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Sony ULT WEAR vs Sony WH-1000XM5

To bass or not to bass?

Published onApril 17, 2024

MSRP: $199.99
Check price
360 Reality Audio
Touch controls
Frequency response is either very bassy, unnecessarily bassy, or ridiculously bassy.
No audio over USB
The Bottom Line.
Though Sony is well-known for making fan-favorite headphones, the Sony ULT WEAR goes too far with its bass. It's possible this will change in an update, but at launch the sound quality isn't where it needs to be.Read full review...
Sony WH-1000XM5
MSRP: $399.00
Check price
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
No IP rating
The Bottom Line.
The predecessors to the Sony WH-1000XM5 were king of the hill, and this new headphone takes that crown. With new drivers, features, and design, the Sony WH-1000XM5 is an intriguing set of headphones among the flagship active noise canceling (ANC) devices on the market. It excels in travel or at the office, in particular.Read full review...

Sony’s lineup of headphones continually impresses with innovation in sound quality, design, and features. In this head-to-head comparison, we explore the differences between the bass-heavy Sony ULT WEAR and the feature-rich favorite Sony WH-1000XM5 to help you decide which is best suited to your needs.

Editor’s note: this article was published on April 17, 2024, and is the first version of the article. Updates will follow as the market changes.

What’s it like to use the Sony ULT WEAR compared to the WH-1000XM5?

Sony ULT Wear vs XM5
The Sony ULT WEAR looks a lot like the WH-1000XM5.

Both models boast Sony’s sleek, modern design with comfort in mind, but they cater to different preferences in aesthetics and functionality. The Sony ULT WEAR features matte plastic ear cups adorned with a holographic shiny foil logo and “ULT” button, giving it a distinctive look. They are designed to accommodate larger ears and have a clamping force that remains comfortable over time, even for those with larger heads.

On the other hand, the Sony WH-1000XM5 opts for a minimalist and refined style, using a soft-fit leatherette that provides ample friction to stay on the user’s head without sacrificing comfort. The ear cups on the WH-1000XM5 are deep and wide, offering improved comfort for all ear sizes and superior passive noise isolation compared to its predecessor, the WH-1000XM4, and the ULT WEAR.

Both headphones come with a carrying case, but the Sony WH-1000XM5 only folds flat, whereas the ULT Wear folds up a little more compactly, which can save you some space in your bag. Neither pair of headphones has an IP rating, so they won’t make for good gym buddies.

How do you control the Sony ULT WEAR and WH-1000XM5?

The ULT WEAR integrates touch controls and a few physical buttons, including a unique “ULT” button for enhanced bass, which may not appeal to all users. The touch controls are intuitive, allowing for easy adjustments without needing to press hard on the ear cups.

Conversely, the WH-1000XM5 maintains Sony’s consistent layout with capacitive touch panels and additional buttons for power and ANC modes on the left ear cup. These controls are less obtrusive and provide quick access to environmental noise control and device pairing.

Sony ULT Wear controls

Swipe up / down
Volume up / down
Swipe forward / backward
Track forward / back
Pause / Play
Cup with hand
Long press
Voice assistant

Sony WH-1000XM5 controls

INPUT (touchpad)ACTION
Swipe up
Volume up
Swipe down
Volume down
Swipe forward
Track forward
Swipe back
Track back
Hold (center)
Voice assistant
Double tap center
Pause / resume
Cup hand
Ambient sound passthrough

Should you use the apps of either Sony ULT WEAR or WH-1000XM5?

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.

Both headphones work with the Sony Headphones Connect app, which offers features like EQ customization, 360 Reality Audio, and firmware updates. The WH-1000XM5, however, takes a slight edge with additional functionalities such as ANC optimization and spatial audio head tracking, which are not available on the ULT WEAR.

How do the Sony ULT WEAR and WH-1000XM5 connect?

The ULT WEAR and WH-1000XM5 both support Bluetooth 5.2 connectivity with codecs like SBC, AAC, and LDAC, ensuring high-quality audio transmission. The WH-1000XM5 also has multipoint connectivity but does not support aptX, while the ULT WEAR will support LC3 in a future update, which might enhance its connectivity options slightly. Both can connect via a 3.5mm audio cable, but only the WH-1000XM5 supports audio over USB.

Is battery life better on the Sony ULT WEAR or WH-1000XM5?

Battery performance is strong with both models. The ULT WEAR offers up to 32 hours of playback, which is impressive, especially with its quick charge feature that provides 5 hours of playback with just 10 minutes of charging.

The WH-1000XM5 also performs admirably with up to 31 hours with ANC on and an even more impressive 53 hours with ANC off. Both sets charge via USB-C, and the WH-1000XM5 quick charging gives 180 minutes of playback from just 3 minutes of charging.

Do the Sony ULT WEAR or WH-1000XM5 block noise better?

Noise isolation is a standout feature for both, but the WH-1000XM5 edges out with its superior ANC technology that reduces more background noise compared to the ULT WEAR. The WH-1000XM5’s ear cups also provide better passive isolation, making them more suitable for noisy environments.

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The Sony ULT WEAR does a decent job of noise attenuation, reducing more than 25dB of noise at frequencies above 80Hz: nothing to sniff at. It’s not going to compete with the highest-end options, but it’s close enough that you won’t find much to complain about. These are a decent option for commutes or flights.

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Do the Sony ULT WEAR sound better than the WH-1000XM5?

No, the WH-1000XM5 sounds better overall, based on our testing and reviews. The ULT WEAR has an excessively emphasized bass response that overwhelms the sound, even in the default tuning. The WH-1000XM5 has a more balanced, though still bass-boosted, tuning that scores better on perceived audio quality metrics.

Multi-Dimensional Audio Quality Scores (MDAQS)

The Sony ULT WEAR are built for bass, and bass typically contributes towards high immersiveness scores. However, a poorer Timbre score points to a default sound that is okay for most, even if it won’t win any audiophile praise.

According to the virtual panel of listeners, most people would rate the sound of the Sony WH-1000XM5 as pretty decent, even if it’s not technically the best. The headphones do a decent job of presenting the illusion of space with the stereo image.

  • Timbre (MOS-T) represents how faithfully the headphones reproduce the frequency spectrum and temporal resolution (timing information).
  • Distortion (MOS-D) represents non-linearities and added noise: higher scores mean cleaner reproduction.
  • Immersiveness (MOS-I) represents perceived source width and positioning: how well virtual sound sources are defined in three-dimensional space.

See here for an explanation of MDAQS, how it works, and how it was developed.

Objective Measurements

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The ULT WEAR is heavily bass-focused, potentially overwhelming the mids and highs unless the EQ is adjusted through the app. The frequency response of the WH-1000XM5 more closely follows our preference curve, but there is still some over-emphasis in the highs with a steeper rolloff after 10kHz. We encourage you to play around with the EQ settings to find something that matches your personal preference.

Do the Sony ULT WEAR or WH-1000XM5 have a better microphone?

The WH-1000XM5 has a clear advantage with its 8-microphone beamforming array and AI noise rejection for improved voice pickup on calls. The ULT WEAR’s microphones pick up more ambient noise, which you can hear in the samples below.

Sony ULT WEAR microphone demo (Ideal conditions):

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

Sony ULT WEAR microphone demo (Street conditions):

Sony WH-1000XM5 microphone demo (Street conditions):

Sony ULT WEAR vs WH-1000XM5: Price and availability

The Sony ULT WEAR is available now for $199.99 at Amazon while the WH-1000XM5 costs more at $387 at Amazon as Sony’s flagship headphone model.

Should you get the Sony ULT WEAR or WH-1000XM5?

Sony ULT vs XM5 with phone

If you are looking for top-of-the-line noise cancelation and sound quality and are willing to pay a premium, the Sony WH-1000XM5 is the clear choice. It outperforms the ULT WEAR in nearly every aspect: ANC, sound quality, microphone performance, and features like multipoint connectivity. However, if you prefer a more bass-heavy sound profile and are looking for a more budget-friendly option, the Sony ULT WEAR might be the right fit.

Overall, your choice will depend on what features are most important to you: superior sound customization and ANC with the WH-1000XM5 or intense bass and a lower price point with the ULT WEAR. Both offer the quality and performance expected from Sony, making them worthy contenders in their respective categories. Still, the WH-1000XM5 justifies its premium $399 cost with a more complete, high-performance package and is still one of the best headphones on the market today.

See price at Amazon
Long battery life
Immersive sound
See price at Amazon
Sony WH-1000XM5
Sony WH-1000XM5
ANC performance
Outstanding microphone
Useful app features

Frequently asked questions

Last year, Sony released the WH-CH720N headphones as a more affordable, mid-range option in their lineup. They are a decent set of noise canceling cans that balance app support, good battery life, and solid functionality.

Yes, the Sony WH-1000XM5 is better overall when compared to the Sony ULT WEAR, especially if you prioritize advanced noise cancelation, superior sound quality, and extensive features like multipoint connectivity and spatial audio head tracking. The WH-1000XM5 offers a more refined sound profile and better noise isolation, making it suitable for a wide range of environments and uses.

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