Rumours are flying that Sony will announce the release of their Sony WH-1000XM4 very soon. The consumer audio community a buzz. Similarly, Apple now have leaks around about one, and maybe 2 new headphone sets due to hit the market with one expected to be called the Apple Airpod Studio. And then we have Bose, who a little while ago released an update to the QC35ii called the Bose Noise Cancelling 700s.
What bothers me is the sensational headlines that accompany the leaks like the ones around the Sony WH-1000XM4 and Airpod Studios. Bose releases a headphone and it’s the Sony WH-1000XM3 killers. B&W release the PX and they are dubbed Bose killers. Apple to release the Airpod Studio and they will be Sony beaters.
The thing is, there is no real comparison.
But why does’t it matter?
Because media outlets are all standing around comparing features and no one is talking about sound.
I get it. There is a race to release the coolest features and the best battery life, especially around noise-cancelling headphones.
Features features features.
Bose released the QC35 and then added a smart assistant in the QC35ii.
Sony released a feature where you cup one headphone and the noise-cancelling is muted and music volume lowers so you can hear your in-flight drink options.
Apple Airpods Studio will know when you take them off, like AirPods do, so you can save battery and not miss half your song from taking your cans off to talk to people.
All these features are good but if you really think about it, no one knows how they will sound until the headphones are released, so it’s all just talk. If having a smart assistant improved the sound of my headphones I would care much more.
There used to be a saying for Bose audio gear, which has long been mocked by audiophiles. “No highs, no lows, must be Bose”. This, in my personal opinion, is BS. Bose is still one of the most comfortable long-range headphones with a sound signature that won’t wear you out by the time you reach your destination. They sound good, maybe not sonic audiophile heaven good but pretty flipping good on long flights and heavy commutes.
So enough waffle, here is the thing. For around 3 years I was in the top 1% of global travellers by distance in the world. I owned the Bose QC35 during this time.
Why did I like them? They were light, they had excellent battery life and the could breathe so my ears didn’t overheat after a few hours of use. Oh, and they also had incredible noise-cancelling capabilities. They had a sound signature that never made me feel fatigued, even on 17.5-hour flights (they also have an incredible external stretchy pouch which is amazing for passports, cables and more).
The Sony range, on the other hand, left my ears feeling hot, they felt heavy and their sound signature didn’t agree with me after an hour or two.
What’s your point?
My point is, if you like the Bose sound signature then you will probably tend to stick to the Bose Noise-cancelling headphones. If you like the Sony signature, then it’s likely you will stick to Sony etc. If you know nothing about what you like then move along, nothing to read here. Actually, go try some headphones and decide what you like about the sound and then chase it.
You can’t compare a headphone on features. It has to be on how it sounds and whether you even like that sound.
To buy headphones based on features means you’re haven’t spent enough time testing headphones to find what moves you and may miss how important it is to like the audio experience the headphones give. Otherwise, it is a waste of your money.
So go out and feature spec your new noise-cancelling headphones all you like but in the end, choose what sounds right to you first, then look at the features.
Personally, the Sony sound signature is too pillow like and the bass is inflated for me. I know there are millions of Sony lovers, my friends included, but try wearing them on a 10+ hour flight and see how your ears feel and how the sound starts to wear you out.
That isn’t a ‘Bose is better than Sony’ statement (although it sounded like it didn’t it), it’s a statement to show I have found a sound signature that works for me in a travelling environment. If you like Sony or B&W, or Apple, or Audio-Technica then have at it!
Just don’t buy on features. Buy the sound you love.
Endless hours of experimentation, professional work, and personal investment in Home Theatre, Hi-Fi, Smart Home Automation and Headphones have come to this.
Former owner of Headphones Canada, a high-end headphone specialty retailer.