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Sony and Bose are class-leaders when it comes to the best noise-canceling headphones. Both companies regularly top the list with their current flagships, the Sony WH-1000XM4 and the Bose Headphones 700. Both headphones come from premier brands that provide excellent audio quality, have top-tier noise cancelation, and come packed with extra features for improved sound and controls. To help you decide between the two, we've put together an overview of their specs, capabilities, and features in order to help determine a winner.Sony WH-1000XM4Bose Headphones 700Retains most of last year's design with few changesSvelte new design makes it lightweight, but less portableExcellent noise-canceling with proprietary chipExcellent noise-canceling and new chipHighly customizable frequency responseDefault flat frequency responseSupports LDAC and DSEE ExtremeDoesn't support hi-fi audio codecsPacked with smart features for easier controlsUses physical controls, fewer smart features
Design and Comfort
The design of the Sony WH-1000XM4 hasn't departed much from its predecessor, the WH-1000XM3. It has the same general shape, comfortable fit, and touch-sensitive controls on the earcups for easy music control. The headband is well padded, the over-ear earcups are plush and easy to wear for hours at a time, and are thicker than before for improved passive noise isolation. The padding on the top has been reduced a little bit, but you're not likely to notice that change.Courtesy of Best Buy
The Bose Headphones 700 changed rather significantly from the Bose QuietComfort 35 II. They have a new, stylish and slender design that reduced the thickness of the headband, while still making sure it's made of durable adjustable steel. That reduces its footprint on your dome, but the downside is that unlike previous versions of Bose's headphones, you can't fold up these headphones to stow away when traveling. If you're a frequent flier, you'll find this to be inconvenient, adding extra bulk to your carry-on. The plush over-ear earpads are very comfortable, and just like the WH-1000XM4, they're designed for being worn for hours at time.
Also, unlike Sony which uses sensitive touch sensors, the Headphones 700 keeps physical buttons for noise cancellation, pairing, and voice assistant. However, volume and playback are controlled by a touch-sensitive panel, so you get a hybrid of both interfaces. The WH-100XM3 was noted to have many problems with the touch control responsiveness during cold weather, but Sony has rectified this with the 1000XM4, though some users have reported that the controls aren't sensitive enough now.
Sound quality is obviously the most important part of judging headphones. With both Sony and Bose you're in good hands when it comes to overall quality, but audiophiles will be able to detect some key differences between them. Put simply, the Bose Headphones 700 tend toward a flat or neutral frequency response. Flat headphones give you great clarity for vocals and instruments but tends sound less warm and sharper when it comes to bass. If you're big on audiobooks, classical music, western, and pop the Headphones 700 will likely suit you best due to their clarity and focus on vocals.
The Sony WH-1000XM4 has a frequency response that's more tilted to lows and mids. What that means is you'll get warmer bass and rich sound for drums and deep voices. Basically, this is the headphone for rock and metal fans. Of course, the Sony WH-1000X4 has another big advantage due to its customization options. You can totally individualize the frequency response to suit your ear through the Sony Headphones Connect app. It also has more advanced audio codecs like LDAC, improving the fidelity of streaming audio for Android phone users. It also has the DSEE Extreme processor that can upscale compressed, lower-quality audio into high-resolution audio.The 9 Best Headphones for Music Lovers in 2021
Noise cancellation on both headphones is excellent. Bose has been the gold standard of the industry for some time now, making their headphones popular among business travelers and frequent flyers. This holds true for the Headphones 700 as well. It boasts a new noise-canceling chip and six microphones which can provide 11 different levels of noise cancellation. At the highest level, it'll blot out most or all background sounds, while other settings can help hear you're surroundings, useful if you're a commuter.Bose
Last year's Sony WH-1000XM3 gave Bose a run for its money, the 1000XM4 is no different. It takes advantage of a proprietary noise-canceling processor, the QN1 to continuously monitor the ambient noise in the setting. The chip then adjusts noise-canceling for maximum optimization. According to Sony, the chip can make as many as 700 adjustments every second. Like the Headphones 700, the level of noise-canceling is fully adjustable and can be changed via the app.The 9 Best Noise-Canceling Headphones of 2021
Software and Features
When it comes to software and extra features, the Sony WH-1000XM4 stands out for the sheer number of options you have. While both phones come with companion apps that you can use to customize noise-canceling, Sony takes it to the next level by adding a variety of options to tweak just about every aspect of the headphones.
You can change the frequency response, create customized individual music profiles, have the headphones automatically pause music when you take them off and resume playback when you put them on, and even adjust sound and noise-cancellation to the atmospheric pressure. Bose has a few software tricks, with a mode that pauses music playback when you're speaking, but unlike Sony, it's not automatic and you need to press a button to activate it.The 9 Best Over-Ear Headphones of 2021
Both the Sony WH-1000XM4 and Bose Headphones 700 are the flagship headphones in their class, so unsurprisingly, they cost a pretty penny. The Headphones 700 will run you $380 from most retailers ($400 at MSRP) and doesn't tend to go on sale very often. The MSRP of the WH-100XM4 isn't much lower at $350, however, we have seen a few deals on the Sony, bringing them as low as $278. That's still pricey, but it's a good $100 cheaper than the Headphones 700.Final Verdict: Two strong contenders, but Sony pulls ahead for sheer customization options and features.
While both Bose and Sony have made excellent high-end headphones, the average customer who listens to a variety of media and wants excellent noise-cancellation will likely fare better with the Sony WH-1000XM4. They're both comfortable, but the 1000XM4 can fold, giving it a smaller footprint when traveling compared to the Bose Headphones 700. It also has a default frequency response that will suit more people, plenty of customization options, and more audio codecs that improve sound quality.