Sony's New WH-1000XM5 Headphones vs. Apple's AirPods Max

Sony this week came out with an updated version of its popular over-ear noise canceling headphones, so we picked up a pair to compare them to the AirPods Max to see which headphones are better and whether it's worth buying the $400 WH-1000XM5 from Sony over Apple's $549 ‌AirPods Max‌.


First of all, the ‌AirPods Max‌ win out when it comes to naming. WH-1000XM4 was a mouthful, and WH-1000XM5 is no better. Sony is not great at naming its TVs, headphones, and other devices, so Apple gets the edge there.

Compared to the aforementioned WH-1000XM4, the WH-1000XM5 headphones have an updated design, but the ‌AirPods Max‌ still have the classier, higher-end look. The WH-1000XM5 features a plastic body and the headphones are not as premium as the ‌AirPods Max‌, which is likely what accounts for some of the price difference. The ‌AirPods Max‌ are aluminum and come in a range of colors, while the WH-1000XM5 headphones come in a "silver" cream color and black.

sony headphones 1
The headphones do not fold down like the prior version and are slightly less portable, but Sony does offer them with a much better case option than the ‌AirPods Max‌ "bra" case. In terms of weight, the WH-1000XM5 headphones feel light on the head and are comfortable to wear, even for longer periods of time.

There are swipe and touch gestures that control playback functionality, similar to the WH-1000XM4, but connecting the WH-1000XM5 to an Apple device is not quite as convenient as Apple's quick pairing method with the ‌AirPods Max‌. ‌AirPods Max‌ also support automatic device switching, spatial audio, and other features.

sony headphones 2
Both the WH-1000XM5 and the ‌AirPods Max‌ have Active Noise Cancelation (ANC), and Sony has stepped up the ANC in this version. There are dual QN1 chips (compared to a single QN1 chip in the WH-1000XM4), and it makes a difference. In our testing, the ‌AirPods Max‌ and the WH-1000XM5 both performed well at blocking out ambient noise, but the WH-1000XM5 did just a bit better. The WH-1000XM5 and the ‌AirPods Max‌ also offer a transparency feature to let you hear what's going on around you, but transparency works best on the ‌AirPods Max‌.

sony headphones 3
As for sound quality, the WH-1000XM5 headphones have smaller drivers than the WH-1000XM4 and a different sound profile that brings them more in line with the ‌AirPods Max‌. Both sets of headphones offer depth, clarity, and low muddling at lower frequencies, and the sound is definitely improved over the WH-1000XM4. It's improved enough that it's difficult to say whether the ‌AirPods Max‌ or WH-1000XM5 headphones offer better sound, so in this category, it's a tie.

The WH-1000XM5 headphones offer up to 30 hours of battery life, which is 10 more hours than the ‌AirPods Max‌, and that's worth considering. The ‌AirPods Max‌ are supposed to last for 20 hours, but generally do not with ANC turned on. Sony's headphones have an actual power button, which is handy for not wasting battery, plus the headphones come with more customization options for ANC, gestures, and sound.

sony headphones 4
All in all, unless you like the design of the ‌AirPods Max‌ and the unique feature set that the headphones offer for Apple device users, the WH-1000XM5 headphones from Sony are worth considering as a more affordable alternative.

Related Roundup: AirPods Max
Tag: Sony
Buyer's Guide: AirPods Max (Neutral)
Related Forum: AirPods

Top Rated Comments

ChromeAce Avatar
10 months ago
How do you review a product comparing it to the AirPods Max and not mention its inclusion of an analog audio input?
Score: 48 Votes (Like | Disagree)
cocky jeremy Avatar
10 months ago
I like the look of the Sony more. The AirPod Max are so basic looking. Like a base model character before you add any features.
Score: 38 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Danoc Avatar
10 months ago
The number one problem is the AirPods Max are too heavy. Apple should make an ultra light headset, because Apple is good at lightweight designs. Headsets are like glasses: weight is the most important factor.
Score: 28 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Admiral Fart Avatar
10 months ago
Sony wins this one. I couldn't care less about the name, and lightweight plastic is better than heavy aluminum for headphones. I'm not wearing headphones as a fashion statement, and Apple needs to learn that plastic is fine for some products, especially those that are going to be on your head for long periods of time. Throw in better battery life, a carrying case that isn't cartoonishly stupid, and a better price, and Sony is the clear winner for me.
Score: 26 Votes (Like | Disagree)
blairh Avatar
10 months ago
Gonna get the X5's. I wore the APM on a long flight to Europe and did not find them comfortable for long hours of usage. The lack of control of the EQ (iOS presets are a joke) versus the Sony app is a game changer too.
Score: 19 Votes (Like | Disagree)
hcherry Avatar
10 months ago
To each their own. $400+ for headphones is too bananas for me!
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Popular Stories

iOS 16

iOS 16.3 Now Available for Your iPhone With These 4 New Features

Friday February 3, 2023 1:13 pm PST by
Apple released iOS 16.3 in late January following nearly six weeks of beta testing. The software update is available for the iPhone 8 and newer, and while it is a relatively minor update, it still includes a handful of new features, changes, and bug fixes. Below, we've recapped new features in iOS 16.3, including support for physical security keys as a two-factor authentication option for...
iPhone 14 Pro Purple Side Perspective Feature Purple

Gurman: Apple Considering New High-End iPhone Alongside Pro and Pro Max

Sunday February 5, 2023 6:07 am PST by
Apple has discussed selling a new top-of-the-line iPhone alongside the Pro and Pro Max models in 2024 at the earliest, according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. Based on this timeframe, the device would be part of the iPhone 16 lineup or later. In a September 2022 edition of his weekly "Power On" newsletter, Gurman said there was "potential" for an iPhone 15 Ultra to replace the iPhone 15 Pro...
ipad air purple

Deals: M1 iPad Air Hits Record-Low Prices at TigerDirect, Starting at $313.99 (48% Off) [Updated]

Saturday February 4, 2023 10:05 am PST by
Online retailer TigerDirect has slashed pricing on the M1 iPad Air in several colors, offering the base 64GB configuration for just $313.99 in Purple and Pink. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with TigerDirect. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us keep the site running. That's a savings of 48% compared to Apple's normal $599.00...
mac studio pink

Apple May Not Launch Updated Mac Studio With M2 Ultra Chip Due to Similarity With Upcoming Mac Pro

Sunday February 5, 2023 6:06 am PST by
A new version of the Mac Studio with the "M2 Ultra" chip is unlikely to arrive in the near future, according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. In the latest edition of his "Power On" newsletter, Gurman explained that since the upcoming Apple silicon Mac Pro is "very similar in functionality to the Mac Studio," Apple may wait until the release of M3- or M4-series chips to update the machine, or...
HomePod 2 White and Midnight Feature Purple Orange

Apple Releases tvOS 16.3.1 and HomePod 16.3.1 Software Updates

Monday February 6, 2023 10:13 am PST by
Apple today released new tvOS 16.3.1 and HomePod 16.3.1 software updates, with the software coming two weeks after the tvOS 16.3 and HomePod 16.3 updates were released. According to Apple's release notes for HomePod software 16.3.1, the update includes general performance and stability improvements. Notes for tvOS 16.3.1 are unavailable as of yet, but are probably similar to the HomePod...
iPhone 15 Pro Blue Feature

iPhone 15 Pro 'Buttonless Design' Rumors: Everything We Know

Monday February 6, 2023 7:44 am PST by
The iPhone 15 Pro models will feature a "buttonless design" thanks to additional Taptic Engines, according to multiple corroborated reports, so what do we know about the change so far? Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo was first to report that the volume and power buttons on this year's two high-end iPhone models will adopt a solid-state design, similar to the iPhone 7's home button, replacing a...
iphone ultra concept daehnert

'iPhone Ultra' Concept Envisions Apple's Rumored Future Top-Tier Smartphone

Tuesday February 7, 2023 5:38 am PST by
Apple has reportedly considered releasing a new top-of-the-line iPhone alongside future Pro and Pro Max models, tentatively referred to as "iPhone Ultra," and one designer has taken it upon himself to envision what such a device could potentially look like. German industrial designer Jonas Daehnert came up with this impressive-looking concept (pictured) by marrying design elements of the...
webkit vs chromium feature

Google Working on Browser for iOS That Would Break Apple's App Store Rules

Saturday February 4, 2023 1:30 am PST by
Google's Chromium developers are working on an experimental web browser for iOS that would break Apple's browser engine restrictions, The Register reports. The experimental browser, which is being actively pursued by developers, uses Google's Blink engine. Yet if Google attempted to release it on the App Store, it would not pass Apple's App Review process. Apple's App Store rules dictate...