Bose 700 headphones have a superior build quality, fantastic sound, and a great calling experience. Sony WH1000XM4 headphones have a colorful and customizable sound profile, but the design is unspectacular.
Things are neck-and-neck, but to my ears, Sony pulls ahead just slightly.
Bose doesn’t let you customize the sound in the Bose Music app, but it sounds great with many music genres. Those familiar with Bose will get that same clear and crisp sound that doesn’t go off the rails. Bose’s sound more closely represents how the music was intended to be heard, but the lack of customization will be frustrating to some. I love the amount of bass, but if you want more or less, you can’t change it.
Sony sounds warmer and immersive. The bass hits harder than Bose but it’s never overwhelming. The mid-range tones are great, but the high-end isn’t as good as Bose. Sony’s app lets you manually customize the sound or choose from nine presets (bright, mellow, relaxed, etc) to suit your exact sound preference. While we can debate whether Sony or Bose sound better, it’s the customization that pushes Sony into the lead.
Sound winner: Sony
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In the Bose app, you can alter the noise cancellation level from 0-10. At level 0, ambient sounds are augmented so you can hear your surroundings as well as you could without headphones on. It’s actually really cool if you need to stay in the moment. At level 10, sounds are very muffled without music and almost nonexistent once the music starts. However, the levels between 0 and 10 are a gimmick because you either want full noise cancellation or you don’t.
Toggling between your three favorite noise cancelling levels is easy with a button on the left cup. The default is 0, 5, and 10, but you can change this in the app. Or, hold the button on the left cup for longer than a second to pause your music and turn off noise cancelling. Tap again to resume music. It’s simple. Plus, the four beamforming mics isolate your voice during calls while preventing background noise from interfering.
Bose gives you the best calling experience.
“Personal Optimizing” and “Atmospheric Pressure Optimizing” sound like Sony marketing speak, but Sony’s noise-cancelling is decidedly stronger than Bose’s. It also has Adaptive Sound Control that modifies noise-cancellation based on your surroundings. This works about 70% of the time, and makes a ding when switching modes (Staying, Walking, Running, Transport).
The left cup has a button to enable or disable noise cancelling. Phone call clarity is lacking, as you can still hear background noise during calls. One cool feature is that you can lower the music volume and turn off noise cancelling by putting a hand over the right cup. In my opinion, this feature would have more value if it paused the music instead of just lowering its volume.
Bose has the edge in the noise-cancelling category because it’s better for phone calls. But Sony has slightly better noise cancelling overall.
Noise cancelling winner: Bose
Both apps are disappointing, but Bose does a better job with more features.
The Bose app is unremarkable. During testing, I faced various connection and stability issues. The music controls near the bottom flicker on and off for no reason. You need a Bose account for the app, and the app frequently signs you out. You can’t customize the sound profile. There’s support for Alexa and Google Assistant, but hands-free Alexa is hard to use and you need to push a button to use Google (the app doesn’t make this clear). Bose doesn’t support aptX codec, which is a rare codec that provides exceptional sound. Because only hardcore audiophiles typically use this, it shouldn’t affect many users.
It’s not all bad though. You can connect two devices simultaneously and manage both in the app. Alexa works well when you push the button to initiate Alexa rather than using the “Alexa” wake word. Bose 700 has Bluetooth 5.0, which should provide better speed and range than Sony, but I didn’t notice a difference.
Sony allows you to pair the headphones with numerous devices, but only one at a time. This can be annoying when moving from phone to laptop. Android users can use the NFC pairing for fast auto-pairing. You can customize the sound profile and the Sony WH1000XM4 headphones use Bluetooth 4.2.
While Sony works with Alexa and Google, it provides no instructions on how to pair them. There are no hands-free options here, but you can use them by pressing a button on the headphones. Voice assistant integration is worse than Bose because your voice feedback echoes. Also, sometimes Alexa’s or Google’s answers play on your phone, which you won’t hear with noise-cancelling enabled. However, Sony supports more codecs than Bose, including SBC, AAC, aptX, aptX-HD, and LDAC.
Software winner: Bose
This refers to how the headphones fit on your head and ears. Sony pulls ahead, but just barely.
For a proper fit, slide the Bose cups up or down on the rod until they’re perfect. They’ll stay there without moving. The arch is firm but should still fit wide heads. Bose has stiffer cups that are less comfortable, but they stay cooler. I had friends and family members try them on and they loved Bose. They only found comfort issues after trying the Sony headphones for comparison.
Sony’s headphones feel more comfortable, but it’s hard to say why. Despite being the same weight, Sony feels lighter and the cups are softer. However, they do retain heat and your ears will get more sweaty.
Fit winner: Sony
Despite having a better fit, Sony trails far behind Bose in terms of design.
Bose 700 has superior build quality with a matte black or silver finish. The headband is a single piece of steel with fewer moving parts than Sony. The headphones feel durable and solid, even the foam parts. The shell is harder than Sony’s, and it’s thinner for a better fit inside bags. The case is intuitive and the cups swivel inward, and there’s even a secret magnetic pouch for power and audio cords. There are also large L and R letters inside the cups to easily know which cup is which.
There are only three buttons for power and Bluetooth, voice assistant, and noise cancellation. There are gestures like swiping up or down for volume, forward or backward for playback control, and more control the music. This is all done on the right cup. I had no problems activating the gestures or having them misinterpreted.
The Sony headphones feel less dense, and they don’t have the same solid, premium feel of Bose. They’re mostly plastic and the foam cushion feels like it won’t last long. The headband creaks when you move it and the cups make my ears sweat. It’s difficult to get them in the case and the headband doesn’t stay locked in position.
You get gesture control here as well, but the gestures aren’t as smooth, function poorly in cold weather, and often perform the wrong action. There are two buttons for Bluetooth/power and ambient sound control. You can map the ambient sound control button to your smart assistant instead if you want.
Some people said the headband cracks very easily, which I didn’t experience. It seems this was more of an issue with the M1 and M2 versions.
Design winner: Bose
Sony’s battery goes far and above Bose’s. That’s not to say that the Bose 700 battery is bad, but Sony is better here.
Bose claims 20 hours of power and I got that at 70% volume with noise cancellation fully active. This is five hours less than Sony (according to my tests), but 20 hours gives you enough time where you won’t have to worry about the battery. It tells you how many hours of battery life remain and it takes 2.5 hours to charge to 100%, or you can get 3.5 hours of juice from 15 minutes of charging. You can still use them with a 2.5-to-3.5mm audio plug in your phone or computer, but it won’t cancel noise. You can change them with a USB-C cable.
Sony claims 30 hours of battery life, but I got 25 hours when I tested them at 70% volume. It takes three hours to fully charge and a ten-minute charge gives you five hours of power. You can’t charge and listen at the same time, but a ten-minute charge isn’t long. You need a USB-C cable to charge.
Battery winner: Sony
While Sony wins in several categories, like battery life and fit, Bose has a premium feel and better noise-cancelling that can’t be ignored. I give the win to the Bose 700.