Laptop Mag Verdict
The Sony WH-XB910N deliver big bass and battery life in a familiar package, but they aren't the company's most refined noise-cancellers.
Bold and dynamic sound
Great ambient sound mode
360 Reality Audio and DSEE support
Horrendous voice assistant integration
Too bassy for certain tracks
ANC is better on other Sony models
Bad call quality
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The Sony WH-XB910N serve as an affordable alternative to the flagship WH-1000XM4. This is evident from the near-identical design, battery life, and feature set, which includes proprietary technologies like 360 Reality Audio, Digital Sound Enhancement Engine (DSEE), and Equalizer. Throw active noise cancellation and adjustable ambient listening into the mix, and one would swear there was no difference between the WH-XB910N and Sony’s Mark 4 headphones, but there are considerable differences when you dig a bit deeper.
These headphones lack big brother’s smarts and sonic precision. Weaker active noise cancellation (ANC) and call quality also distinguish the two models. The WH-CB910N won’t replace any of Sony’s top-of-the-line wireless headphones. However, that isn’t the real question. It’s whether the WH-XB910N are good enough to replace your current mid-range ANC headphones.
Read our full review of the Sony WH-XB910N to get the full breakdown.
- Sony WH-XB910N (Gray) for $129 at Best Buy
- Sony WH-XB910N (Black) for $148 at Amazon
- Sony WH-XB910N (Blue) for $249 at Amazon
Sony WH-XB910N availability and price
The Sony WH-XB910N originally launched at $249, but they underwent a price drop and can be purchased for $150 at major online retailers (Amazon, Best Buy) or directly from Sony. Three colors are available: Black, Blue and Gray. Inside the box is a carrying case, plug adapter, USB-C charging cable, operating instructions, reference guide, and a warranty card.
For comparison, these headphones are less expensive than ANC heavyweights like the Bose 700 ($379) and Sony WH-1000XM4 ($349), but more expensive than our current mid-range favorite, the Cleer Enduro ANC ($129). If you’re thinking of making the transition to something truly wireless, check out our ranking of the best noise-cancelling earbuds.
Be sure to bookmark our headphone deals page for the latest sales.
Sony WH-XB910N design and comfort
The WH-XB910N successfully replicates the Mark series’ silhouette; it's chic and minimalist. They look sharp from afar and blend in with some of the market’s other premium selections. At the same time, they feel flimsy and cheap due to the all-plastic construction. Something else these cans lack is detailing. Small details like slim buttons and rose-gold accents gave the WH-1000XM4 some finesse. The WH-XB910N underwhelms with large buttons and an embossed, light gray logo.
Sony’s carrying case is also basic. Build quality is decent, and the inside leaves enough room to store the headphones and all bundled accessories. It’s just that the WH-1000XM4 case has more space and comes with a mesh pocket on the back to transport other stuff.
At 8.8 ounces, the WH-XB910N weigh practically the same as the WH-1000XM4 (8.9 ounces), which is light. Wearing them around the neck or atop the head won’t weigh you down. The plush padding on both ear cups and the headband grants pleasant comfort. Fit isn’t an issue either since the headphones mold nicely around the skull and the extenders have multiple settings to accommodate different head sizes.
Sony WH-XB910N controls and digital assistant
Sony created a user-friendly control scheme that’s easy to remember and supports a full suite of media controls. The right ear cup accepts swipes and multi-tap gestures to enable playback, call management and volume. To swipe left/right for track navigation or up/down for volume is super convenient, especially when the touch panel registers input so accurately. On the left earcup are buttons for power/ pairing and listening mode activation. Each one produces solid tactility to ensure users commands are met.
If only my voice assistant experience was as satisfying. To call it a nightmare would be an understatement. Even after I completed the setup processes for both, Alexa and Google Assistant integration didn’t work. To use the digital assistant, you must place the feature on the native setting in the companion app and manually activate it (tap and hold on the right ear cup). When the feature does work, the mics do an OK job of interpreting voice commands that Google Assistant, Alexa, Siri and Bixby register.
Not having auto-detect to pause music when taking off the headphones is a bummer.
Furthermore, there are some bugs that Sony forgot to flush out. One that stands out is the digital assistant not executing commands when using the Sony Headphones Connect app.
Sony WH-XB910N audio quality
The hallmark of Sony headphones is sound quality, more specifically, bass. Not only does it come in abundance on the WH-XB910N, thanks to Extra Bass technology, but Sony also added their spatial audio and upscaling features to make music livelier and more engrossing.
The emphasized low end is instantly felt on bass-heavy tracks like Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.” It’s only natural to be pulled in by the infectious bassline and snare drums from the start. There was more to appreciate upon further listening, specifically the clean-sounding adlibs and cymbals, which were pronounced and blended well over the record’s funky production.
I found the channel separation superb on instrumental recordings. A record like John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme, Pt. 1” captured the essence of a live performance at the Blue Note, feeding my left ear soulful trumpet play and the right ear tingy hi-hats simultaneously.
Gaining a greater feel for bass, I played Dr. Dre’s “Kush,” but was taken aback by the diminished clarity. The booming effects and searing synths were overkill and bloated up the vocals. Thankfully, Sony lets you personalize sound through its Equalizer feature that drastically improves quality. Switching to the Bright EQ provided the most well-rounded results and kept bass tight and punchy.
You’re given eight other EQs to play with: Bass Boost, Bright, Excited, Manual, Mellow, Relaxed, Speech, Treble Boost and Vocal. The option to create your own sound profile by manually adjusting the frequencies and bass is available as well. Unlike the Mark series, these presets don’t perform so well on the WH-X910N. I advise sticking with Bright.
Enable DSEE to increase the fidelity on low-fi tracks and minimize background static. Sony’s 360 Reality Audio will also make select tracks from compatible hi-res streaming services (e.g., Tidal, Deezer) sound more immersive, though Apple’s Spatial Audio is the better solution for 3D listening.
Sony WH-XB910N active noise cancellation
This isn’t Sony’s finest ANC outing. The noise neutralization on these cans is inferior to the Mark series, as well as top rivals like the Bose 700 and newcomers like the Shure Aonic 40. You’ll get some quiet time, depending on the environment, but don’t anticipate complete silence.
Working in my home office, I could hear family chatter and my toddler’s tantrums from about 50 feet away. Other noises like doorbells and my mom-in-law’s iPhone speakerphone conversations were also audible at a high level, confirming the WH-XB910N's struggle with mid and high frequencies.
ANC fares better outdoors. I enjoyed interruption-free listening in the gazebo, blocking out distractions like cars pulling into the driveway and planes flying over the house. Wind resistance might be the headphones’ best under-the-radar feature. You can enable the setting in the app to suppress whisking effects created by gusty conditions and speeding cars. It won’t completely cancel out these noises, but the difference between having it on and off is huge.
Ambient Sound is the superior feature. You get 20 adjustable levels and full control over the amount of external sound that comes through the mics. I could hear everything around me clearly, from construction work across the street to chats taking place across the house. The feature is strong enough that you don’t have to enable the Focus on Voice setting to amplify people’s vocals.
Sony WH-XB910N app and special features
Noise cancellation and Sony sound are two incredible selling points, but so is access to the Sony Headphones Connect app. Receiving signature features like 360 Reality Audio, ANC/Ambient Sound, Equalizer, and DSEE at the current price point of $150 is incredible.
A few other settings you’ll find in the app are Automatic Power Off, connected device management, voice assistant selection, and Bluetooth Connection Quality to prioritize sound quality or connectivity. The homescreen also greets you with a battery level indicator and music player.
Not all of Sony’s high-end features made the cut. Missing from the list are LDAC, NC Optimizer, NFC, and smart controls like Quick Attention and Speak-to-Chat.
Sony WH-XB910N battery life
Inexpensive models with sufficient ANC playtime are hard to come by. The WH-XB910N don't cheat you of long battery life, generating up to 30 hours with ANC on and 50 hours with ANC off. This crushes the 20 hours max offered by both the Bose 700 and AirPods Max, and is slightly higher than the WH-100XM4 (the 30 hours Sony advertises falls short by 3 hours).
My testing saw the headphones tap out around the 29-hour mark with ANC on, which was perfect for two weeks of entertainment. Any worries of low battery life disappeared once discovering a 10-minute quick charge could net 4.5 hours of extra play.
Sony WH-XB910N call quality and connectivity
The call quality on these cans is as poor as the WH-1000XM3. Muffling made it difficult for people to understand the context of convos and the mics let in more noise than they blocked out. My wife could barely hear anything I said while walking through the streets during rush hour. I thought taking her call indoors would improve things, but there was still choppiness on my end.
At least connectivity was reliable. Bluetooth 5.2 extended wireless range up to 50 feet without stuttering. Pairing was instantaneous on all platforms and single-click Google Fast Pair expedited the process on Android devices. Multipoint technology (connect to two devices simultaneously) also operated better than I thought it would.
Credit Sony for its generosity. It didn’t have to give us a lower-tier version of its flagship ANC headphones because the WH-1000XM4 is mostly flawless and worth every penny. Nonetheless, we got the WH-XB910N, a model possessing many of the brand’s top features and flaws.
The pros outweigh the cons and having this level of sound for just $150 is a bargain. If that isn’t satisfying enough, then consider the lower-priced and more well-rounded Enduro ANC.