Want the best noise-cancelling headphones money can buy? You won't go far wrong with either Sony or Bose. Both brands offer quality headphones featuring state-of-the-art noise-cancelling tech and top-notch sound.
Two of the best pairs on the market right now are the Sony WH-1000XM4 and the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700. But which pair of wireless, noise-cancelling headphones is best? It's a tough choice, so allow us to help.
But before we dive into the specs, let's take a quick look at the contenders. The Sony WH-1000XM4 come with a fine pedigree – their predecessors, the WH-1000XM3, are two-time What Hi-Fi? Award-winners.
The Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700s are no less impressive. Bose has established itself as one of the industry-leaders in noise-cancelling technology and is renowned for its premium cans.
So, two pairs of top-of-the-range wireless headphones, both with noise-cancelling. Let's see how they stack up in terms of battery life, features, sound and price.
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Sony WH-1000XM4 vs Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700: price
The Sony WH-1000XM4s launched in August 2020 and are a big improvement on the outgoing WH-1000XM3s, which arrived in 2018. Consequently, they come with a slightly higher price tag – £350 ($350, AU$380).
The Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700s are a bit older, having debuted back in July 2019. We tested them at £350 ($399, AU$550) but prices have since dipped a little (we've listed the best deals ahead of Amazon Prime Day 2020 below).
If your decision comes down to budget, the Bose headphones are the most affordable choice. But might it be worth shelling out extra for the Sonys? Let's find out...
**Winner** Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700
Sony WH-1000XM4 vs Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700: battery life
The Bose 700s claim 20 hours of battery life with Bluetooth and noise-cancelling switched on. It's a decent performance but by no means class-leading.
The Sony WH-1000XM4s last around 30 hours (38 hours if you switch off noise-cancelling), which is impressive.
Stepping out in a hurry? The Bose cans' quick-charge function returns 3.5 hours from a 15-minute charge. Respectable, but Sony will get you out of the door quicker – the WH-1000XM4s provide five hours play from just 10 minutes charging.
Bose now offers the option to buy the 700s bundled together with a wireless charging case for £400. The case adds 40 hours to the 700s overall battery life, but since this is a straight head-to-head, the Sony WH-1000XM4 is the clear winner.
**Winner** Sony WH-1000XM4
Sony WH-1000XM4 vs Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700: design and fit
The Sony XM4s look almost identical to the XM3s, although they feature slightly larger earpads, an improved fit and a tweaked design that looks a little more seamless. Thanks to their plush pads and rock-solid build quality, they're some of the most comfortable headphones we've ever tested. If 'sleek and grown-up' is your style, you'll like the WH-1000XM4s.
The Bose 700s, on the other hand, sport a more elegant, slender design that is arguably easier on the eye and looks more premium. The combination of 'invisible' hinges and a swooping stainless steel headband inject some real wow factor into proceedings.
Both pairs float lightly on the head – they both weigh 254g – and stay in position without a 'vice-like' grip.
If you're a frequent traveller, it's worth noting that the Sony's fold up neatly, but the Bose 700s are non-folding (the earcups lay flat in the case but the headband doesn't fold due to its hinge-free design).
The more traditional-looking WH-1000XM4s come in black and silver finishes, while the stylish 700s come in black, silver and limited edition 'Soapstone'.
Whichever brand you choose, you're guaranteed plush pads and a beautifully-engineered design. The folding and faster charging Sonys might get your vote, but we can see the premium fit and finish of the Bose having equal appeal.
Sony WH-1000XM4 vs Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700: features
Both headphones are packed with tech, but the Sony WH-1000XM4s are a little smarter and make use of some rather impressive artificial intelligence.
Sony's noise-cancelling headphones contain a new DSEE Extreme audio processor that upscales compressed audio to near hi-res quality and also uses artificial intelligence to analyse music in real-time, to reproduce a more accurate sound.
The Sonys also have Speak-to-Chat, which automatically pauses your music when you start talking. It's not perfect but does come in handy as it means you don't have to remove your headphones to chat with a co-worker or flight attendant.
The Bose 700s feature a similar 'Conversation mode' but you have to manually press a button to activate it. The Sony headphones also have Adaptive Smart Control, which learns your favourite locations and automatically adjust the sound settings accordingly, plus 'Wearing Detection', which means they automatically pause music when you take them off and resume playback when you put them on.
Sony's bag of tricks continues with Atmospheric Pressure Optimiser, which tweaks their sound for high altitude – perfect if you happen to lead a jet-setting lifestyle.
Put simply the Sony WH-1000XM4s boast more features and more useful ones at that.
**Winner** Sony WH-1000XM4
Sony WH-1000XM4 vs Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700: noise-cancelling
Want to shut out the world so that nothing comes between you and your music? Sony and Bose make some of the finest noise-cancelling headphones we've tested, but how do their top-tier cans compare?
The 700s make the most of the Bose's next-generation noise-cancelling chip, which provides 11 degrees of noise-cancelling intensity, ranging from full isolation to total transparency. You can scroll through levels in the companion Bose Music App and adjust it to your liking.
The tech works brilliantly and helps deliver crystal clear call quality, too. The 700s use six mics to cancel the noise around you, plus four mics to improve the clarity of your voice. Overall noise-cancelling performance is truly breathtaking.
The Sony WH-1000XM4s more than hold their own against the Boses, thanks to their advanced HD Noise Cancelling Processor QN1, which uses a special algorithm and Bluetooth System on Chip (SoC) to monitor audio and ambient noise, making precise adjustments 700 times a second to optimise their noise-cancelling. And, as with the 700s, you can adjust the intensity via Sony's companion app.
The upshot of all this tech? Both of these noise-cancelling headphones block out sounds brilliantly.
Sony WH-1000XM4 vs Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700: sound quality
The Bose 700s display a superb level of musicality and clarity. They're direct-sounding, dynamic and detailed – but they can't quite compete with the depth of bass and detail offered by the Sony WH-1000XM4s.
The Sonys sound that bit more composed, confident and punchy and poised. Their timing is brilliant, too.
And while neither headphones support aptX HD, the XM4s support LDAC, Sony's own codec which allows for higher-quality files to be played wirelessly from a compatible source.
Lastly, it's also worth noting that the Sony Headphones Connect app allows for broader customisation of EQ settings, compared to the Bose Music app. That extra layer of usability adds to the appeal of the XM4s.
**Winner** Sony WH-1000XM4
Sony WH-1000XM4 vs Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700: verdict
Offering stellar noise-cancelling, longer battery life, superb sound quality and some ingenious features, the Sony WH-1000XM4s are, without doubt, the better all-rounders. If your budget stretches and you like their traditional styling, we think the five-star XM4s are a no-brainer. Especially if you can pick them up cheaply in the Amazon Prime Day sales.
That said, the four-star Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700s are a good pair of headphones for the money. They may not be as feature-rich as the XM4s but they're arguably more stylish and feel more premium. And Bose's noise-cancelling is still up there with the best. They're also cheaper – and prices could drop even further come Amazon Prime Day.
Our money would go on the Sony's, but there's plenty to like about both pairs of headphones.
Read the full review: Sony WH-1000XM4
Read the full review: Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700