Sony WH-1000XM4 Vs. Sony WH-1000XM3: Which One Is Better? [Detailed Comparison]


For a few years now, Sony has controlled the market when it comes to noise-canceling headphones.

Since the launching of the business’s seminal Sony WH-1000XM3, the best that any other company could offer has been in contention for second place.

The current model, like the WH-1000XM3, hasn’t changed much, keeping the aesthetic almost comparable and offering primarily minor improvements.

However, the comparison isn’t as simple—newer doesn’t always imply better, and a few of the choices made by the WH-1000XM4 may have you reaching for last year’s (or the year before last, for that matter) model.

For this sony headphone, we offer you a great comparison make sure to read the whole article to find out which is better!

Sony WH-1000XM3
Sony WH-1000XM3

3 Options for Sony WH-1000XM3 to Buy on Amazon

Sony WH-1000XM4
Sony WH-1000XM4

3 Options for Sony WH-1000XM4 to Buy on Amazon

Sony WH-1000XM4 Vs. Sony WH-1000XM3 Video

Sony WH-1000XM3 vs. Sony WH-1000XM4: Price

Both of these ANC headphones were released at the same price: $349. The good news is that both models are currently available for purchase.

Several online shops continue to offer discounts on the Sony WH 1000XM3 and Sony WH 1000XM4, with the former selling for as little as $205 on Amazon and the latter for as little as $298. Talk about deep discounts.

Winner: Sony WH-1000XM3

Sony WH-1000XM3 vs. Sony WH-1000XM4: Design

It’s simple to confuse one for the other. Sony essentially left the packaging unaltered, which can make selecting the correct model difficult unless you recognize the model number on the front of the box. There are minor variations between the WH-1000XM3 and WH-1000XM4 if you look closely.

These two pairs of headphones feature minimalist and luxurious designs made of metal (yokes), polished leather (headband and earcup cushioning), and strong plastic (earcups). Elegant touches include copper highlights, an embossed Sony logo, and a laser-etched model number above the yokes.

We enjoy the minor improvements Sony made to the WH-1000XM4, such as the sleek, soft-touch rubber finish that is more resistant to scratches and scuffs than the WH-1000XM3’s plastic surface.

The WH-1000XM3 is a visually appealing piece of audio equipment. Unfortunately, Sony squandered an opportunity by removing the WH-1000XM2’s tough, leathery earcups. The colorways are identical (Black and Silver), but Sony has added two new options for the WH-1000XM4 in recent months: Midnight Blue and Silent White.

The weight is the same at 9 ounces, and while the WH-1000XM3 is somewhat larger, the difference is insignificant. You can wear either product on your head for about 3 hours until exhaustion sets in, or you can prop them around your neck without worry.

Sony claims that it modified the WH-1000XM4’s ear cups to provide a 10% larger surface area for better contact with the head. The extra cushioning feels nice on the ears and provides better airflow, so the decision paid off.

Sony WH-1000XM4 vs WH-1000XM3: Is it worth upgrading?
Sony WH-1000XM4 vs WH-1000XM3: Is it worth upgrading?

Winner: Sony WH-1000XM4

Sony WH-1000XM3 vs. Sony WH-1000XM4: Active noise cancellation

Only those with finely tuned hearing will notice a difference in ANC performance between the two models. Sony’s HD Noise Cancelling Processor QN1 processor, which includes Dual Noise Sensor technology and feedforward microphones, does an excellent job of analyzing and filtering out the environmental sound.

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Even better, Sony included specific options for customizing noise reduction on the fly. NC Optimizer is one of them, and it adjusts ANC based on numerous aspects such as the shape of your ears, hairdo, eyeglass presence, and ambient noise.

The third option is Atmospheric Pressure Optimization, which changes pressure and sound transmission based on altitude.

The WH-1000XM3 and WH-1000XM4 accompanied us on several flights before the epidemic, so we can attest to how well Sony’s noise-canceling technology functions in the air; you’ll barely notice the low-end rumbling on an airplane.

Being on the ground is equally gratifying, with either headset effectively suppressing mid-low frequencies while minimizing loud noises at an extraordinarily high level.

Blaring sounds (e.g., blow horns, sirens, loud sound systems) do creep into the soundscape, but they aren’t distracting enough to take you away from whatever is playing unless they are happening a few feet away.

Ambient listening is where the WH-1000XM4 excels. Yes, regardless of the model, you get 20 levels of adjustable transparency, but the WH-1000XM4’s mics are stronger and make external sounds clear to improve environmental awareness.

Winner: Sony WH-1000XM4

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Sony WH-1000XM3 vs. Sony WH-1000XM4: Controls

The whole control scheme on these two pairs of cans includes physical buttons, touch panels, motion detection, and microphones. For seamless playback and call handling, the swipe, slide, and tap movements are accurate.

When users press the power or custom buttons, they receive great tactile feedback to ensure they are receiving the appropriate commands.

Quick Attention can also be used to pause music by resting your hand over the right earcup, albeit the WH-1000XM4 has a smoother operation. Sony adds a few smart features to the WH-1000XM4 that make using the headphones more enjoyable and practical.

On-ear detection is one of them, and it works similarly to Quick Attention, except that when you remove your headphones, the music will pause and resume when you put them back on your head.

The second mode is Speak-to-Chat, which uses microphones and powerful signal processing to recognize your speech and pause music. They both function quite well.

Google Assistant and Alexa integration are available on the WH-1000XM3 and WH-1000XM4. Siri is also an option. All of these AI bots are capable of responding quickly to voice commands.

On the WH-1000XM4, Sony added Precise Voice Pickup technology, which uses five mics with advanced audio signal processing to clear the path for voice commands to be recognized accurately, and it is fantastic for voice assistance.

Winner: Sony WH-1000XM4

Sony WH-1000XM4 vs WH-1000XM3
Sony WH-1000XM4 vs WH-1000XM3

Sony WH-1000XM3 vs. Sony WH-1000XM4: App and special features

The Sony Headphones Connect app, which is compatible with the majority of Sony’s wireless headphones and earbuds, is at the heart of its functionality.

A configurable EQ with several music presets, adjustable ambient levels, Adaptive Sound Control, NC Optimizer, and Sound Position Control to emphasize sound in different positions can be found here. Firmware updates can be pushed through in the app as well.

Then there’s 360 Reality Audio, Sony’s brand-new immersive sound format that adds 3D effects to your music. Consider this Sony’s response to Apple’s spatial audio, except that it does not use head-tracking to produce surround sound.

The results are quite stunning, allowing you to hear individual pieces from various points, similar to how you would hear an orchestra playing on stage if you were seated in an audience. You can hear the string section on your left and the brass section on your right, as well as the audience, to mimic being in the crowd.

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In terms of new functionality, NFC is now available and allows for easy pairing on either set of headphones by tapping the left earcup on the back of a compatible smartphone.

So, what makes the WH-1000XM4 the winner of this round? Bluetooth 5.0 and multipoint technologies are included. Not only do the most recent headphones enable a more contemporary wireless protocol, but the ability to pair and switch between two devices at the same time is also advantageous.

The WH-1000XM3, like the WH-1000XM4, has excellent connectivity and range. The problem is that Bluetooth 4.2 does not have the same speed and range as Bluetooth 5.0.

Winner: Sony WH-1000XM4

Sony WH-1000XM3 vs. Sony WH-1000XM4: Battery life

Sony states that the battery in both items lasts 30 hours. In our testing, we discovered that this was not the case with the Sony WH 1000XM4 headphones or WH-1000XM3.

The WH-1000XM4 lasted slightly under 20 hours, which is excellent for a pair of headphones. The Sony WH-1000XM3 performs marginally better, lasting 24 hours on a single charge. We evaluated both pairs of headphones at a steady output of 75dB with active noise cancellation turned on.

The disparity between the promised number and our results may be discouraging, but keep in mind that turning off ANC and listening at a little lower level will almost certainly yield better results—not that 20 hours is anything to scoff at.

It’s undoubtedly better than almost any pair of genuine wireless earphones, especially ones with noise cancellation.

Winner: Sony WH-1000XM3

Sony WH-1000XM3 vs. Sony WH-1000XM4: Audio Quality

Sony’s Mark series is regarded for producing best-in-class audio. Expect dramatic and colorful audio to bounce off your eardrums with the WH-1000XM3 or WH-1000XM4. This round would have ended in a tie if it hadn’t been for the minor changes made to the WH-100XM4’s sound profile.

Sony increased the bass levels on its flagship model, emphasizing lows for a boom-tastic audio experience. 808s and snares hit harder while not muddying up the soundscape.

This is ideal for modern music genres such as EDM, hip-hop, and alternative rock. Regardless, the WH-1000XM3 and WH-1000XM4 are both well-suited to all musical genres. The mids and highs are clearly portrayed and merge well with the bass.

When listening to recordings with sophisticated arrangements, background instruments can be distinguished. Turning on ANC has no effect on quality since you’ll still get outstanding reproduction and stereo images.

More codecs are supported by the WH-1000XM3: aptX, aptX HD, AAC, LDAC, and SBC. It’s unclear why aptX was missing off the WH-1000XM4’s spec sheet, but the other three are, along with DSEE Extreme and Edge-AI technologies to restore the fidelity lost with digitally compressed files.

Winner: Sony WH-1000XM4

Sony WH-1000XM3 vs. Sony WH-1000XM4: Microphone

We were thrilled with the Sony WH-1000XM3’s accuracy when it was released. It still has a lot of the fuzziness that comes with internal microphones, but it’s significantly more accurate than typical.

Unfortunately, the Sony WH-1000XM4 does not carry on in this vein. It still works perfectly, but the newer headset’s microphone array has a strong de-emphasis in the bass range and a little spike in the highs—this is most likely an attempt to prevent the proximity effect, but it means persons with really deep voices may come through quieter than those with higher voices.

If you only make the occasional phone conversation, either of them should suffice, although it’s distressing to see the Sony WH-1000XM4 have such a poor microphone compared to its predecessor. Take a look for yourself.

Winner: Sony WH-1000XM3

Alternative Video: Sony WH-1000XM4 Vs. Sony WH-1000XM3 Review

Sony WH-1000XM4 Vs. Sony WH-1000XM3 Review

What Are Some Alternatives To Sony Headphones?

If you want the greatest noise-canceling headphone within this price range, the Bose QuietComfort 45 is a fantastic option for Sony’s headsets. Unfortunately, you can’t turn off the ANC without also turning on the transparency mode (amplification of background noise).

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The sound quality is a little off, particularly the enhanced treble response, but you can always modify this using a third-party EQ program. We like the QC 45’s comfy design, which is too close to the Bose QuietComfort 35 II.

Even though we’re comparing two Sony headphones, keep in mind that the brand isn’t the only one in town.

The Shure AONIC 50 are outstanding headphones that address all of the gaps left by the Sony WH-1000XM4 and WH-1000XM3, with extensive codec support, Bluetooth multipoint, and excellent low-frequency noise canceling, despite their high price.

The Sennheiser PCX 550-II offers a lot of the same things, but for a lot less money, however, its noise cancellation isn’t as good as more expensive choices. If money isn’t an issue and you’re already immersed in Apple’s ecosystem, consider the company’s first over-ear headphones, the AirPods Max.

It includes Apple’s W1 processor for easy interaction with Apple’s mobile devices, as well as excellent active noise cancellation capabilities and sound quality. However, be warned: these cans are not cheap, costing $549 USD.

CONCLUSION: Sony WH-1000XM4 or Sony WH-1000XM3?

If you’re a headphone enthusiast looking for the greatest noise-canceling headphones, or if you’re only interested in minor improvements to noise cancellation, the choice is rather simple.

Sony took a terrific design, modified it based on consumer feedback, and added features that improve and enrich the WH-1000XM4’s entire experience. All of this was accomplished without raising the price, with them starting at $349, the same as its predecessor.

Apple customers will probably prefer the Sony WH-1000XM4—the lack of aptX won’t matter, and Bluetooth multipoint is a nice feature to have.

The WH-1000XM4 is also the most accurate-sounding alternative, though you can tweak either using Sony’s companion app to your taste. Given that these are currently around the same price (approximately $300-400 USD), comparing prices is pointless.

It seems strange that the older version costs the same as the current one, but given that the previous WH-1000XM3 are still excellent headphones, it makes sense if you’re Sony.

The only reservation we have about recommending the XM4 wholeheartedly is its price. The XM3 is still a fantastic set of headphones, with noise-canceling that outperforms even the most arduous competitors. However, most merchants are still charging $350 for them right now.

Wait a few weeks, and the XM3s will most certainly drop to $299 or possibly $249 as Sony attempts to clear off inventory. Then they’ll be an absolutely fantastic pair of ANC headphones.

Nonetheless, the Sony WH-1000XM4 has been improved in every way and is the go-to choice for people looking for over-the-ear, noise-canceling headphones.

Sony WH-1000XM3 vs Sony WH-1000XM4: which over-ear headphones are best?
Sony WH-1000XM3 vs Sony WH-1000XM4: which over-ear headphones are best?

FAQs On Sony WH-1000XM4 Vs. Sony WH-1000XM3 Review

Should I get the Sony WH-1000XM3 or the Sony WH-1000XM4?

The Sony WH-1000XM4 is more precise, but the WH-1000XM3 is more user-friendly. The Sony WF-1000XM3 earphones have slightly increased bass frequencies. The Sony WH-1000XM4’s default frequency response slightly boosts bass and treble tones. The Sony WH-1000XM4 and WH-1000XM3 both produce excellent sound.

Is Sony WH-1000XM4 worth it?

The Sony WH-1000XM4 is a superior headphone. They don’t improve in every way, but they do improve in enough areas over their predecessors to make the extra cost worthwhile if this is your first pair.

Is the Sony WH-1000XM3 still a good buy?

A $349 device may appear to be overpriced, but it isn’t when you consider what you get in return. A great pair of active noise-canceling headphones is worth its weight in gold, and the Sony WH-1000XM3 is one of the best.

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