Apple AirPods Pro vs Sony WF-1000XM3: which headphones are the best?

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the Apple AirPods Pro are part of best wireless headphones you can buy now. With excellent noise cancellation, improved design (compared to the original AirPods) and a perfect fit, they're hard to beat – especially if you're a fan of Apple products.

However, the AirPods Pro are not perfect. They are expensive and even the new and improved design does not mean that they are not inclined to slip from time to time. That's why, when it comes to the best real wireless headphones on the market, the Sony WF-1000XM3 Wireless Headphones currently take our first place.

We awarded Sony WF-1000XM3 Wireless Headphones 5 out of 5 stars when we reviewed them in late 2019, thanks to their noise cancellation, solid audio performance, and minimal appearance. But given that they are similar to the Apple AirPods Pro in many ways, the big question is: which pair of real wireless headphones should you buy?

Of course, the answer will be different for everyone depending on your priorities and your style. But below, we've assessed the pros and cons of each pair of headphones based on key factors, such as design and sound performance.

Read on to find out if the AirPods Pro or the Sony WF-1000XM3 should win the battle for your ears.

AirPods Pro vs Sony WF-1000XM3: price

The Apple AirPods Pro costs $ 249 / £ 249 / AU $ 399. That's a big price difference when you compare them to the 2019 AirPods, which cost $ 159 / £ 159 / AU $ 249 (with the standard charging case), and $ 199 / £ 199 / AU $ 319 with the wireless charging case.

This means that they are not supposed to directly replace the 2019 AirPods. But is this sharp price increase worth it? When we compared the Apple AirPods Pro with Apple AirPods we found that the Pro model offers much more, including noise cancellation and active equalization. But that doesn’t mean that many of us would be able to justify the price.

In comparison, the Sony WF-1000XM3 wireless headphones cost $ 230 / £ 220 / € 250 (Ireland) and $ 400 AU. They are available in plain black and champagne silver.

Sure, the Sony WF-1000XM3 headphones aren't much cheaper than the AirPods Pro, but it should be noted that they are roughly a third less expensive than the Sony WH-1000XM3 on-ear model – which shares the same noise canceling technology. They're also competitively priced compared to competing wireless headphones, including the $ 299 Bose QuietControl 30 – buds which also offer active noise suppression.

It's also worth keeping in mind that there are some great Sony WF-1000XM3 deals currently out there – right now the AirPods Pro deals are a bit more rare, but you can still find them if you look hard enough. We've done the work for you, and you can check out the best prices for the two models below:

AirPods Pro vs Sony WF-1000XM3: design

The design of a pair of authentic wireless headphones often depends on your personal preferences. Do you want a bulky pair to pop out of your ears so everyone knows you have them? Or do you like something discreet and minimal?

Although thin and fairly minimal, the Apple AirPods Pro have a distinct look when you wear them. The rods of the Pro may be smaller than the original AirPods, but they are still Apple products.

Although the shorter stem may seem attractive, in practice it took a while to get used to it. This is because there is a “capacitive force sensor” in the rod, which is a small ridge on each of the AirPods Pro that you can press to activate the noise canceling / transparency mode, or jump and set pause the tracks. The shorter stem makes activating this crest a little trickier, but we found that it became second nature in a matter of weeks.

In contrast, the Sony WF-1000XM3 wireless headphones have a simple design and sit just outside your ear rather than hanging them, like the AirPods Pro rods. This makes them very discreet, especially because their design is generally very simple with minimal and clean lines.

sony wf-1000xm3

(Image credit: Steve May)

When it comes to comfort, the Apple AirPods Pro have seen a big improvement over the original AirPods. They stay in place and don't bounce, even when jogging or loading stairs.

This is largely due to the customizable fit with three silicone tips of different sizes offered. Apple helps you find what works best for you with a fit test, which you can run on the app once the headphones are in place.

The only downside is that if you sweat, the silicone tips may start to slip a little. However, the important thing is that they did not fall. Which means if you're someone who struggled with the fit of the original AirPods during the race, these are a huge step forward and fit much more comfortably. However, during our tests, we found that the Apple AirPods Pro was also extremely light. He's a pro in the sense that it makes them comfortable to wear, but could be dangerous in the event of a fall – we're not sure to notice.

The Sony WF-1000XM3 wireless headphones turn intelligently into place and, once there, remain secure by the structure of your ear. This design is intuitive and means that the experience of wearing them is comfortable and comfortable.

There is a selection of seven different rubber and non-slip foam ear covers provided in the box, so you should experiment to find one that offers the best fit and comfort.

While none of these headphones are designed for sports, a great design advantage of the AirPods Pro is their IPX4 water resistance. This means that you can use them in the rain and if you sweat a lot and that it will not affect their performance.

AirPods Pro

(Image credit: Future)

AirPods Pro vs Sony WF-1000XM3: battery life

Battery life is important for a good pair of authentic wireless headphones. What is the point of going wireless if they die after a few hours?

In our tests, we found that the Sony WF-1000XM3 wireless headphones last about 6 hours on a single charge. If you give up noise cancellation, you can claim two more hours, which, combined with the charging box, gives you 24 hours in total.

They come with a smart rechargeable case, which doubles as a battery and has a quick charge mode. Plug in for ten minutes and you will get another 90 minutes of juice. It's perfect if you need a quick boost before a flight – and the case charges via USB-C in about three hours.

In comparison, the AirPods Pro last 4.5 hours with noise cancellation and around 5 hours without. The AirPods Pro charging case will give you over 24 hours of listening time when fully charged and also has a quick charge mode.

So in terms of battery life, the Sony WF-1000XM3 slightly outperforms the AirPod Pros, at least when it comes to the headphones themselves – with the included charging cases, both models will give you around 24 hours of listening time. total.

sony wf-1000xm3

(Image credit: Steve May)

AirPods Pro vs Sony WF-1000XM3: noise cancellation

Both headphones feature advanced noise canceling technology, which begs the question: which wireless headphones are best in terms of audio performance and noise canceling intelligence?

Sony has a strong heritage of noise canceling technology. The Sony WF-1000XM3 was one of the first pairs of authentic wireless headphones to use active noise canceling, using a Sony QN1e HD noise canceling processor. It’s the same processor you’ll find in the Sony WH-1000XM3 over-ear headphones, which have always been our pick for the best headphones you can buy since their launch in 2018.

Because they are truly wireless rather than over the ear, the Sony WF-1000XM3 headphones don't quite match the WH-1000XM3 when it comes to noise cancellation, but they're not far behind.

Although we have found that they do not drown out the sounds you hear on an airplane (such as takeoff, announcements, etc.), and so may not be the best bet for long trips -couriers, where canceling noise from Sony was commuting daily. Whether by train, tram or bus, noise cancellation is high. They are also very effective in eliminating chatter nearby, thanks to two noise sensors in each button.

We also found it almost impossible to have a conversation with Active Noise Canceling enabled – which is a good thing, especially if you work in a busy office environment.

While Sony may have a history of noise canceling devices, the AirPods Pro come with the latest noise canceling technology from Apple. We have found that when active noise cancellation is activated, there is a strong and noticeable effect.

Likewise, it won't block all other sounds around you – if you're in an office and music is playing, a small amount may still pass through. But if you're walking down the street, the AirPod Pros cut almost all the noise from a motorcycle, and any constant noise (like a fan or constant wind) is also very well cut. We also found that they worked well on a train, which made a huge difference when the mode was on and off.

AirPods Pro

(Image credit: Future)

AirPods Pro vs Sony WF-1000XM3: sound quality

The two headphones may be similar when it comes to noise cancellation, but how do they compare in terms of sound quality?

The Sony WF-1000XM3 wireless headphones have 6mm drivers that we found exuding clarity and rhythm. They serve a broad and expansive soundstage, with credible spatial details – which is great with such small buds.

When listening to podcasts, the mid-range is fluid. If you prefer to rock, they roll with the best of them – the guitars have an edge, the drums are tight and hard. The bass sounds good, but if you want a really pronounced sound, you better go for the headphones anyway.

With the AirPods Pro, Apple presents its personalized drivers, improved bass and an adaptive equalizer. What does this mean in terms of sound quality? Well, when we tested the AirPods Pro with a range of tracks, we found that the voices often seemed very rich and that the bass, in particular, was more powerful than the AirPods 2.

This was present in acoustics, indie rock, electro, pop and hip-hop – but also in these genres, the separation between high medium and low was only average. There is always the feeling that the sound is “closed”, which means that it sounds as if the music came from inside your head. It's not ideal, and high-quality headphones tend to make it sound like the sound is coming from all angles instead.

We've also found that compared to over-ear headphones (or some real wireless headphones, like Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 and, yes, the Sony WF-1000XM3), it was more difficult to hear all the music details of the AirPods Pro.

That said, the voices in pop music clearly appeared with rich, balanced mid frequencies. But classical music seemed a little duller than it should be.

An additional feature worth mentioning here is that the AirPods Pro send exact volume levels to your iPhone so that you can see if you are listening to things too loud. It is a small but important step in hearing health that could appeal to some people.

sony wf-1000xm3

(Image credit: Steve May)

AirPods Pro vs Sony WF-1000XM3: takeout

When we put headphones head-to-head, there is clearly a winner. But when it comes to choosing between Apple AirPods Pro and Sony WF-1000XM3 wireless headphones, you can't really go wrong.

If we had to choose, we would say go with the Sony WF-1000XM3. These headphones have a wider appeal, better sound and are cheaper. The design will also appeal to most people, as will the extra battery life.

But it is a very close call. AirPods Pro have good noise cancellation and adapt well. It is also an advantage that they are water resistant and have the additional hearing health function. It should also be borne in mind that if you already own Apple products, including an iPhone, the AirPods Pro make a lot of sense.

Since there isn't much in the way of price and battery life, the choice is also largely due to personal preferences. If you like the aesthetics of AirPods, you always get a pair of very high quality wireless headphones.

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