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Beats Studio Pro vs Sony WH-1000XM5
Now that Beats has returned to the ANC headset game with the Beats Studio Pro, how do they compare with the market at large? The current champion of the masses, the Sony WH-1000XM5, have been out in the world for about half a year now. Let’s look at the head-to-head.
Editor’s note: this article was published on August 14th, 2023, and is the first version of the article. Updates will follow as the market changes.
What’s it like to use the Beats Studio Pro compared to the Sony WH-1000XM5?
Though both products in question are mass-market ANC headphones, the Beats Studio Pro and Sony WH-1000XM5 have very different design philosophies. The former are a smaller set of headphones that fit the established Beats plastic aesthetic, with a host of Apple-specific features. The latter are larger and iterate on four versions of segment-leading cans built around user comfort.
While it may seem like this is merely a divergence in philosophy, the smaller ear cups of the Beats Studio Pro often put too much pressure on your outer ear. The dearth of padding on the tight headband of the headphones means that those with medium to large-sized heads will likely have some comfort issues. The Sony WH-1000XM5 avoid this by having deeper, better-padded ear cups and a softer band with more foam at the point where it meets your skull. This means a much easier fit for anyone with glasses or bigger heads. It also means the Sony WH-1000XM5 will be much more comfortable over the long haul.
Because both headphones are intended to be portable, each has a carrying case. However, though the Beats Studio Pro fold down to take up less space, the Sony WH-1000XM5 can only lay flat in their case, which is significantly bigger than that of the Beats headphones. Neither product is water resistant nor particularly resistant to abuse, so treat both with some care if you pick them up.
How do you control the Beats Studio Pro and Sony WH-1000XM5?
Controls for the Beats Studio Pro are straightforward, if a bit annoying because the headphones use physical clicky buttons on the side of the left ear cup. Clicks are quite loud inside the ear cup, so we suggest sticking with the software playback controls wherever possible.
|Button||Single tap||Double Tap||Triple Tap||Long press|
|Single tapDouble TapTriple TapLong press|
Play / Pause
|Single tapDouble TapTriple TapLong press|
The Sony WH-1000XM5 use a capacitive touch surface for their control interface. Instead of mashing your fingers into the side of your head, you can use swipe gestures that don’t put any pressure on your ears or cause noise outside of the informational voice prompt or beep.
Double tap center
Pause / resume
Ambient sound passthrough
Though some users have reported issues with this kind of interface in the extreme cold, we’ve yet to replicate this issue in either New England or Canadian winters. Either way, it’s something to watch out for. If you live in an area that doesn’t dip below freezing regularly, this should be fine for you’ll see.
Should you use the apps of either Beats Studio Pro or Sony WH-1000XM5?
If you want to make the most of either of these headphones, you will need to use the respective app. Only the Sony Headphones Connect app has a built-in equalizer to adjust your tunes. iOS users can use the equalizer in the system settings, but that’s not a part of the Beats app. Android users will miss out or have to use a third-party EQ app. For example, head-tracking spatial audio relies on the app, so if you want feature parity with the Beats Studio Pro, you’ll need to make peace with Sony’s software on your phone.
Privacy nerds will probably elect not to install either app, as both collect user data. Given that the Beats app (Android) is mainly helpful for minor tweaks and firmware updates, you can probably skip installing it if you’re happy with the current function of the headphones (the app is not necessary with an iOS device). On the other hand, the Sony app offers a slew of features that can’t be found anywhere else, so ditching this app is a bit of a letdown if you want to avoid sending out personal data over the internet.
How do the Beats Studio Pro and Sony WH-1000XM5 connect?
Both the Beats Studio Pro and the Sony WH-1000XM5 should be able to satisfy just about anyone with their connection methods. Still, the Beats Studio Pro have the added benefit of USB-C audio connectivity. You can enjoy lossless audio over the included USB-C cable if your source device supports it. The Sony WH-1000XM5 don’t share this capability, but they do have support for the higher-bitrate codec LDAC. Though it only works with Android, this codec offers a far higher data transfer rate (and, therefore, a better chance at higher audio quality) than other codecs.
Beyond these differences, both support the use of a 3.5mm cable, and both support the essential codecs AAC and SBC. Neither of these products should leave you wanting more in the compatibility department, but if you like the Sony WH-1000XM5 and desperately want USB-C connectivity: get a dongle; they’re cheap.
Is battery life better on the Beats Studio Pro or Sony WH-1000XM5?
In normal use, both the Beats Studio Pro and Sony WH-1000XM5 have remarkably similar battery life, with the former clocking 31 hours, 25 minutes on our standardized test, and the latter posting 31 hours, 53 minutes. You will not notice a difference between these two headphones in normal use. Both products support quick charging and will net you several hours of playback with just ten minutes.
Because of this, there’s also no ecological benefit to choosing one product over the other as far as the battery is concerned. However, both companies have a few differences in how they treat the supply chain. As far as comparisons go, this one’s a wash.
Do the Beats Studio Pro or Sony WH-1000XM5 block noise better?
Sony has long been one of the top contenders for ANC, and its latest headphones are no slouches. Though the Beats Studio Pro aren’t bad, they’re just ever-so-slightly poorer at passive and active noise cancelation (ANC) in the mids and highs than the Sony WH-1000XM5. This can largely be attributed to fit, though, as attenuation performance in these ranges is typically the domain of isolation, not ANC.
Even though ANC is no substitute for hearing protection for preventing hearing loss, if you find yourself in noisy environments, the Beats Studio Pro and Sony WH-1000XM5 are highly competent at reducing outside noise. This will allow you to listen to your music at lower levels, which should help you avoid noise-induced hearing loss.
Do the Beats Studio Pro sound better than the Sony WH-1000XM5?
Most will prefer the sound of the Beats Studio Pro over the Sony WH-1000XM5, even though preferences vary a bit from person to person. That’s because our testing shows the bass shelf of the Sony headphones starts a little too high, boosting the 100-300Hz range too much. This can reduce midrange clarity compared to headphones like the Beats Studio Pro that don’t do this.
However, if you’re willing to put in a little time, you can get the sound under control with the Sony Headphones Connect app. Dropping the “clear bass” slider by 2-3 notches will reduce bass over-emphasis. Whether that’s something you’d prefer is up to you, but the option exists to tinker on one set of headphones and only limited presets to play around with on the other.
Speaking of EQ presets, the Beats Studio Pro has three under the hood, but only if you listen over USB. Though we don’t recommend any of them over the default setting because two of them boost the highs, which can lead to harsher sibilant sounds on recordings. You may want to reduce the 5-10kHz range in a third-party EQ app.
Given the more granular control of the equalizer in the Sony Headphones Connect app and the much lower chance for fit issues, we will give this one to the Sony WH-1000XM5.
Do the Beats Studio Pro or Sony WH-1000XM5 have a better microphone?
When it comes to microphones, there are two things we’ll call your attention to. First, the mic of the Beats Studio Pro is very insensitive, meaning a lot of gain will need to be applied by whatever app you’re using to make the signal loud enough. Be warned if you listen to our samples below: the level difference between products here is pretty dramatic.
Second, the Sony WH-1000XM5 does an outstanding job of combating wind noise. This is especially useful if you like to take calls out in the wild, as a gentle breeze can pop up anytime.
Beats Studio Pro microphone demo (Ideal conditions):
Sony WH-1000XM5 microphone demo (Ideal conditions):
Beats Studio Pro microphone demo (Windy conditions):
Sony WH-1000XM5 microphone demo (Windy conditions):
Which microphone sounds best to you?
Beats Studio Pro vs Sony WH-1000XM5: Price and availability
Though the original price of the Sony WH-1000XM5 was $399 at release, we’ve seen that fall at several retailers to better compete with other products during sales. The Beats Studio Pro, on the other hand, retail for $349. Of course, as these two sets of headphones will stick around for a long time, it’s a good bet that their prices will fluctuate as time goes on.
You'll be able to find these headphones just about anywhere
Neither set of headphones will be challenging to find, and you may even be able to find them next to each other in an airport vending machine. As both headphone models will be among the most popular on the planet for the next year and a half, you should also be able to find them at most big box retailers in person or online.
Should you get the Beats Studio Pro or Sony WH-1000XM5?
Despite the similar performance of the two products, we’re still going to recommend the Sony WH-1000XM5 over the Beats Studio Pro. Though on paper, they are close in capabilities, in practice, the lack of padding and small ear cup sizes will cause problems for many people. Though the Sony WH-1000XM5 won’t fit everyone, they have several design features, like angled drivers and thicker foam on the band, that can account for more significant size variances from person to person. In effect, these changes ensure that more people will have a better experience than the Beats Studio Pro offers.
Usually, a feature like USB-C playback would garner at least a niche recommendation. Still, because some fundamental things could be improved with the Beats Studio Pro, this feature isn’t a reason to buy them. There are other headphones out there with this same capability — like the Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless ($289.23 at Amazon) — without a higher price tag or the same comfort issues.
This is a crowded field, so we encourage anyone looking at either of these headphones to shop around. There are other options from Bose, older Sony models, and even more affordable headphones with some tradeoffs in the features department. However, if you’re looking for a clear winner in this matchup, it’s the Sony WH-1000XM5.
Frequently asked questions
No. The brand has poured a lot of money into improving its products — many are good enough to be among the best in their respective categories. Gone are the days of the company’s beginnings, when bass over-emphasis and poor sound quality ruled the day. But there are other reasons we don’t recommend this model in particular.
Yes. Despite being a brand owned by Apple, you can use Beats headphones and earphones with your Android device.