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Best Sony headphones

Like Sony, but don't know where to start? These are the best Sony headphones.
By

Published onApril 15, 2024

The Best
Sony WH-1000XM5
MSRP: $399.00
8.6
Check price
Positives
ANC performance
Outstanding microphone
App features, including custom EQ
Bluetooth 5.2 with SBC, AAC, LDAC, and wired connectivity options
Bluetooth multipoint
Find My Device enabled
Negatives
Price
No IP rating
Best open-back
Sony MDR-MV1 Reference Monitor Headphones
MSRP: $399.99
Check price
Positives
Comfort
Replaceable cable
Folds flat
Useful features for editing sound
Negatives
Extremely bassy
Price
Needs EQ for most uses
Best bass
Sony ULT WEAR
MSRP: $199.99
8.2
Check price
Positives
Comfort
360 Reality Audio
ANC
Touch controls
Negatives
Frequency response is either very bassy, unnecessarily bassy, or ridiculously bassy.
No audio over USB
Best studio
Sony MDR-7506
MSRP: $99.99
7.7
Check price
Positives
Good sound for mixing
Solid cable
Price
Fixable
Negatives
Coiled cable is heavy
Not comfortable with glasses
Bang for your buck
Sony WH-CH520
MSRP: $59.99
7.5
Check price
Positives
Decent tuning
Fast Pair
Lightweight
Negatives
Price
Difficult seal
Buttons

Of all the headphones out there, few are more iconic than Sony headphones. A fixture of portable personal audio since the release of the Walkman in the late 20th century, Sony knows a thing or two about squeezing performance out of consumer products. Sony headphones have been around for decades and have been the choice of production professionals and consumers alike for a long time. We’ve spent a week or two with each of our top picks to help you find the best Sony headphones for you.

Editors note: This list was updated on April 15, 2024, to add the Sony MDR-MV1 and the Sony ULT Wear to our top picks.

Why is the Sony WH-1000XM5 the best pair of Sony headphones for most people?

Of course, Sony makes one of the consensus best picks in the ANC headphones category: the Sony WH-1000XM5. Like the WH-1000XM4, Sony’s newest flagship headset is pretty much the best option on the market and works well in just about any situation. The WH-1000XM5 is definitely on the pricey side at $399 USD (debuting at $50 more than the XM4 headphones), but many noise canceling headphones are considerably more expensive. It’s well worth the price, but you may want to grab something less expensive if you’re worried about making rent.

Objectively, this is one of the best pairs of headphones you can buy, period. The Sony WH-1000XM5 has some of the best noise canceling on the market and considerably better attenuation in the low and midrange relative to its predecessor. We also like how Sony re-tuned the WH-1000XM5 to have a less extreme treble output. The sound is still bound to please most consumers, but music of all genres should sound pretty good out of this headset with minimal equalizing. Of course, you can create a custom EQ through the Headphones Connect app if you want to tone down the bass output a bit.

In our tests, the battery lasted 31 hours 53 minutes with ANC on. You can fast-charge it via USB-C: three minutes provides 180 minutes of playback. Should you find yourself on a long flight and the battery dies, well, you can just use the 3.5mm cable for wired listening.

Sony WH-1000XM5Sony WH-1000XM5
SoundGuys Editors Choice
Sony WH-1000XM5
ANC performance • Outstanding microphone • Useful app features
MSRP: $399.00
The king of the ANC pack extends its reign

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Like most consumer ANC headphones, the Sony WH-1000XM5 boosts bass probably a little too much, and definitely to the detriment of the midrange. On the other end of the frequency range is the highs — and those too are a little over-emphasized compared to our target curve. While it doesn’t look so bad on the chart, the under-emphasis in the mids means the swing in volume will make things like cymbal shimmer, hi-hats, and the attack on snares stand out in a mix.

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In our tests, it offered a tangible benefit compared to previous iterations of the WH-1000X line. Canceling sounds in the range where most music is found by around 30dB, the headphones make engines, trains, and street noise drop off to about one-eighth their original perceived loudness.

For those working at home or taking calls on the go, the Sony WH-1000XM5 is a standout companion. The headset handles sub-optimal conditions like wind extremely well, and it’s hard to hear a difference between the two samples below.

Sony WH-1000XM5 microphone demo (Ideal):

Sony WH-1000XM5 microphone demo (Wind):

How does the microphone sound to you?

19640 votes

The MDR-MV1 are the best open-back headphones from Sony

A photo of the Sony MDR-MV1 sitting flat on a wooden desk.
Christian Thomas / SoundGuys
We imagine the Sony MDR-MV1 will be gracing many a producer’s desk.

We don’t recommend the Sony MDR-MV1 for casual listening, but as open-back headphones, they are a top pick for content creators focusing on mixing and producing spatial audio content. These headphones feature a comfortable, lightweight design with replaceable cables and the ability to fold flat, enhancing their portability despite their substantial size. They connect via a 6.3mm TRS plug and are designed with durability in mind, although the proprietary cable may be difficult to replace.

With an extremely bass-heavy sound profile, the MDR-MV1 excels in immersiveness, making them suitable for detailed audio work in studio environments. Users will likely need to apply significant EQ adjustments to mitigate the pronounced highs and enhance overall clarity.

Overall, the Sony MDR-MV1 is recommended for serious producers who can handle—and, indeed, need—the deep bass and the detailed, immersive sound for their audio projects.  If you’re a content creator looking to upgrade your studio headphones, the MDR-MV1 might be the right choice. Still, others may want to consider different models that cater more to casual listening experiences or offer a more balanced sound out of the box.

Sony MDR-MV1 Reference Monitor HeadphonesSony MDR-MV1 Reference Monitor Headphones
Sony MDR-MV1 Reference Monitor Headphones
Open back • Supports Mixing Spatial Sound • Lightweight
MSRP: $399.99
Mix and master HD and spatial sound
The Sony MDR-MV1 open-back reference monitor headphones pump out precise HD and spatial sound. Designed for audio production, check out these cans if you want to hear what the sound producers intended you to hear.

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Though I’m a little more negative about the Sony MDR-MV1 when it comes to listening as a set of high-end headphones, there’s a lot to like — but it is an odd response. For example, the highs from 5kHz and up are highly pronounced. And where most open-backed headphones have a difficult time with bass, the Sony MDR-MV1 has too much, with a gradually ramping overemphasis from about 800Hz on down.

The Sony ULT WEAR are for heavy bass heads

A photo of the Sony ULT WEAR sitting atop a carbon fiber surface.
Christian Thomas / SoundGuys
The Sony ULT WEAR looks a lot like the WH-1000XM5.

The Sony ULT WEAR headphones will primarily appeal to bass lovers for their intense low-end output. But these headphones are also well-suited for commuters who appreciate robust active noise cancelation (ANC) without breaking the bank.

The design includes large, soft ear pads housed in bland matte plastic with holographic accents aimed at providing comfort for those with larger ears. The headphones are easily portable, folding flat into a compact case, making them ideal for travel. Control is managed through intuitive touch controls and a set of physical buttons, including a “ULT” button that significantly boosts bass to an overwhelming level. Or, you can tone down the bass using the Sony Headphones Connect app.

With features like Sony’s 360 Reality Audio and excellent battery life that supports up to 32 hours of playback, the ULT WEAR is feature-rich. The ANC performs commendably well, making these headphones a solid choice for noisy environments, though they won’t compete with the highest-end models like the WH-1000XM5.

Sony ULT WEARSony ULT WEAR
Sony ULT WEAR
Comfortable • Long battery life • Immersive sound
MSRP: $199.99
Press ULT to rattle skull
The Sony ULT WEAR headphones are a new generation of folding, wireless headphones with ANC and a big, comfy design. Good connectivity options and a focus on immersive sound are the key selling features.

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To a casual listener, the Sony ULT WEAR will sound bassy and a bit dull, lacking detail like guitar picking or snare attack. It’s a strange sound, but it was popular even ten years ago. Though you can address this to a limited degree with the app’s equalizer, there’s only so much you can do.

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The Sony ULT WEAR do a decent job of noise attenuation. With a combination of active cancelation and isolation they consistently attenuate more than 25dB of noise at frequencies above 80Hz: nothing to sniff at.

The Sony MDR-7506 is still a great studio set

Students, video producers, and the budget-conscious will find a trusted ally in the Sony MDR-7506. Built off the 35-year-old Sony MDR-V6 design, this pair of Sony headphones hasn’t changed much from the original formula (outside of a folding band, that is).

The MDR-7506 is found in studios worldwide for its fairly neutral sound and competitive price. While it lacks any official water-resistant rating, it’s extremely durable, and the vinyl ear pads are easy to clean at the end of a session. Several third-party vendors make replacement ear pads for MDR-7506, so you can keep this on your shelf for years and years. If you wear glasses, look into fabric or velour pads for the best results.

Because this pair of headphones is purpose-built for audio playback only, you won’t find noise canceling, a microphone, or voice assistant features. For those, you’ll have to open up the wallet a little bit to get one of the Sony headphones that do.

Sony MDR-7506Sony MDR-7506
Sony MDR-7506
Affordable • Comfort • Durable Design
MSRP: $99.99
The industry standard for a reason.
The Sony MDR-7506 might not be the best for enjoying your brand new listening station, but there's a reason this is a standard when it comes to audio production and mixing.

The Sony WH-CH520 is the best bang for your buck

The back of the Sony WH-CH520 bears a matte backing.
The matte backing is a nice touch.

The Sony WH-CH520 is a no-frills, entry-level set of wireless headphones that deliver reliability and comfort. With a lightweight plastic design and soft ear pads, these headphones offer decent sound quality and an impressive battery life—lasting over 55 hours on a single charge. They lack advanced features like ANC or high-bitrate codecs, but they do support Fast Pair and Multipoint, allowing for a hassle-free connection to multiple devices.

Where these headphones shine is their utilitarian approach. They are straightforward to use, with physical buttons instead of touch controls, and their on-ear design does a reasonable job of sealing out high-frequency noise. Although not aimed at audiophiles, they offer the essential functionalities that most users seek, such as long battery life and straightforward controls.

The Sony Headphones Connect app provides basic EQ adjustments, but it does ask for several permissions in exchange. Overall, if you’re in the market for an affordable, reliable pair of wireless headphones and aren’t chasing high-end features, the Sony WH-CH520 makes a solid choice.

Sony WH-CH520Sony WH-CH520
Sony WH-CH520
Decent tuning • Fast Pair • Lightweight
MSRP: $59.99
The Sony WH-CH520 are competent — if a bit boring — wireless headphones, aimed at the entry level. They work, sound decent enough, have an incredible battery life, and aren't uncomfortable. With features like Multipoint and Fast Pair, the Sony WH-CH520 are reasonably future-proof.

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If you were looking at the Sony WH-CH520 to handle phone calls, it’s capable enough. Below are standardized samples collected in simulated conditions so you can hear for yourself how they perform in these common scenarios.

Sony WH-CH520 microphone demo (Ideal conditions):

Sony WH-CH520 microphone demo (Office conditions):

Sony WH-CH520 microphone demo (Windy conditions):

How does the microphone sound to you?

1042 votes

Need good noise canceling on a budget? Get the Sony WH-CH720N

The Sony WH-CH720N with the ear cups rotated flat, showing the exterior plastic housing, resting on a wood surface with a grid in the background.
Harley Maranan / SoundGuys
At under $150 originally, these are a good choice for most people if you don’t expect perfection.

The Sony WH-CH720N represents one of Sony’s latest attempts to get some of its ANC and sound quality pedigree into a more affordable headset, and for the most part, it succeeds.

Clocking in at an impressive 40 hours of battery life with active noise canceling (ANC) on, these cans prove to be a long-lasting companion for your auditory needs. They offer both wired and Bluetooth options, and the noise canceling is respectable, peaking at 28dB of attenuation for low-frequency rumblings. Don’t expect the luxe feel of Sony’s flagship WH-1000XM5, but they still deliver where it counts.

Functionality and usability are straightforward, thanks to the ear cup-mounted buttons.  The Sony Headphones Connect app extends the headphones’ capabilities, offering an equalizer, listening modes, and even ear analysis for optimized Sony 360 Reality Audio. They also support multiple codecs, including LDAC and AAC.

Sony WH-CH720NSony WH-CH720N
Sony WH-CH720N
ANC • Value • Comfortable
MSRP: $148.00
Light-weight noise cancelling headphones
A light-weight design, active noise cancelling, and up to 35 hours of battery life make the Sony WH-CH720N serious contenders for the best portable wireless headphones. Alexa is built-in, and the ambient sound mode offers twenty levels of control.

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Sound quality tends to lean on the bass-heavy side, but this can be fine-tuned through the app’s equalizer. The highs and mids perform adequately, contributing to an overall audio experience that satisfies basic needs.

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The mic performance of the Sony WH-CH720N is quite good for an embedded mic. You can hear the speaker’s voice perfectly well in an office, with some background noise attenuation. With the introduction of wind, the WH-CH720N filters out wind noise particularly well, and speech remains intelligible.

Sony WH-CH720N microphone demo (Ideal conditions):

Sony WH-CH720N microphone demo (Office conditions):

Sony WH-CH720N microphone demo (Windy conditions):

How does the microphone sound to you?

2364 votes

Listen anywhere with the Sony WF-1000XM5 wireless noise canceling earbuds

As far as true wireless options go, the Sony WF-1000XM5 (notice a pattern here?) offers probably the best experience you’re going to get with true wireless earphones. By paying attention to both the big and little things that make a good set of true wireless earphones, this is among the best in its category.

The WF-1000XM5 improves sound quality, active noise cancelation, and battery life over the previous model, owing to its new V2 chip and Bluetooth 5.3 hardware under the hood. The earbuds are much smaller than their predecessors and also come with more varied ear tip sizes to meet a wider range of ear canal sizes.

You also get a host of software features like Sony 360 Reality Audio, Speak to Chat, a custom EQ, and more through the Sony Headphones Connect app (iOS and Android). You’ll want to take advantage of that in-app equalizer, but the stock sound is pretty decent on its own.

Sony WF-1000XM5Sony WF-1000XM5
SoundGuys Editors Choice
Sony WF-1000XM5
Great ANC • Improved sound quality • Comfortable fit with four ear tip options
MSRP: $299.99
The Sony WF-1000XM5 have even better noise canceling than the WF-1000XM4. Sony made these its most comfortable earbuds by shrinking them and including XS-L memory foam ear tips. The WF-1000XM5 support advanced features like multipoint connectivity and spatial audio with head tracking. You also get plenty of customization options through the free mobile app.

Should you get the Sony LinkBuds S?

The Sonly LinkBuds S earbud lays on a leather surface in front of its charging case.
Each earbud features a big mic grille on the side, no doubt to visually remind you that transparency mode will turn on every time you start using them.

While more pedestrian in appearance, the Sony LinkBuds S comes with active noise canceling and an IPX4 rating. Like the glitzier WF-1000M4, the LinkBuds S can handle just about anything. Some may be off-put by the nondescript design, but others may find that it fits the bill perfectly.

Noise canceling is very good here and outperforms the older WF-1000XM3 by quite a bit. You won’t get quite the same degree of ANC with the LinkBuds S as you will with the WF-1000XM4, but when you save $80 on the LinkBuds S, you may not mind so much.

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Sound quality is very good with the LinkBuds S, though you’ll hear the noticeable treble de-emphasis from 1kHz and higher. Instrumental harmonics and other high-pitched sounds will come through much quieter than you’re used to hearing. Fortunately, you can equalize this a bit through Sony’s mobile app or a third-party EQ app.

For those who refuse to spend more than $200 on earbuds, the Sony LinkBuds S gets you just about everything you could want.

Sony LinkBuds SSony LinkBuds S
SG recommended
Sony LinkBuds S
Noise canceling • Effective isolation • Good sound quality
MSRP: $198.00
These earbuds pack high-quality sound with great ANC.
The Sony LinkBuds S earbuds bring solid noise canceling, a secure fit, and solid but not fantastic battery life.

What’s so good about the Sony WF-C500?

The Sony WF-C500 casewith the left earbud inside of it and the right one lying next to it on a white surface.
The Sony WF-C500 has finger-tip-shaped areas to aim at for touch controls, but “L” and “R” could still be distinguished a bit better.

The Sony WF-C500 isn’t the most unique offering from Sony, but it does a little bit of everything for ~$80. The earbuds do not have noise canceling, but the included ear tips help you get good isolation. Plus, these earbuds have 360 Reality Audio functionality. If you use a compatible music streaming service, that means you can get immersive playback at a bargain price.

You can listen with either earbuds in mono mode, which is great for outdoor exercise and accessibility purposes. There’s also a microphone, so you can make calls without grabbing your phone. If you want a pair of buds that work equally as well during a workout or your commute to work, these make for a solid option.

Sony WF-C500Sony WF-C500
Sony WF-C500
Small and lightweight • Comfortable ear tips • Price
MSRP: $99.00
Comfortable everyday earbuds for exercising and commuting.
The Sony WF-C500 makes for a comfortable commuting and workout companion. Noise isolation helps keep the background noise to a minimum while the lightweight design is easily worn all day long.

The best Sony headphones: Notable mentions

A bust of The Terminator faces the camera head on wearing the Sony WH-XB910N.
The Sony WH-XB910N is not the smallest pair of headphones, but they bring big bass.
  • Sony WH-1000XM4 ($278 at Amazon): These headphones have been surpassed by the new WH-1000XM5, but the combination of high-quality codecs, great sound, noise canceling, good battery life, and smart features like auto pause and Bluetooth multipoint makes these still one of the best all-around option for most people.
  • Sony WH-CH710N ($748 at Amazon): The WH-CH710N is a lightweight, portable set of headphones with a fine microphone for those who frequently telecommute to work, and can be found for a lower price nowadays.
  • Sony WH-XB910N ($148 at Amazon): This headset is a mixed bag, but if you’re a real bass head who wants good noise canceling, this headset offers one of the best value options.
  • Sony WF-1000XM4: ($278 at Amazon): While these have been superseded by the new WF-1000XM5 earbuds, these true wireless earbuds can now be found for cheaper and remain one of the best ANC options on the market.
  • Sony WH-XB900N ($157.97 at Amazon): For the individual who demands emphasized bass, noise cancelation, and high-quality Bluetooth codecs (aptX HD and LDAC).
  • Sony INZONE H9 ($279.99 at Best Buy): Though new to the gaming scene, Sony debuted its line of INZONE headsets last year to compete with established headset companies. This one is the top-of-the-line and the best Sony has on offer.
Hands hold Sony WH-CH510 wireless on-ear headset with the headphones facing up so the ear pads are visible.
The ear pads may not be a high-quality material, but they’re comfortable enough.

On paper, the Sony WH-CH510 is a great set of Bluetooth on-ear headphones, but in practice, it just doesn’t hold up. In our Sony WH-CH510 review, we encountered a persistent issue with the Sidetone feature. Like the transparency mode found on ANC headphones, sometimes Sidetone amplifies background noise to make it easy for you to monitor your volume level while speaking. This is nice in theory, but when it doesn’t work properly — it’s incredibly jarring. The WH-CH510 sometimes enables this if you talk while wearing the headphones, not just during a call. It’s probably a software bug, but given the inability to update the firmware on these headphones, it’s not a problem you can solve if you have it.

You get what you get, warts and all. Instead, we recommend several other on-ear headphones. If you want to stay within the same price bracket, the JBL Tune 510BT is much more enjoyable to use.

What should you know about Sony headphones?

There are so many pairs of Sony headphones available. Still, on a grand scale, they typically perform like any other headset from another brand like JBL, Sennheiser, or even Audio-Technica. Let’s dive into useful terminology so you can make a more informed buying decision.

What is frequency response?

A headset’s frequency response is a quick way to understand what tones it can reproduce. You’ll often see a frequency response of 20Hz-20kHz because that accounts for the lower and upper limits of human hearing. Some headsets’ frequency responses exceed this in either direction, but that’s not really necessary, at least not for the vast majority of people.

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Most Sony headphones on this list are made for general consumers, so you’ll see that the charts included in our galleries account for that with a label in the upper-left corner. Generally speaking, a consumer-friendly response will amplify bass and treble notes, so they sound louder than mids, but not so much so that it becomes difficult to hear midrange frequencies.

We use a Bruel & Kjaer 5128 head and torso simulator (HATS) to record a headset’s frequency response. We then use that data to form an accessible chart that compares the headset’s frequency response (cyan) to the SoundGuys house curve (pink), which is either set for consumers of studio use. You can learn more about how we came to our house curves here, and if you really want to dive deep, please read on about how we test products.

What’s the difference between headphone isolation and noise canceling?

A man stands outside where the Sony LinkBuds.
The Sony LinkBuds WF-L900 leaves your ear canals completely unoccluded, so you hear everything around you.

Isolation refers to when a headset passively blocks out noise by creating a barrier between your eardrums and the environment. This differs from active noise canceling (ANC), which requires power to actively combat external sounds. To get good ANC performance, it’s important to first establish good isolation.

To get optimal isolation from a headset, you need to get a good fit. With in-ears, this means you should test the supplied ear tips and use the ear tip fit test (if there’s a companion app that supports this). You can learn more about what a good fit with in-ears is like in our guide. To get good isolation with over-ear headphones, you need to ensure the ear pads encompass your ears completely and don’t form any gaps around your skull or jaw area. Sometimes, to get the best fit, you need to get different kinds of ear pads because the material matters.

A woman wears the Anker SoundCore Liberty Air 2 true wireless earbuds.
Getting a good fit is important for comfort, sound quality, and auditory health.

Isolation is important because it prevents a phenomenon called auditory masking, which is when a loud sound makes it difficult to perceive a relatively quiet one. This happens all the time. A common example is when you’re listening to music on the train platform, and the train pulls in. You may notice it’s hard to hear your music while it parks on the platform, but you didn’t turn the volume down. To oversimplify it, your brain only has so much bandwidth to perceive auditory stimuli, so it processes what could be the more threatening sound (louder) over the less threatening one (quieter).

Active noise canceling, on the other hand, requires outward-facing microphones (and sometimes inward-facing ones) to record your environment. The microphones then create a slightly out-of-phase wavelength and cancel out the original sound waves. Ideally, this yields a completely quiet sound, but ANC is imperfect, so you’re never literally mute your environment.

How active noise canceling actually works
Constructive and Destructive Interference Sound waves of equal amplitude, offset at half wavelengths, result in compression waves with an amplitude of 0 — canceling out the sound.

Both ANC and effective isolation are also important from an auditory health perspective. When you block out background noise, you’re less likely to increase the volume to unsafe levels, which prevents your chances of experiencing noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL).

Are Sony headphones worth buying?

Close up of a man wearing the left earbud of the Sony WF-1000XM5
Harley Maranan / SoundGuys
The Sony WF-1000XM5 excels in blocking out sounds around you.

One of the biggest perks about buying a set of headphones from a bigger manufacturer is that it can afford to earn your dollar through support, continually updated software features, and a long product life. That’s true of just about all of the new Sony headphones. Additionally, Sony headphones enjoy a two-year limited manufacturer’s warranty in the US, which covers manufacturing defects in materials or workmanship. While it’s not going to get you a brand new headset if you dunk yours in water, it will have your back if it turns out there’s an issue you couldn’t have foreseen.

Sony is one of the more trusted brands of personal audio equipment, as it’s been at the forefront of many portable and home-centered audio tech advancements since the late 20th century. Some of its accomplishments include the Walkman 360 Reality Audio, and it’s been the second-largest music production company for decades. Sony knows audio.

However, that’s not to say the company is perfect or that it’s the best out there. You’ll probably find that because Sony deals in huge volumes, there’s no shortage of complaints online about some issues. Headphones — like any other sector of tech products — are not immune to fanboying, easily antagonized customers or weird manufacturing issues. We encourage you to read around a bit and get as much information as you can before settling on buying anything (Sony headphones or otherwise).

How we choose the best Sony headphones

A hand holds one of the Apple AirPods (3rd generation) to the ear of a head simulator.
Now, we use a Bruel & Kjaer 5128 test head to perform isolation and frequency response tests, as seen with the AirPods.

It’s important to us that we relay as much useful information to our readers as possible. That means we present you with objective measurements from our Bruel & Kjaer 5128 head and torso simulator (HATS) that cover things like frequency response, isolation, crosstalk (when applicable), and more. But we don’t just acknowledge charts and numbers around here. It’s also important that we give you an idea of what it’s actually like to use a product day in and day out. That’s where the subjective part of our reviews comes into play. We make sure to address everything from the fit to the app experience and beyond. We’re then sure to score each product consistently to give you a good idea of how one product might compare to the next.

At the end of the day, our team discusses and votes on what products should (and shouldn’t) be awarded here. But we continue the work after we hit “publish” and keep our eyes peeled for noteworthy products as they launch. You may notice that product recommendations change over time or that sometimes we replace our top picks — we try to make sure that this page and others like it stay up-to-date and accurate. We don’t want anyone to come to SoundGuys and see outdated information.

Why you should trust SoundGuys

A photo of a woman wearing the Sony WF-1000XM3 earbuds and reaching for the touch panel of the left earbud. Meant to illustrate options for Sony headphones.
We don’t toss out recommendations unless we have experience with a product.

Not only is SoundGuys all of our day jobs, but each and every full-time writer here has had several years of experience covering the personal audio market. We also go out of our way to prove what we say rather than ask you to take our word for it: for example, we provide standardized microphone samples to compare products with. Our income depends heavily on people being happy with the products they buy after researching them.

Frequently asked questions about the best Sony headphones

Side-on view of Sony WH-1000XM5 beside the Sony WH-1000XM4 hanging over a white horizontal pipe
The Sony WH-1000XM5 (left) looks a bit cleaner than the WH-1000XM4 (right).

Although the Sony WH-1000XM5 and WH-1000XM4 have a lot in common, like speak-to-chat, an in-app EQ, the option to prioritize sound quality over connection stability (and vice versa), and more, the headsets appear fairly different. Unlike the WH-1000XM4 and WH-1000XM3 before it, the fifth-generation WH-1000X headphones feature a clean design that more closely mimics the Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700.

With this next generation of WH-1000X headphones, Sony improves the sound quality and active noise canceling. The WH-1000XM5 outperforms the previous model regarding sub-bass attenuation and passive isolation above 2kHz. The XM4 ANC is still some of the best around, but the XM5 is just that much better. If you can find the WH-1000XM4, however, we do recommend it for those on tighter budgets: around the holidays and certain regional sale times, you may even be able to find it below $300 USD.

You can learn more about this headset in our Sony WH-1000XM4 video review.

The Sony LinkBuds WF-L900 is a quirky set of earphones, but it has a few foibles that prevent it from making it to “best.” Namely, these buds don’t isolate at all and don’t deliver much bass, either. But if you need something like the in-ear equivalent of open-back headphones, they suit that niche.

The Sony WH-1000XM4 and the AirPods Max reach close to neck-and-neck when it comes to ANC. Both of these headphones deliver great noise canceling, so you’ll have to consider other factors — for instance, whether you are already in the Apple ecosystem — when making your choice. If you already have an iPhone and feel like you can spend a pretty penny on the AirPods Max, they’ll likely work great for you. Meanwhile, Android users will be very happy with the Sony WH-1000XM4.

No. The Sony WF-C500 does not have ANC, but it does have decent isolation, which helps.

The Sony WH-1000XM5 do not have an ingress protection rating, meaning it isn’t certified to block out sweat. However, that doesn’t mean it will break with a workout — just that it doesn’t have an official sweat protection rating.

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