Bose QuietComfort Earbuds vs. Sony WF-1000XM3: Which should you buy?

Bose Quietcomfort Earbuds Baltic Blue
Bose Quietcomfort Earbuds Baltic Blue (Image credit: Bose)

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds

Bose Quietcomfort Earbuds Loose

Bose came back with a pair of true wireless earbuds that deliver possibly the best active noise canceling (ANC) performance in this market, though you will have to deal with bigger buds in your ears.

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds

Big and comfy

Superb sound quality
Best ANC performance
Solid ambient mode
Comfortable fit
Wireless charging case
Buds and case are bigger
No EQ in app
No control customization

Sony WF-1000XM3

Sony WF-1000XM3 render

The WF-1000XM3 have been the best true wireless earbuds with ANC for some time, and their overall performance still stands out because they do the most important things so well every time.

Sony WF-1000XM3

Still sounding on

Excellent sound quality
Top-class ANC performance
Good bud and case battery life
USB-C for wired charging
Good app to customize sound and ANC
Call quality could be better
No wireless charging case
Case and buds are large

This is as tight as an earbuds battle can get. Bose manages to directly challenge Sony's prominence in active noise canceling (ANC) performance and sound quality, making things even more interesting considering how evenly matched they are otherwise. They trade some conveniences with each other that you would have to think about, but the real measuring stick is in how they sound and how well they block everything else out.

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds vs. Sony WF-1000XM3 Going bigger than most

Neither of these can stake any real claim to being beautiful. Both are bigger than rival true wireless earbuds, and they make up for the extra girth by how well they perform. At their respective prices and their reputations, you should expect nothing less.

What's odd is Bose made the QuietComfort Earbuds so big it needed a bigger case to store the earbuds without offering more in battery life. You get two additional charges from it, whereas Sony's case has enough to add a third charge despite being smaller. Bose, however, has an edge in convenience in that you can charge the case on any Qi-enabled wireless charging surface, a feature Sony never included for its high-end earbuds.

Then there's the disparity in water and dust resistance. Bose is at a reasonable IPX4, though the engineers probably could have gone higher at this size unless they wanted to keep costs down. Sony never bothered to get the WF-1000XM3 certified, so it's unclear how much is too much, but they're not going to be super fragile. Just keep them away from water and stick to light workouts with minimal sweat.

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Header Cell - Column 0 Bose QuietComfort EarbudsSony WF-1000XM3
Bud battery life (with ANC on)6 hours6 hours
Charging case battery life18 hours24 hours
ConnectivityBluetooth 5.1Bluetooth 5.0
Wireless charging caseYesNo
Charging connectorUSB-CUSB-C
Digital assistant supportGoogle Assistant, SiriGoogle Assistant, Siri
Speaker size6mm drivers6mm drivers
Supported audio codecsSBC, AACSBC, AAC
Active noise cancelation (ANC)YesYes
Transparency/ambient sound modeYesYes

Both manage to find very respectable degrees of comfort, avoiding the kind of annoyances that sometimes come with ill-fitting earbuds. They use ear tips and wings to stabilize the fit, but in neither case will these two models look discreet out in public.

The larger surfaces should, in theory anyway, mean more efficient and responsive touch controls, except they're limited in puzzling ways. For instance, Sony includes volume controls on the WF-1000XM3, but to enable them, you have to sacrifice one of the other controls, like ANC, voice assistant, or playback control. You can only have one of them on each bud. To be fair, Sony added volume control through a firmware update in 2019, and there's every reason to believe Bose could do the same thing if it wanted to. Bose does let you do more with the QuietComfort Earbuds, but it limits customization to where you not only don't get volume, you also can't skip back a track either.

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds vs. Sony WF-1000XM3 Clearing up the sound

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds

Source: Bose (Image credit: Source: Bose)

This is where these two really shine. Both Bose and Sony have the chops to produce great sound, and clearly, outstanding ANC, too. It's a tight race between them in both regards, but listen long enough and the tiny cracks between them start to show.

Both Bose and Sony have the chops to produce great sound, and clearly, outstanding ANC, too.

Here's the thing: these two are close enough where your ears may dub one the winner whereas someone else's ears might look at it the other way. Sound is subjective and what works so well for both is the clarity and depth they bring to their respective sound profiles.

Bose manages to keep the sound clean, detailed, and resonant. It's a nice balance that gives the QuietComfort Earbuds consistently good output, even at higher volumes. Bass is present without any overzealous amplification to drown the mids and highs. It's just unfortunate the Bose Music app doesn't include an EQ to tailor the sound more personally. For earbuds at this price, it shouldn't be hard to throw that in.

Sony's WF-1000XM3 have a solid sound signature with lively mids and highs and a boosted bass, but it's not a huge difference over what Bose produces. As good as they sound out of the box, you have the option to change things up by using Sony's Headphones Connect, which has a decent EQ in it. That alone provides the kind of flexibility Bose currently doesn't have — unless it includes an EQ in a later firmware or app update.

Call quality could either be great or pretty good with caveats while wearing Bose's pair. With a solid connection or over Wi-Fi calling, Bose gets the edge here. Sony's pair don't fare as well by comparison because the QuietComfort Earbuds have a little extra clarity.

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds vs. Sony WF-1000XM3 The bout to block the other one out

Sony WF-1000XM3

Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central)

Sony was king of the ANC hill for true wireless earbuds, but Bose may have unseated its rival and taken the reigns as the best noise-canceling earbuds available. The QuietComfort Earbuds do an outstanding job of muffling or outright drowning out background noises. While some at certain frequencies will leak in, the overall performance is impressive, to say the least. Bose includes the same 11 levels of ANC of its other headphones, and if ANC is one of your controls on the left earbud, you can save three settings as favorites and toggle through them with a tap.

Bose may have unseated its rival and taken the reigns as the best noise-canceling earbuds available.

It's also good that it doesn't hamper playback in any significant way. There's no hiss hurting the soundstage, and playback feels much the same.

Sony isn't lagging behind in the ANC department though. The WF-1000XM3 have held the crown for good reason, so it's not like you're getting something truly inferior with these earbuds. It's just that Bose managed to do a little bit more with its buds. Sony's ANC technology is superb, and it really shows when it comes time to block out the background.

Both pairs have ambient modes to bring in ambient sound for safety and brief conversation without removing any from your ears. Hard to say that one is supremely better than the other, but in either case, they are elite performers.

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds vs. Sony WF-1000XM3 Which one should you choose?

There's no real bad choice when the two options are this good. It really boils down to what you value most when wearing true wireless earbuds. If you want the best noise-canceling around, Bose will give that to you. You get amazing sound with both, but if you want a little more wiggle room to customize the sound profile, Sony made sure to include that in its app. Bose could always add that later, though it's unclear if there are plans in the works.

Battery life, at least from the case, holds an edge for Sony, and is one of the stranger limitations for the QuietComfort Earbuds. But you do get wireless charging as a consolation. Sony will be due to update its amazing WF-1000XM3 at some point in the next several months. Until then, they will do just fine.

Bose earns its keep here, only slightly, and that's high praise when you aim to be among the best true wireless headphones. If you can handle the size and comfort, you won't go wrong with either pair, though Bose wins by pretty thin margins.

Ted Kritsonis
Contributor, Audio Reviewer

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. Often times, that will be with a pair of headphones or earbuds playing tunes. When he's not testing something, he's working on the next episode of his podcast, Tednologic.