Australian technology news, reviews, and guides to help you
Australian technology news, reviews, and guides to help you

Which is best: AirPods Pro 2nd-gen vs Sony WF-1000XM4

Apple’s latest AirPods are here, and they’re packing a lot more features than before. Are they better than Sony’s benchmark WF-1000XM4 ANC earphones?

Last year’s benchmark still gets attention, but are they still the benchmark earphones worth talking about? Now that the AirPods Pro has a second-generation, it’s time to place Sony’s benchmark earphones in a fight against Apple’s best pair.

We’ve reviewed the second-gen AirPods Pro and the fourth-gen Sony XM earphones, and both offer a truly wireless design, active noise cancellation, a hint of water resistance, and more. They’re both feature packed and very well thought out, but is one better than the other? We’ll find out.


With a choice of either bulbous and playful or Apple’s AirPods made to go in-ear, we’re starting this earphone battle with one that’s difficult to decide.

Both the AirPods Pro and XM4 are designed very nicely, and no matter which you choose, you’re going to end up with a swanky looking pair of earphones.

Winner: Tie


Next up is durability, and while we wouldn’t recommend throwing either pair down the stairs or into a ravine, they’ll survive roughly the same sort of treatment, with an IPX4 water resistance rating.

Simply put, that’s basically the equivalent of sweat resistance and running in light rain, so interpret that how you want to. In short, wear a hat, a hooded sweatshirt or something else protecting your hat if you decide to wear either and there’s a forecast of a downpour.

Winner: Tie

Comfort & Fit

Individual Sony WF-1000XM4 earphone

We’re big fans of both, but there’s a clear winner in comfort and fit, and Sony’s push towards larger earphone tips has certainly not helped it win this category.

While Sony spent time remaking a new type of tip that blends foam and silicone, the size of its tips is such that even when used with something appropriately fitting your ear, they’re not comfortable for long periods of time. It’s just not helpful.

Meanwhile, Apple’s AirPods Pro stuck with a type of tip that is seamless and easy, and threw in an extra small tip in the box. We’ve worn the 2022 AirPods Pro for longer periods than the WF-1000XM4 and had no issues, so they are easily the more comfortable of the two for us. Your mileage may vary, of course, but we’d give comfort and fit to Apple this time.

Winner: Apple AirPods Pro 2nd-gen


The competition gets a little more complex when we get into controls, partly because the AirPods Pro offer more controls from two types of controllers per ear — button and a touchpad on each stem — though Apple only offers customisation on iOS.

Sony offers a touchpad on the XM4 with an app for either operating system, but the controls aren’t nearly as complex as what Apple offers, because you can control playback and volume on the AirPods, and only playback on the XM4.

And here’s the thing: while Apple doesn’t allow Android owners to change controls for the second-gen AirPods Pro on Android, the volume and playback controls still work on Android all the same. Offering both sets of controls is enough for us to give this section to Apple.

Winner: Apple AirPods Pro 2nd-gen

Connection & reliability

Connection and reliability is one area where neither is going to beat each other, because both pairs offer a solid connection to your phone, high-res player, and so on and so on.

Between the chips offered by Apple and Sony, you won’t find a bad connection in either the WF-1000XM4 or the AirPods Pro 2nd-gen. There’s a little more in the AirPods Pro if you live in the Apple world, thanks to the ease of switching between iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, and MacBook, but that’s something specific to all Apple earphones, and only a benefit in one ecosystem. Move to Android and Windows, and they’ll both function as well as each other.

Winner: Tie

Sound quality

Both models are also fairly solid when it comes to sound quality, with great renditions of audio in either the second-generation AirPods Pro or Sony’s WF-1000XM4. They’re both good, and both different.

In the XM4, you can expect a warm sound that emphasises the lows and mids, while in the AirPods Pro, Apple is working the lows, mids, and highs rather equally, delivering a solid balanced sound across the board.

Spatial audio is supported on both, albeit differently: in the AirPods Pro, it’s Dolby Atmos audio on Apple Music, supporting head-tracking technology if you so choose, while the Sony WF-1000XM4 supports 360 Reality Audio on Tidal, which lacks the head-tracking but still offers a form of spatial all the same.

Basically they’re similar, but different, though both as good as each other in this category.

Winner: Tie

Noise cancellation

It’s been a year in between Sony’s last ANC earphone release and Apple’s latest, and that year might have given Apple the skills it needs to pay the bills.

While both pairs will let you handle the regular drone of engines and the choir of human traffic, we found the algorithms used on the AirPods Pro 2 handled noise cancellation on individual humans talking better than we’d experienced with any other pair, Sony’s included.

That’s a level of adaptive noise cancellation we’ve not really experienced before, and enough to give the winning spot to Apple.

Winner: Apple AirPods Pro 2nd-gen


Customise the controls of the WF-1000XM4

But there’s one clear winner in compatibility, and you can thank the obsession with platform specificity for why Apple will lose this round. Simply put, you can find an app for the Sony earphones on both iOS and Android, while the Apple AirPods Pro only offer customisation on iOS.

We’ve complained about it before in our podcast, and we’ll say it one more time for the cheap seats that can’t be bothered listening in: Apple should be like sound makers, and less like phone makers in the way it produces audio gear.

Apple’s other brand, Beats, makes an app for Android to let Beats wearers with an Android phone tweak the features on their phone, but Apple does not. And that’s a genuine shame.

With the AirPods Pro 2nd-gen — or any other Apple audio product, for that matter — you can only make tweaks on an Apple phone or tablet, even though you can listen using any Bluetooth product, be it a Windows computer or an Android phone or tablet.

But because Sony makes its Headphones app for both iOS and Android, you can make changes to the WF-1000XM4 on both iPhone and Android, and that makes them just that much more compatible with more platforms than the AirPods Pro.

Winner: Sony WF-1000XM4


In the race for best battery, it’s a tight competition, with a solid 24 hours for each, though Apple’s AirPods Pro manages to edge out Sony’s option.

Both can hit 24 hours easily, but the AirPods Pro 2 can net a little more with noise cancellation switched on and without spatial audio, fetching closer to 30 hours if all you’re doing is listening.

Winner: Apple AirPods Pro 2nd-gen


Both models arrive in a compact case that’s very pocketable and comes with wireless charging.

Apple has a bit of an Apple-only edge with support for FindMy tracking in the case, plus a sound to make it heard, but if you have Android, you won’t be able to use that because of the lack of an app on Android.

For us, that makes this a bit of a tie, with a case that’s great for both.

Winner: Tie


It’s a similar situation with value, because while the WF-1000XM4 has dropped in price from the $449.95 RRP it launched with last year, and now fetches closer to the $349.95 mark, it’s not a dramatic difference from the $399 price tag of the AirPods Pro 2.

Both are priced quite well for consumers, offering a lot of value for what you get. They both sound excellence, deliver a hint of water resistance, and some of the best active noise cancellation of any truly wireless pair of earphones out there. We’ll call this one a tie, too.

Winner: Tie

What should I choose: Apple AirPods Pro 2nd-gen or Sony WF-1000XM4

While the winner in our round-by-round face off is clearly Apple’s 2022 AirPods Pro with four wins over Sony’s one, the amount of categories settled with a tie clearly indicate just how solid each earphone pick really is, as both pairs make a good case for being picked up.

At the end of 2022, we’re liking the AirPods Pro 2nd-gen a little more than Sony’s offering, but both are still capable of great sound, and if Sony ever adopts head-tracking spatial audio and improves its comfort levels, we suspect we’d be right back at the Sony offering in a heart-beat.

Each model is different, mind you, and if you don’t listen to Apple Music or you use an Android phone, Sony’s XM4 may provide a better alternative, simply because the compatibility and customisation capability is an important feature worth considering.

Either model is great, though, and whichever one you end up with, your ears are bound to be happy with what they hear.

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