Sony is an industry leader in the Bluetooth market, supplying some of the most popular headphones in the wireless game. The 1000x series is the most notable effort from them, but for some, the $399 price point can be a little too much. They do have a newer option that is a bit more inexpensive with the WH-XB910N for $249. It can be a bit hard to choose between the two, so here’s a comparison that might help you decide the best route for you.
What You Get
Look & Feel
Sony’s headphone designs are always pretty solid. The XM5 is the furthest deviation from their typical build, and it’s definitely an improvement. You’ll get a lighter fit with the XM5, and the earcups don’t clamp down as hard. With the XB910N you get a comfortable fit, but your ears are more susceptible to fatigue.
Design & Functionality.
The main feature that both headphones come loaded with is Sony’s industry-leading ANC. Both headphones have very strong isolation, but it’s hard to beat the XM5 in most cases. This is where the adaptive noise-canceling is the most effective, but the XB910N is also great for the price. You’ll be able to use Sony’s “My Headphones” app to access the features of both headphones. Most of the same options exist on both headphones, even 360 Reality Audio. In terms of functionality, I actually think the XB910N has better controls, as they’re far more responsive and streamlined.
Both headphones support Bluetooth version 5.2. Sony’s LDAC CODEC is available on both models too. They both carry a stable connection with no instances of dropouts with either headphone.
You should be able to listen to both headphones for a total of 30 hours. The XM5 is not better or worse than the XB910N here, so that shouldn’t influence your purchasing decision too much. However, if you’re looking for something with more battery life, then I would suggest checking out the Sennheiser Momentum 4.
You’re never going to get the widest soundstage or the deepest imaging from Sony wireless headphones, but they both have a lot to offer for Bluetooth. Neither is inoffensive with its standard positioning and separation, and the XB910N actually might go further with its increase in height. Instruments appear taller and come up to breathe more than the XM5. However, both headphones are still mostly constricted to a solidified in-your-head experience without much space for articulation. With Sony’s 360 Reality Mode, the soundstage becomes a completely new experience. Both headphones offer this feature, and you can enjoy the better spatial performance as long as you have the right streaming service.
Sony is known for their strong bass presence, and the XB910N even includes the “Extra Bass’ label on the box. You can use EQ with the bass in the app to control both headphones, but the XB910N doesn’t allow the Clean Bass feature. Overall, these headphones have a similarly thick timbre to them, but the XB910N is definitely the most overreaching. I also think the XM5 has this issue, but it’s not nearly as extreme. You can easily enjoy the color of this response, but the XB910N just isn’t as elegant with it. The XM5 comparison is more theatrical and engaging.
Neither headphone is going to have the cleanest midrange response, but is still adjustable. You’re probably not going to get exactly the results you’re looking for, but both headphones will perform better than their factory midrange timbre. The XM5 shows a little less bloat but still falls into some haziness. The low-mids are actually the clearest on the XB910N, as they display more effective detail than the XM5. However, it gets messy fairly quickly once you start to get into the upper mids. With the XM5 you’re more likely to obtain a more organized frequency response, especially if you set your EQ in specific ways.
One of the most improved aspects of the XM5 was it’s treble for me, and the XB910N just can’t match it. If you’re not as into high-frequency detail, then the smoother appearance of the treble in the XB910N will probably satisfy you enough. They don’t even have that strict of a roll-off, but the XM5 comes out with a bit more shine to its highs. There is more bite and slightly more crispness here, and the XM5 is overall just operating at a higher level of resolution in this range than the XB910N.
It’s hard to beat a powerhouse like the Sony WH-1000XM5, but the XB910N offers a ton of good for the price. It’s a fine choice for those who can’t spend the extra cash on the XM5, but in terms of the long term investment, the XM5 might be the better choice. While most of the features are similar, the XM5 has the better overall sound quality, and it has the better fit. The XB910N is a leap in terms of controls, and it even achieves some impressive scale in its imaging, but the XM5 comes up strong in most other aspects.