If you're in the market looking for the best pair of active noise cancelling (ANC) wireless headphones, you cannot go wrong with Sony 1000XM3 or Bose QC35II, but what if you have to choose between the two? After testing both these masterpieces over an extended period of time, here's the comprehensive comparison review of Sony and Bose headphones.
Let me first point out that neither of the two is cheap. Bose QC35II is a bit cheaper, retailing at around Rs 26,000 while the Sony WH-1000XM3 costs Rs 29,990. With these headphones, it isn't about the price tags, but the experience with which each brand tries to trump one another.
We might have Bose and Sony loyalists, and sticking to their favourite brands isn't going to hurt while selecting their next ANC headphones. I recently completed the review of Sony 1000XM3 and found them incredibly good, and then started using Bose QC35II to see any difference.
Here's what I found:
Both headphones have near identical fit, but look entirely different. Bose QC35II has a classic look while Sony 1000XM3 appears modern and stylish. The smaller cup size of Bose headphones paired with light weight makes QC35II ideal for longer listening sessions, but the Sony 1000XM3 isn't too bad itself. It's a tab heavier than the Bose, but has a more sturdy and compact design.
Sony 1000XM3 fits more tightly than the Bose QC35II, mainly due to the headband design. There's cushion on top of both headbands, which adds to the comfort. The cups closing style is also different on both headphones. Sony headphones sit on your desk with the earcups' cushion facing upwards while the Bose ones have the earcups facing downwards. I found this design to be useful while wearing the headphones around the neck as Sony headphones do not hit your chin when you look down.
In my opinion, Sony 1000XM3 wins by those tiny comfort points, but both headphones are equally comfortable for extended listening sessions. I could wear both of them for hours without breaking a sweat.
Best noise cancelling
This is surely up for debate. Sony and Bose deliver some insane levels of active noise cancelling on wireless headphones, but there can only be one winner. I took both the headphones in a busy street with a lot of vehicles passing and people talking. First I tried the Bose QC35II and it almost shut the world around me while I listened to "Contact" by Daft Punk. Then I tried the same track on Sony 1000XM3 in the same noisy environment, and the experience was immersive. It's hard to pick a winner, but Sony takes a lead by a hair's difference here. Noise cancelling is slightly richer on the Sony headphones and feels more air-tight.
I also happened to try both the headphones with ANC on a flight, and Sony takes the lead. There is a setting in the Sony Headphones Connect app that allowed me to customise the headphone settings based on atmospheric pressure and Sony really did some sort of magic there. For frequent flyers, Sony 1000XM3 takes a win.
Best audio performance
Bose QC35II had its moments. Excellent lows and vocals on Bose headphones made me really want to listen to soothing jazz music, but I preferred Sony 1000XM3 for punk rock or metal songs. The sound is not muffled on Sony headphones and delivers great highs and mids in every song genre while Bose QC35II takes the lead on the low notes.
Overall audio performance on Sony 1000XM3 and Bose QC35II is identical so there's a tie here. You cannot go wrong with either one.
As I noted in my review, Sony 1000XM3 delivered 26 hours battery with ANC. This is purely the best battery any wireless headphone can deliver and even Bose QC35II fails to beat it. When I tested the Bose headphones battery, I was able to get up to 16 hours with ANC. It isn't too bad, but not as great as Sony given the slight price difference.
As for charging speeds, Sony headphones took less than an hour to full charge whereas Bose headphones took around 90 minutes. There's USB Type-C port in Sony 1000XM3 while Bose still settled for microUSB port in its QC35II.
Sony 1000XM3 is a clear winner.
Bose and Sony headphones support Google Assistant, which made it so much easier for me to get updates without having to take out my phone. Instant pairing via NFC is a boon on both headphones and Bluetooth-based pairing is snappy. Both headphones show battery indicators in red or green lights and I could also get accurate readings from the phone. There are 3.5mm wires to connect to your phones in case the battery runs out.
There are app-based settings for both headphones, but Sony takes the lead with its extensive customisation options. But that's not the only area where Sony beats Bose. The right earcup on Sony 1000XM3 has touch-based controls to play, pause, change songs, which I found quite useful. Bose has traditional buttons, which I feel many prefer given the ease of use.
Another nifty feature in Sony headphone is covering the right earcup with the palm to activate ambient sounds so you don't have to turn off NC or remove your headphone while talking to someone or listening to announcements. Bose does that with low, mid and high NC modes with a press of a button.
If you're a hard-core Bose or Sony fan, choosing the latest audio gear from either brand isn't going to be a regrettable choice. But if you're willing to explore, Sony WH-1000XM3 offers value for money, even when it is asking around Rs 3,000 extra. Features like lasting battery life, touch-based controls and palm covering gesture, and top-notch audio and noise-cancelling make Sony 1000XM3 a perfect package.