I tried Apple's new AirPods Pro and Sony's popular 'AirPods killer' earbuds, and if you care about sound quality, the winner is clear
- Apple's latest AirPods Pro work for both iOS and Android devices, giving everyone a new option for wireless noise-canceling earbuds on top of the incumbent Sony WF-1000MXM3 earbuds.
- The AirPods Pro give iPhone users some extra features that Android users don't have access to. They also have a smaller case and wireless charging, and are sweat- and water-resistant.
- But the Sony WF-1000XM3 sound better, are better at noise-canceling, and have better battery life.
- Here's how to decide which earbuds are best for you.
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What's more, both sets of earbuds will work on both iOS and Android devices. At the end of the day, these things are Bluetooth earphones.
As you'd expect, AirPods Pro offer a few more features for iOS users that Android users don't get access to. Still, they offer a totally wireless, noise-canceling experience, even to Android users.
So which should you buy?
Well, that depends on a few things. I've listed a bunch of the most important aspects and features of these wireless earbuds and declared a winner in each category.
The best sound quality: Sony WF-1000XM3.
The AirPods Pro are good, but the Sonys sound richer, have more bass and more clarity, and are more impressive overall.
The best noise-cancellation: Sony WF-1000XM3.
The AirPods Pro have surprisingly good noise-cancellation that should sufficiently hush the world around you. If you should go for the AirPods Pro, you won't be unhappy.
But earbud to earbud, the Sonys do a slightly better job of silencing certain noises. They have an earplug design that helps dull unwanted sound.
The best battery life: Sony WF-1000XM3.
The Sony earbuds have about six hours of battery life with noise-cancellation versus the 4 1/2 hours on the AirPods Pro (also with noise-cancellation).
The most secure fit: Sony WF-1000XM3.
The AirPods Pro with an in-ear design are the first Apple earphones that actually fit my ear, but the Sonys' earplug design makes for a more secure fit.
The most comfortable fit: Apple AirPods Pro.
They're so light and comfortable that you can easily forget they're there.
The best for working out: Apple AirPods Pro.
The AirPods Pro are sweat- and water-resistant, while the Sonys are not, despite their more secure fit. Based on that feature alone, the AirPods Pro are better for working out.
Charging case: Apple AirPods Pro.
Sony's charging case is significantly larger than the AirPods Pro case and more difficult to slip into your pocket.
The AirPods Pro charging case also supports wireless charging, while the Sonys' chunky charging case doesn't.
Ease of use for iPhone users: Apple AirPods Pro.
All the controls and customisation features for the AirPods Pro are built into iOS; they're not available to Android users, as there's no official AirPods Pro app that Android users can download.
The AirPods Pro also have some extra features, like "Find AirPods," which lets you track a misplaced AirPod. They're compatible with Siri, if you use Apple's smart voice assistant. And AirPods Pro show their battery life only on iOS devices, not on Android ones.
Ease of use for Android users: Tie.
The Sonys have the best overall compatibility with both iOS and Android devices. They work like most Bluetooth earphones, and they also show you the battery life on Android devices.
The Sony Headphones app gives you a wide variety of controls and customisation for functions on the Sony earbuds on both ecosystems.
That said, there are some third-party apps that supposedly offer some Apple-like settings for Android devices.
Otherwise, while AirPods pair more seamlessly with iPhones, both pairs can work like regular Bluetooth earphones.
The best design: Up to you.
Unlike other aspects like sound quality and noise-cancellation, design is subjective, and I'm not going to tell you what design you like.
I can tell you that both earbuds are incredibly small, but the AirPods Pro design is iconic and more noticeable, and their white colour theme tells everyone around you that you spent about $250 (R1199). The Sonys are subtler.
The best price.
The final verdict: Anyone who values sound quality, whether they're on an iPhone or an Android, should choose the Sonys.
The AirPods Pro definitely give iPhone users a better overall experience. The sound is good enough, the noise-cancellation is great, the design is iconic, and the features are plentiful and unique to Apple's ecosystem.
And for fitness people, whether they're on Android or iOS, the AirPods Pro are the best bet: They're sweat- and water-resistant, while the Sonys aren't.
But iPhone users who want the best sound quality should opt for the Sony WF-1000XM3 earbuds. The sound quality is that good. The AirPods Pro sound better than regular AirPods, but I enjoyed my music more with the Sonys.
iPhone users who go for the Sonys may miss out on some features like easier pairing, "Find AirPods," and other little tidbits that makes the Apple ecosystem great. But at the end of the day, the Sonys are still Bluetooth headphones that connect to iPhones, and they offer significantly better sound quality.
As for Android users looking for an excellent pair of wireless noise-canceling earbuds, the Sonys are in a league of their own. That's partly because there aren't many other wireless noise-canceling earbuds out there to choose from, but also because the Sonys are so good.
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