Best Sony headphones Android Central 2021
Crank up your tunes with our favorite headphones, Sony's WH-1000XM4. These outstanding cans feature class-leading active noise cancelation (ANC) and come with great sound, battery life, and comfort. Jam out to your favorite tunes, talk to Alexa, and even take a phone call without ever having to take your headphones off. Sony has built its reputation on high-end headphones, and these are the best Sony headphones you can buy.
- Best overall: Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless Industry Leading Noise Canceling Overhead Headphones
- Runner-up: Sony WH1000XM3 Noise Cancelling Headphones
- Best true wireless: Sony WF-1000XM4 Industry Leading Noise Canceling Truly Wireless Earbud Headphones
- Best over-ear: Sony MDR7506 Professional Large Diaphragm Headphone
- Best bass: Sony WHXB900 Extra Bass Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones
- Best neckbuds: Sony WI-C400
- Best workout buds: Sony WF-SP800N Truly Wireless Sports in-Ear Noise Canceling Headphones
- Best value: Sony WI-C310
Best overall: Sony WH-1000XM4
Sony didn't have to rethink its approach with the WH-1000XM4 because the previous WH-1000XM3s were already among the best in the industry, topping some of our own lists. The two biggest reasons were the audio quality and ANC performance, both of which got decent upgrades with the WH-1000XM4. Sony put in its QN1 processor and dual noise sensor to further improve blocking ambient sound. While it's highly debatable that the results are a big leap forward from their predecessors, they do get help from other areas.
Sony could've chosen to make these sound a little different, but instead opted not to mess with the sound signature all that much, sticking with the same bass-heavy balance that can sometimes overpower the mids and highs. This is where Sony's Connect app, with its equalizer, can come in handy. You can tinker with it however you like to control mids, bass, and highs, so you've got some runway to get more out of these superb cans.
The sonic improvements also extend to phone calls, which required some help. Callers will come through clearer and have an easier time hearing you as well. It's largely due to Sony's Precise Voice Pickup and Speak to Chat features that optimize sound and volume during conversations. You can also finally pair with two devices simultaneously, so you can listen to music on one device while taking calls from another.
If you're wondering about comfort, Sony did very little to change the design. They not only look almost identical, but should basically feel that way, too. It should be good news as long as they're comfortable, considering the 32 hours per charge the battery can turn out, depending on volume and ANC. Fast charging can get them playing again; just plug them in for 10 minutes and get up to five hours of playback. However, you can't charge and listen at the same time.
- Class-leading ANC performance
- Long battery life
- Customizable sound
- Fast charging capable
- Great phone call quality
- Pair with two devices at once
- No simultaneous charging and listening
- No difference in design
- No improvement in overall audio quality
Runner-up: Sony WH-1000XM3
Sony struck gold with the WH-1000XM3 — until they were overtaken by the WH-1000XM4. That doesn't mean they're still not great headphones. They retain outstanding ANC performance, 30-hour battery life with ANC enabled, and great sound quality. Battery life isn't the best on the market, but it's close, and they include fast charging, which means you won't have to wait long when your headphones do die. The only downside when it comes to the battery is that you can't listen and charge simultaneously.
Despite that, ANC is the biggest reason to get the WH-1000XM3, which should start selling at a much lower price than their successors. The WH-1000XM3 virtually block out all noise when you have them on and work particularly well in situations like commuting on planes, trains, or buses. They do a stellar job of blocking out low-end noise and decently well with mid-range and treble noise, especially when you have audio playing.
Audio quality is also good. If you're a bass head, the WH-1000XM3 won't disappoint. Even if you're not, you'll still likely love the WH-1000XM3 when you can use the built-in EQ in the companion Headphones Connect app. The out-of-box sound signature has some serious punch but also tends to drown out the mids and treble, so you may want to play around with that EQ.
As for comfort, these cans should fit pretty snugly, though they may not be as comfortable as other headphones at this price point.
- Great sound quality and EQ settings
- Comfort is great for most
- Excellent battery life
- Still have excellent ANC
- Can find at a discount
- Can't charge and listen simultaneously
- Can only connect to one device at a time
Best true wireless: Sony WF-1000XM4
When you have yourself to beat to attain a different level of excellence, you're in a good spot. That's Sony's earbuds in a nutshell. The WF-1000XM4 are top-class successors to the already superb WF-1000XM3, putting them right in line as one of the best pairs of earbuds your money can buy right now. Granted, they may not be the prettiest available, but that's a small price to pay for the performance you get.
Sony chose only to touch the sound profile, but the impact is minor, and with good reason. It maintained a more neutral soundstage, giving you additional opportunities to customize it to your liking using the equalizer in the Headphones Connect app. The mids get the most out of this arrangement, and they complement the extra bass and highs you can easily pull out through the EQ. Of course, if there's not enough of a thump, you can always toggle on the Extra Bass feature to ramp up the bass some more. The 360 Reality Audio feature is also pretty good for listening to content with a spatial effect. And if you're into hi-res audio, these earbuds also support Sony's LDAC codec.
It will matter how well they fit, though. Sony tried to trim some fat to make them easier to wear for a greater variance of ears, but you may or may not like how they've done it. If you can get good passive noise isolation, the ANC only gets better, keeping these earbuds as elite noise cancelers. The downside is that features like Adaptive Sound Control don't feel like they've taken a big step forward. And while the IPX4 rating does offer better water and sweat resistance this time, you should still steer clear of too much water and keep them clean after you sweat on them.
Battery life gets a decent boost at up to eight hours per charge with an extra three charges from the case. That's even better when you also have a smaller case to carry around than before. It also works with wireless charging, which is convenient. USB-C will charge it faster, including fast charging. Plug it in for 10 minutes, and the earbuds can play for up to 90 minutes.
- Outstanding ANC performance
- Stellar sound quality
- Amazing battery life
- Wireless charging case with USB-C
- LDAC and 360 Audio support
- Solid app support
- Touch controls need work
- Smaller ears may not feel comfy
- Single-bud mode only in right buds
Best over-ear: Sony MDR-7506
Wireless headphones aren't always the best route, especially if you're chasing sound quality specifically. It's no secret that wired audio sounds better than wireless audio and the Sony MDR-7506 are a clear indication of that. These classic headphones have slightly boosted bass, which gives you a warmer sound signature. The mids are balanced, and the treble is slightly boosted, giving them a consumer-friendly sound.
The MDR-7506 are also extremely comfortable. The ear cups are large, and the padding over the head is decent. However, the leather material used is susceptible to wear and tear. Also, while the ear cups are large, they don't extend too far, making them uncomfortable for those who have wider ears.
In terms of portability, the MDR-7506 are excellent. They don't fold sideways, but they do fold into themselves, effectively reducing the footprint by half when stowed away. The included cable is non-detachable, which means that you'll have to replace them entirely if the cable starts to break. Fortunately, the MDR-7506 terminates in 3.5mm, which is the most widely used audio connector. The cable is also coiled, which will help reduce the likelihood of the cable tearing.
- Sturdy, 3.5mm cable
- Solid sound
- Large ear cups will fit a variety of ears
- No need to worry about batteries
- Ear cups aren't as deep
- Non-detachable cable
Best bass: Sony WH-XB900N
Sony's headphones are known for being bass-heavy, and the WH-XB900N are no exception. In fact, the WH-XB900N are part of Sony's "Extra Bass" collection, which aims to pump even more bass than usual into your ears. The WH-XB900N are low-end-forward, with a midrange and treble that is slightly recessed, giving the headphones an overall darker sound signature.
Beyond the bass, the WH-XB900N over-ear headphones are extremely comfortable. The ear cups are big and extend deep, and the headband feels like a pillow, making them comfortable to wear for hours. In addition, the clamping force isn't too strong, so it won't feel like the headphones are crushing your head.
Battery life is excellent with up to 30 hours of uptime, matching their ANC brother the WH-1000XM3. That's not the only component the WH-XB900N shares with the WH-1000XM3; the XB900N also have USB-C for charging. You'll also get quick charging which will net you 60 minutes of listening time with a 10-minute charge.
- Dark, bass-heavy sound signature
- Super long battery life
- USB-C charging
- Comfortable ear cups
- Quick charging
- Soundstage is narrow
Best neckbuds: Sony WI-C400
Neckbuds are great for those who want earbuds that you don't have to worry about losing because they'll sit comfortably around your neck all day. Enter the WI-C400, the best neckbuds Sony makes.
The WI-C400 are super comfortable, thanks to their lightweight design. They also come with several ear tip sizes in the box, which will help tremendously with the fit. Another great feature is their battery life, netting up to 20 hours on a single charge. While battery life is great, they, unfortunately, use the aging Micro-USB connector for charging.
When it comes to sound quality, the WI-C400 are decent. However, Bass response is underemphasized and essentially non-existent. The midrange is a bit bizarre and can sound unnatural. The treble is boosted a substantial amount which gives it a slightly piercing and sharp sound. However, the WI-C400 are excellent for phone calls as their microphones are above-average and can block out a decent amount of background noise without making your voice sound robotic.
- Great microphone quality
- Super comfortable and light
- Long battery life
- Sound quality is mediocre
- Micro-USB for charging
Best workout buds: Sony WF-SP800N
Sony has made rugged earbuds before and made the WF-SP800N for the active crowd, albeit with an IP55 rating that isn't as high as it probably should be, given the intention. Still, for water and sweat resistance, it should be good enough for when you to run or work out. They just need extra care each time you get them wet or sweat in them by wiping and cleaning them afterward.
The good news is you get great sound quality to go with all that. The mids and highs tend to stand out more, but there's room to bring more bass in when you want it. As with other Sony headphones, the Headphones Connect app has the equalizer capable of boosting any part of the audio spectrum you prefer. Given how finicky the touch-sensitive controls are on the earbuds themselves, the app may be your go-to for making changes. Unfortunately, Sony chose not to include the aptX and LDAC codecs, which is odd since the latter is its own.
Another bright spot here is the included ANC support to drown out background noise on a whim. Adaptive Sound Control does let you switch between four modes to apply the noise-canceling effect, be it staying, running, walking, or transport. It's best to do it manually, but it can also work on its own if you trust it enough.
At up to nine hours per charge with ANC on, battery life is superb. It gets even better when you turn it off, creeping up to 13 hours. That puts the WF-SP800N in prime territory for battery life on any pair of true wireless earbuds. Unfortunately, the case can only hold one extra charge, and without wireless charging, you will need to plug in to recharge when both the buds and case die out.
- Bass-heavy sound
- ANC support
- Comfortable fit
- App-based EQ options
- Decent IP55 protection
- Long battery life
- Finicky touch controls
- No wireless charging
- No aptX or LDAC codecs
- Resistance rating could be higher
Best value: Sony WI-C310
The Sony WI-C310 hold up surprisingly well considering their price point, especially in the sound quality department. The WC-310 has bass and mids balanced, while the treble is mostly balanced, though they can be a bit sharp. This can sound piercing to some users.
Comfort is excellent, though. They rest on your ear versus being shoved in your ear canal. Included in the box are several bud tips in various sizes, which help with sizing and fit. The only real annoyance some may notice is that the cable between the two buds is slightly longer than other earbuds.
Battery life exceeded our expectations with up to 15 hours on a charge, which is roughly double what most other wireless earbuds get. Sony took it a step further and included USB-C charging. Most earbuds and headphones at this price point (and some more expensive) use Micro-USB for charging. To top it all off, the WI-C310 can fast charge with 60 minutes of audio playback with a 10-minute charge.
The only downside here is that while they do include media controls, the buttons are rather mushy and hard to press.
- Long battery life for its size
- Super comfortable
- Balanced sound
- USB-C for charging
- Fast charging
- Mushy media controls
- Treble can sound piercing
It's no real surprise the Sony WH-1000XM4 make the top of our top Sony headphones list. They have stood out as the best wireless headphones and best noise-canceling headphones on the market with their solid mix of audio quality and integrative features.
The WH-1000XM4 also benefit from an excellent app that supports them with customizable sound, plus improved call quality, strong battery life that lasts up to 32 hours on a single charge (with fast charging and USB-C), and a comfortable fit that should suit most people's noggins. You also get high-definition audio over Bluetooth and a wired 3.5mm option if you've still got a smartphone with a headphone jack.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Peter Cao has an undeniable love for music whether it's listening, analyzing, or producing. When he's not on the clock, you can often catch him playing video games or playing basketball.
Ted Kritsonis loves taking photos when the opportunity arises, be it on a camera or smartphone. Beyond sports and world history, you can find him tinkering with gadgets or enjoying a cigar.
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