Sony WF-1000XM5 vs Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) – SoundGuys

wp header logo 219

All products featured are independently chosen by us. However, SoundGuys may receive a commission on orders placed through its retail links. See our ethics statement.
The Sony WF-1000XM5 are finally here, and they’re not messing around. You get great active noise canceling (ANC) and plenty of control over these buds. While it’s clear the WF-1000XM5 are some of the best wireless earbuds for Android phone owners, it will take a lot to pull iPhone owners away from their precious AirPods. Let’s compare the Sony WF-1000XM5 vs Apple AirPods Pro 2 and find out which buds are the best value for your needs.
Editor’s note: this post was published on July 24, 2023, and is the first version of the article.
Sony and Apple’s earbuds look nothing alike. The WF-1000XM5 have a more traditional, rounded shape, while the AirPods Pro 2 have dangling stems. Although the last-gen WF-1000XM4 fit uncomfortably for many listeners, the WF-1000XM5’s comfortable it impressed our team.
Sony’s housings have a more contoured, slim shape. Plus, the buds now weigh 6g each, which is slightly heavier than the 5.3g weight of each AirPods Pro 2 earbud. Something to note: Apple’s iconic design makes it easier to handle the buds without fumbling them.
Apple and Sony supply four sets of ear tips, including extra-small, small, medium, and large sizes. With the WF-1000XM5, you get memory foam ear tips that Sony redesigned to make them easier to squeeze and fit. Silicone ear tips accompany the AirPods Pro 2. I prefer this material for exercise because it doesn’t absorb sweat and is simpler to clean. The drawback of silicone tips is that they don’t block out as much noise as memory foam.
Speaking of which, you can exercise with either set of buds, as both have an IPX4 rating. This means the earbuds can endure water splashes from any direction. That said, only the AirPods Pro 2 case also has an IPX4 rating.
Both companies use horizontal cases to hold and charge the buds. Sony’s case measures 65 x 27 x 40 mm, which is a bit larger than Apple’s at 65 x 27 x 40 mm. Despite occupying more room in your pocket, the WF-1000XM5 case weighs about 13g less than the AirPods Pro 2 case.
Sony gives you two color options: black and silver, and the AirPods Pro 2 are only available in white. The AirPods Pro 2 debuted for $249, and the WF-1000XM5 debuted for $298.
The Sony WF-1000XM5 and AirPods Pro 2 support different types of touch controls. To control the WF-1000XM5, you’ll administer a series of taps to either earbud. Unlike the WF-1000XM4, the WF-1000XM5 have volume controls like the AirPods Pro 2.
Controlling the AirPods Pro 2 is a slightly different affair. You can squeeze the force sensor on either earbud to skip tracks, change listening modes, and more. Swiping up or down on either earbud’s stem changes the volume. I prefer Apple’s force sensor controls over Sony’s, because it’s easier for me to perform a squeeze gesture when exercising than a precise series of taps.
When wearing the AirPods Pro 2, you can say, “Hey, Siri,” with a compatible Apple device. Removing the AirPods Pro 2 pauses playback and inserting them automatically plays media. Auto wear detection with the AirPods only works on iPhones, iPads, and Macs. With the WF-1000XM5, auto pause/play works on any device. The Sony WF-1000XM5 also have “Hey, Google,” or “Alexa” on Android.
Sony’s earbuds come with a complementary app (Sony Headphones Connect) that works on Android or iOS. The app experience is identical regardless of your phone’s operating system. With the AirPods Pro 2, you need access to the iOS Settings app to set up the earbuds and access firmware updates. Let’s start with Sony’s app experience.
The Headphones Connect app is where you’ll find a five-band equalizer to customize the sound. If you don’t want to tinker too much, you can cycle through a handful of EQ presets instead. Dig deeper, and you can customize the touch controls and enable Ambient Sound mode or DSEE Extreme — the latter of which is Sony’s algorithm for upscaling lossy audio files. Ambient Sound is Sony’s name for pass-through audio, and it relays external noise through the earbuds. There’s an ear tip fit test in the app, too.
The app also lets you toggle Speak-to-Chat and Adaptive Sound Control. With Speak-to-Chat on, the earbuds register when you’re talking, and instantly pause playback and initiate Ambient Sound mode. Once you stop talking, the earbuds resume your media. Adaptive Sound Control adjusts the Ambient Aware intensity based on your environment and activity level. Apple is releasing similar features for the AirPods Pro 2 this fall, and it will call them Conversation Awareness and Adaptive Audio.
With an iPhone, the Settings app allows you to customize the press-and-hold command of either earbud. You can take an ear tip fit test, toggle battery optimization and automatic ear detection on or off, and enable Adaptive Transparency. Adaptive Transparency is more advanced than Sony’s Ambient Sound mode, because it reduces the loudness of sounds that exceed 85dB before they reach your ears. This makes for a more pleasant listening experience when you want to hear your music and surroundings all at once.
I appreciate all of the accessibility features that Apple includes on the AirPods Pro 2. Those with dexterity issues can adjust the press speed/press-and-hold duration, and if you have hearing impairments, you’ll find plenty of features too. With the app, you can enable ANC on just one earbud, adjust the alert volume, change the channel balance, and more.
The AirPods Pro 2 also work with Apple’s Find My app, which is the most advanced earbud tracking app I’ve used. You can individually locate the left bud, right bud, and case from the app. There are various ways to find each item, and you can navigate to them on a map too. The AirPods Pro 2 case has a speaker, and you can prompt it to emit a sound, making it easier to locate within a room. Sony’s buds work with Google’s Find My Device app, but it’s more basic.
Sony and Apple’s earbuds have personalized spatial audio with head tracking. Sony calls it 360 Reality Audio, and Apple calls it Spatial Audio. To tailor the experience, photograph your ears through the Headphones Connect or iOS Settings apps. Remember, spatial audio requires support from the source device and streaming service (e.g., Apple Music or Disney Plus). Any earbuds can work with spatial audio, but what makes the WF-1000XM5 and AirPods Pro 2 unique are their personalization and head tracking features.
The Sony WF-1000XM5 and AirPods Pro 2 connect via Bluetooth 5.3. They also support Bluetooth LE Audio for low-latency streaming from compatible source devices. The WF-1000XM5 can stream over the SBC, AAC, and LDAC Bluetooth codecs, while the AirPods Pro 2 only have SBC and AAC.
Pairing Sony’s earbuds on Android is a one-step process, thanks to Google Fast Pair. Likewise, you get one-step pairing with the AirPods Pro 2 on Apple devices. Bluetooth multipoint enables the WF-1000XM5 to connect to multiple sources simultaneously. This is a good feature if you need to listen for incoming phone calls while using your laptop for a Zoom meeting. Instead of multipoint, the AirPods Pro 2 have automatic switching across Apple devices.
We subjected the WF-1000XM5 and AirPods Pro 2 to our standard battery tests. Under these conditions with ANC enabled, the WF-1000XM5 lasted 9 hours, 32 minutes on a single charge, much greater than the AirPods Pro 2 battery life of 5 hours, 43 minutes. The Sony WF-1000XM5 case supplies an additional 16 hours of playtime, and Apple’s case supplies an extra 24 hours.
Apple and Sony’s cases can fast charge their earbuds. Placing the WF-1000XM5 in the case for 3 minutes yields 60 minutes of listening. Plopping the AirPods Pro 2 in their case for 5 minutes also supplies 60 minutes of playtime. Both cases support Qi wireless charging, but Apple’s case is the only one that also works with MagSafe accessories.
Recharging the WF-1000XM5 case by wire requires a USB-C cable, and doing the same with the AirPods Pro 2 case calls for a Lightning cable. Each company includes a charging cable in the box.
The Sony WF-1000XM5 dedicate two processors and six microphones to noise cancelation. Apple’s buds also have a six-mic array with its H2 chip for ANC. For the best sub-bass frequency cancelation, get Sony’s buds. According to our testing, the WF-1000XM5 cancel more noise from 20-70Hz than the AirPods Pro 2. Apple’s buds reduce 150Hz to 1kHz frequencies by up to 15dB more than Sony’s though.
Anecdotally, I’ve been using the AirPods Pro 2 since their release, and the ANC handily hushes Chicago’s trains and buses. The ear tips block out ambient noise like baby’s cries, but the WF-1000XM5’s memory foam tips practically mute such noises. Plus, Sony uses mesh covering on each earbud to improve ANC in windy conditions. This hardware makes a big difference when walking or running outside.
The Sony WF-1000XM5 and AirPods Pro 2 sound similar, but Apple’s buds align more closely with our headphone preference curve. This means we expect that most people will prefer how the AirPods Pro 2 sound over the WF-1000XM5’s default tuning. That said, you need a trained ear to discern the difference between these two sets of buds. They both sound quite good, but the slightly boosted bass may give the Sony WF-1000XM5 away.
Again, a big benefit of the WF-1000XM5 is Sony’s in-app custom EQ. With this, you can tailor the sound to your liking. Conversely, you’re stuck with Apple’s tuning and Adaptive EQ on the AirPods Pro 2. Adaptive EQ is an automatic equalizer that adjusts the bass and mids in real-time, giving you consistent sound quality under most listening conditions.
The Sony WF-1000XM5 promise the best microphone quality in the WF-1000X earbud series. Unfortunately, our WF-1000XM5 are pre-production earphones, and their mic quality doesn’t represent the mass-market units. We will update this section once we have an accurate representation of how the WF-1000XM5 mics sound. For now, we’ve included the WF-1000XM4 mic demos as a baseline. You can compare these mic samples to the AirPods Pro 2.
The Sony WF-1000XM5 are available for pre-order starting July 24, 2023, and they will release on July 27. The WF-1000XM5 cost $298, and come in black or silver.
The Apple AirPods Pro 2 debuted on September 23, 2022, and are available in white. The AirPods Pro 2 cost $249.
If you own an Android phone, get the Sony WF-1000XM5 instead of the AirPods Pro 2. These earbuds open the door for far more software features than using the AirPods Pro 2 on Android. Sony did a lot of work to improve the comfort of the WF-1000XM5 over the WF-1000XM4, and the new buds rival the AirPods Pro 2. Listeners who value customization will find the WF-1000XM5 offer everything you could want.
The choice is a little muddier for iPhone owners because the WF-1000XM5 have similar ANC and sound quality as the AirPods Pro 2. Sony’s multipoint connectivity and custom EQ are enticing. However, the AirPods Pro 2 remain the best earbuds for iPhone because they’re so easy to use. Switching audio playback from an iPhone, to a Mac, and back is effortless. Further, Apple’s battery optimization extends the life of your AirPods, helping them last longer than other flagships. We also like the accessibility features that you get with the AirPods Pro 2.
If none of these things matter to you, the WF-1000XM5 are top-notch for iPhone too, and will be an extreme value once they go on promotion.
The Sony WF-1000XM5 are some of the best earbuds for Android, but if you don’t want to shell out $298, the older Sony WF-1000XM4 ($278 at Amazon) are great too. Sony’s last-gen flagship earbuds have many of the same perks as the XM5 buds. The main feature you miss out on is head tracking. The WF-1000XM4 aren’t as comfortable as the WF-1000XM4 either, but this is subject to your ear anatomy.
Alternatively, the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro ($179 at Amazon) are the best ANC earbuds for Samsung devices. With the Buds 2 Pro, you can automatically switch between Samsung devices, say, “Hey, Bixby,” and more. These earbuds are very comfortable and have an IPX7 rating, making them more durable than Apple or Sony’s earphones.
For great sound quality, ANC, and adaptive features, grab the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 ($169 at Amazon). These earbuds support aptX Adaptive and come with a wireless USB-C charging case. They are also suitable for exercise due to their IPX4 rating and interchangeable wing tips.
The WF-1000XM5 and AirPods Pro 2 cases support wireless charging.
Both the AirPods Pro 2 and WF-1000XM5 have a water-resistant IPX4 rating. This means both sets of buds can resist water splashes from any direction. The AirPods Pro 2 case also has an IPX4 rating, which the WF-1000XM5 case lacks.
You can use the AirPods Pro (2nd generation) on an Android device. Still, you’ll miss out on a few features like battery optimization, auto device switching (iCloud devices only), and Find My. You can use Wunderfind to locate the AirPods on Android, though.
The WF-1000XM5 and AirPods Pro 2 work with iPhones. Unlike using AirPods on Android, you don’t miss out on any features using the WF-1000XM5 on iOS.
The Sony WF-1000XM5 can connect to two devices at once, but the AirPods Pro 2 can only connect to one device at a time.
The AirPods Pro 2 cost $249, and the WF-1000XM5 cost $299.
Check out this table to see how all AirPods features compare to each other:

source