Sony WH 1000XM4 vs AirPods Max: Comparison (2024)

Odi Productions May 14, 2024
13 People Read
Sony WH 1000XM4 vs AirPods Max side by side in hand

Disclosure: Some of the links in this article may be affiliate links, which can provide compensation to me at no cost to you if you decide to purchase. 

In this article, I'm going to share my HONEST Sony WH 1000XM4 vs AirPods Max comparison in detail, after personally owning both products for years. I have thoroughly tested each of these headphones, and aim to offer a critical opinion from the perspective of an audiophile and professional music producer.

I'll be comparing these two head to head on categories like price, comfort, features, battery life, noise cancelling, and sound quality.

Then at the end, I'll share which is the better overall value for the money, and my overall recommendation on which you should buy.


Sony WH 1000XM4 vs AirPods Max Price Compared

Overall, the Sony WH 1000XM4 is $241 cheaper than the Apple AirPods Max at current market prices for brand new. This translates to the Sony's being a whopping 86% less expensive than the pricy AirPods Max.

Sony WH-1000XM4 Prices

  • Retail: $348.00

  • New: $278

  • Renewed: $215 (save up to $63)

Apple AirPods Max Prices

  • Retail: $549.00

  • New: $519

  • Renewed: $439 (save up to $80)


Order HERE for the LOWEST PRICE AVAILABLE 

(Do NOT pay retail): 

Save up to $63 on the Sony WH-1000XM4 with Renewed below:

Save up to $80 on Apple AirPods Max with Renewed below:

Disclosure: These links may provide a discount and in return, give us a commission in order to run the website 🙂


Comfort

Sony WH 1000XM4 weighing 251.6 grams on scale

Let's start this head-to-head comparison with the comfort category.

  • Sony WH 1000XM4 Weight: 251.6 grams

  • Apple AirPods Max Weight: 387.8 grams

The Sony WH-1000XM4 is 136.2 grams lighter on the same scale as the AirPods Max, which translates to being 54% lighter overall.

Ironically, the Sony WH-1000XM4 is the lightest over-ear noise cancelling headphone I have tested, while the AirPods Max is the heaviest I've tested in this category.

This significant weight difference is definitely noticeable on the head, and I find the Sony's to be way more comfortable than the AirPods Max.

Pressing on the Sony WH 1000XM4 leather earpad material

In addition to being lighter weight, the plushness of the leather material on the headband and earpads makes the Sony a dream to wear.

I don't like the "acoustic mesh" material on the AirPods Max's earpads, but the suspension headband design does do a good job of relieving top of head pressure. The AirPods Max also has more clamping force than the Sony's, which is a negative.

Sony WH 1000XM4 Comfort: 4.5 out of 5

Apple AirPods Max Comfort: 3.5 out of 5

Winner: Sony WH 1000XM4


Features / Battery Life / Noise Cancelling

Apple AirPods Max space grey inside smart case

Features

Both of these headphones were released the same year in 2020, with the AirPods Max being slightly newer and releasing before the end of the year in December.

That said, the Apple AirPods Max narrowly edges out the Sony WH-1000XM4 when it comes to features, with the main one being the Spatial Audio and Dolby Atmos support.

Outside of that, both headphones feature Bluetooth wireless, Adaptive Noise Cancelling (ANC), transparency mode, and built-in microphones for calls.

As with other Apple headphones and wireless earbuds like the AirPods Pro 2, the AirPods Max has an advantage for Apple-ecosystem users with seamless switching between devices.

One advantage of the Sony WH-1000XM4 is the dedicated smartphone app with customizable EQ settings, something the AirPods Max doesn't have.

Looks

I prefer the looks and design of the Apple AirPods Max over the Sony WH-1000XM4. To my eyes, the Sony is too bulky with the earcups sticking out of the sides, whereas the AirPods Max has a more flattering form.

Also the design and mix of materials on the AirPods Max is striking and exudes quality, while the Sony's are more understated and minimalistic.

Sony WH 1000XM4 vs AirPods Max Battery Life Comparison

The Sony WH-1000XM4 has 50% longer battery life than the AirPods Max.

  • Sony WH-1000XM4 Battery Life: Up to 30 hours

  • Apple AirPods Max Battery Life: Up to 20 hours

It's important to note that both headphones will last longer with their active noise cancelling and spatial audio/Dolby Atmos turned off.

Considering both headphones have very effective noise cancelling, it's impressive to see the Sony's have significantly longer battery life.

Sony WH 1000XM4 vs AirPods Max Noise Cancelling: Which is Better?

The Sony WH-1000XM4 has superior noise cancelling performance to the AirPods Max in my testing. I have tested both headphones with long-flight airplane travel, and found the Sonys to be more effective at minimizing outside noise like the jet engine.

I find Sony and Bose to have class-leading adaptive noise cancelling performance, despite the AirPods Max being fairly decent, it's simply not on the same level.

Either of these options should easily satisfy your noise cancellation needs in typical noisy environments like a busy office or coffeeshop.

Sony WH-1000XM4 Features / Battery Life / Noise Cancelling: 5 out of 5

AirPods Max Features / Battery Life / Noise Cancelling: 4.0 out of 5

Winner: Sony WH-1000XM4


Sony WH 1000XM4 vs AirPods Max Sound Quality Comparison

Side view of Sony WH-1000XM4 in black on desk

Both the Sony WH-1000XM4 and Apple AirPods Max have very good sound quality, but neither is perfect and I'll share my critiques of each here.

Let's start with the positives.

Both of these headphones are a great example of how far Bluetooth wireless headphone technology has come.

I think listening to music on either pair is an enjoyable experience even for an audiophile, something I can't say for older wireless headphones that simply cannot compete with wired "audiophile-grade" solutions.

Now I'll share my criticisms of each, starting with the Sony WH-1000XM4.

The Sonys have a bit of a warm sound signature with an emphasis on the upper bass, bleeding into the mids and creating a little sluggish and muddied sound.

I wish they had lower sub-bass extension and pulled back on the upper-bass region.

The treble is a bit rolled off and has a "veiled" quality to it, so it really lacks the sparkle and airiness for female vocals especially, making them sound rather dull.

As far as the technicalities, the soundstage is very intimate and lacks much width, with almost zero depth. This can work for some genres, but I prefer a sense of space and natural imaging.

I do find the dynamics and punchiness of the Sony's to be exciting and engaging.

As for the AirPods Max critiques...

The overall sound signature is also towards warm, but this one is more mid-centric than the Sony's which is more bass-centric.

Personally, I prefer the sound signature of the Sony's which I find works better for modern music, but the mid-centric approach is fantastic for male vocals especially.

The AirPods Max has superior audiophile technicalities when it comes to soundstage, separation, and imaging.

The treble isn't as rolled off as the Sony's, so there is more detail here, although it can be slightly more fatiguing.

I prefer how the bass is represented in the AirPods Max, which has more sub-bass, but still not as much impact as I'd like.

Overall, I think the AirPods Max is "technically" superior when it comes to sound quality, but as far as pure music listening enjoyment, I find them about equal.

The main reason being that I simply find the Sony WH-1000XM4 to be more fun to listen to, and prefer the sound signature for most genres.

Sony WH-1000XM4 Sound Quality: 7.9 out of 10

Apple AirPods Max Sound Quality: 7.9 out of 10

Winner: Tie


Value

At the time of this writing, there's simply no comparison on price, with the AirPods Max being 86% more expensive than the Sony WH-1000XM4 brand new.

Apple's AirPods Max is still going for over $500 new, with the Sony's being available for well under $300 new.

Factoring in the huge price discrepancy, the Sony WH-1000XM4 simply present a much stronger value today, aided by the fact that there is a newer XM5 model.

The $278 pricetag of the Sony's is still nothing to sneeze at even by today's standards, but it is very much competitive in all categories with the AirPods Max at nearly half the price.

Sony WH-1000XM4 Value: 4.0 out of 5

Apple AirPods Max Value: 3.0 out of 5

Winner: Sony WH-1000XM4


Sony WH 1000XM4 Overall Rating: 8.6 / 10

  • Sound Quality: 7.9 / 10

  • Comfort: 4.5 / 5

  • Features / Battery Life / Noise Cancelling: 5 / 5

  • Value: 4.0 / 5

  • Total: 21.4 / 25


Apple AirPods Max Overall Rating: 7.4 / 10

  • Sound Quality: 7.9 / 10

  • Comfort: 3.5 / 5

  • Features / Battery Life / Noise Cancelling: 4.0 / 5

  • Value: 3.0 / 5

  • Total: 18.4 / 25


Overall Winner: Sony WH-1000XM4

Holding Sony WH-1000XM4 headphone earcup

The Sony WH-1000XM4 wins this head-to-head comparison with the Apple AirPods Max, not just because it is nearly half the price, but because it wins in almost all categories.

The Sony's narrowly edge out the AirPods Max in comfort, battery life, and noise cancelling.

Sound quality is the only real toss-up, and I could imagine many preferring the AirPods Max's mid-centric sound signature, so a tie seems fair even if I personally prefer the Sony's.

Where there is a huge gap is in the value category and pure bang-for-the-buck, which the Sony runs away with today.

If you're purely interested in wireless headphones with better sound quality, you better check out the Sennheiser Momentum 4 as well.

Also, if you're open to wireless earbuds, my personal pick under $200 would be the Apple AirPods Pro 2 if you can get them on sale for that price.


Order HERE for the LOWEST PRICE AVAILABLE 

(Do NOT pay retail): 

Save up to $63 on the Sony WH-1000XM4 with Renewed below:

Save up to $80 on Apple AirPods Max with Renewed below:

Disclosure: These links may provide a discount and in return, give us a commission in order to run the website 🙂


Frequently Asked Questions

Is the bass better on Apple AirPods Max or Sony WH-1000XM4?

I find the Apple AirPods Max to have superior bass to the Sony WH-1000XM4 with lower sub-bass extension and overall a cleaner, focused response. The WH-1000XM4 has nice upper bass punch but is lacking in the sub-bass. Due to this, the mids are muddier in the Sony's compared to the AirPods Max.


How We Tested and Our Methodology

RecordingNOW.com is a 100% independent publisher with over 10 years of experience testing and reviewing consumer electronics and headphones.

We currently purchase the products we test with our own money, and are not paid by any company or manufacturer to influence our opinions or decisions.

After purchasing the product, we conduct up to hundreds of hours of detailed hands-on testing in a controlled, acoustically-treated environment.

ODi Productions is our resident expert and author of this article, with 10 years of experience as a professional music producer, tech journalist, and audiophile.


Read Next

Beats Studio Pro vs Sony WH 1000XM4: Comparison in 2024

Holding Beats Studio Pro vs Sony WH-1000XM4 side by side in hand

Beats Studio Pro Review: WORTH IT in 2024?

Beats Studio Pro wireless headphones on desk

Sony WH 1000XM4 Review: WORTH IT in 2024?

Holding Sony WH 1000XM4 in hand

Apple AirPods Max Review: Still Worth it in 2024?

Apple AirPods Max laying flat on keyboard and desk

Bose QuietComfort 35 II (QC35 II) Review: WORTH IT in 2024?

Bose QuietComfort 35 QC35 on table


Sennheiser Momentum 4 Headphone Review

Sennheiser Momentum 4 headphones on desk

Apple AirPods Pro 2 Review: WORTH IT in 2024?

(USB C)

Apple AirPods Pro 2 USB C on desk

Disclosure:  Some of the links in this article may be affiliate links, which can provide compensation to me at no cost to you if you decide to purchase.