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Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds vs Sony WF-1000XM5

In a battle of the Titans, everybody wins
By
January 16, 2024
Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds
MSRP: $299.00
7.7
Check price
Positives
Fit
Comfort
ANC
Battery life
Negatives
App
Price
Too bassy
Sony WF-1000XM5
MSRP: $299.99
8.7
Check price
Positives
Excellent ANC and Isolation
Comfortable
SBC, AAC, and LDAC support
Great app support
Great battery life
Negatives
Price
Default sound too bassy

Bose versus Sony has been the active noise canceling (ANC) battle of the 2000s, but now that each company has launched their flagship earbuds for the 2020s, which one is right for your life? Each product excels in many regards, but your needs might push you to one set or the other. Who wins when we match up the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds vs Sony WF-1000XM5? Let’s take a look to see what we can find out.

Editor’s note: this article was published on January 16, 2024, and is the first version of the article. Updates will follow as the market changes.

What’s it like to use the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds compared to the Sony WF-1000XM5?

Both the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds and Sony WF-1000XM5 represent the top end of wireless earbuds on the market, as each model is the top-of-the-line for both Bose and Sony. Each model is an attempt to earn your dollar, and each model has a slew of features and high-end specs to make their cases for them. However, which is right for you might be decided by a small difference, or personal preference.

The ovoid nozzle of the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earphones.
Christian Thomas / SoundGuys
Human ear canals aren’t perfect circles; they’re more ovoid in shape. Just like the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds’ nozzles.

The designs of the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds and Sony WF-1000XM5 are quite different, with the former using a stem and bud design, and the latter simply containing all of its internal hardware in its bud. Though neither type of design is superior to the other, the stem of the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds allows for some extra swipe controls that would be difficult to program into a tiny bud like that of the Sony WF-1000XM5.

The Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds uses a fin an ovoid nozzle to hold the earbuds in your ear, which is our preferred format for wireless earbuds — fit is the most important aspect of how earbuds perform, after all. The Sony WF-1000XM5, on the other hand, relies only upon the nozzle and sleeves to hold the earbuds in place, meaning that all of the weight is put onto your ear canals. Because these earbuds are light it’s not much of an issue, but the circular nozzles can mean that more people may have fit issues should the right size sleeve be missing from the packaging. If you’ve already bought the Sony WF-1000XM5 don’t worry, you can always look for aftermarket tips.

Harley Maranan / SoundGuys
The Sony’s wireless charging case is smaller than that of the QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds.

Both earbuds have a relatively small charging case, that can use a USB-C cable to top up their charge. However, the Sony WF-1000XM5 have the ability to charge wirelessly, whereas the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds cannot. While it’s a minor convenience at best, it’s still a decent feature if you don’t like to connect your charging case to a cable all the time.

How do you control the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds and Sony WF-1000XM5?

The capacitive touchpads of the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds are the main control interface.
Christian Thomas / SoundGuys
The capacitive touchpads of the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds allow you to control your earphones without worrying about a compromised seal.

Controls for both the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds and Sony WF-1000XM5 consist mainly of capacitive touchpads on the back of each product’s earbuds. However, the controls are slightly different between each product.

Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds controls:

GesturePlayback functionCall function
Gesture
Swipe up
Playback function
Volume Up
Call function
N/A
Gesture
Swipe down
Playback function
Volume Down
Call function
N/A
Gesture
Tap
Playback function
Play / Pause
Call function
Answer call / Answer second call
Gesture
Double tap
Playback function
Track Forward
Call function
End / Reject call
Gesture
Triple tap
Playback function
Track backward
Call function
N/A
Gesture
Long tap
Playback function
Mobile device control / User control preset
Call function
N/A

For the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds, you can customize the long press function in the Bose Music app, while the Sony WF-1000XM5 don’t have that functionality. Really, though, it’s not a huge make-or-break feature, so don’t worry too much about it.

Sony WF-1000XM5 controls:

INPUTACTION (left bud)ACTION (right bud)
INPUT
ONE TAP
ACTION (left bud)
ANC/Ambient sound
ACTION (right bud)
Play/Pause
INPUT
TWO TAPS
ACTION (left bud)
Quick Access
ACTION (right bud)
Next
INPUT
THREE TAPS
ACTION (left bud)
Quick Access
ACTION (right bud)
Previous
INPUT
FOUR TAPS
ACTION (left bud)
Volume Down
ACTION (right bud)
Volume Up
INPUT
TAP AND HOLD
ACTION (left bud)
Quick Attention
ACTION (right bud)
Voice Assistant

Sony’s touch controls are quite standard, but they’re also very intuitive. You shouldn’t be left wanting something more complicated.

Should you use either Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds or Sony WF-1000XM5’s apps?

Despite both Bose and Sony’s proclivities for gathering user data, both the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds and Sony WF-1000XM5 benefit from their respective apps significantly. The Bose Music app allows you to use a 3-band equalizer, enables immersive audio, allows some control customization, and executes firmware updates. The Sony Headphones Connect app enables 360 Reality Audio, has an equalizer with five bands, and can also install updates — though you can’t really customize the controls any.

The Sony Headphone Connect app's custom EQ with the WF-1000XM5 next to the phone.
Harley Maranan / SoundGuys
The Sony Connect app includes a six-band equalizer for fine-tuning your sound.

However, only the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds do not require the app to perform product updates. For that, you can always search online for the Bose Updater tool, and use a USB connection to your computer to install updates to your devices. Sony’s headphones and earphones lack this ability.

How do the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds and Sony WF-1000XM5 connect?

Though both the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds and Sony WF-1000XM5 connect to your source devices over Bluetooth 5.3, each takes a different strategy when it comes to high-bitrate listening. The Sony WF-1000XM5 uses its own company’s proprietary LDAC to offer higher audio quality listening, while the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds uses Snapdragon Sound to enable aptX Lossless compatibility. Though neither of these codecs are Earth-shatteringly better than the other, you will need a very new Android phone with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 or better processor if you would like to use Snapdragon Sound. Obviously, this gives you a bit to chew on if you’re on the fence. Apple iPhone users will have neither of these codecs available to them.

The Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds' pairing button is located at the back of the charging case.
Christian Thomas / SoundGuys
The Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds’ pairing button is located at the back of the charging case.

What is more interesting to us is the Sony WF-1000XM5’s compatibility with LC3 out of the box. This is the main codec that drives Bluetooth’s low-energy efforts and enables extra tech like Auracast — a platform that allows you to listen to venues’ audio streams and your own music. Because the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds has Bluetooth 5.3, it should technically be capable of this, so keep your eyes peeled for an update here.

Is battery life better on the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds or Sony WF-1000XM5?

If you’re worried about battery life with your earbuds, this decision is easy: the Sony WF-1000XM5 were able to last 9 hours and 32 minutes in our standardized testing, while the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds are merely able to give you 6 hours and 11 minutes per charge. Of course, this is only an issue if you regularly listen to music for many hours in a single sitting, but it’s worthy of note for international travelers or anyone looking to take a long trip. If you’re only looking for a commuter buddy, you’ll be more than fine with either product.

Remember, that when you remove your earbuds and place them back in the charging case, you’ll be regaining battery life very quickly due to the nature of the small cells in each earbud. Try not to allow them to reach 0% battery, and don’t worry about getting a 100% charge every time. Practicing good battery hygiene will make your earbuds last longer.

Do the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds or Sony WF-1000XM5 block noise better?

A man looking off in the distance wearing the Sony WF-1000XM5 in his left ear
Harley Maranan / SoundGuys
The WF-1000XM5 sticks out a little.

First things first, both the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds and Sony WF-1000XM5 block and cancel outside noise extremely well. Even if you were to look at the charts below and come away with the impression that there’s any huge difference: there’s not. With ANC enabled, the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds can reduce outside noise by about 83%, and the Sony WF-1000XM5 can cancel noise by about 87%. The Sony earbuds are the winners here, but there’s not much of a step down in efficacy. Remember that these measurements assume a good fit, and that noise canceling earbuds aren’t a substitute for hearing protection.

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Despite falling a bit short on average, the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds do a very good job of dispelling outside noise outside of a weird gap in 300 to 900Hz. However, you can still expect noise in this range to be dulled by at least 50% in perceived loudness, so it’s one of those times where the chart looks worse than what your experience would be. Not great, but not bad either.

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You can see that the Sony WF-1000XM5 do a great job across the entire range of audible sound, owing mainly to their stellar job at isolation. However, if this chart looks worse than the one above, be sure to look at the scale: because the earbuds isolate about 10+dB better in the high end, the bounds had to move to fit the line. Noise cancelation at lower frequencies is comparable between the products, but the Sony WF-1000XM5 don’t suffer from that weird drop in effectiveness in the mids.

Do the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds sound better than the Sony WF-1000XM5?

At the place in the market both sets of earbuds occupy, which sounds better is more of a matter of opinion than objective fact. For example, those who like a bassier sound will almost undoubtedly appreciate the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds over the Sony WF-1000XM5 because they emphasize the low end over the rest of the audible range. If you’re looking for a more “accurate” or less-bassy sound, the Sony WF-1000XM5 do a fairly good job of adhering to our target curve, though that’s not all that’s needed for good sound.

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Both models support higher-bitrate codecs, but only if you have an Android phone or computer that can support them. In that light, if you have an older phone, iPhone, or Android phone that doesn’t have a newer Qualcomm Snapdragon chip: get the Sony WF-1000XM5. The Sony buds support LDAC, which is compatible with a much broader array of products, even if it’s technically eclipsed in bitrate by aptX Lossless.

Though both sets of earbuds support a form of spatial audio, the two take very different approaches. Bose’s Immersive Audio tries to emulate a set of speakers in a room about 3 feet from your head, and can use head tracking to maintain the illusion of their existing in one point in space. 360 Reality Audio, on the other hand, attempts to create a whole scene instead. The Sony iteration of spatial audio relies on those mixing the music to create a complete experience, so there’s limited input you can have on how the illusion is presented. Of course, there really isn’t a huge number of tracks on streaming services available with this even after four years, so your mileage may vary.

Do the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds or Sony WF-1000XM5 have a better microphone?

When we compare the microphones of products, earbuds usually don’t fare very well because this type of product has the most challenges to recording audio. However, as both the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds and Sony WF-1000XM5 have the benefit of being each of their companies’ halo products: they don’t suffer as much from poor audio as other models.

That said, there are some tradeoffs to either mic. Where the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds don’t suffer from as much unintentional clipping as the Sony WF-1000XM5 can in certain situations, it does have a much harder time dealing with wind noise. If you find yourself taking calls outside, you’ll definitely want the mic array of the Sony WF-1000XM5 over the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds.

Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds microphone demo (Ideal conditions):

Sony WF-1000XM5 microphone demo (Ideal conditions):

Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds microphone demo (Windy conditions):

Sony WF-1000XM5 microphone demo (Windy conditions):

Which microphone sounds best to you?

133 votes

Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds vs Sony WF-1000XM5: Price and availability

Because both the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds and Sony WF-1000XM5 are high-end consumer earbuds, you can find them just about anywhere headphones are sold. Big box stores, airplane kiosks, online retailers — you name it. There shouldn’t be any issue locating stock for either.

What this will really come down to is price. Despite the fact that the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds and Sony WF-1000XM5 debuted at a price of $299, sales and price adjustments have been known to happen during holidays. Be on the lookout for deep cuts, as these top contenders can sometimes gain an edge for your attention by having better sales.

Should you get the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds or Sony WF-1000XM5?

The individual buds of the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds.
Christian Thomas / SoundGuys
The earbuds look expensive, which is fitting: they are.

If you’re looking for wireless earbuds, you really can’t go wrong with either set of earbuds. The truth of the matter is that the advantages each offers over the other aren’t huge, so it’s tough to tell you that one clearly wins out — especially at the same price.

However, were I a gambling man, I’d tell you that the additional fit features of the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds would make it more likely that these earbuds would fit you than the nozzle-only design of the Sony WF-1000XM5. Additionally, people like bass, and the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds are bassier than the Sony WF-1000XM5. Though neither earbuds are truly “better” than the other, the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds stand a better chance of lasting you long-term due to its support of emerging hardware platforms.

See price at Amazon
Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds
Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds
Excellent sound quality
Immersive audio
Customizable fit
See price at Amazon
Sony WF-1000XM5
1%off
Sony WF-1000XM5
Great ANC
Improved sound quality
Comfortable fit with four ear tip options

For most, this will come down to “what’s on sale,” and that’s a good problem to have. You’ll be very happy with either set of earbuds.

Frequently asked questions

Both the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds and Sony WF-1000XM5 have an ingress protection rating of IPX4, meaning they can take a splash every now and again and be fine.

Only the Sony WF-1000XM5 has wireless charging support.

Yes.

Both can be used for exercise, provided they fit you well.

Yes.

Yes. You can hear samples above.