Apple AirPods Pro vs Sony WF-1000XM3 Review

The recent blitz of truly wireless earphone releases is good news for consumers. Bad news for employees who have to write comparison reviews. Two heavy hitters, Sony and Apple, have both introduced new noise-cancelling truly wireless earbuds for under $250. Many reviews have already been written about both of these models. So, this review is for folks who are already familiar with one of the models but want a comparison before they pull the trigger. Which earbuds win in terms of sound, noise-cancellation, battery life and functionality? Let’s find out in this Apple AirPods Pro vs Sony WF-1000XM3 Review.

Apple AirPods Pro vs Sony WF-1000XM3 Review

FIT

Though both models feel comfortable to wear, the lighter and less chunky AirPods Pro sit more naturally in the ear. It’s unsurprising that Apple has done a great job with respect to its ergonomic design. So, it’s not just a pretty face. However, I started to have issues once the active noise-cancellation came into play. But more about that below. Although the WF-1000XM3 didn’t feel uncomfortable to wear, I noticed them sitting in my ears more than I did when wearing the less obtrusive AirPods Pro.

DESIGN

Controls and Functionality

Apple has changed its earbud design and implemented more targeted touchpad controls. So, they work more like buttons. A lot of folks will welcome this change, since you can feel precisely where the controls are situated on the earpieces. And I actually found them slightly easier to use than the touchpads on the WF-1000XM3.

But touchpads aside, both models offer most of the standard functions from the earpieces, such as play/pause, track skipping and call activation. However, one detail to note is that neither model allows you to control volume from the earpieces. So, I had to muster up the energy to take out my iPhone. But both models will also let you to switch between ANC and transparent hearing modes. 

Both true wireless models also allow you to activate your voice assistants (though I haven’t tried to use Google Assistant with the AirPods Pro). To invite your lady on the WF-1000XM3, you just hold the button on the right earpiece. The AirPods Pro don’t even require you to touch anything to activate Siri. You just call out her name like an $%*hole – “hey Siri” – and she’ll come to your aid. 

Battery Life

Both models will give you 24 hours of total playtime, which is solid for ANC true wireless earbuds. But the WF-1000XM3 still has the slight upper hand in this category; it offers 6 hours of play at a time before having to put them back in the case for charging. In contrast, the AirPods Pro only give you 4.5 hours of use at a time. 

Both models employ a USB-C connection for charging.

Active Noise-Cancellation and Transparent Hearing

Both true wireless models provide about the same level of noise-cancellation effectiveness. However, the AirPods Pro emit a more noticeable pressure against the eardrum. This won’t be a problem for a lot of folks, but those who are particularly sensitive to noise-cancelling frequencies might find the ANC on the AirPods Pro to be a bit oppressive. 

Both models also offer transparent modes, which amplify the sound of your surrounding environment so that you don’t have to take them off while biking through traffic or while transacting with your pot dealer. 

Call Clarity

Interesting finding here. Well, mildly interesting…The caller sounded clearer on the WF-1000XM3. However, the caller said that my voice sounded clearer through the AirPods Pro. So, although the speaker on the WF-1000XM3 seems to produce a more transparent voice, the microphone on the AirPods Pro seems to be the more effective of the two models. 

Equalizer

Apple has implemented an “adaptive equalizer,” which adapts the balance to the shape of your ears. But that doesn’t mean you’ll have any creative control over your equalizer settings. In contrast, the WF-1000XM3 comes with an app that allows you to adjust your equalizer settings across the frequency spectrum. In addition, it offers presets depending on your preferred genre. And it also has a bast boost feature, giving you ample control over how big you want you lows to be.

SOUND

Lows

At its default setting, the Sony WF-1000XM3 has a similar level of bass response to that of the AirPods Pro. Punchy but not overblown. However, the bass on the WF-1000XM3 is a little fatter and juicier, while the AirPods Pro present a tighter profile. Furthermore, given that the WF-1000XM3 comes with an equalizer, the bass can be boosted or moderated depending on your tastes or chosen genre. 

Mids

These two models present a similar midrange balance. The upper mids have a little emphasis, bringing vocals forward in the mix. So, they have a dynamic balance, which works well for pop and rock. But again, unlike the AirPods Pro, the balance can be changed on the WF-1000XM3. So, if you want more lushness or body, you can boost the lower-mids for example. In terms of clarity, there’s no question that the WF-1000XM3 delivers a more nuanced sound. In fact, the main problem I have with the AirPods Pro is the fact that everything sounds so compressed, and the more subtle details in instruments and vocals are lost. So, certainly, the WF-1000XM3 is the more natural sounding model.

Highs

The WH-1000XM3 offers more sparkle with respect to percussion instruments. Not only do the AirPods Pro have less treble extension than the WH-1000XM3, but again, they also suffer from a lot of compression. So if you’re looking for the most realistic presentation of your music, the WF-1000XM3 is definitely the model to go for. 

Soundstage

Sony wins in this department as well. Not only does the WF-1000XM3 sound more spacious, but it also delivers a lot more dimension, and gradations along the horizontal and vertical axes are much more precise than they are on the AirPods Pro. 

PROS and CONS

Apple AirPods Pro

Pros: Great ergonomics, effective ANC, solid battery life.

Cons: Sound quality could be better for the price.

Sony WF-1000XM3

Pros: Impressive sound quality, great battery life, effective ANC.

Cons: Not as sleek as the AirPods Pro.

SUMMARY

Both models deliver equally effective levels of noise-cancellation (though, as mentioned, the ear pressure caused by the ANC on the AirPods Pro is more apparent). And both are comfortable to wear, though the AirPods Pro certainly offer a sleeker design. But if sound quality is a priority, you should opt for the more detailed and less compressed WF-1000XM3. Also, given that the WF-1000XM3 comes with an equalizer, it’s more likely to deliver the right sound profile for your ears and chosen music genre. Lastly, the WF-1000XM3 is 20 bucks cheaper than the AirPods Pro. So, for most people, this choice may turn out to be a no-brainer. 

You can find both of these models for the best price here:

Apple AirPods Pro at the Apple Store

Sony WH-1000XM3 at Audio 46

Sony WF-1000XM3 on Amazon

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