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Sony WH-1000XM5 vs Bose QuietComfort 45

No more shushing your neighbors with these headphones.
November 21, 2022
Image shows two photos overlaid one of the Sony WH-1000XM5 and the other of the Bose QuietComfort 45.

If you’re in the market for active noise cancelling (ANC) headphones, Sony and Bose make some of the most popular headsets around. The latest Sony WH-1000XM5 and the Bose QuietComfort 45 have a lot in common, and some key differences, such as Bluetooth codecs and industrial design. Let’s find out which deserves your money more.

Editor’s note: this article was updated on November 21, 2022 to include new formatting address more frequently asked questions.

Does the Sony WH-1000XM5 have a better design than the Bose QuietComfort 45?

Both headsets are iterative updates, meaning they build off their predecessors in looks and functionality. The QC 45 has more obvious branding and buttons, looking less modern than the discreetly branded WH-1000XM5.

A photo of the Bose QuietComfort 45 resting on a wooden table.
Meet the new QuietComfort 45, a very similar model to the QuietComfort 35 II.

The QuietComfort 45 uses nearly the same tried and true design that worked in the QuietComfort 35 II (and the QC35 before it). With impact-resistant glass-filled nylon in the headband and metal reinforcements, it’s clearly made from plastic, but it’s well built. The fit of the QC 45 feels comfortable and weighs 240g, which is about average. You’ll find the QuietComfort 45 distributes the weight well across the headbands and because of its plush ear pads.

Interestingly, the QC 45 does not have a standard listening mode. You have to pick noise cancelling or Aware mode, which filters external noise through the headphones. The WH-1000XM5 lets you use it as a non-noise cancelling headset, which is a nice plus when you don’t want to waste battery with ANC, Ambient mode, and “quick attention,” which you can activate by cupping your hand over the right ear cup. Unfortunately, neither headset has an IP rating, so you’ll have to stick to moderate temperatures or indoor use.

Top-down view of the Sony-WH1000XM5 with the ear cups folded flat and upwards
The ear cups are made with soft fit leather.

Weighing in at 250g, the weight difference between WH-1000XM5 and QC45 is scarcely noticeable. It’s a comfortable headset, with a good amount of room for your ears. The WH-1000XM5 looks a bit different from its predecessor, taking some subtle inspiration it appears from Apple with the arm shape and lack of folding hinges. Since Bose’s headphone hinges can fold up, the QC 45 is a bit more portable than the WH-1000XM5. Both companies provide a hard carrying case for travel though, so either headset will be nice and safe.

How do you control the Sony WH-1000XM5 and Bose QuietComfort 45?

A photo of the back of the Bose QuietComfort 45's ear cups, along with the control cluster.
Playback controls can be found on the back of the Bose QC 45.

The Bose QuietComfort 45 lets you access your virtual assistant, control playback, field calls, adjust the volume, and toggle listening modes exclusively with buttons. There are no touch controls on this Bose headset. When you make a command, you get the satisfying feedback of feeling a button press.

Boe QC 45 controls:

One press
TOP BUTTON (right)
Volume up
Play/pause, answer/end call
Volume down
Toggle ANC mode
Two presses
TOP BUTTON (right)

Next track

Mute call
Three presses
TOP BUTTON (right)

Previous track

Press and hold
TOP BUTTON (right)

Decline call

Voice assistant

Where the QuietComfort 45 uses tactile buttons, Sony continues to use touch controls on the WH-1000XM5 on the right ear cup, and two buttons on the left. One button works for power and pairing, and the other toggles through ANC or Ambient modes. Touch controls mean you have to learn gestures, though these are pretty intuitive, but sometimes easy to do incorrectly.

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
Single press
Cycle through listening modes

Hold (2s)

Power on
Hold (5s)

Bluetooth pairing, must being from powered off mode

Does the Sony WH-1000XM5 or Bose QuietComfort 45 have a better app?

Three screenshots of the February 2022 update of the Bose Music app with the Bose QuietComfort 45 connected showing from left to right a neutral EQ, the home screen with a new EQ button visible, and the EQ with Treble Reducer activated.
The Bose QuietComfort 45 added an in-app EQ in February 2022, to the Bose Music app via a software update, which is quite handy to have.

Compared to the Bose Music app, the Sony Headphones Connect app is clunkier overall, but it has some deeper capabilities. Whereas the Bose Music app has (historically significant) updates, listening modes, equalizer presets as well as a three-band EQ, the Headphones Connect app includes a plethora of EQ presets and a custom six-band EQ, alongside updates, and Find my headphones. In fairness to the QC 45, you can get really close to our target sound with minor adjustments in the equalizer. You can achieve this with the WH-1000XM5 too, but it’ll take more finessing.

A top down view of the Sony WH-1000XM5 resting on a dark grey graph patterned surface.
The WH-1000XM5 has a new find my headphones feature and Google Fast Pair, but you also need to consent to give Sony a lot of data for it to work.

Sony Headphones Connect also brings 360 Reality Audio optimization to the WH-1000XM5. This isn’t to be confused with the fact that some services (like Amazon Music) let you use enjoy surround sound with any headset, because the benefit of optimization is that it adjusts the sound to your ear anatomy. You’ll need a compatible streaming service to take advantage of 360 Reality Audio, like Deezer, because it doesn’t work with just any service. Meanwhile, the QuietComfort 45 has no equivalent surround sound customization feature. For some, that could be a deal breaker.

Both Bose and Sony’s headphone apps are free to download from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.

How do the Sony WH-1000XM5 and Bose QuietComfort 45 connect to devices?

The QuietComfort 45 limits your choices to AAC and SBC codecs.

Firstly, let’s see what Bose and Sony’s headphones have in common: optional wired connection (neither support USB audio though) AAC, and SBC Bluetooth codecs. Using Bluetooth 5.1, the QC45 can connect to a maximum of two devices at a time, and the Sony WH-1000XM5 supports multipoint as well. For Apple users, AAC is the preferred Bluetooth codec, and both Sony and Bose have that covered.

In addition, the WH-1000XM5 has the variable LDAC codec, which plays nicer with Android than AAC. For Android users especially, LDAC on the WH-1000XM5 will make the most difference if you stream video in reducing latency. Of course, influencing your audio quality is not just the connection, but the compression of the source audio.

Does the Sony WH-1000XM5 or Bose QuietComfort 45 have better battery life?

Angled view of the Sony WH-1000XM5 power and noise cancelling buttons
Power, Bluetooth, and noise cancellation can be controlled using hardware buttons underneath the left ear cup, and the USB-C connects to charge at the bottom.

With ANC on, the QuietComfort 45 battery lasts 24 hours and 49 minutes, when subjected to a constant output of real music, peaking at 75dB(SPL). It also has a quick charge via USB-C that yields 180 minutes of power after 15 minutes of charging.

The Sony WH-1000XM5 claims to have a battery life of 30 hours. Our tests reveal that the headset lasts a bit longer at 31 hours, 53 minutes. Three minutes of charge with a USB-C cable yields 180 minutes, which is five times faster than the QC 45 fast charge.

Of course, you can always plug in your included cable with a headphone jack to extend the overall lifespan of your WH-1000XM5.

Does the Sony WH-1000XM5 cancel noise better than the Bose QuietComfort 45?

A chart compares the Sony WH-1000XM5 and Bose QuietComfort 45 ANC performances to one another, revealing that the two headsets are very close.
Both headsets will do well to block out background noise, but only Sony lets you disable ANC and use the XM5 as a standard set of Bluetooth headphones.

It’s a tight competition in the ANC department, with the QuietComfort 45 performing excellent active noise cancelling, but the WH-1000XM5 has improved its passive isolation, thereby one-upping the previous WH-1000XM4 performance, as well as bettering the QC 45. In the high frequencies, the WH-1000XM5 more consistently blocks noise, particularly above 1kHz. Meanwhile, the ANC covers the lows well, with just under 30dB of attenuation at 100Hz. Below 70Hz the attenuation steeply tapers off.

The QuietComfort 45 has excellent noise cancellation too. It filters more sub-bass frequencies than the WH-1000XM5. At 100Hz, it filters 25dB of noise, but just a little higher in the frequency range between 100-200Hz, this attenuation dips down to about 12dB, so it’s not consistent. While the WH-1000XM5 outdoes the QC 45 holistically here, it’s not by a landslide, as the QuietComfort 45 filters noise well too. It’s the WH-1000XM5 isolation performance that edges Sony ahead.

Does the Sony WH-1000XM5 or Bose QuietComfort 45 sound better?

The Bose QuietComfort 45 has less objectionable bass emphasis, but a lack of higher-quality codecs may frustrate you.
The Bose QuietComfort 45 has less bass emphasis, but a lack of higher-quality codecs may frustrate you. Cyan shows the WH-1000XM5, and pink is our ideal curve.

Both headphones ship with imperfect frequency responses. The Sony WH-1000XM5 favors a bassy profile, while the QC 45 closely follows our target curve, except for in the highs, where it noticeably boosts treble.

That extra boost to the bass frequencies on the Sony WH-1000XM5 can make it harder to hear mids, especially with the added 5dB (or so) bump at 3-6kHz in the highs, as seen in the chart above, competing for your attention too. Fortunately, the Headphones Connect has that six-band EQ to tame this a little bit, though it will take some time to really dial it in.

The QuietComfort 45 by default is heavy-handed on treble. While its bass and mids sound very good, the exaggerated treble overwhelms it. Like the WH-1000XM5, the QC 45 has a very helpful EQ. It’s not as in-depth as the Sony one, but it’s very easy to EQ and gets mighty close to perfect. Which is better comes down to how much tinkering you want to do, and your feelings on bass.

The Sony WH-1000XM5 in wired, passive mode has a very different sound from the active profile.
When you listen in wired, passive mode (cyan), the bass and treble boost are no longer much of an issue. In fact, wired, passive listening introduces a dip from 1-3kHz.

Say your battery dies, but you’re not done listening. With the WH-1000XM5 turned off and plugged in, you get a slightly wonky sound with added bass and less treble.

Is the microphone on the Sony WH-1000XM5 better than the microphone on the QuietComfort 45?

Side-on view of Sony WH-1000XM5 beside the Bose Quietcomfort 45 hanging over a white horizontal pipe
Embedded microphones have limitations compared to gaming headsets, but these two are pretty good.

Neither pair of headphones offers pro-quality microphones, but both are better than a lot of similarly styled headphones without veering into gaming headset territory.

The microphone array onboard the Sony WH-1000XM5 does a good job of capturing voices basically true to life. In the highs, it only begins to taper off above 6kHz, which serves most voices just fine. Its noise attenuation, especially with regards to wind is remarkably good. The WH-1000XM5 may sound slightly more natural than the QuietComfort 45.

The Sony WH-1000XM5 attenuates sound above 6kHz, which is fine for voice data.
While the Sony WH-1000XM5 struggles above 6kHz, it’s perfectly fine for voice recording.

The Bose QuietComfort 45 sounds okay, if somewhat under-emphasized in the lower registers of voices. Like the WH-1000XM5, the QC 45 filters out wind noise well. It can’t quite get rid of all noise, with higher-pitched street sounds making it through.

Sony WH-1000XM5 microphone demo (Ideal):

Bose QuietComfort 45 microphone demo (Ideal):

Sony WH-1000XM5 microphone demo (Wind):

Bose QuietComfort 45 microphone demo (Wind):

Which microphone sounds better?

5192 votes

Should you buy the Sony WH-1000XM5 or the Bose QuietComfort 45?

Top-down view of Sony WH-1000XM5 beside the Bose QuietComfort 45 on a metal surface
The WH-1000XM5 is definitely chunkier than the QuietComfort 45, but their weight difference is negligible.

To some extent, it depends on your device, your case use, and how much you want to use the app. First, let’s knock the easy stuff: if you care about surround sound or LDAC support, grab the Sony WH-1000XM5. If you don’t like touch controls and want minimal app interaction besides updates and an initial EQ setup, choose the Bose QuietComfort 45. If folding down is a must, the QC 45 is more portable with its folding hinges. Lastly, the price difference is clear with the QuietComfort 45 costing about $70 USD less.

In the overall noise cancellation department, the WH-1000XM5 edges ahead by having better isolation, but the Bose QuietComfort 45 scores almost the same when looking at just ANC and not both ANC and isolation. In other words, the isolation is superior on the WH-1000XM5, but the actual ANC performance is a tie overall.

Sony WH-1000XM5Sony WH-1000XM5
Sony WH-1000XM5
ANC performance • Outstanding microphone • Useful app features
The king of the ANC pack extends its reign
Although its predecessor set the high water mark for excellent performance, the Sony WH-1000XM5 pushes it ever higher. Now featuring new drivers, it's an intriguing set of headphones among the flagship active noise-cancelling (ANC) devices on the market. Not only is it full of useful features, but it also excels in travel or at the office, in particular.

The QuietComfort 45 is easier to dial in the nearly perfect EQ setting in the more limited app, because the bass and mids are already basically spot on. You can set it and forget it. On the other hand, if you like an extra bassy sound, the WH-1000XM5 has more bass by default but is tougher to EQ.

Because both headsets supply a wired listening option (analog only), you can get close to the best quality audio. For wireless listening, the more limited AAC and SBC codecs on the QC 45 are fine for iPhones, but not as good as the added LDAC codec on the WH-1000XM5 for Android users. So really, it comes down to cost, surround sound, and codecs. Is the WH-1000XM5 worth the extra money for surround sound and LDAC to you?

Bose QuietComfort 45Bose QuietComfort 45
Bose QuietComfort 45
Excellent ANC • EQ adjustable • Comfortable ear pads
An ANC headset that provides comfort and ease of use.
The Bose QuietComfort 45 does an excellent job cancelling outside noise, and it sounds great for podcast listening. It has a decent battery life, and the fast-charging USB-C adds another 180 minutes with only a 15-minute charge.

What should you get instead of the Sony WH-1000XM5 and Bose QC 45 wireless headphones?

Apple AirPods Max

A man wears the Apple AirPods Max and adjusting volume via the digital crown.
The Digital Crown is smooth and feels great for adjusting volume.

Prospective iPhone-owning buyers looking at Sony and Bose’s headphones should also consider the Apple AirPods Max, which can be found for $479.99 at Amazon. Like the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation), this pair of wireless headphones works seamlessly within Apple’s ecosystem, supporting features like battery life optimization, automatic device switching, and hands-free Siri access. When you listen to supported Dolby Atmos content, you can take full advantage of Apple Spatial Audio with head tracking too.

Apple-exclusive features aside, the noise cancelling is the best that we’ve seen, and it outperforms the WH-1000XM5 and QC 45 in question today. Microphone quality is also very good, but it sounds best when paired with an iPhone. (No surprise there.) If you don’t have an iPhone, keep reading for other alternatives.

Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless

A person uses the capacitive touch controls to control media playback.
Capacitive touch controls allow quick inputs like call controls and music playback options.

Let’s cut to the chase: the MOMENTUM 4 Wireless from Sennheiser is a great-sounding headset that requires little tinkering, but the ANC is not as good as the Bose QC 45 or Sony WH-1000XM5. Even though the MOMENTUM 4 Wireless’ ANC performance falls comparatively short, it still has very good ANC. With Sennheiser’s headset, you get support for the aptX HD and aptX Adaptive Bluetooth codecs, which can’t be said of Sony or Bose’s headsets. The microphone sounds pretty good on the MOMENTUM headset, but it can’t compare to the WH-1000XM5. In our Bose QC 45 vs Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless article, most readers find Sennheiser’s headset to have a better microphone though. It’s currently $279.85 at Amazon.

Sony WH-1000XM4

Side-on view of Sony WH-1000XM5 beside the Sony WH-1000XM4 hanging over a white horizontal pipe
The Sony WH-1000XM5 (left) looks a bit cleaner than the WH-1000XM4 (right).

Sure the WH-1000XM5 has better noise cancelling, along with improved sound and microphone quality, but the general feature set is similar to the Sony WH-1000XM4. It uses the same app, has 360 Reality Audio, and an equalizer. You even get Find My Device support through Google Fast Pair on the XM4, something that’s carried over to the XM5.

The ANC is close, but the XM5 beats out the XM4 here. Isolation is not as good on the XM4 as the QuietComfort 45 or the WH-1000XM5. You can bet with the introduction of the WH-1000XM5, the price will drop on the WH-1000XM4. It’s currently available for $299 at Amazon.

Frequently asked questions about Sony WH-1000XM5 vs Bose QuietComfort 45

You’re paying premium prices for both headphones, so it makes sense you want them to last. Both Bose and Sony have decent reputations. Arguably, the Bose QuietComfort 45 having a nylon and glass reinforced headband could contribute to greater longevity, but there’s no reason to doubt the hardware of either headphone. What kills wireless headphones is batteries dying, and at the end of the day, that will eventually happen to both the WH-1000XM5 and QC 45. Don’t take these headphones out in the rain, and try to practice good battery hygiene. If you’re really in doubt, buy from a reputable dealer.

The Sony WH-1000XM3 is still an excellent set of headphones, with the even better aptX codec on it, which Sony chose to stop using on subsequent releases. When it was released the WH-1000XM3 had good ANC—and it’s still pretty good—but it has been surpassed by newer headphones. With that said, surely the price will drop with the latest WH-1000XM5 release, so it will be a great deal by then.

Yes! Both the WH-1000XM5 and QC 45 also come in white.