Sony WH1000XM3 vs. Bose 700: Best Noise Canceling Headphones?
After a month of testing, I determined Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700 are the best because they have superior build quality, crisp sound, an amazing calling experience, and support simultaneous connections. Sony Noise Canceling Headphones WH1000XM3 have a longer runtime with a more colorful sound profile, but the design needs work to be modernized.
I’ll explain how I reached my conclusion by comparing two noise-canceling headphones (Sony WH1000XM3 vs. Bose 700) while evaluating six categories: sound, noise cancelation, software, fit, design, and battery.
- Sound: They’re perfectly balanced, crisp and clean, and will play any genre of music well. There’s no equalizer.
- Noise Canceling: Four beamforming mics give you flawless phone calls and the ambient noise feature is amazing.
- Software: You can pair two devices simultaneously, but the app needs work.
- Fit: The cups stay cooler, but there's less cushion and flex. Sony has a slight edge.
- Design: They look and feel more sleek with better durability. It's a game-changing design. The playback gestures work well.
- Battery: 20 hours on one full charge. 15-minute charge gives 3.5 hours of juice.
Best for you if...
You want the best-built headphones on the market. The craftsmanship is second to none. They're durable and rugged but maintain a sleek and minimalist look. Bose's sound profile isn't exciting or customizable, but it's crisp and sounds clean with any genre.
- Sound: The bass hits harder and the sound has more life and can be customized to your preferences.
- Noise Canceling: The overall noise cancelation is slightly better, but they’re not great for phone calls.
- Software: You can only pair one device at a time. Alexa and Google support is bad.
- Fit: There’s more cushion, and in my survey, Sony was voted more comfortable.
- Design: They feel like a toy compared to Bose and not in the same class. The playback gestures are wonky.
- Battery: 30 hours on one full charge. 10-minute charge gives 5 hours of juice.
Best for you if...
You want a sound profile with more character and longer runtime. They bring a fun and customizable sound with lots of bass. The cups feel like a pillows. The downsides are that they feel cheaper than the competition with inferior touch controls and calling.
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- There’s no option to customize the sound inside the Bose app, but Bose brings something that’ll sound great with many music genres.
- The Bose 700 sound profile is similar to other Bose products. The sound is clear and crisp and not going to offend anyone. They’ll play any type of music without getting out of control by overdoing any specific aspect of a song.
- The sound is more balanced and probably closer to what music producers want you to hear, but you can’t customize the experience if you prefer more bass or treble.
- For my preferences, Bose has a perfect amount of bass. The bass is always present when it should be and never comes close to drowning out a song.
- If you want an expert opinion on the sound quality: RTings and SoundGuys.
Noise Canceling & Calling (A+):
- There are 11 different noise cancelation levels (0-10). You can change the level in the app.
- At level 0, it sounds like you’re not wearing headphones because the sounds around you are augmented. I have no idea how Bose is pulling this off, it’s amazing. Sony lets you hear ambient sound, but not as well.
- At level 10, the outside sounds around you become muffled and hard to hear, but not completely gone. Once the music starts, on level 10, you have no chance of hearing anything around you. I give the slight edge to Sony when you’re in full noise-canceling mode, but it’s not substantial.
- The nine noise cancelation options between 0 and 10 are a gimmick. You either want to be isolated from outside noise or you don’t.
- There are four beamforming mics to help to isolate your voice while leaving the background noise behind. You won’t find a better experience with phone calls.
- There’s a button on the left cup to toggle three of your favorite noise cancelation levels. The default favorite settings are 0, 5, and 10, but you can edit them in the Bose app.
- If you hold the button on the left cup for longer than a second, your music will pause and the noise cancelation is turned off so that you can hear the outside world. When you tap the button again, your music resumes. It’s brilliant!
- Aside from the new physical design, the major points differentiating Bose 700’s from Bose QC35’s are its software capabilities. Unfortunately, the app blows and doesn’t deliver on its promises. Bose shouldn’t have shipped these headphones because they’re not ready for primetime and the older Bose QC35 noise-canceling headphones are great and were the perfect placeholder until these were fully ready. Bose will fix the issues with software updates, but in the meantime you’re stuck:
- During my first week with my Bose 700 headphones, I was connected to my phone and able to play music, but I couldn’t connect the headphones to the app. Bose released a software fix at the beginning of August. It fixed the stability, but it’s still not perfect because connection times are lengthy and disconnections still happen.
- The music control at the bottom of the app often flickers on and off.
- You can’t use the Bose app without signing up for a Bose account. I’m not bothered by creating accounts, but Bose signs you out frequently for no reason and it’s annoying. Also, if you’re on a flight (one of the most common use cases), you’ll have no way of signing in without internet access.
- There’s no equalizer to customize the sound to your preferences.
- There’s support for Google Assistant and Alexa, but it’s not clear in the app that only Alexa can be enabled with a wake word, while Google can only be triggered by holding the button.
- Hands-free Alexa is brutal:
- It doesn’t hear you while listening to music and even when the music is off, you’ll need to scream “Alexa” while asking your command in the perfect tone and cadence.
- You can’t say “Alexa, turn on the lights” as a sentence like you can with a native Alexa device. You need to say “Alexa” pause for a full second, then ask your command.
- The only time you would want to use hands-free Alexa is when your hands are occupied and you want to control the music playback. Unfortunately, Alexa can only control the volume and not skip, back, or pause. Why did Bose release Alexa in this state?
- Google Assistant works almost perfectly by pressing and holding the button on the right cup, but my Bose lost connection to the Google Assistant app twice. There’s a chance this was my fault because I was rotating assistants frequently while testing. (I’ll update the software section as I test further.)
- The good stuff:
- You can connect two devices at once, this is a huge advantage and a major selling point over the Sony headphones. I can play music on my iPhone, pause it, then play music from my MacBook without touching the Bluetooth settings. I love that you can pick and manage your devices inside the app too.
- Aside from the terrible hands-free Alexa attempt, accessing Alexa by holding the button works well.
- Bose 700 headphones use Bluetooth 5.0, which should theoretically help with the speed and range when compared to Sony, but I didn’t see a real-life difference.
- Bose doesn’t support the aptX codec. This will affect less than 1% of users, but it’s worth mentioning for hardcore Android nerds who have amazing hearing and a phone that supports aptX. Even with lots of money on the table, I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between the standard AAC and aptX codec qualities.
- To get a proper fit, you slide the cups up and down on the rod. Once you slide the cups into the proper position, they’ll stick in that position without moving.
- The arch has a firm flex, but they should comfortably fit the widest of heads.
- They feel heavier and have stiffer cups than the Sony headphones, making them slightly less comfortable in comparison.
- The cups stay cooler than Sony’s.
- In an unscientific survey of six friends and family members, they all agreed that the Bose were comfortable and something that they could wear for long hours. It wasn’t until I showed them the Sony’s that they had any issue with the Bose’s comfort.
- Bose 700 headphones have a better build quality and a modern look.
- They come in a matte black or silver finish.
- The headband connecting the two cups looks clean and is one continuous piece of steel. There are no hinges or breaks. Not only do they look sleeker, but there are fewer moving parts, which will help their longevity.
- They weigh almost the same as Sony’s, but they feel more solid, durable, and dense.
- Even the foam part that sits on the top of your head feels more sturdy because it’s made with stronger silicone material. Sony’s foam feels like it could easily be punctured.
- You slide the cups up and down on the steel rod to fit your head better.
- The case is wider but has many advantages over Sony’s case:
- Its shell is harder.
- It’ll probably fit better inside a backpack because it’s thinner.
- Placing the headphones into the case is intuitive because you don’t need to fold or twist the cups in a weird way. You swivel the cups inward so that they sit flat (see the product photo above) and place them inside the case.
- There’s a secret pouch for your power and audio cords that’s magnetic.
- There are huge “L” and “R” letters located inside the cups, and it’s great for two reasons:
- It easy to see which cup goes on which ear, especially at night.
- The letters are hidden from the outside and don’t mess with the minimalist exterior design.
- When adjusting the size of the cups, there isn’t a satisfying click or feedback as you slide. I prefer the smooth sliding, but it’s harder to get the cups at equal levels.
- There are three buttons: Bluetooth/power, voice assistant activation, noise cancelation control.
- The playback controls happen with gestures and swipes on the front side of the right cup.
- Swipe up to increase the volume.
- Swipe down to decrease the volume.
- Swipe forward to skip the track.
- Swipe backward to go to the previous track.
- Double-tap to pause or play.
- Tap and hold to hear how many playback hours are left before your battery’s dead.
- In the next iteration, I’d like to see identical gestures and swipes implemented on both sides.
- I love Bose’s implementation of the swipes because they work more smoothly than Sony’s. I’ve had no issues accidentally triggering an action or triggering the wrong action. I haven’t tested these in cold weather yet, but when a Bose representative was questioned, they reminded the interviewer that Bose is based out of Massachusetts with cold winter weather and have been properly tested.
- They have a listed runtime of 20 hours. In my test with the volume at 70% and the noise cancelation fully active, I got 20 hours of continuous playing.
- While ten hours less than Sony sounds substantial, the 20 hours that Bose offers is in the perfect sweet spot where you won’t worry about battery life.
- When you turn them on, you’re told how many hours are remaining before you need to recharge.
- It takes 2.5 hours to recharge from 0% to 100%.
- You can get 3.5 hours of juice with a 15-minute charge.
- If your battery dies, you use the 2.5mm to 3.5mm audio cord and plug them into your phone or laptop to use them, but the noise cancelation requires power.
- It charges with a USB-C cable.
- It’s hard to describe the sound profile difference compared to Bose, but they sound warmer and more fun. There’s more character in the sound, whereas the Bose is probably more true to what it should sound like. You’re immersed in the music, like you’re in the band.
- If bass is your thing, you want the Sony’s because the bass hits harder than Bose. It doesn’t remind me of the overwhelming bass from older Beats products because I never found that the bass took over a song or muddied the rest of the experience.
- The mid-range tones sound great, but the high end isn’t as clear as Bose, but it’s good enough.
- The best part of Sony’s sound is that inside the app there’s an equalizer with nine preset options (regular, bright, excited, mellow, relaxed, vocal, treble boost, bass boost, and speech) or you can customize it manually with toggles. There should be a sound style for everyone’s needs, but most will love the default.
- I’m not an expert on sound quality. I can only report on what my ears hear and what I prefer. Two expert takes on the sound quality: RTings and SoundGuys.
Noise Canceling & Calling (B):
- Sony has “Personal Optimizing” and “Atmospheric Pressure Optimizing” features that can be set up in minutes. It’s tough to tell if these two features are marketing speak or if they’re for real.
- Sony’s noise cancelation is slightly stronger than Bose’s.
- Sony has a feature called Adaptive Sound Control that detects your surroundings and your movement and modifies the noise-canceling levels based on your circumstances. You’ll hear a ding in your ear when it’s switching modes. It works about 70% of the time. There are four modes that you can customize:
- Staying: No noise cancelation by default.
- Walking: Some noise cancelation by default.
- Running: More ambient noise by default.
- Transport: Full noise cancelation by default.
- With the button on the left cup, you can turn noise cancelation on or off without in-between settings.
- Phone calls aren’t great because the self voice feedback in your ears echoes and doesn’t sound clear. On the other end of the call, it sounds muffled with more background noise than ideal. You can make a call in a pinch, but if phone calls are a major part of your day, you want the Bose.
- You can listen to your outside surroundings with your headphones on, by setting the ambient sound to level 20, but it’s not quite as clear as Bose.
- You can hold your hand over the right cup and your music’s volume will lower and the noise cancelation turns off. Once you move your hand off the cup, the music returns to your previous volume level. I love that feature, but I wish it paused the music instead of lowering the volume.
- You can pair these headphones with as many devices as you want, but you can only pair them to one device at a time. For example, when you’re paired with your phone and want to listen on your laptop, you need to enter the sometimes painful Bluetooth pairing mode and repair. Then, repeat the process when you want to listen on your phone again.
- If you’re using an Android device, you can take advantage of the NFC pairing by tapping the back of your phone to the NFC logo on the left cup to auto pair to your phone.
- You can customize the sound to your preferences with the EQ (see above).
- They use Bluetooth 4.2.
- The app doesn’t walk you through how to connect the assistant. Sony assumes you know which Alexa and Google apps to download and how to connect them. I found an online guide for it though.
- Sony doesn’t attempt hands-free Alexa and Google via a wake word.
- You can activate your choice of personal assistant by holding the button on the cup while speaking, but their implementation of Alexa and Google is even worse than Bose’s, unfortunately:
- Your self voice feedback sounds terrible because it echoes and has static.
- Sometimes when you ask Alexa or Google a question, rather than playing the answer inside the headphones, it plays the answer on your phone. Considering you’re wearing noise-canceling headphones and can’t hear your phone, I wouldn’t call this a strong feature.
- I’ve seen it forget that you’re using Alexa and all of a sudden trigger my iPhone’s Siri instead.
- Sony supports more major codecs than Bose: SBC, AAC, aptX, aptX-HD, and LDAC.
- They feel more comfortable on my head. In an unscientific survey of six friends and family members, each picked the Sony headphones as more comfortable than Bose.
- They have the same weight but feel lighter on your head.
- They’re soft and squishy. It feels like you’re wearing a pillow around your head.
- The cups retain more heat and get sweaty easier.
- While they weigh the same as Bose, they feel lighter and the cups are a lot wider. They’re less dense and the weight is distributed differently. The way they’re built provides better comfort (see above), but it also gives off the appearance of old school headphones that my dad was wearing 20 years ago. They don’t feel like a premium product:
- They’re made with plastic that has a cheap feel. The foam cushions on the cups and headband feel like they’re not made for the long haul.
- The headband creaks as you open them to fit the headphones over your head.
- The material on the cups is more prone to making my ears sweaty.
- Folding them to put in the case is not intuitive. Sony made the headphones fold, then swivel in an odd orientation to get them to fit in the case.
- Some will like the feedback you get via the clicks when adjusting the headband for a proper fit, but the headband doesn’t stay locked in position well, unfortunately.
- There are many moving parts, which leads to more wear and tear.
- They come in black and silver with a slick amber accent color on both.
- Sony beat Bose to the market with gesture playback controls, but Sony’s gestures don’t work as smoothly because they struggle in cold weather. Also, it’s easy to trigger the wrong action (e.g., skipping a song when you want more volume). Here’s how the swipes and gestures work:
- Swipe up and down for volume.
- Swipe back to go to the previous track.
- Swipe forward to skip to the next track.
- There are two buttons: Bluetooth/power and ambient sound control. The ambient sound button controls the noise cancelation level, but it can be mapped to your favorite personal assistant instead. It’d be nice to have the functionality of your personal assistant and ambient sound control, but you need to pick one.
- There’s a vocal minority on Amazon and Reddit who had their headband crack under normal usage. A cracking headband isn’t a crazy concept based on the build quality, but I didn’t experience issues during my month of testing. Keep in mind:
- Most of the cracking issues appears to be with the first and second version of this headphone (M1 & M2), but some have issues with the current version too.
- It doesn’t take long for internet outrage from a few people to get spun into a big debacle.
- I’m sure some users experienced issues, but If cracking was a widespread issue, Sony would have recalled and improved the headphones.
- Sony lists a 30-hour runtime. In my test with the volume at 70% and the noise cancelation fully active, I got 25 hours of continuous playing.
- It takes three hours to recharge from 0% to 100%.
- You get five hours of juice with a ten-minute charge.
- You can’t charge and listen at the same time. This is the biggest nitpick of all time because it takes ten minutes to charge enough for five hours of use, but I’m mentioning it because I’ve read it in multiple places online.
- It charges with a USB-C cable.