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What’s the difference? Bose vs. Sony noise-canceling headphones

What’s the difference? Bose vs. Sony noise-canceling headphones

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Noise-canceling headphones are all the rage these days. Many are opting for the high-tech pairs of headphones over traditional headphones or earbuds because of their audio quality, comfort and, obviously, capabilities to block out all the background noise and chatter in your life. They’re perfect for frequent travelers, those that work in an open office, or just anyone looking for a touch of peace and quiet.

However, there are so many premium noise-canceling wireless headphones out there that it might seem difficult to pick the perfect pair for you — especially if you’re going to plunk down upwards of $400.

That’s where we come in. We put the two most popular noise-canceling headphones on the market against each other to see which one is the best of the best. Whether you need a new pair of headphones to stay productive in loud areas like coffee shops and offices or you’re planning the perfect gift for the holiday season, we put the Sony WH-1000XM3 Noise-Canceling Bluetooth Headphones and the new Bose Noise-Canceling Headphones 700 to the test to help you make the best decision for you.

Sony WH-1000XM3

The Sony WH-1000XM3 might have an awkward name, but it’s considered one of the best options for noise-canceling. The headphones are great for listening to your favorite music and podcasts, while its true wireless features can seamlessly connect to both Android and iPhone smartphones and tablets. They feature a long battery life of up to 30 hours of playback on a single charge. Cushioned ear pads make them comfortable to wear for hours on end.

Key features

Thanks to Sony’s Processor QN1 chip, the Sony WH-1000XM3 headphones effectively block out any background and ambient noise around you. When you first place them over your ears, it might feel a little snug wrapped around your head. This is because these headphones deliver two types of noise cancelation, active noise-cancelling and passive noise isolation.

That tight seal on your ears is considered passive noise isolation because the ear cups physically block out background noise. However, if you turn on active noise-cancelling (it’s actually on by default), you’ll hear almost a vacuum effect as all the ambient noise just disappears. The headphones’ three built-in microphones on each ear cup do most of the noise-canceling work, and this feature comes in handy if you’re traveling on an airplane or train.

These headphones also include a few key features that make them extremely usable and functional. The right ear cup features a number of touch features that allow you to control your smartphone without taking it out of your pocket. You can easily turn on and off your music with a double tap at the bottom of the ear cup, or switch tracks with a horizontal swipe from left to right. You can also increase the volume with a vertical swipe; swipe up to turn the volume up and swipe down to turn the volume down.

In fact, the Sony WH-1000XM3 have a setting called “Quick Attention Mode,” which allows you to listen to the world around you without taking the headphones off your head or ears. Just cover the entire right ear cup with your hand, and you can briefly turn off your music and all noise-cancelling settings. Uncover the ear cup and your music and settings turn on. This is great for riding a subway and want to listen for your next stop, or at an airport when you want to listen to an important announcement about your flight.

When paired with the “Sony Headphones Connect” app, the Sony WH-1000XM3 can change its level of noise-cancelation depending on your location via the “Ambient Sound Control” setting. For example, if you’re sitting at a desk in an empty library or office, the headphones will automatically block less noise because you’re in a quiet room. However, if you’re walking down a busy street or commuting on a subway train, the headphones will block out more noise because it’s more busy and loud.

The “Connect” app is also used to adjust and customize your audio experience. While there aren’t as many settings as other audio equalizers from other manufacturers, the ones that are featured really boost the audio quality — which is clear and smooth with adequate bass.

Not only can you listen to music and make or receive calls when paired with a smartphone, you can also have quick access to voice assistants like Apple Siri, Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant with just a tap on that right ear cup. This is a great feature to get up-to-the-minute news, weather updates and information without taking off the headphones.

The premium headphones even come with a handy carrying and storage case to make them easier to pack or keep secure when traveling. They also come with a very short USB-C charging cable, 3.5mm audio cable jack and airline adaptor for flights.

Bottom line

If you’re looking for comfortable headphones, the Sony WH-1000XM3 are a really good pick. The audio quality is clean, noise-canceling features are world class and Bluetooth connectivity is solid, but at times spotty. Plus, they’re a true bargain — even at $348.

Sony Noise-Canceling Bluetooth Headphones WH-1000XM3. (Photo: Walmart)

Shop it: $348, walmart.com

“I have utilized many headphones being in the aviation industry for over two decades,” a delighted shopper wrote. “I have major inner ear damage due to an explosions in combat. This causes a high sensitivity to pressure and high pitched noises. They cause major amounts of pain and discomfort. These headphones can be calibrated using the app to reduce the pressure so they stay comfortable and you remain out of pain. They are also more up to date than the Bose. Both are great but Sony’s headphones are more modern with so many easy to use features. Plus, they are light with overall superior noise cancelling abilities.”

Another five-star Walmart reviewer added, “Noise cancelling is excellent and can completely cancel out a plane engine. The touch features on the right hand side were unexpected but work great. I have had no issues at all with connecting with either my phone or computer.”

Shop it: Sony Noise-Canceling Bluetooth Headphones WH-1000XM3, $348, walmart.com

Bose 700

While they are not considered the follow up to the widely popular Bose QuietComfort 35 wireless headphones Series II — which are still available for just $349 at Walmart — Bose released the new Bose 700 Noise-Canceling Bluetooth Headphones earlier in the year. The new product line is meant to enhance the company’s already robust noise-canceling offerings with something new and exciting for 2019. But make no mistake about them, these are the new flagship headphones for Bose.

These headphones have an all-new design with additional comfort in the ear cups and stainless steel headband. While each feature thick and bouncy padding that cushions how they feel on the ear, the ear cups themselves have more swivel positions that are more customizable to your head. They also feature 11 levels of noise-cancelling, which continues the theme of customization Bose seems to be striving for with the Bose 700 headphones.

Key features

Bose is known as a premium audio company first, with some of the best audio gear on the market. The Bose 700 is no different, only the headphones’ all-new minimal design speaks volumes to the company’s direction of drawing in more eyeballs on their products.

First things first: These headphones look great. They boast clean lines, futuristic-looking and angled ear cup sliders and sleek rubber headband padding. While they only come in two colors, traditional black and Luxe Silver, the Bose 700 don’t come off as gaudy or garish, but rather simple and classic — even though they’re brand new.

Aside from their looks, which is a considerable update from last year’s flagship, the noise cancellation features are also a notch above the QC35II. Bose introduced a new microphone system that does a better job with noise-cancelling and voice delivery. The company placed four small microphones on each ear cup to block out more background audio. This is why Bose can offer 11 levels of noise cancelling, perfect for blocking out noise no matter where you are.

Thanks to those microphones, you can get better call clarity via Bluetooth, as if you’re not using a wireless headset to make and receive phone calls. In fact, the Bose 700 can pick up only your audio, if you’re taking a call in a crowded and loud office or coffee shop, while the person on the other end can only hear your voice and not the person at table six ordering another double cappuccino.

With up to 20 hours of battery life on a single charge, the Bose 700 also have the ability to pair to more than one device at the same time. This is perfect for easily switching between a YouTube video on your laptop and a podcast episode on your smartphone. This is a feature not included on the Sony WH-1000XM3, so if syncing to multiple devices is important to you, the Bose 700 headphones are your pick.

The headphones pair via Bluetooth, but audio and noise-cancelling settings can be adjusted through the Bose Music app for Android and iOS mobile devices. This is where you can customize your audio for a better immersive experience, plus you can set your favorite noise-cancelling settings from 0-to-10.

Much like the Sony WH-1000XM3, the Bose 700 also features quick access to Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa and Apple Siri virtual assistants. Only the Bose models has a dedicated button for access instead of tapping on an ear cup. However, both headphones have tap-friendly media controls on their right ear cups.

The Bose 700 headphones also comes with a premium soft carrying case, along with a long USB-C charging cable, 3.5mm-to-2.5mm audio cable. The audio jack on these headphones are 2.5mm instead of the standard 3.5mm variety.

Bottom line

At $400, the Bose 700 have good reason to be slightly more expensive than the Sony WH-1000XM3. Bose has a sleeker design and more adjustable configuration when worn, while Sony also offers stellar audio and noise-canceling features. However, Bose’s audio and noise-canceling are more refined and customizable.

Bose Noise-Canceling Bluetooth Headphones 700. (Photo: Walmart)

Shop it: $399, walmart.com

“The Bose Noise Cancelling headphones are totally worth the money,” wrote a five-star reviewer on Walmart.com. “The sound quality is crisp and clear, as if you are at a concert and the headphones are so comfortable. It has an amazing microphone system that picks up and isolates your voice while canceling the noise around you. With a light weight frame and cushy ear pads the Bose headphones are extremely comfortable. I love Alexa Assistant and it has the ability to take a hands-free call or speak to Alexa easily and change your music channel. You can also use google assistant if you prefer! There are 10 noise cancelling settings that you can adjust easily according to the environment. These headphones have excellent noise cancelling ability and work really well as a headset for making calls or enjoying your favorite music.”

“These headphones are as beautiful as comfortable as great sounding,” a satisfied shopper wrote. “I easily paired them to my phone. They come in a beautiful case. They are lightweight. They have a great cushion on the head band. I love having multiple noise canceling features. These are very premium headphones and worth the splurge. A very great gift with wonderful sound quality.”

Shop it: Bose Noise-Canceling Bluetooth Headphones 700, $399, walmart.com

Final verdict

Both Bose and Sony offer a great pair of premium headphones with a wide selection of features. If your decision is based solely on better audio quality and more advanced noise-canceling, then the Bose 700 are the ones for you. They just feel more refined and higher quality, while they are from a very trusted name in audio.

However, the Sony WH-1000XM3 are more lightweight because of their inexpensive build quality, they have a longer battery life (30 hours compared to Bose’s 20 hours), they’re more compact because of its “swivel and fold” design and, most importantly, they are $48 cheaper than the Bose 700 headphones.

But whichever one you pick, you’re going to get a very immersive audio experience.

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