with the XM5 over-ear headphones, mixing things up a bit from its predecessors (Sony WH-1000XM3 and Sony WH-1000XM4). Some will find the more minimalist ab-clad device sleek and sophisticated, while others will find it dull and uninteresting.
At 250g, the Sony headphones are lightweight and stay comfortably in place for long periods of time. Unlike other headphones, although they don’t fold, the earcups have articulation to reduce the carrying case size, but these aren’t the most compact.
The Bose QuietComfort 45 weighs just 238g and folds into itself, making it an even more compelling proposition for frequent travelers. We would also describe the appearance of these cans as functional. While they won’t win any awards for their novel design, the Bose headphones are a solid contender from Sony when it comes to comfort, stability and durability.
Sony WH-1000XM5 v Bose QuietComfort 45: specifications and features
We know that Sony’s WH-1000XM5 headphones can connect to two devices at the same time via a Bluetooth 5.2 wireless connection. They’re also compatible with SBC, AAC and LDAC codecs – with sound delivered by a pair of 30mm full-range dynamic drivers. However, there is no aptX, which continues to be an odd omission.
Using the Sony Headphones Control app allows you to set up and use Sony’s 360 Reality Audio spatial algorithm while wearing these headphones, all you have to do is take a picture of your ears.
Unlike Sony, Bose hasn’t shared detailed spec lists revealing how its QuietComfort 45 headphones compare in terms of drivers and connectivity.
While we can compare them, we know the QuietComfort 45 lacks the built-in voice assistant that you’ll find in the WH-1000XM5. Also, Bose relies on physical controls rather than touch controls like Sony; Both options are well implemented, so it’s mostly a matter of preference.
Sony WH-1000XM5 v Bose QuietComfort 45: sound quality
Despite the driver size, the XM5 delivers impressive audio performance in every respect. They’re punchy but also controlled at lower frequencies, while hitting higher notes with a perfectly judged bite. The rhythmic expression is pleasing, and there’s a stack of dynamic headroom available when you want to crank up the volume.
When they were first released, the Bose QuietComfort 45 headphones didn’t have EQ adjustment – so we felt they sounded rather tentative and ambiguous. Now you can fiddle with the settings in the Bose Music Control app to make low frequencies punchier without swamping the mids, and the higher frequencies can enjoy a little more confidence too.
However, what no amount of EQ tweaking can do is restore fine detail in tracks – details that Bose’s offering lets slip through the cracks; while Sony offers a much more informative listening experience.
Sony WH-1000XM5 v Bose QuietComfort 45: noise cancellation
Bose headphones are widely regarded as some of the best in terms of their noise-cancelling abilities, although Sony’s WH-1000XM5 cans give them some bang for the buck competition.
Without leaving a hint of counter-signal, pinna pressure or disruption to the noise floor, the XM5 simply negates the vast majority of external noise with the kind of casual efficiency we tend to associate with its rival.
Similarly, the QuietComfort 45 headphones are capable of obliterating everything but a passing plane – if you were a passenger on that plane, you could turn off the roar of the engine entirely.
Beyond regular noise cancellation, Sony’s new cans also offer a feature called adaptive noise cancellation, which tries to learn your most-visited environments and selectively block out certain noises.
Bose doesn’t offer anything like this, although both headphones have similar ambient noise or awareness modes. In the case of the Sony, you can instead amplify the sounds around you if you need to be careful, while the Bose’s feature seems to be simply that the noise-cancellation has been turned off.
Sony WH-1000XM5 v Bose QuietComfort 45: battery life
With USB PD charging, the Sony WH-1000XM5 can be powered for three hours in just three minutes. Charge them the more conventional way and they’ll go from empty to full in just over three hours. However, once full, they last 30 hours with noise-cancellation on, or 40 hours with noise-cancellation off.
The Bose QuietComfort 45 can’t really keep up with these numbers. For them, the best-case scenario is that they last around 25 hours. That’s not half bad, but it probably won’t give Sony sleepless nights.
Sony WH-1000XM5 vs. Bose QuietComfort 45: takeaway
In the end, that fight mostly went to Sony.
That’s not to say the Bose QuietComfort 45 headphones are terrible in any way – their battery life is above average, their comfort is undeniable, their noise-cancellation remains the best, and their audio performance is solid. Also, they are the cheaper of the two options.
But Sony’s WH-1000XM5 headphones put a considerable distance between the rivals with superior performance in almost every category – including the notable noise-cancellation.
If you can afford to pay that small premium, or are willing to wait for an offer, then the Sony WH-1000XM5 headphones are for you.
But which is better for you, the Sony WH-1000XM5 headphones or the Sony WH-1000XM4 predecessor?