Technology is full of competition, in the Apple vs. Microsoft account, in playing Xbox vs. PlayStation and in the headphone world, Sony vs. Bose. No matter how much praise one of their headphones gets, audio devices from Sony and Bose are always benchmarked against those of their competitors.
This brings us to the clash between their recent shows. For Bose, the popular QuietComfort 45 headphones launched at the end of 2021; Whereas for Sony, they are the all-new WH-1000XM5 headphones.
So let’s see how these two noise-cancelling 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 at the end of May for £379 / $399 / AU$649. No matter what continent you live in, you can expect to pay a decent amount to slip your ears inside a pair of these.
When the Bose QuietComfort 45 hits shelves last September, it could have cost you £329/$329/AU$499. These days, you can instead expect to pay as little as £269 / $299 / AU$419 – a reasonable amount less than Sony’s new cans.
Over time, we’d expect the Sony WH-1000XM5 headphones to see a similar price drop (just as we’d expect night to follow) but if you’re looking for a pair today, Bose has a great demo price.
Sony WH-1000XM5 v Bose QuietComfort 45: Design
Sony has been slightly redesigned with the XM5 over-ear headphones, mixing things up a bit over their predecessors (Sony WH-1000XM3 and Sony WH-1000XM4). Some will see a simpler device as smooth and sophisticated, while others may find it bland and uninteresting.
Weighing in at 250g, the Sony headphones are lightweight and snugly sit in place for ages. Unlike other headphones, though, it doesn’t fold in on itself — the earcups have some hinge to help reduce the size of the carrying case, but they’re not the most compact.
The Bose QuietComfort 45 weighs in at just 238 grams and folds up on itself, making it an even more compelling proposition for the frequent flyer among you. We will also describe the appearance of these cans as practical. Although they won’t win any awards for a new design, the Bose headphones are a strong contender for Sony when it comes to comfort, stability, and durability.
Sony WH-1000XM5 v Bose QuietComfort 45: Specifications and Features
We know that the Sony WH-1000XM5 headphones can connect to two devices simultaneously through a wireless Bluetooth 5.2 connection. It’s also compatible with SBC, AAC and LDAC codecs – audio is delivered by a 30mm full-range dynamic driver. There is no aptX, though, which remains a strange omission.
If you are using the Sony Headphones Control app, you can set up and use Sony’s 360 Reality Audio spatial algorithm while wearing these headphones, just take a picture of your ears.
Unlike Sony, Bose hasn’t shared detailed spec lists that reveal how the QuietComfort 45 headphones compare in terms of drivers and connectivity.
Although we can compare it, we know that the QuietComfort 45 lacks the built-in voice assistant that you’ll find on the WH-1000XM5. Additionally, Bose relies on physical controls rather than touch controls such as 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’s size, the XM5 delivers great all-round audio performance. It’s powerful but also controlled at the lower frequencies, while the higher notes strike a perfectly judged bite. The rhythmic expression is comforting, and there’s a range of dynamic leeway available when you want to turn up the volume.
When they were first released, the Bose QuietComfort 45 headphones didn’t have EQ tuning — and as a result, we thought they sounded a bit temporary and vague. You can now fiddle around with the settings in the Bose Music Control app, making lower frequencies more assertive without overwhelming the midrange, and higher frequencies can enjoy more confidence too.
What no amount of EQ optimization can do, despite restoring the finer details of the tracks – the detail that Bose’s view allows to slip through the cracks; While Sony provides a more informative listening experience.
Sony WH-1000XM5 v Bose QuietComfort 45: Noise Canceling
Bose headphones are generally some of the best in terms of their noise-canceling capabilities, although Sony’s WH-1000XM5 cases give them a run for their money.
Leaving no trace of the counter-signal, any sense of in-ear pressure, or disturbance in floor noise, the XM5 simply negates the vast majority of outside sound with the kind of casual competence we more easily associate with its competition.
Likewise, the QuietComfort 45 headphones are capable of canceling out anything less than a plane passing through the sky — if you’re traveling on said plane, you’ll be able to tune the drone perfectly for the motor.
In addition to regular noise cancellation, the new Sony cases also offer a feature called Adaptive Noise Cancellation that attempts to recognize the environments you visit frequently and tune out certain sounds specifically.
Bose offers nothing of the sort, although both headphones share the same ambient sound or perception modes. In Sony’s case, this instead allows you to amplify the sounds around you when you need attention, while Bose seems to simply have noise cancellation turned off.
Sony WH-1000XM5 v Bose QuietComfort 45: Battery Life
With USB-PD charging, the Sony WH-1000XM5 can get three hours of power in just three minutes. Charge it the most traditional way and you’ll go from flat to full in just over three hours. Once complete, it lasts for 30 hours with noise cancellation turned on, or 40 hours if it is turned off.
The Bose QuietComfort 45 can’t really compete with these numbers. For them, the best case scenario is that they will last for about 25 hours. It’s not half bad but it probably won’t cause Sony any sleepless nights.
Sony WH-1000XM5 v Bose QuietComfort 45: Takeaway
In the end, this fight mostly went the Sony way.
That’s not to say the Bose QuietComfort 45 headphones are terrible in any way — their battery life is better than average, their comfort is undeniable, their noise cancellation remains top notch and their audio performance is solid. Plus it’s the cheaper of the two options.
But Sony’s WH-1000XM5 headphones have set the distance between the competition with superior performance in nearly every category — including noise cancellation which is great.
If you can afford to pay that extra amount or are willing to wait for a deal, the Sony WH-1000XM5 headphones are the way to go.
But which is better for you, the Sony WH-1000XM5 headphones or its predecessor, the Sony WH-1000XM4?