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AirPods Max 2 vs. Sony WH-1000XM5: Which headphones are better?

October 25, 2023

With the launch of the WH-1000XM5, Sony has added a new competitor to the race for the best active noise-cancelling (ANC) headphones. Can the Sony WH-1000XM5 continue the earlier WH-1000XM4’s winning record versus the Apple AirPods Max? To determine which headset is the greatest ANC workhorse, we compare the WH-1000XM5 and AirPods Max.



The Sony WH-1000XM5 (or just XM5 for simplicity) and Apple AirPods Max are the two most well-liked over-ear noise-cancelling headphones on the market for a reason: they both provide outstanding sound and noise isolation.

You’ve come to the perfect place if you’re unsure which of these headphones is best for you. Are these the only high-quality over-ear ANC headphones available on the market as well? How do these two well-known brands compare to their rivals?

We obtained the Sony XM5 and the AirPods Max for this evaluation, tested them, and made side-by-side comparisons with the best alternatives available.

Does the Sony WH-1000XM5 have a better design than the AirPods Max?

Does the Sony WH-1000XM5 have a better design than the AirPods Max?

Here, the Apple AirPods Max and the Sony WH-1000XM5 have a lot in common. Both pairs of headphones come with soft telescopic headband arms and easy ear pads for customising fit. In addition to rotating to lay flat, both pairs of headphones also lack folding hinges, despite their simple designs.

The headband of the AirPods Max is made of stainless steel, and the ear cups are made of aluminium. A mesh canopy serves as a bolster for the headband, and plush ear pads enclose the entire ear. Despite being comfortable, it weighs 386g, which is a lot. The Sony WH-1000XM5 weighs 250g, which isn’t exceptionally light for a headset but is lighter than the AirPods Max thanks to its plastic construction. The Sony headset’s memory foam ear cushions have a leatherette wrap around them to make them easy for prolonged listening sessions.

Both headsets are not water-resistant in any way, so you should avoid getting them wet. Unfortunately, both pairs of headphones are best used inside or in dry regions, which is bad news for anyone who lives in rainy areas. There are a few excellent and reliable options available if you really want a pair of workout headphones.

How do the Sony WH-1000XM5 and the AirPods Max connect to devices?

How do the Sony WH-1000XM5 and the AirPods Max connect to devices?

The SBC, AAC, and LDAC Bluetooth codecs are supported by the Sony WH-1000XM5, and it uses Bluetooth 5.2. The XM5 headphones will receive high-quality audio from Android phones streaming over LDAC. For the most reliable outcomes, we advise choosing LDAC 660 kbps. Regarding the AirPods Max, they support the SBC and AAC codecs and use Bluetooth 5.0.

The WH-1000XM5 also comes with a few extras, like analogue audio connectivity and Bluetooth multipoint, allowing you to smoothly move between two devices while using this headset. The AirPods Max don’t have analogue connections; instead, they connect digitally via Lightning (a Lightning-t0-3.5mm cable is not provided). You’ll also need to spend an additional $44 USD on a 3.5mm-to-Lightning adaptor if you want to use it with a recent iPhone. Despite the lack of Bluetooth multipoint on Apple headphones, you can easily switch between Apple devices that are all signed into the same iCloud account.

The Sony WH-1000XM5 is a superior choice if you place a high value on a reliable connection and high-quality listening across platforms.

How do you control the WH-1000XM5 or the AirPods Max?

How do you control the WH-1000XM5 or the AirPods Max?

Compatibility is important when wanting to buy a new pair of headphones. The Sony WH-1000XM5 has the Sony Headphones Connect app, which is available on iOS and Android smartphones, whereas the AirPods Max can only be customised or controlled through the Settings app on iOS and iPad devices. As a result, the AirPods Max experience will be very lacking on Android devices, in contrast to the Sony WH-1000XM5, which is platform-independent. For this reason, if you ever intend to use an Android device while using this headset, the Sony WH-1000XM5 is a far more flexible option.

You can access features like Sony 360 Audio, an equaliser, ANC optimisation, Find My Headphones, and Google Fast Pair through the Sony Headphones app. A lot of personal information, including access to personal data and location, is needed for the last two functionalities. The app is crucial for getting firmware upgrades, and these software improvements definitely make a difference.

Owners of AirPods Max may access features including firmware upgrades, Discover My AirPods, rapid switching between multiple Apple devices using the same iCloud account, and Apple’s Spatial Audio through the iOS or iPadOS Settings app. Android users won’t have access to these functionalities because they are linked to the Settings app. Let that serve as a cautionary tale for Android customers thinking about purchasing the AirPods Max, as you can’t even get firmware updates on Android.

Do Apple or Sony’s headphones have better battery life?

Do Apple or Sony’s headphones have better battery life?

Instead of having a power button, the AirPods Max enter a lower power mode when they are placed in their case. The AirPods Max have a battery life of about 21 hours with ANC on, but because power depletion is a problem, you might not get to fully take advantage of that. You might not have enough battery to get you through several commutes if you misplace the case or detest using it. You’ll need to sort that out on your own because the AirPods Max only comes with a Lightning-to-USB-C connection for charging rather than the standard USB-C charging brick for headphones.

With ANC on, the Sony WH-1000XM5 outlasts the AirPods Max by a significant margin, lasting 31 hours and 53 minutes. If you need to charge the headset quickly, three minutes of charging will provide 180 minutes of playing. You can use a wired 3.5mm connection to listen if you don’t have your charger with you.

Since the Sony WH-1000XM5 doesn’t continuously drain the battery when not in use, it is unquestionably the best option in terms of battery life. The wired listening and quick charging options make it even better, and it will be dependable for several commutes each week.

Which has better noise-cancelling, AirPods Max 2 vs. Sony WH-1000XM5?

Which has better noise-cancelling, AirPods Max 2 vs. Sony WH-1000XM5?

The majority of over-ear headphones are only truly effective at blocking out mid and high frequencies. When you rely just on isolation, low-frequency sounds like droning aeroplanes or passing trucks easily get through. Active noise cancellation can help with that.

The Sony WH-1000XM5 features excellent noise cancellation, which is substantially aided by outstanding isolation. The AirPods Max outperforms them by about 10 dB in terms of noise attenuation at frequencies above 1 kHz. What a significant difference! Trains and other low-frequency noise will be attenuated to around one-eighth of their initial apparent volume. It is therefore a fantastic option for commuters.

Apple AirPods Max ANC performance is also outstanding. A fantastic listening experience without interruptions is provided by its capacity to block out noise up to 2 kHz. However, because of how well it isolates, Sony prevails at higher frequencies.

Both headsets effectively filter out low-frequency noise that is below 100 Hz when compared to one another. The AirPods Max outperforms the Sony WH-1000XM5 in the midrange, but both are good options for blocking out low, droning noises. However, due to improved isolation, the Sony WH-1000XM5 is better at handling high-range sounds.

Which headphones have better sound quality?

Which headphones have better sound quality?

The Sony WH-1000XM5 produces excellent sound, but it goes off our goal curve in a few places, such as the bass region, where there is a little more emphasis (especially between 100 and 200 Hz), and the highs, where there is some variance. If you don’t like bass-heavy music, you might find it a bit much, but you can simply customise the headset’s EQ to your tastes.

The Sony WH-1000XM5 and AirPods Max both have excellent sound quality, but they approach different acoustic objectives. With the exception of a slight drop at 5 kHz (to aid with spatial cues) and a slight increase in the sub-bass region below 40 kHz, this headset’s frequency response closely matches our goal curve in several important areas. The majority of listeners will enjoy the music because it sounds terrific overall on this headset.

Most users will find that both headsets have good sound quality by default, and both headsets offer industry-leading isolation and noise cancellation to make sure that outside noise won’t have an impact on how your music sounds. The Sony WH-1000XM5 provides a more bass-heavy sound that you can choose from. Though it is possible to equalise both to your preference on the Sony WH-1000XM5, it is simpler to do so on Android devices and is likely a better option for people desiring less visible bass and treble emphasis.


The AirPods Max and the Sony WH-1000XM5 are two popular over-ear noise-cancelling headphones, both offering quality sound and excellent noise cancellation. Both headphones have comfortable ear pads and smooth telescoping headband arms for adjusting the fit, but neither has folding hinges. The AirPods Max has a mainly metal build with a stainless steel headband and aluminium ear cups, while the Sony WH-1000XM5 has a plastic build, making it lighter at 250g. Both headphones are best suited for indoor use or use in drier climates.

The Sony WH-1000XM5 uses Bluetooth 5.2 and supports the SBC, AAC, and LDAC Bluetooth codecs, while the AirPods Max uses Bluetooth 5.0 and supports the SBC and AAC codecs. The WH-1000XM5 also offers analogue audio connectivity and Bluetooth multipoint, making it more versatile for Android users.

When it comes to battery life, the AirPods Max have a lower power mode and a battery life of close to 21 hours with ANC on. The Sony WH-1000XM5 lasts 31 hours and 53 minutes with ANC on, far outdoing the AirPods Max. The headset charges via USB-C, and three minutes of charging will give 180 minutes of playback.

In terms of noise cancellation, the Sony WH-1000XM5 has fantastic noise cancellation, assisted greatly by impressive isolation. Noise attenuation at frequencies above 1 kHz improves the AirPods Max by around 10 dB, making it a great choice for commuters. Apple’s ANC performance is also fantastic, but its isolation performance means it loses to Sony at higher frequencies.

In conclusion, the AirPods Max and the Sony WH-1000XM5 are both popular over-ear noise-cancelling headphones, but the Sony WH-1000XM5 offers superior noise-cancelling capabilities and better battery life.


Are Sony headphones or AirPods better?

Both are excellent when it comes to noise isolation; however, the Sonys are superior in this area because of their incredible ANC feature. The Apple, on the other hand, is better for athletics since it is more neutral-sounding, considerably more steady, and breathable.

Should I buy AirPods Pro or Sony headphones?

The first-generation AirPods Pro have excellent ANC, but Sony tops the list for high-frequency attenuation. In comparison to the AirPods Pro (first generation), the Sony WF-1000XM4 offers marginally superior low-frequency noise suppression (below 150 Hz).

Is the Sony WH-1000XM5 good with the iPhone?

The XM5 is the best option for long-lasting premium listening because it excels in all areas, including battery life, call quality, noise cancellation, and case design. It is also compatible with both Android and iOS devices.

Is the Sony WH-1000XM5 better?

A potential rival to the XM4’s hegemony—a usurper from within—is the WH-1000XM5. Sony claims that the XM4 won’t be replaced, but the XM5 offers a premium upgrade at a premium price thanks to improved drivers, more sophisticated noise cancellation, and a whole new design.