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Sony WH-1000xM4 vs. Bose 700: Which is best?

Sony WH-1000xM4 vs Bose 700
(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Shhh! Can you hear that? Probably not since this is a battle between wireless noise cancelling headphone heavyweights. In one corner, you have the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, the gold standard when it comes to blocking out the outside world and creating a silenced nirvana. Not only do the 700s deliver world-class ANC, but you also get accurate, balanced audio, a modern, yet elegant design and some of the best call quality in the business.

But before you go and hand Bose the victory, consider the Sony WH-1000xM4 headphones. The latest update to Sony’s flagship ANC headphones addresses its predecessor’s biggest complaint –– the call quality. With that out of its way, you have what’s probably the smartest headphone on the market. By way of its app, the xM4 delivers scores of audio customization including 360-degree audio and a rather deep equalizer. And Sony’s no slouch in the ANC category, either, creating a noise-free bubble to rival Bose. Plus, you’ve got some seriously powerful audio that’s warm and dynamic. 

In a battle of ANC headphones, one set of cans will hear the sweet sound of victory while the other will gnash their teeth in the discordant din of defeat. So who’s it going to be? Read on to find out.

Sony WH-1000xM4 Headphones Bose Noise Cancelling Headphone 700
Price $349 $339.95
Weight 8.9 ounces 9 ounces
Colors Black and Champagne Gold Triple Black, Silver Luxe, Arctic White
Battery Life 30 hours (NC on) 38 hours (NC off) 20 hours (NC on)
Companion App Yes Yes

Sony WH-1000xM4 vs. Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 pricing and availability

The Bose has been on the market for a while and as such, there’s been a price drop. It’s a small one, but a price drop nonetheless.

The 700 are currently available on Amazon for $339.95 on Amazon for the Triple Black and Silver Luxe version of the cans. However, the Artic White variation that features a pop of Rose Gold is only $299.95. 

The 1000xM4 is only a few dollars more than the Bose, at $349, and currently comes in two color variants: Black and Champagne Gold.

Winner: Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700

Sony WH-1000xM4 vs. Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 design and comfort

I’m not ashamed to call the 700 DILF-ware. Made of black stainless steel that bisects the middle of the plastic ear cups, my review unit is seriously modern. The headband is made of a soft-touch plastic that houses a bit of Bose's proprietary foam and is designed to evenly distribute the weight. You can adjust the fit by sliding the ear cups up or down instead of manipulating the band. This takes a bit of getting used to, but the overall movement is seamless.

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Several buttons located along the ear cups help alleviate the need to touch your connected device. The left cup has the adjustable noise-cancellation button, while the right cup has toggles for Power/Bluetooth and launching your digital assistant. The right cup has a capacitive-touch panel so you don’t have to go searching for your smartphone or tablet.

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Sony didn’t mess with the 1000xM4’s design too much, which means my review unit is still rocking that black frame. But it’s those small copper accents that make the difference –– especially with the Sony badges stamped on both sides of the yolks. Most of the headphones’ frame is made of plastic while the headband and earcups are made from memory foam covered in black leatherette and the extenders are made of metal. However, there are some slight changes, such as the earpads, which are 10% bigger than their predecessor’s while the headband is somewhat slimmer. 

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

The WH-1000xM4 has a similar button and port placement as its predecessor, with the USB Type-C charging port under the right earcup. The Power and Custom buttons are located on the underside of the left cup while the audio jack and the NFC chip are embedded in the left earcup and the motion sensor sits on the interior. 

The xM4 weighs 8.9 ounces, which is just a little lighter than the Bose 700 (9 ounces). It’s not much of a difference on paper, but holding both cans, the Bose does feel slightly heavier. It really didn’t play into actual wear as I’ve worn both pairs of headphones comfortably for 8 hours. But I do prefer the 1000xM4 as those larger earcups provide a bigger pillowy surface to rest against my head.

Winner: Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700

Sony WH-1000xM4 vs. Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 controls

The xM4’s touch controls are embedded in the right earcup. The functions are fairly straight forward as upward/downward strokes adjust the volume while a right/left swipe skips tracks. Double tapping the center of the cup pauses/plays tracks or answers/ignores phone calls. Placing your hand over the right earcup activates Quick Attention, which pauses the music momentarily.

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Want more? A long press on the earcup, or the Custom button depending on how you map it, will either activate your device’s digital assistant or the Ambient Sound control.  You can program the headphones to stop playing audio when you talk and switch to Ambient Noise mode via the Sony Headphones Connect app. 

The touch controls are a bit finicky as a misplaced swipe will accidentally activate the wrong command. The best way to engage with the panel is with slow, deliberate strokes and taps. 

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Similar to the competition, the 700’s touch control panel is discreetly hidden in the right ear cup and controlled with a series of swipes. A quick upward swipe raises the volume, while a downward slash decreases the sound. To skip or return to tracks, swipe forward or backward, respectively. To play or pause, quickly double-tap the cup. Aside from getting the tap cadence down pat, the touch controls are easy to master, and they made sure that I rarely had to touch my smartphone.

Along the right ear cup, you have the Power/Pairing button and the digital assistant button, while the left has the noise-cancellation/conversation-mode buttons. The three buttons have a nice click when pressed and are easy to find when you're out and about.

Although the xM4 packs a lot of functionality into its touch panel, the finicky operation can be annoying. The 700 have a much smoother interface. 

Winner: Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700

Sony WH-1000xM4 vs. Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 apps

Sony really outdid itself with the free Headphones Connect app (Android, iOS). It has so many game-changing features. You’ve got your perfunctory stuff, like turning the headphones on and off, monitoring the battery life, volume levels and track information. You can also adjust the Adaptive Sound Control levels from total noise cancelling to Ambient Sound Control, up to level 20. You also have the ability to set the Custom button functionality, toggle the touch sensor panel on and off, enable/disable the motion sensor and automatically power the headphones off.

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There are Speak-to-Chat and the Noise Cancelling Optimizer, which measures your ears to create the ideal listening environment depending on your head size and whether or not you wear glasses. There’s also Atmospheric Pressure Optimization that adjusts pressure depending on altitude. It’s a feature that shines best on an airplane. 

But wait, there’s more! The app also allows you to set sound quality priority (quality vs stable connection). And new to the WH-1000xM4 is Digital Sound Enhancement Engine (DSEE) Extreme, Sony’s technology to enhance compressed audio by restoring high-range audio via the company’s proprietary Edge-AI. Another long-awaited feature is the ability for the headphones to simultaneously connect to two devices. Plus the app also has an equalizer with 12 presets and Sony’s 360 Reality Audio functionality, which creates a 360-degree soundscape, giving the illusion of being in your own personal concert hall. 

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Similar to the headphones, the free Bose Connect app (Android, iOS) is clear, simple and elegant. It’s here where you’ll adjust the noise-cancellation levels, choose between digital assistants, and pick how much of your own voice you can hear on a call. 

You can also control your music via the app, including changing tracks and adjusting volume. The app additionally allows you to customize your noise-cancellation favorites from the default 10, 5 and Off. There's also a product tour and FAQ in case you need to do a bit of troubleshooting.

As smooth as using the app is, I'd like to see the company add two features: a find-my-headphones function and a few equalizer presets for people who prefer to tune their own listening experience. 

Winner: Sony WH-1000xM4 headphones

Sony WH-1000xM4 vs. Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 noise cancelling

Both sets of headphones are doling out some powerful active noise-cancelling technology. Let’s start with the de facto industry leader, the Bose. The headphones give those looking for quiet respite 11 levels to choose from via the Bose app. Press the ANC button, and you can toggle between three of those settings on the fly: High, Medium and Full Transparency. 

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High is definitely impressive, especially when paired with music, as it effectively drowned out the New York City hustle and bustle. When I walked into a gaggle of noisy teens, I had the ANC at the halfway mark at 5, which, with the music off, dulled the cacophony to an acceptable volume, while 10 made the kids sound like they were a block away. And when
I’m in the house, the cans can block out my LG TV when its volume is set to 17.

As for the xM4. The headphones have two Feedforward microphones that capture ambient sounds and use the company’s proprietary Dual Noise Sensor technology to pass the information to the HD Noise Canceling Processor QN1 chip. From there, the data is analyzed at over 700 times per second by the Bluetooth System on Chip (SoC), which uses an algorithm to filter out the noise. 

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All that tech comes together to create blissful quiet that, like the Bose, muted my television at 17 volume. And when I was out for a walk, the Noise Cancelling setting effectively quieted the subway running overhead. 

Both sets of cans let ambient noise into your soundscape at varying levels. The xM4 has 20 levels of Ambient Sound Controls to access compared to the Bose’s 10 levels of ANC. In a head-to-head, Bose definitely does it better. The Bose had a warmer presentation overall, allowing me to watch “My Lottery Dream Home” while still bopping to “WAP,” Megan Thee Stallion’s latest banger. 

The Sonys had a very hollow sound once I went past the wind resistance setting. It actually sounded like the headphones were introducing wind interference. It’s fine, but not as good as the Bose. 

Winner: Draw

Sony WH-1000xM4 vs. Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 audio quality

In my tenure testing Bose products, particularly headphones, the company has always gone the route of precision and restraint. Sony, on the other hand, goes for bountiful, boom. Not to say there isn’t accuracy, it’s just not the pin-drop performance you get from other brands. And something to note about the Bose and the Sonys is the volume. On my Samsung Galaxy Note 8, what was 50% on the 1000xM4 was about 70% on the 700.

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Listening to Kevin Ross’ “I Do/Options” on the xM4, the bass was in full effect, even with the equalizer off. The lows were incredibly deep and threatened to overtake the rest of the track, but I liked it. The diaphanous keyboard floated about the fray, the drums were still crisp and Ross’ vocal was warm and dynamic. And the little flourishes from the Electric Wind Instrument were lush. 

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

I really missed the lows when I listened to the track on the Bose. It’s not that the bass wasn’t there, it was, it just wasn’t as forward. However, the more restrained bass did allow me to focus on the keyboard and vocal. And the drums were definitely sharper. 

When I played Toby Nwigwe and Jabari Johnson’s “TRY JESUS,” the headphones were evenly matched for the most part. The cymbals at the start of the song were pristine as was the plaintive licks of the electric guitar. Despite the swelling organ, Nwigwe’s gritty delivery was front and center. However, where the bass sounded measured and controlled on the 1000xM4, the lows were unexpectedly boomy, like the drivers were straining to handle it.

Winner: Sony WH-1000xM4

Sony WH-1000xM4 vs. Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 battery life

Similar to its predecessor, the 1000xM4 has a 30-hour estimated battery life with the ANC enabled. Turn off ANC and that jumps to 38 hours which, with 3 hours of listening a day, should last nearly two weeks. Both times are significantly longer than the Bose, which has an estimated battery life of 20 hours. 

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For charging, you’ll only need 10 minutes of charge to get 5 hours of battery life from the xM4. With the Bose, you’ll need 15 minutes to 2 hours of battery life.

Winner: Sony WH-1000xM4 Headphones

Sony WH-1000xM4 vs. Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 call quality

The biggest complaint about the 1000xM3 was the call quality. Calls taken or received suffered from low, muffled volume. Not so with the xM4. I made several calls with the xM4, including my morning meeting video chat with the Laptop Mag staff. They all said they heard me clearly with editor, Phillip Tracy, explaining that it sounded like I was speaking into a good internal laptop mic. And since most folks on staff actually own the xM3, they stated it was a notable difference. Everyone sounded good on my end, not as loud as when I conducted the chat sans headphones, but still doable.

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But yet, Bose continues to raise the bar. Hidden within the 700’s rather svelte frame are eight individual microphones. Six of those block incoming noise while the remaining two pull double duty and work with another two to amplify your voice. The result is a sort of audio-rejection beam that blocks the louder ambient noise in the environment, while the mics that are focused on your voice create proper separation. 

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I love taking calls on the 700, especially when I’m out on the street. Outside of an errant siren, for the most part, my callers can never tell that I’m talking to them via a pair of headphones. And my callers tend to sound loud and clear no matter the environment.  

Winner: Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700

Overall Winner

The Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 wins this face-off by 4 rounds to 3. That’s in large part to its sleek design, easy-to-use touch controls and its world-class call quality. And of course, Bose continues to deliver some of the best active noise cancelling in the business and has great audio to boot.

Sony WH-1000xM4 Headphones Bose Noise Cancelling Headphone 700
Pricing and availability (10)79
Design and comfort (15)1214
Controls (10)79
App (10)97
Noise Cancelling (15)1515
Audio Quality (20)1816
Battery Life (10)108
Call Quality (10)79
Total8587

However, Sony shouldn’t be counted out as this was a very narrow win by Bose. Not only are the WH-1000xM4 a bit more comfortable than the Bose, but they match them in active noise cancelling, which is a triumph in itself. Plus, the xM4 has better audio and an app that allows listeners to seriously customize the audio. And you’ll get longer battery life to the tune of 10 hours. And they’re only $10 apart in price. Ultimately, you’ve got two excellent headphones with great audio quality and features.