Bose QuietComfort ULTRA vs Sony WF-1000XM5 Compared

Abbas Anwar

Bose QuietComfort ULTRA vs Sony WF-1000XM5 Compared


“Explore our in-depth comparison of Bose QuietComfort ULTRA vs Sony WF-1000XM5 earbuds. Discover the differences in active noise cancellation, design, sound quality, features, and more. Find out which flagship earbuds are the right fit for you.”

So these two earbuds are without a doubt two of the best Flagship earbuds on the market but they’re both very expensive both selling at $300 the Bose QuietComfort Ultra earbuds which just came out a couple of weeks ago and the pretty new Sony WF1000XM5s both dominate in a couple of categories but which one’s actually the better buying? I’ll give you my subjective opinion but I also want to show you some testing as well so you can decide for yourself and really see what the differences are between these.

Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) Comparison

Actually, the active noise cancellation is not one-dimensional. I can’t just say one pair is better than the other because it depends on what you’re trying to block out. For example, the Bose QuietComfort Ultra earbuds perform substantially better in my basic White Noise test, which tries to block out the sound of a jet at a set distance away. As you turn up the volume, I see at what volume the earbuds can no longer block out that sound, and the Bose are number one out of all the earbuds I’ve ever tested. These are incredible for that.

Bose QuietComfort ULTRA vs Sony WF-1000XM5 Compared

The Sony ones are not far behind, tied in second place, but regardless, that 5-decibel difference there is pretty significant when you’re flying. But if you’re in a different environment, say you’re walking through a train station or there’s a crowded room, well, the Sony’s actually do better here. They block a couple of extra decibels, and there’s one main reason for this. Even though the active noise cancellation is better on the Bose, the passive noise blocking is substantially better on the Sony because they ship with foam ear tips. So, the foam ear tips on here allow you to block higher frequencies, which is why the crowd sounds are marginally better. But I also do a high voice test where I play the speech of a person with a higher-pitched voice from a set distance away and once again see at what volume the earbuds can no longer block it out.

Once again, Sony really wins here. In fact, this is actually a bigger win for Sony. So those are three of my four ANC tests, but the fourth one most people actually don’t talk about, and this is if you’re already in a quiet space, which one keeps it quieter without white noise without buzzing or hissing or anything like that. In this case, the Sony’s actually pull ahead here as well, keeping a very nice quiet environment when you’re listening to these, whereas the Bose earbuds, I find that there are some artifacts, some maybe occasional sounds, some crackling maybe, very, very faint, but it’s in the left earbud for me. Maybe it’s just my unit. I don’t know if all of them are doing this, but it’s something that if you listen to it, you can notice, especially if you don’t have music playing.

Design and Comfort: Bose QuietComfort ULTRA vs Sony WF-1000XM5

Moving on to the opposite of ANC, that’s transparency mode and this is a huge win for Bose. I would say they’re probably, I can’t really quantify it, but if I had to, I’d say 40% better where it just sounds more natural, everything around you, it feels a lot more like the AirPods Pro, where I can walk around and talk and do stuff, and it doesn’t really seem like I have anything in my ears, whereas the Sony earbuds sound a little bit more plugged, like a little bit more muffled and further away and slightly more robotic as well.

Battery Life and Charging Features

I haven’t actually introduced these earbuds to you, but I wanted to talk about those tests because they are so fundamentally important when you’re comparing these earbuds. But let’s dive into the design a little bit more. If you look at them, there are two different colors available for each of these, both coming in white and a black version. The case for the Bose is almost twice as large. It’s at least one and a half times the size of the Sony case, so that’s definitely a big win for Sony. I’m always a big fan of smaller cases. When it comes to battery life, you’re looking at pretty similar battery life on either one of these.

They both charge by USB type-C. They both have a button. They both have an LED on the front. But one more fundamental difference that makes Sony’s case better is that it actually has wireless charging. I don’t know why Bose made such a large case and didn’t add wireless charging at this price. I think it’s a big disappointment. When you open it up, the earbuds, even though you might think the Bose look a little bit larger at first, they’re really not actually that different. Bose has more of a stem design, so you’ll definitely see it more when you’re wearing these. But they’re both a similar weight. They’re both very comfortable in my ears. And kind of tying into fit and comfort with these earbuds, if I’m sitting and working at a desk for a long time, not really moving, then the Bose earbuds are better for me.

They feel lighter in my ears. There’s less pressure. They’re more just gentle and comfortable. But if I’m moving around at all, like say I’m doing push-ups or running or even just looking down, then the Sony earbuds are my preferred option there because they tend to grip on the inside of my ear a little bit better, which is counterintuitive because looking at the Bose earbuds, they have this kind of wingtip thing that is adjustable. There are three different sizes of that and three different ear tip sizes, but it doesn’t really do that much. It doesn’t grip the inside of my ear all that much.

Granted, these stay in reasonably well, but as I said, Sony with the foam tips expands in your ears, and it’s just way harder for these to fall out, but it’s also a little bit harder for you to put them in. So if you’re getting a phone call and you want to quickly put your earbuds in, yeah, the silicone tips on the Bose earbuds make it really easy. Just put them in, whereas the Sony’s, I find that I have to like kind of compress it a little bit like an earplug and then put it in, and then it kind of expands in my ear. Of course, you could always swap it out for silicone tips, but I’m just talking about what comes in the box.

When it comes to controls, this one’s a toss-up. I think Bose has a little bit of an advantage here being that you have that larger exterior. They actually have swipe controls so you can swipe up and down for volume whereas the Sony’s just have tap controls, and you have to tap four times to move it up or down one level of volume which is a little bit tedious. If you plan on using these for any phone calls, which I do all the time, then it’s all worthless unless the microphones actually sound good. So, let’s get into a microphone test.

Microphone Performance Evaluation

Alright, now this is a microphone test outside. This is a really difficult environment because there’s a little bit of a breeze and obviously a lot of traffic behind me, but these are the Sony WF1000XM5. Alright, now these are the Bose Quiet Comfort Ultra earbuds, and as you can see, there’s like a lot of stuff going on behind me, so this is pretty difficult as well. Let me know which one sounds better to you.

Spatial Audio and Mono Mode

Probably one of the most important categories to look at is actually the sound quality. Of course, you’re listening to music, you’re listening to podcasts, whatever on these, sound quality is going to be really important. And these fundamentally work differently. So, they both have SBC and AAC, your kind of basic low-level codecs and then they both have a different high-resolution one. Sony has LDAC, which is their proprietary one, but it works on a lot of Android devices.

Sorry, iPhone users. And then Bose is using AptX Adaptive, which again is common on some Android devices, not quite as many in my opinion. So you want to look it up and figure out which one your phone is compatible with. Samsung phones and Pixel phones might not have AptX Adaptive. So these both have a big emphasis on bass, but Sony’s bass seems a little bit more capable in my opinion. It gives you a really full sound. It can even be a tad aggressive on some songs depending on the genres you’re listening to. So you might want to go into the EQ and kind of tune that down in vocal mode or something like that or just manual mode.

But if you want even more bass, the EQ has what they call clear bass, which you can dial-up, and it gives you a really massive bass sound on any music you’re listening to. So bass heads would probably prefer the Sony earbuds for that. However, Sony and the XM5S here do kind of tail off on the really higher frequencies, maybe everything above four or 5,000 Hertz. It kind of feels like it’s a little bit lower, which gives you less perceived clarity compared to the Bose earbuds.

And so if you’re listening to like high hats, for example, they’ll sound a little bit more detailed and a little bit more clear on the Bose earbuds compared to the Sony’s here. So the Quiet Comfort earbuds have quite a bit of attack, and they kind of, like I was calling this consumer dynamics, kind of what I’ve been using here where you have a really big emphasis on bass and on high to make it sound dynamic and exciting kind of. It’s something that a lot of consumer-facing earbuds do. So when you’re looking at these two earbuds, the Sony XM5S does tend to sound a little bit more natural, even though we have slightly less clarity on the high end. So between the two of them, I mean, they’re both fantastic. It depends on what your preference is.

And now we get into probably my favorite category because like I said, these check a lot of boxes sound is close, ANC is close enough, and microphones are pretty similar. There’s a lot of things they do similar. What’s really going to differentiate them and would make my decision if I were you is going to be the features, what extra things are on these earbuds.

Feature Showdown: Bose and Sony Apps

Now they both have spatial audio. Bose actually just brought that. Personally, I don’t use that especially often, but it’s there if you want it. They both have mono mode. You could listen to just one earbud if you wanted to. But beyond that, they both have a pretty different set of features. So Bose has different modes in the app where you can set like if I’m working out, I want to hear like I don’t want spatial audio and I do want active noise cancellation on like level five out of 11. Sony kind of has something similar-ish to that where they’ll like to identify when you’re moving or when you’re sitting or when you’re in different places, and it’ll change settings.

I really didn’t like that feature, and I never personally used it, but they still have it. So I’m sure some people do use it. Generally, the Sony app feels like there’s a lot of feature creep. There’s a lot of stuff going on there. When you first open the app, there are like 20 different pop-ups you have to go through. So it can be a little bit noisy compared to Bose, which is a much, much cleaner and simpler app. However, with that feature creep, you are getting quite a few extra features on the Sony earbuds, like, for example, quick listen where you just tap and hold your finger on one earbud, and for as long as you’re doing that, you’ll be able to hear your surroundings.

It’s great if you’re on a train and they’re saying something you want to hear an announcement, you just do that real quickly. Similarly, they have to speak to chat. So if I’m sitting at my desk working, and then somebody comes over to talk to me, I could just start talking to them. It’ll turn my music down. It’ll turn on transparency, and I can talk to them until I stop, and then it’ll gradually turn that backup.

Multi-Point Connectivity: Sony’s Advantage

And on the other hand, Bose has a decibel limiter on transparency mode, which is a huge win there. So if you have transparency mode on and you’re hearing your surroundings and then somebody just slams a desk next to you or somebody drops something or something happens, then it’s not going to blow your ears out. Oh, and I got one, I can’t believe I didn’t mention this yet.

The Sony XM5S has multi-point connectivity, and Bose earbuds do not, and that is a huge one for me, that is absolutely massive, being able to connect to my phone and my laptop and switch seamlessly when I’m playing a video and then getting a phone call without having to disconnect and reconnect is absolutely huge, and only the Sony earbuds can do that. For the Bose earbuds, you have to go into the app and you can toggle on and off which device they’re connected to.

Final Verdict: Choosing the Right Earbuds

So ultimately, the Sony WF1000XM5s and the Bose Quiet Comfort Ultra earbuds both have annoyingly long names, yes, but which one’s actually the better pair for your ears? Well, I think it depends on a couple of things. For one, if you’re somebody that really values active noise cancellation when you’re flying and you do a lot of flying or you’re in other places that have a lot of really loud constant low-frequency noise, then the ANC in Bose is going to be better. It’s going to be really nice and comfortable and peaceful when you’re flying. They also don’t have foam tips, so they sit gently in your ears. And so for flying, I would prefer the Bose earbuds.

Similarly, if I’m working all day in an office and I want to have transparency so I can hear somebody walking over and talking to me, then again, Bose wins there. But if you want some of the other features that Sony offers like speak-to-chat, maybe you want to block everything out around you until you start talking to somebody, Sony does that better. Similarly, they have the foam tips.

I really like that on here. It gives you better passive noise blocking. I like the sound better on the Sony earbuds, and I really like the design, the compact case really goes a long way with me while also having multi-point connectivity and wireless charging. So that’s it, that’s my take on these two earbuds. Let me know which you think is better and why.

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