Heads-Up for the Hottest Headphones of Today: Comparing the Sony XM5, Bose QC45 and Sony XM4

Last December, I caved and decided to purchase the popular Sony WH-1000XM5 headphones to see if they were worth the steep sticker price. My initial thoughts of the headphones were how soft the ear cushions were. Their quality is smooth; however, because they are so soft, if you leave them face down (especially on something with different elevations), it will leave a semi-permanent impression. Another important aspect was the noise-cancellation feature. The Sony XM5 is incredible at noise-canceling, and if that is something you do not want for a music session, you can turn it off by clicking a button on the left ear. 

The headphones are enticing for another reason as well. Rather than picking up your phone to do these controls, one can skip, replay, pause and control the volume all by swiping and tapping on the right ear. You can change these programmable features by connecting the headphones to your phone through the Sony Headphones Connect app. This is a feature that Sony’s competitor, the Bose QC45, does not have.

Alma Chow, a fellow Watchdog reporter, shared that her favorite feature of the Bose QC45 is “Definitely the noise cancellation! I’ve been on long-haul/red-eye flights with my headphones and it does a great job blocking out sound. I’ve fallen asleep with the noise cancellation feature alone (no music) during takeoff. Going along with that, it’s really lightweight and the leather over-the-ear cups make it super comfortable for long wear.” I, too, have worn the Sony XM5s on a flight and can confirm it also does an excellent job mitigating the noise of the aircraft and its passengers.

Chow also shared that the battery life was an impressive feature of the Bose QC45: “Another thing would be how fast it charges and how long the battery lasts. I have accidentally left my headphones on for the entire night and the battery was still at 60% when I checked the next morning.” As for the Sony XM5s, their full battery life is said to last 30 hours. Additionally, when you press the power button once, a voice informs you of what percentage of battery you are at. 

When asked if Chow thinks the headphones are worth the price, she stated that “I got mine on a black friday sale at a reduced price (around $250 compared to the original $330) and I’ve used them for a little more than half a year now, it’s held up really well. When I originally purchased it, I was a little worried about the wear, and how easy it might break (especially since it folds up and that usually means it’s more delicate), but I’ve been really pleasantly surprised with how durable it’s been. The material feels really good for how light it is!”

Aside from the positive aspects, Chow relayed that one thing she wishes would be improved upon would be “the top band of the headphones. There’s a leather cushion for comfort but the leather material wraps around to the top of the band […] I get concerned about wearing it out when I’m walking etc. when it’s slightly drizzling. Another thing would be the button placements, it’s not too big of a hassle, but it’s a little awkward pressing the volume control buttons on the right ear.” For the Sony XM5’s, I also wish the top cushion of the headphones provided a bit more comfort, but it only reaches a noticeable annoyance after being worn for two hours or so. 

Putting the XM5 and the QC45 headphones against each other, they seem similar in some aspects, but certainly the Sony XM4s are more comparable with their foldable feature. Chow believes that, “the Sonys [XM4] are a little more lightweight and fold up a little more compactly (not sure about the exact specs), but the Bose feels a little more well structured [in their durability]. When I was doing research into which one I should get, I valued something with better noise cancellation and people seem to review the Bose better in terms of sound/noise cancellation. I would say that the Sonys seems better for day-to-day commuting, if you like to bring your headphones everywhere with you. I mainly use my Bose at home when I’m working/studying and it does its job well!”

If you are looking for a good-quality headphone set, I would recommend any of the three discussed (Sony XM4, Sony XM5, Bose QC45). The most affordable option is the Sony XM4, followed by the Bose QC45; however, I believe the most comfortable title is awarded to the Sony XM5.

Music: “We Might Even Be Falling In Love (Interlude)” by Victoria Monét