[Review] Sony WF-1000XM4 VS Apple Airpods Professional audio & efficiency

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Since I started my audio-loving journey in college, I’ve been a huge fan of audio equipment and have probably amassed a collection of 10 pairs of earbuds and headphones.

Unfortunately, dealing with wired audio devices can be annoying. I’m sure we’ve had broken headphones after accidentally dropping them due to tangled cables.

Fortunately, over the years we have brought more and more wireless audio devices to market thanks to the improvement in Bluetooth technology. However, if you speak to audiophiles (I don’t quite believe myself yet), they would say that wireless headphones will never beat wired headphones in audio quality.

I originally thought I’d never sacrifice my love of audio quality for convenience, but that changed when I first met the Sony WF-1000XM3. Since then, my love for wireless audio has increased tenfold.

It was enough to convince me, and it now serves as my daily pair of earbuds. That was until I got my hands on the new Sony WF-1000XM4. But how does it compare to the previous generation (WF-1000XM3) and the Apple Airpods Pro?

First impressions

At first glance, I noticed that the case of the WF-1000XM4 is slightly smaller than the previous generation, which improves portability. Surprisingly, only the WF-1000XM4 could stand alone between the 3, while the others had a rounded bottom.

However, it’s not just the case that has shrunk. Compared to the XM3, the XM4 buds are smaller and fit a lot better for me. With the XM3, I always had the nagging feeling that if I move too much, it immediately falls out of my ears.

So I feel safer to use it too. Not to mention the XM4 is also IPX4 certified so it can withstand sweat and rain.

  • Left to right: Sony WF-1000XM4, Apple Airpods Pro, Sony WF-1000XM3. The Airpods Pro case is slimmer but taller than the XM4.
  • The Sony WF-1000XM4s are also manufactured locally, as are the XM3s.
  • The size comparison for the 3 earphones, from left to right: The Sony WF-1000XM4, the Sony WF-1000XM3 and the Apple Airpods Pro.

While pairing the XM4 to my phone was pretty easy, you’ll need to download the Sony Headphones Connect app to take full advantage of the earbuds’ capabilities. Unfortunately, the update was annoying as I had to make sure my phone was nearby and I had to update again a few times for it to complete. But once the update is complete, the rest of the way is smooth.

But it is small

Please note that this is a subjective rating and your mileage may vary. I review the XM4 based on my own music preferences and tastes.

Personally, I liked the sound of the XM4 more than the XM3. It might be a placebo or just earplugs of choice, but the XM4’s music sounded cleaner, clearer, and had more defined bass.

Compared to the Apple Airpods Pro, I can seriously say I prefer the XM4s (this comes from the average Apple connoisseur too) because I can adjust the equalizer based on my own preferences. If you want more bass or more treble, you can adjust this accordingly. With the Airpods Pro, you get stuck with the preferences under Apple’s music settings, unless you tinker with it using third-party means.

  • The original Sony WF-1000XM4 comes with 3 different sizes of ear tips, small, medium and large.
  • The Apple Airpods Pro are slimmer, but the Sony WF-1000XM4 is just as small.
  • Configure the settings of the Sony WF-1000XM4 using the Sony Headphones Connect app.

Other notable functions

The XM4 comes out of the case with 8 hours of listening time with activated noise cancellation and an additional battery life of 16 hours. If you turn noise cancellation off, you can even extend it to a total of 32 hours of listening time. Meanwhile, the XM3 and Airpods Pro float for around 30 hours and 28 hours, respectively.

Personally, I also noticed that the XM4 has better noise cancellation between the three, even better than the Airpods Pro. I have a fan that blows right in my face as I work, and the XM4 manages to neutralize most of the wind noise, while the Airpods Pro lets in some noise every now and then.

Unfortunately, the XM4 has one drawback that Sony has not been able to fully address. Call quality isn’t on par with the Airpods Pro, but it’s marginally better than the XM3.

Another annoyance with the XM4 is that it cannot be paired with multiple devices. It takes a while to unpair your phone and pair it with your PC. While the Airpods Pro can’t do this seamlessly either, you can quickly unpair and pair the headphones between Apple devices.

With our lives connected to devices now, it makes perfect sense for more brands to allow multipoint connections and this should be improved by Sony to increase adoption.

  • The change from the Sony WF-1000XM3 to the Sony WF-1000XM4 alone took a while.
  • Sony now also uses 99% paper packaging for its products.

Like the Apple Airpods Pro, the Sony WF-1000XM4 can also be charged wirelessly.

verdict

Personally, I’ll be using the Sony WF-1000XM4 as my favorite TWS (truly wireless) earbuds, even when I’m using an iPhone. Its music quality, battery life and noise cancellation sit on the base of the TWS earphones.

However, the price of RM 1,099 might put some people off. But if you want the best of the best, this is a worthy pickup truck. If in-ears are not your choice, the Sony WH-1000XM4, the headset version, is also worth a look.

Here are some specs for the geeks:

Sony WF-1000XM4 Sony WF-1000XM3 Apple Airpods Pro
price RM1.099 RM899 RM1.099
Battery life (buds) Up to 12 hours (NC off) Up to 8 hours (NC off) Up to 5 hours (NC off)
Battery life (housing) Up to 32 hours Up to 30 hours Up to 28 hours
Noise cancellation Active noise cancellation + ambient noise mode Active noise cancellation Active noise cancellation + transparency mode
Bluetooth 5.2 5.0 5.0
Audio codec SBC, AAC, LDAC SBC, AAC SBC, AAC
Wireless charging Yes sir no Yes sir
  • Find out more about the Sony WF-1000XM4 here.
  • Read more VP judgments here.

VP Verdict is a series in which we personally try and test products, services, fads and apps. Would you like to suggest something else to try? Leave a comment here or send the suggestion to our Facebook page.

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