Which premium headphones brand is best?
There’s no shortage of headphones on the market to choose from these days, with many of them coming from barely known import companies with names that few English speakers can pronounce correctly. However, two companies are synonymous with sound quality and build quality.
Both Sony and Bose make great headphones, and their flagship models each offer impressive active noise cancellation and excellent wireless connectivity. On the other hand, there are key differences between the two brands, especially toward the top of their offerings.
For over 70 years, Sony has been manufacturing high-quality electronics. They dabble in a massive range of products, including OLED TVs and ultra-premium smartphones, but their audio division has always had a great reputation for very good reason. Their thoughtful development process, advanced technologies and premium build quality are no secret, making their headphones well worth the usually high cost.
Sony headphones pros
- Extremely comfortable
- Various price ranges to choose from
- Powerful Bluetooth connectivity
- Nearly unmatched active noise canceling
Sony headphones cons
- Flagship models are quite expensive.
- The most recent versions have dropped aptX codec support.
Best Sony headphones
These are not the most recent pair of headphones in Sony’s flagship line. That title goes to the Sony WH1000XM4, but in this case, newer isn’t necessarily better. Released in 2018, the WH1000XM3 headphones boast a high-quality microphone, support for the Qualcomm aptX HD codec and a sound profile that’s suitable for a wide range of music genres. The newer WH1000XM4 sport more effective noise reduction, continued LDAC codec support and Bluetooth 5.0 that allows for multipoint connections when using the AAC codec. Still, it drops the quality internal microphone as well as all aptX support, so Android users may very well find the older model to have better sound quality. However, they’re both excellent headphones with light weights, convenient touch controls and some of the world’s best active noise canceling. What’s also worth noting is that the older model is roughly $100 cheaper.
Sold by: Amazon
If traditional wireless earbuds don’t do a good enough job at passive noise isolation for your needs, consider this pair of high-performing in-ear headphones that incorporate similar active noise cancelation to Sony’s flagship over-ears. Combined with their charging case, they claim a battery life of 24 hours. What’s more, should they run out, you can charge them up for just 10 minutes to get 90 minutes of run time. While slightly bulky, they’re especially lightweight, and their touch controls make it easy to start and stop audio playback and phone calls.
Sold by: Amazon
While these are marketed as having a high bass output, they’re not exactly boomy compared to most other headphones. Quite a bit of popular music today and throughout history benefits from a slightly boosted low end. What you get with this mid-range pair is long battery life, fast charging, Google Assistant and Alexa integration and acceptable noise canceling, all at a fraction of the price of Sony’s flagship releases.
Sold by: Amazon
Founded in 1964, Bose has spent decades producing quality audio equipment, much of it geared toward discerning consumers. They got into the aviation headset game in 1989, over a decade before launching a single pair of consumer headphones. Since then, they’ve released a wide range of home Bluetooth speakers and currently supply high-fidelity sound systems for a number of luxury cars. Their headphones fall into that same luxury category, with high comfort levels and impressive performance to match. For more information on Bose headphones, check the buying guide on BestReviews.
Bose headphones pros
- Highly praised active noise canceling with versatile customization options
- Extremely stylish design
- Comfortable for long periods of wear
Bose headphones cons
- No support for advanced codecs
- Few mid-range or inexpensive options
Best Bose headphones
The successors to the wildly popular and still effective Bose QuietComfort 35 II, the 700 are designed to look as good as they sound, and they certainly sound great. Like Bose’s last flagship over-ear headphones, these feel a bit like they’re tailored to iPhone users because AAC is the only audio codec they support aside from the bog-standard SBC protocol. Nonetheless, they offer great performance in nearly any setting, thanks in large part to the comprehensive and customizable noise canceling function they’re famous for. They also utilize a multi-microphone array to ensure that call quality is unrivaled. For iPhone users, the only real drawback to these is that they fall in the higher price range.
Sold by: Amazon
These earbuds are compact, lightweight and rated for IPX4 moisture resistance, making them great for working out. They come with three sets of well-designed ear tips that promise a secure fit, and their touch controls are easy to use, no matter how sweaty you are. They’ll easily last an entire workout without needing to be recharged, and their microphone uses beamforming technology to pick up your voice noticeably better than other in-ear models. They even come in two interesting color schemes aside from the traditional black. Unfortunately, like most Bose headphones, they do not come cheap.
Sold by: Amazon
Should you get Sony or Bose headphones?
Both are great for listening to music and making phone calls, but the Sony WH1000XM3 takes the crown with the best blend of audio codecs, call quality, comfort, noise canceling and battery life. While Bose makes great headphones, Sony’s offerings make just a bit more sense for most people. On the other hand, if you exclusively use Apple products, you’ll get just about the same performance level in most aspects from the Bose 700. However, in the lower price range, Sony is a clear winner, as Bose hasn’t released any noteworthy headphones for less than $150 in quite some time.
Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.
Chris Thomas writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
Copyright 2021 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.