One of the best pairs of active noise cancelling (ANC) true wireless earbuds, the Sony WF-1000XM3, finally has a younger sibling. The new Sony WF-1000XM4 is already making a name for itself with great noise cancelling performance and Bluetooth 5.2, but how does it compare to other 2021 releases?
Today we’re doing a side-by-side comparison of the Sony WF-1000XM4 and the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro, two pairs of ANC true wireless earbuds hot off the presses.
Editor’s note: this post was updated on November 19, 2021, to update the frequency response comparison chart and add information about sound quality.
Which pair of earbuds has a better design?
The Sony WF-1000XM4 comes in fully recyclable packaging, which is a nice gesture considering the short-lived batteries of true wireless earbuds are nightmares for environmentalists. The buds have an IPX4 rating, so they fit right in at the gym, so long as you find a stable fit with the foam ear tips. If you’re unsure of how to find the best ear tips, just open the Sony Headphones Connect app’s ear tip fit test. This headset’s design is sleek and unique, and though its case is a little bulky, it should fit in most pockets. These buds feature touchpads on each earbud for on-ear control, and they support automatic pause and play.
Where the Sony WF-1000XM4 has a matte covering, the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro has a reflective coating. It also features touch controls, though the buds are hypersensitive and register accidental touches quite often. The Samsung’s earbuds come with silicone ear tips, rather than foam ones, and stabilizing fins to keep a secure fit, though there’s no way to check that in the Galaxy Wearable app. The Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro can withstand full submersion according to its IPX7 rating, so this may make it a better choice for exercise than the Sony buds.
Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro vs Sony WF-1000XM4: Connection
The newest Bluetooth version 5.2 is out, and the Sony WF-1000XM4 uses it. This latest version improves battery longevity and is compatible with all the mandatory Bluetooth codecs in the 5.2 stack, which includes the LE Audio codecs LC3 and LC3+, so you may see support for this in the future. These will replace the standard SBC default down the line. For now, most people will use the Sony WF-1000XM4 with SBC, AAC, and LDAC codecs. LDAC is Sony’s high-quality Bluetooth codec, but it still can’t transmit lossless audio like wired headphones.
The Sony WF-1000XM4 is one of the first headsets to use Bluetooth 5.2.
The Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro is a little behind the game as it uses Bluetooth 5.0. This just means that in comparison to the Sony buds it won’t be quite as energy efficient and there’s no chance of LE Audio support. You can stream audio over the SBC, AAC, and the Samsung Scalable Codec, which is great for those with Samsung phones. The Galaxy Buds Pro doesn’t have Bluetooth multipoint, but you can switch between different Samsung Galaxy devices in a similar manner, as long as they’re all associated with the same Samsung account.
Which pair of earbuds has better software features?
Besides the active noise cancelling, the Sony WF-1000XM4 comes with a fair number of features, mostly available through the Sony Headphones Connect app (fully compatible with iOS or Android). With the app you can remap the touch controls, select your smart assistant, and equalize the sound of the earbuds. These buds also support Sony’s 360 Reality Audio, which mimics the effects of a surround sound system, though it’s only compatible with streaming services like Tidal, Deezer, Amazon Music HD, and nugs.
Holding down on the Sony WF-1000XM4 touch pad triggers a passthrough feature, so you can hear what’s going on around you. The headset also has Speak-to-Chat, which will automatically enable the passthrough feature someone starts talking. Some users find this feature annoying, and you can disabled it in the companion app. There’s also an Automatic Wind Noise Reduction mode, and an Adaptive Sound Control setting that will recognize your frequently-visited locations to tailor the noise cancelling experience.
Both headsets have companion apps that offer useful features.
The Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro has an app too, but its utility is limited to Android. The Samsung Galaxy Buds App on the Apple App Store doesn’t support the Galaxy Buds Pro. If you have an Android phone you can use the app to remap the touch controls or shut them off altogether. In addition, the app lets you enable ambient sound mode, equalize the frequency response, and toggle between two active noise cancelling settings. The Galaxy Buds Pro also has a nearly identical feature to Sony’s 360 Reality Audio, called 360 Audio. It uses Dolby Atmos to create a 3D audio experience, and it can only be used when paired to a Samsung Galaxy device.
A nice accessibility feature included with Sony and Samsung’s buds is that you can use either of them to listen to music in mono. The Galaxy Buds Pro also has automatic voice detection which works just like the Sony buds’ Speak-to-Chat feature, and it can also be enabled and disabled at will.
Does the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro or Sony WF-1000XM4 have better battery?
The Sony WF-1000XM4 has exceptional battery life for a pair of true wireless earbuds—with active noise cancelling enabled, it lasts 7 hours, 43 minutes on a single charge. The case holds two additional charge cycles as well, and plugging the buds in for 5 minutes will give you 60 minutes of listening time. The USB-C case is also compatible with Qi-wireless charging.
The Galaxy Buds Pro also has wireless charging and its case holds an additional 13 hours of juice. The buds last for 4 hours, 48 minutes on a single charge with active noise cancelling enabled. They are sure to last a bit longer if you’re not using ANC. Like Sony’s case the Galaxy Buds Pro case supports USB-C and wireless charging. It has an extra trick up its sleeve: Samsung Wireless PowerShare, which charges the case when placed atop a compatible Samsung device.
Which headset has better active noise cancelling?
Thanks to the memory foam ear tips that come with the Sony WF-1000XM4, it already has a leg up on its isolation and noise cancellation, particularly in the higher frequencies. Add on the crazy-effective active noise cancelling, and you’re practically blocking out all sounds. The ANC reduces the volume of ambient noise by one quarter to one sixteenth as loud as it is in reality. It would be nice if the Sony Headphones Connect app let you toggle between different levels of ANC, but there’s always ambient sound mode.
Though the isolation isn’t quite as guaranteed with the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro due to its silicone ear tips, it still functions well. Achieving a proper fit with your earbuds is really important for maximizing the active noise cancelling performance. Assuming you can get a good seal, the Galaxy Buds Pro’s active noise cancelling works well, quieting low frequencies by about three-fold on the highest ANC setting. You can toggle between the two settings in the app, and you may want to use the lower setting to remain safe when in public. The lower setting attenuates midrange frequencies decently, and the high setting’s forte is lower frequencies.
Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro vs Sony WF-1000XM4: Which earbuds sound best?
The Sony WF-1000XM4 sounds pretty good, but the bass frequencies are emphasized and treble notes are under-emphasized quite a bit. The high frequency attenuation makes it hard to hear detail from your music like guitar and vocal harmonics. If you don’t like this frequency response, you can equalize it in the Headphones Connect app. The WF-1000XM4 also has the newest version of Sony’s digital sound enhancement engine (DSEE), called DSEE Extreme, which upsamples lossy tracks to slightly improve quality of low-quality audio files.
The Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro sounds pretty accurate and relays music close to the way musicians and producers intend it to sound. You can always select from the EQ presets in the Galaxy Wearable app to boost the bass, treble, or other frequencies. Explore the different options to figure out which one you like best. You won’t be able to manually set your equalizer, but the presets offer a good range of options.
Which pair of earbuds is better for calls?
The mic on the Sony WF-1000XM4 is pretty good, and it uses a bone conduction sensor to more accurately recognize when you’re talking. It can detect when you’re speaking and boost your voice while quieting the environmental noise around you, though it’s still nothing phenomenal. The same is true for the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro—it does a good job of dulling ambient sound and picks up voices pretty well regardless of their pitch.
Sony WF-1000XM4 microphone demo:
Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro microphone demo:
Which headset should you buy, the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro or Sony WF-1000XM4?
First thing’s first, the Sony WF-1000XM4 is about $100 USD more than the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro. This price differential is justifiable as it offers much better noise cancelling and even more software features than the Galaxy Buds Pro. If you want to take advantage of things like Speak-to-Chat, 360 Reality Audio, and the ear tip fit test, the WF-1000XM4 is a great purchase. It is also one of the first headsets to offer Bluetooth 5.2, and it has better battery life than the Samsung buds, but don’t dismiss the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro just yet.
The Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro is tougher (with its IPX7 rating) and has more flexibility when it comes to ANC compared to the Sony WF-1000XM4. Oh, it’s also more affordable, cancels noise well, and its sound signature is more accurate. These buds also have 360 Audio, and the slightly older Bluetooth 5.0 is nothing to scoff at; it just isn’t brand new. Anyone who doesn’t need the newest toy on the market will be more than satisfied with the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro.
Which headset is better for iPhone users?
It’s no secret that both the Sony WF-1000XM4 and Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro are optimized for Android devices. However, the Samsung headset is adapted to work specifically with Samsung phones, and without one you’ll miss out on features like 360 Audio and it’s equivalent to Bluetooth multipoint. Between the two headsets, iPhone users should get the Sony WF-1000XM4, because they can still access all of the software features. Even still, the best option for iPhone users remains the Apple AirPods Pro.