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. If you’d rather make your buying decisions based on reputation rather than whatever is the popular choice at the moment: Sony headphones have been around for decades, and the choice of production professionals and consumers alike for a long time.
Editor’s note: This list was updated on April 11, 2021, to update alternatives, price changes, and add new honorable mentions.
The Sony WH-1000XM4 is 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 WH-1000XM4. Like the WH-1000XM3 and WH-1000XM2, Sony’s newest flagship headphones are pretty much the best option on the market if you’re looking for something that’ll work well in just about any situation. They’re definitely on the pricey side at $349 USD (though you may luck out and find them discounted by $100 USD), but remember, a lot of noise cancelling 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.
Sony WH-1000XM4Full Review
Objectively, these are some of the best headphones you can buy, period. They have slightly worse battery performance than older models in the same line, but they’ll still last just shy of 20 hours, and USB-C charging means you won’t have to wait very long before you’re back to listening after they run out. The Sony WH-1000XM3 had some of the best noise cancelling on the market, and the WH-1000XM4 surpasses it, with considerably better attenuation in the low and mid-range. Plus, the headphones have a very consumer-friendly sound output.
For those working at home, or prone to taking meetings outside of a perfect environment, the Sony WH-1000XM4 is a decent companion. Unfortunately their microphone isn’t quite as good as their predecessor’s, but it’ll get the job done. It does very well indoors: better than most Bluetooth headsets, in fact.
Sony WH-1000XM4 microphone demo:
If you’re looking for headphones for a specific purpose, we always recommend finding headphones designed for that particular purpose. That may sound a little obvious, but you want an expensive set of headphones for studio monitors, and not so much for hiking or working out. The Sony WH-1000XM4 are great for commuting or at home. Other applications will leave you with a fair bit of anxiety—they’re not indestructible, or even sweatproof.
Need good noise cancelling on a budget? Get the Sony WH-CH700N
Next up is the WH-CH700N. This represents Sony’s attempt to get some of its ANC and sound quality pedigree into a more affordable headset. However, this particular model is now older and has been superseded by the WH-CH710N.
Sony WH-CH700NFull Review
In our review, we found the newer model a worthy successor to the WH-CH700N, with a few caveats. The newer headphones don’t support AptX HD, relying solely on AAC, which won’t serve Android users perfectly. We also had concerns about its durability over time. Ultimately, they’re very good headphones, but so are the WH-CH700N, and the older ones are going to cost you less while they’re still in stock.
If the WH-CH700N are ever out of stock, don’t worry: the newer model is a worthy successor. It’s just that it’s a slightly worse value proposition as it’s a newer product.
Sony WH-CH700N microphone demo:
The WH-CH700N doesn’t have as many features as the WH-1000XM4, but it offers decent wireless performance via aptX HD. These are a great option if you only care about listening to music on the go, but aren’t ready to plunk down $300. These Sony headphones are a decent middle ground between “cheap” and “premium.”
Bassheads should get the Sony WH-XB900N
If you’re willing to spend a little more (but not too much), the Sony WH-XB900N is a great pickup as well. They offer far more bass than the WH-CH700N, and they have a few more creature comforts like touch controls and equalizing in Sony’s Headphones app. However, they do come at a high price, comparatively speaking.
Sony MDR-7506Full Review
Students, video producers, and the budget-conscious will find a trusted ally in the Sony MDR-V7506. Built off the 35-year-old Sony MDR-V6 design, these Sony headphones haven’t changed much from the original formula (outside of a folding band, that is).
Sony WH-XB900N microphone demo:
These headphones have been very popular over the years because they offer a fairly neutral sound at a very competitive price. Additionally, they’re extremely durable, and several third-party vendors make replacement ear pads for these headphones. If you wear glasses, look into fabric or velour pads for best results. Because these headphones are purpose-built for audio playback only, you won’t find noise cancelling, 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.
Save a buck with the Sony WI-C400
Sometimes all you want is a cheap set of in-ears, and the Sony WI-C400 is about as inexpensive as you get without straying into “really bad” territory. While these neckband earphones won’t exactly light the world on fire with their performance, they are a little better than their price would suggest, even if they don’t have access to the latest and greatest codecs out there.
On the plus side, you get 20 hours of battery life, but if you need noise cancellation and enjoy the security of the neckband design (over a true wireless option), consider boosting your budget for the Sony WI-C600N or the premium, Sony WI-1000XM2, and benefit from the LDAC Bluetooth codec. If you’re looking to save yourself some money, the WI-C400 represents some of the best value in the Sony headphones lineup.
Listen anywhere with the Sony WF-1000XM3 true wireless earbuds
As far as true wireless options go, the Sony WF-1000XM3 (notice a pattern here?) offers probably the best experience you’re going to get with true wireless earphones. They’re not AirPods, but that’s not really a bad thing—especially given that AirPods are extremely poorly designed for the needs of most people.
Sony WF-1000XM3Full Review
The WF-1000XM3 is built around sound quality, active noise cancellation, and battery life first; so it’s not going to give you all the features people love with Apple’s ubiquitous earphones. That’s really fine, though, and Android users will probably prefer the Sony WF-1000XM3 to either the AirPods or AirPods Pro. I say this because not only is the noise cancelling more effective, but the software features of the AirPods family only work on the iPhone. If you use an Android phone, there’s no advantage to using AirPods over these Sony earphones.
Sony WF-1000XM3 microphone demo:
What should you know about Sony headphones?
One of the biggest perks about buying a set of headphones from a bigger manufacturer is that they 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 2-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.
As I mentioned above, Sony is one of the more trusted brands of personal audio equipment, as they’ve been at the forefront of a lot of portable and home-centered audio tech since the late 20th century. Some of their accomplishments include the Walkman, 360 Reality Sound, and they’ve been the second-largest music production company for decades. Sony knows audio.
You might like: Sony WF-1000XM3 vs. Sennheiser MOMENTUM True Wireless 2
However, that’s not to say the company is perfect or that they’re the best out there. You’ll probably find that because they deal in huge volumes, there’s no shortage of complaints online of 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).
Best Sony headphones: notable mentions
- Sony WH-1000XM3: They’re not the best on the market anymore, but last year’s model is still a stellar pair of headphones. The Sony WH-1000XM3 can go toe to toe with just about anything else over battery life, sound quality, and noise cancelling—plus it’s probably going to go down in price soon, given the WH-1000XM4’s availability.
- Sony WH-CH710N: For $50 extra than its predecessor, these cans are the upgrade to the Sony WH-CH700N. It features USB-C charging, improved noise cancellation, and longer battery life.
- Sony WI-1000XM2: If you took the Sony WH-1000XM4 and turned them into a pair of neckbuds, you’d get the WI-1000XM2. It sports the same QN1 ANC processor found in the company’s flagship headphones, LDAC and AAC support, and deep software integration via the Sony Headphones Connect app.
- Sony WH-XB900N: For the individual who demands emphasized bass, noise cancellation, and high-quality Bluetooth codecs (aptX HD and LDAC).
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