Sony WF-1000XM3 vs Apple Airpods Pro: All about getting the edge

Since both are arch-rivals and have their best products in the market already, we put them side by side and clear once and for all, which one a listener should go for.

| Updated on: Oct 04 2020, 17:59 IST
Apple AirPods Pro vs Sony WF-1000XM3.
Apple AirPods Pro vs Sony WF-1000XM3. (HT Tech)
Apple AirPods Pro vs Sony WF-1000XM3.
Apple AirPods Pro vs Sony WF-1000XM3. (HT Tech)

The audio devices industry has always seen an upward trajectory when it comes to technology and innovation graph. Unlike the smartphone industry innovation, which seems to have flattened over time, the audio market has seen something new every few months. So, today we are talking about the smallest and most ‘personal' form of audio wearables that are constantly going through innovation cycles – earbuds, and the two companies that are among the best in the segment right now – Apple and Sony.

With the recently launched WF-1000XM3, Sony plans to bring its noise cancellation magic with a balanced audio performance to every ear out there. And with seamless connectivity and ease of use, Apple has made its AirPods Pro popular in its own unique way despite entering the market later and being restricted to their own iDevice environment for most features.

Since both are arch-rivals and have their best products in the market already, we put them side by side and clear once and for all, which one a listener should go for.


Since we're talking about earbuds, we definitely mean as small and compact as possible. And like it or not, Apple's AirPods Pro is the clear cut winner here. That's because of its more compact case and the overall footprint. You could see the compact build right away. This is something Sony WF-1000XM3 can't deliver. The case is bigger and the earbuds are big as well. They do stick out from your ear and are clearly visible from the front. AirPods Pro isn't, at least on most heads.

Apple AirPods Pro
Apple AirPods Pro (HT Tech)
image caption
Apple AirPods Pro (HT Tech)

Also read: Sony WF-H800 earbuds launched at 14,990: Here's what it offers

However, it may still vary from person to person if they like a design with a main body and stem or a single body that includes everything from touch controls to audio hardware and microphones.

For reference, the AirPods Pro case measures 45.2x60.6x21.7mm with 45.6 grams weight, while Sony WF-1000XM3 case weighs 77 grams. Also, the AirPods Pro weighs 5.4 grams each while the Sony earbuds weigh 8.5 grams each. To a regular user, this won't matter much but it still is an advantage on paper at least.

In addition, we found the AirPods Pro more appealing and elegant looking than the WF-1000XM3s. This is again subjective of course. However, due to the stem, AirPods Pro gets a minor advantage of catching the voice clearer.

Ease of use and functionality

AirPods wins the race here as well. While both carry nearly the same set of features and specs, what gives the AirPods Pro an edge is the haptic feedback and easy to understand controls that you easily get used to. Sony WF-1000XM3, for someone using for the first time, will take a few hit and trial approaches to get things done. Also, in Sony, there's always the small gesture area that one needs to touch in order to control music or other functions. And you're not always tapping at the right area. You do need to take 2 seconds to aim and tap since the touch area is not large.

Also read: Panasonic launches new range of headphones in India, price starts at 899

Other than this, you get all the basics in both. We're talking about controlling tracks, attending calls and accessing voice assistants. Both of them also have their own noise-cancelling tech as well. However, only AirPods Pro gets you sweat and water resistance. Yes, that's missing from WF-1000XM3. Both come with chargers and different sized ear tips so they fit perfectly in our ear.

Sony WF-1000XM3
Sony WF-1000XM3 (HT Tech)
image caption
Sony WF-1000XM3 (HT Tech)

That said, both the buds are not made for workout purposes. While WF-1000XM3 is pitched as a premium device that has the sole aim of delivering a good audio experience, the AirPods Pro is marketed for those who are always on the move and want the best of features more easily and straightforwardly that makes lives simpler. And both are good investments if you ask us.

Where Apple AirPods Pro shines the best is when it comes to OS connectivity. Unlike what most people think, the earbuds work with Android as well and connect just like any other earbuds. However, with Apple's own macOS, iPadOS or iOS, these connect flawlessly, something non-Apple users just don't for the time being.

Audio and noise cancellation performance

Sony gets the edge when it comes to audio performance and handling the bass, mids and treble. The Japanese tech firm, a couple of years ago, had its major focus on bass performance. This did work for the Indian audience since most love listening to high volume bass-heavy songs. However, the company has slowly managed to balance the Hz so it's not heavy on just one side of the spectrum. The WF-1000XM3 earbuds deliver mode balanced sound and listening to music on this is way better and warm. Like we said in our review, the mids and treble are not the focus but are also not completely ignored when bass kicks in.

Also read: Sony WH-1000XM4 headphone review: Sony has outdone itself

Apple AirPods Pro, on the other hand, has more focus on mids and treble. Yes, it has bass as well but the required ‘thump' is not as much. What, however, it does very well is to deliver and details when you hear audio tracks that are instrument-heavy. And yes, the peak volume level is high in this one. But that said, those looking for earbuds that can give a more balanced sound that plays well with all kinds of genres, Sony's 1000XM3 shines here.

There's no doubt that Sony leads the way in the ‘Noise Cancellation' tech. It surely has one of the best implementations in both WF-1000XM3 and 1000XM4 headphones right now, something AirPods Pro is yet to achieve. Apple earbuds do have noise cancellation but Sony's ability to cut ambience audio is commendable and better.

What's more, is that you can even save settings such as audio profile and noise levels based on different locations via the app. This is not there at all in iOS and AirPods Pro right now. And through the Sony Headphones Connect app, one also gets more control over the audio equalizer, which means you can fine-tune the music better and more as per your wish.


Battery performance is another segment where the Japanese tech firm shines across the board. AirPods Pro that, in our usage, ran for 4-5 hours in total (without using the charging case) was not as much as what Sony WF-1000XM3 delivered. The 1000XM3 ran for around 5-6 hours, which also puts it at par with some of the other premium offerings from rival non-Apple brands. And we're talking after using Active Noise Cancellation full time at different volume levels. With a charging case, we were able to stretch Sony earbuds more than 20+ hours on an average with mixed usage and varied volume levels. The AirPods Pro did come close at around 20 hours but not more than that.

Also read: Sennheiser CX 400BT earbuds launched in India at 16,990

Without noise cancellation tech, both gave us a few more hours of playback but AirPods Pro still stayed a bit behind.

A minor advantage of AirPods Pro here (or with other AirPods models as well) is that it shows the battery level of the charging case and both earbuds right on the connected iPhone's screen as soon as you open the lid. Sony WF-1000XM3s also show you the battery life but not so upfront.


Both Apple and Sony are leaving no stone unturned in capturing the earbuds market. And while both WF-1000XM3 and AirPods Pro are rivals with unique offerings, they differ in a lot of ways and are targeted at different audiences. It's difficult to recommend anyone of these to a regular user since the Sony earbuds have the edge in battery life and balanced audio performance while AirPods Pro is easy to use and have a more compact yet elegant look. And like we have mentioned above, both are not for sports-focused or active users. These are premium products offering what you need the most - a good overall experience.

Also, the price is a consideration here. While you get WF-1000XM3 in 19,990, AirPods Pro is priced at 24,900, which means a good gap of 5,000.

Also read: Bose launches its first-ever ‘hybrid' QC35 II gaming headphone

That said, in India, if you ask any other user, Sony WF-1000XM3 might just be the go-to choice for them since it plays well in two important factors - audio performance and battery. If you do plan to take AirPods Pro, good clarity in audio and compact form factor will definitely be two primary reasons for purchase.

However, an Android user may not go for an AirPods Pro since he/she won't be able to make full use of the features. iOS users, however, will mostly go for AirPods Pro. But since WF-1000XM3 does play well with iOS too (with access to all the features), the firm might just have a minor edge here.

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First Published Date: 04 Oct, 16:03 IST