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
6 weeks ago
How do you review a product comparing it to the AirPods Max and not mention its inclusion of an analog audio input?
Score: 47 Votes (Like | Disagree)
cocky jeremy Avatar
6 weeks 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
6 weeks 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: 26 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Admiral Fart Avatar
6 weeks 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: 25 Votes (Like | Disagree)
anthogag Avatar
6 weeks ago
There is one problem with Sony XM5. From a distance it looks like you're wearing a couple of bars of soap over the ears. People may stare or refuse you service.

AirPods Max can play bass heavy music like a pro. It is the realtime equalizer doing its thing if you don't think you're getting enough bass; you're hearing what the sound engineers want you to hear.
Score: 19 Votes (Like | Disagree)
hcherry Avatar
6 weeks ago
To each their own. $400+ for headphones is too bananas for me!
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Related Stories

airpods max b

AirPods Max Launched One Year Ago Today

Wednesday December 15, 2021 7:54 am PST by
A year ago today, Apple made AirPods Max available to purchase a week after announcing its first over-ear headphones via a press release on its website. AirPods Max are Apple's first AirPods branded over-ear headphones and are undoubtedly a premium option for customers looking for over-ear headphones in the market. Rumors had initially indicated the headphones would be called "AirPods...
AirPods Max new feature

AirPods Max 2: Everything We Know One Year After the High-End Headphones Launched

Wednesday December 15, 2021 1:46 pm PST by
A year ago today, Apple's AirPods Max launched, marking the company's first push into the high-end over-ear headphones market under its own brand name. One year later, rumors about a successor are thin on the ground, but there have been some indications about what customers can expect from AirPods Max 2. A report from Bloomberg's Mark Gurman said that AirPods Max, thought at the time to be...
gucci airpods max case

Gucci Releases $980 Case for $549 AirPods Max

Tuesday February 1, 2022 5:36 am PST by
If you weren't a fan of Apple's Smart Case that comes with the AirPods Max, high-end luxury brand Gucci is here for you with its own case for the headphones priced at $980. Gucci's "Ophidia case for AirPods Max" is an online exclusive that brings "vintage and contemporary together through its archive-inspired design elements. Playing with the contrast between past and present, the inside of...
AirPods Max Deal Feature Green

Deals: AirPods Max on Sale for $449 in Every Color ($100 Off)

Tuesday March 15, 2022 6:59 am PDT by
AirPods Max have returned to $449.00 in all colors on Amazon, down from $549.00. All models are in stock and ready to ship out today, but the Silver model's stock is beginning to run out as of writing. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with some of these vendors. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us keep the site running. We haven't ...
AirPods Max Deal Feature Black

Deals: AirPods Max on Sale for $449.99 in Every Color ($99 Off)

Tuesday February 1, 2022 6:36 am PST by
Apple's AirPods Max headphones have dropped to $449.99 in all colors on Amazon, down from $549.00. All models are in stock and ready to ship out today, except for Space Gray which has a shipping delay of about a week. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with some of these vendors. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us keep the site...
AirPods Max Deal Feature Red

Deals: AirPods Max Available for All-Time Low Price of $429 on Amazon ($120 Off)

Monday June 13, 2022 7:04 am PDT by
We're tracking the return of an Amazon all-time low price on Apple's AirPods Max today, priced at $429.00, down from $549.00. This is a match of the best price we've ever seen on the AirPods Max on Amazon, and it's available in Pink and Space Gray. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with Amazon. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us keep ...
AirPods Discount Feature Blue

Deals: New AirPods Sales Include AirPods 2 for $99 and AirPods Max for $449

Monday May 2, 2022 5:56 am PDT by
Today we're tracking a pair of discounts on AirPods models offered by Amazon, including solid markdowns on the AirPods 2 and AirPods Max. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with some of these vendors. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us keep the site running. AirPods 2 Apple's AirPods 2 have returned to their best price of 2022 at $...
AirPods Pro Discount Feature Yellow

Deals: Get AirPods 3 for $149.98 ($29 Off) and AirPods Max for $439 ($110 Off)

Monday March 28, 2022 5:33 am PDT by
Amazon is offering notable discounts on two models of Apple's AirPods lineup, including $29 off the AirPods 3 and $110 off the AirPods Max. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with some of these vendors. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us keep the site running. AirPods 3 Starting with the AirPods 3, Amazon has discounted this model ...

Popular Stories

2022 back to school apple

Apple Launches 2022 Back to School Offer: Up to $150 Gift Card With Mac or iPad

Friday June 24, 2022 5:08 am PDT by
Apple today launched its annual "Back to School" promotion for college/university students in the United States and Canada. This year's promotion offers a free Apple gift card with the purchase of an eligible Mac or iPad, rather than free AirPods like last year. Apple is also offering students 20% off AppleCare+ plans during the promotion. Apple is offering a $150 gift card with the purchase ...
widgets ios 16 feature

Gurman: iPhone 14 Pro to Feature Always-On Display Showing iOS 16's New Lock Screen Widgets

Sunday June 26, 2022 7:36 am PDT by
iPhone 14 Pro models are widely expected to feature always-on displays that allow users to view glanceable information without having to tap to wake the screen. In the latest edition of his Power On newsletter for Bloomberg, Mark Gurman said the feature will include support for iOS 16's new Lock screen widgets for weather, fitness, and more. "Like the Apple Watch, the iPhone 14 Pro will be...
m2 mac mini screen feature

Gurman: Apple Planning M2 Pro Mac Mini, New Apple TV With A14 Chip, Revamped HomePod With S8 Chip, and More

Sunday June 26, 2022 6:31 am PDT by
In the latest edition of his Power On newsletter for Bloomberg, Mark Gurman outlined additional M2 Macs on Apple's product roadmap, including new Mac mini models with M2 and M2 Pro chips, new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models with M2 Pro and M2 Max chips, and a new Mac Pro tower with M2 Ultra and "M2 Extreme" chips. Following the M2 series of Macs, Gurman said the first M3 series of...
13 inch macbook pro m2 mock feature 2

Base 13-Inch MacBook Pro With M2 Chip Has Significantly Slower SSD Speeds

Sunday June 26, 2022 2:52 pm PDT by
Following the launch of Apple's new 13-inch MacBook Pro with the M2 chip, it has been discovered that the $1,299 base model with 256GB of storage has significantly slower SSD read/write speeds compared to the equivalent previous-generation model. YouTube channels such as Max Tech and Created Tech tested the 256GB model with Blackmagic's Disk Speed Test app and found that the SSD's read and...
M2 Pro and Max Feature

Apple's Upcoming M2 Pro Chip for High-End MacBook Pro and Mac Mini Will Reportedly Be 3nm

Monday June 27, 2022 7:31 am PDT by
TSMC will manufacture Apple's upcoming "M2 Pro" and "M3" chips based on its 3nm process, according to Taiwanese industry publication DigiTimes. "Apple reportedly has booked TSMC capacity for its upcoming 3nm M3 and M2 Pro processors," said DigiTimes, in a report focused on competition between chipmakers like TSMC and Samsung to secure 3nm chip orders. As expected, the report said TSMC will...
airpods pro 2 1

AirPods Pro 2 Said to Feature Upgraded H1 Chip, Find My, Heart Rate Detection, USB-C and More

Friday June 24, 2022 9:48 am PDT by
The next-generation AirPods Pro could come with a long list of new features that include heart rate detection, the ability to function as a hearing aid, and a USB-C port according to a report from 52Audio. The site claims that it has received new information on the AirPods Pro 2, and it has used that information to provide some renders on what the earbuds might look like. Design wise, there...
tesla carplay hack

Tesla Apple CarPlay Hack Updated to Work With Any Tesla Model

Monday June 27, 2022 3:38 am PDT by
Polish developer Michał Gapiński has released a new and improved version of his "Tesla Android Project" which brings Apple's CarPlay experience to more Tesla vehicles than ever before. According to Gapiński, version 2022.25.1 provides "100% functional CarPlay integration for any Tesla," and comes with several new features and bug fixes. The project now supports DRM video playback so that...