Sony’s headphones and earbuds have long been some of the best you can buy, and its latest devices, the WH-1000XM4 wireless headphones and WF-1000XM4 wireless earbuds, offer incredible audio and industry-leading active noise cancellation—for a price. For those looking to spend a little less cash, Sony’s introducing some affordable alternatives that prioritize sound quality but say goodbye to some features users may miss.
Although we think Apple’s AirPods Max headphones slightly edge out Sony’s WH-1000XM4 wireless headphones when it comes to noise-canceling performance, Sony’s cans are actually lighter, include a much better carrying case, and are $200 cheaper than Apple’s. The new Sony WH-XB910N offers almost everything the company’s flagship WH-1000XM4 does, but with a price tag that’s $100 cheaper.
With the new WH-XB910N, you get active noise cancellation using a pair of microphones (compared to the five mics on the the pricier WH-1000XM4); the company’s “Quick Attention” feature, in which covering the right earcup with your hand activates ambient sound boosting; the ability to connect to two devices at the same time over Bluetooth with intelligent automatic switching; and 30 hours of battery life with 4.5 hours of juice after just 10 minutes of charging. For $250, they also feature a folding design and a case that completely protects the headphones when they’re packed away inside.
The Sony WH-XB910N are far from what we’d consider a budget option for over-ear wireless headphones, but if active noise cancellation isn’t your highest priority, they offer the look, feel, and sound quality of the Sony WH-1000XM4, with an extra $100 left in your pocket when all is said and done.
This year also marked the arrival of the Sony WF-1000XM4 wireless earbuds, which, like its two predecessors, introduced remarkable noise-canceling capabilities for a pair of compact in-ear buds. The only catch is they aren’t exactly tiny, and at $280, they’re definitely not cheap. The new Sony WF-C500 look like a smaller version of the WF-1000XM4 wireless earbuds, but are actually a follow-up to the company’s bass heavy WF-XB700 earbuds from last year.
The new WF-C500 are also Sony’s first truly wireless earbuds to hit the $100 mark, and while they look similar to the WF-1000XM4 earbuds, the new buds don’t include any active noise cancellation functionality. That’s disappointing given Nothing managed to include solid ANC in its $99 buds. What you do get for $100 is Sony’s always excellent sound performance, further assisted by the company’s Digital Sound Enhancement Engine, which promises to improve the quality of compressed digital audio files by restoring frequencies that are often removed during the compression process. And if you’re not completely happy with the sound, the WF-C500 can also connect to Sony’s mobile apps, which allow users to adjust the sound profile to their liking.
Battery life on the buds alone is an impressive 10 hours, but the included charging case includes just a single full charge, giving the WF-C500 just 20 hours of playback time in total before you need to find a power source. These might be Sony’s most affordable wireless earbuds to date, but the competition in the sub-$100 wireless earbuds market is getting fierce. Sony seemingly doesn’t want to undercut its pricier and more feature-rich earbud offerings, but even if the new earbuds pack in Sony’s predictably good sound quality, the WF-C500 might actually be too light on features to compete with what’s already available for $100.