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Sony WF-1000XM5 vs Sony WF-1000XM3

How does Sony's newest TWS offering compare with its granddaddy?
August 3, 2023
Sony WF-1000XM5
MSRP: $299.99
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Excellent ANC and Isolation
SBC, AAC, and LDAC support
Great app support
Great battery life
Default sound too bassy
Sony WF-1000XM3
MSRP: $118.49
Check price
Sound quality
Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa integration
Modern design
Auto play/pause
Adaptive sound
Intuitive touch controls
Just okay ANC
Large charging case
No water-resistance

Sony’s roster of active noise canceling (ANC) earbuds expands with the introduction of the Sony WF-1000XM5. Still, you may wonder if these are effectively any better than the lauded but aged Sony WF-1000XM3. Let’s look at our objective tests and revisit the Sony WF-1000XM3 to see how far Sony has come with the WF-1000XM5. Are they a vast improvement, or should you stick to the WF-1000XM3?

Editor’s note: this article was published on August 3rd, 2023, and is the first version of the article. Updates will follow as the market changes.

What’s it like to use the Sony WF-1000XM5 compared to the Sony WF-1000XM3?

The Sony WF-1000XM3 earbuds in the palm of a left hand with a beige book and leather watch on a table in the background.
The Sony WF-1000XM3 are nicely made but certainly large by today’s standards.

Getting started with Sony earbuds is pretty simple, and both connect quickly and stay connected well. We like the tactile interactions with the earbuds. The WF-1000XM5 shed some weight, now 5.9g per bud, versus the chunkier 8.5g per bud of the WF-1000XM3. Fit and design differ, with the WF-1000XM3 having a somewhat dated style that juts out from the ears, unlike the smaller WF-1000XM5 buds that sit more snugly in your ears. Even with the smallest ear tips, some report that their ears are too small without jamming the WF-1000XM3 in. Sony adds a smaller size to the ear tip selection with the WF-1000XM5.

The Sony WF-1000XM5 case weighs about half that of the case for WF-1000XM3 — 38g versus 79g. When stowed in a pocket, you’ll notice the difference. The WF-1000XM5 case appears more pedestrian with a plain matte look, lacking some of the pizzazz of the metal accented lid on the WF-1000XM3.

One hand holding the Sony WF-1000XM5 inside of the charging case with the lid open
An indicator LED shows the battery status on the WF-1000XM5.

While both sets come with a selection of polyurethane foam ear tips to create an effective seal, the WF-1000XM5 has a more comfortable redesigned shape. However, the WF-1000XM3 still feel reasonably comfortable for most. Neither comes with added stabilizers or wings, but both are pretty ergonomic.

Anybody looking to take their buds on a run or even go out on a humid day might benefit from the IPX4 rating on the Sony WF-1000XM5. In contrast, the WF-1000XM3 have no IP rating, which is pretty rare these days and demonstrates the shifting of standards in wireless earbuds.

How do you control the Sony WF-1000XM5 and Sony WF-1000XM3?

A man wearing the left earbud of the Sony WF-1000XM5 as he holds up a finger to the earbud
The Sony WF-1000XM5 touch sensors can control playback, volume, ANC/Ambient sound, and more.

Sony adds way more functionality to the WF-1000XM5 touch controls. You can access listening modes, volume, track skipping, voice assistant, Speak-To-Chat, and more.

INPUTACTION (left bud)ACTION (right bud)
ACTION (left bud)
ANC/Ambient sound
ACTION (right bud)
ACTION (left bud)
Quick Access
ACTION (right bud)
ACTION (left bud)
Quick Access
ACTION (right bud)
ACTION (left bud)
Volume Down
ACTION (right bud)
Volume Up
ACTION (left bud)
Quick Attention
ACTION (right bud)
Voice Assistant

You can also assign a voice assistant in the Sony Headphones Connect app to control the WF-1000XM3. Otherwise, the WF-1000XM5 support a greater number of commands.

INPUTACTION (left bud)ACTION (right bud)
ACTION (left bud)
ANC/Ambient/Standard listening mode
ACTION (right bud)
ACTION (left bud)

ACTION (right bud)
Answer/end call
ACTION (left bud)
Bluetooth pairing
ACTION (right bud)
Bluetooth pairing

Should you use the apps for the Sony WF-1000XM5 or Sony WF-1000XM3?

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

Both the Sony WF-1000XM5 and Sony WF-1000XM3 use the same app: Sony Headphones Connect. The user interface works and looks broadly the same, just with different functionality. For example, both pairs have an equalizer, listening mode selection, control reassignment, smart assistant selection, and codec selection. The main difference is in the scope of the features.

For example, both feature DSEE digital signal processing (DSP) designed to “fill in” your lossy files using an algorithm, but the WF-1000XM5 has the updated DSEE Extreme version. The WF-1000XM3 uses the older DSEE HX.

To that end, the WF-1000XM5 will receive firmware updates further in the future than the WF-1000XM3 by being newer. On the flip side, any kinks in the WF-1000XM3 system that will get sorted out have already been addressed.

How do the Sony WF-1000XM5 and Sony WF-1000XM3 connect?

Two hands hold the cases for the Sony WF-1000XM3 and WF-1000XM5 showing the charge ports.
Use the case button on the WF-1000XM5 to pair.

The Sony WF-1000XM5 use Bluetooth 5.3 and connect via AAC, SBC, and LDAC codecs, as well as supporting LE Audio where compatible. In contrast, the Sony WF-1000XM3 only connects via AAC and SBC with Bluetooth 5.0. If you use an Apple iPhone, this won’t make much of a difference, as the earbuds will default to AAC. For Android users, the WF-1000XM5 can transmit higher quality, reduced latency audio with LDAC or LE Audio (where compatible) while lowering the noise floor. In this respect, the WF-1000XM5 wins out.

Is battery life better on the Sony WF-1000XM5 or Sony WF-1000XM3?

The closed battery charging cases for the Sony WF-1000XM3 next to the Sony WF-1000XM5 on a wood table shown with some phones.
Despite the smaller case, the WF-1000XM5 has a greater battery life. Although, there’s something to be said for the classiness of the WF-1000XM3 case design.

The Sony WF-1000XM5 battery life is 9 hours, 32 minutes on a single charge (with ANC on), according to our standardized testing; this is a vast improvement over the WF-1000XM3 battery life of 4 hours, 46 minutes under the same conditions.

Both charge using a USB-C cable. Only the Sony WF-1000XM5 can charge wirelessly. The WF-1000XM3 quick charges 10 minutes for 90 minutes of playback. According to our tests, only three minutes of charging the WF-1000XM5 yields 51 minutes of playback, compared to Sony’s 60 minutes claim. The WF-1000XM3 quick charges 10 minutes to give 90 minutes of playback.

Do the Sony WF-1000XM5 or Sony WF-1000XM3 block noise better?

A chart shows the holistic isolation and ANC results of the Sony WF-1000XM5 and Sony WF-1000XM3.
If you wonder what a few years of progress look like, the WF-1000XM5 cancels noise much better than the WF-1000XM3.

Regarding isolation and noise canceling, the Sony WF-1000XM5 outshines the WF-1000XM3, particularly in attenuating low-pitched noises. Sony updated the WF-1000XM5 system to include a better wind reduction function as well as upping the active noise canceling from virtually none at 100Hz (on the WF-1000XM3) to just shy of 30dB of attenuation on the WF-1000XM5.

Sony didn’t rest on its laurels with the isolation performance of the WF-1000XM3 either, which is pretty decent, but the WF-1000XM5 feature improved ear tips. At 6kHz, the WF-1000XM3 block a very good 40dB, whereas the WF-1000XM5 block about 47 dB. If you want earbuds with good noise cancelation, the Sony WF-1000XM5 are miles away better than the WF-1000XM3.

Do the Sony WF-1000XM5 sound better than the Sony WH-1000XM3?

A chart compares the preferred headphones curve with the frequency responses of the Sony WF-1000XM5 and Sony WF-1000XM3.
Audio tunings are slight variations on a theme.

The Sony WF-1000XM3 and WF-1000XM5 sound very alike by default. Both slightly over amplify bass and low mid frequencies, but follow our headphone preference curve relatively well besides that. The WF-1000XM3 plays back treble slightly louder than the WF-1000XM5, and neither sounds perfect out of the box.

Fans of bassy tunings will likely enjoy both sets. Of course, there’s always the option to explore the equalizer available in the app to turn down the bass.

Do the Sony WF-1000XM5 or Sony WF-1000XM3 have better microphones?

Two hands hold one each of the Sony WF-1000XM3 and Sony WF-1000XM5 showing the inside of the housings.
The WF-1000XM5 sports three mics per bud versus the dual mic array on the WF-1000XM3.

If there’s any aspect you might consider average about the WF-1000XM5, it might be the microphone. In ideal circumstances, the mics can sound somewhat muffled. The sample for the WF-1000XM5 in office settings shows the noise filtering does a decent job of reducing keyboard strokes and the like, leaving the speaker’s voice sounding clear.

Meanwhile, the WF-1000XM3 hasn’t won the hearts of owners over the past few years since the earbuds came out. They typically rate as “good” and “okay.” In addition, the Sony WF-1000XM3 microphone demonstration predates the introduction of SoundGuys standardized microphone tests.

Sony WF-1000XM5 microphone demo (Ideal):

Sony WF-1000XM5 microphone demo (Office):

Sony WF-1000XM3 microphone demo (Non-standardized):


Which microphone sounds better?

144 votes

Sony WF-1000XM5 vs Sony WF-1000XM3: Price and availability

Newly released, the Sony WF-1000XM5 sells for $299. The original price of the Sony WF-1000XM3 was $229, but you can most certainly find it for less these days.

Should you get the Sony WF-1000XM5 or Sony WF-1000XM3?

The Sony WF-1000XM3 and Sony WF-1000XM5 sit side by side on a wood table with the cases open and one bud out.
You’ll notice the smaller dimensions and effectively 50% lighter weight of the WF-1000XM5.

If you are looking for a companion for your adventures, the Sony WF-1000XM5 are a better pick owing to the IPX4 rating, for starters. Nobody wants to baby their wireless earbuds, and the WF-1000XM3 lacking an IP rating doesn’t align with most people’s reality. Besides that, the ANC performance of the WF-1000XM5 far outranks the WF-1000XM3, as demonstrated in our tests.

On the other hand, if you found a good deal on the Sony WF-1000XM3 and noise canceling sits low on your priority list, the WF-1000XM3 sounds pretty close to the WF-1000XM5. Unless you’re using Android and would benefit from the LDAC codec, the older WF-1000XM3 might do just fine.

However, the smaller form factor and vastly improved battery life promote the Sony WF-1000XM5 as the superior choice in a contest between the WF-1000XM3. It all comes down to if you can sell yourself shelling out for the latest Sony flagship. Of course, you can always consider the middle child, Sony WF-1000XM4.

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Frequently asked questions

Nope, neither the Sony WF-1000XM5 or WF-1000XM3 are waterproof. You can’t swim with them. The WF-1000XM5 has an IPX4 rating which is effective against sweat, while the WF-1000XM3 offers no assurance against moisture.

Yes, both the WF-1000XM5 and WF-1000XM3 have ambient modes. The WF-1000XM5 also has a Speak-To-Chat function where the audio pauses and enters ambient mode so you can quickly hear and respond to people. Similarly, you can press and hold the touch control on the WF-1000XM3 to quickly reduce volume and enter ambient mode.

Of the two, only the Sony WF-1000XM5 comes with Bluetooth multipoint to connect to multiple devices simultaneously. In 2022, Sony added the feature to the WF-1000XM4, but the WF-1000XM3 did not receive the update.

The Sony WF-1000XM3 does not charge wirelessly, whereas the Sony WF-1000XM5 can charge wirelessly with a Qi charge pad.

Like the majority of wireless earbuds, the Sony WF-1000XM5 and WF-1000XM3 work well with iPhones. The Sony Headphones Connect app used for both sets of earbuds works on iOS and Android.