Bose, a noise cancellation pioneer and very popular manufacturer of premium headphones designed to quiet the noisy world around you, has a new competition. Sony has recently released a minor upgrade to the Sony MDR-1000X noise-cancelling headphones, addressing a build quality flaw that often resulted in the headband cracking near the hinges.
Best Noise Cancelling Headphone
|Sony||Sony Noise Cancelling Headphones WH1000XM2||349.99|
|Bose||Bose QuietComfort 35||349.00|
We have tested both the new Sony MDR-1000X ($349.99) and Bose’s premium noise cancelling headphones, the Bose QuietComfort 35 ($349.00), which many consider to be the very best noise cancelling offering on the market. The results of our comparison may surprise you, especially if you have experience with the QuietComfort 35 and consider their noise cancelling performance to be unbeatable.
Design and Build
The design of the Bose QuietComfort 35 hasn’t changed much over the years. After all, why change something that’s already timeless and works great? The main material the headphones are made from is a type of glass-filled nylon plastic, but the headband is reinforced with solid stainless steel to give it that extra durability that’s essential for everyday use. Alcantara automotive fabric, which is composed of about 68 percent polyester and 32 percent polyurethane, covers the headband, making it soft to the touch while increasing its durability and stain resistance. The memory-foam earpads are covered with artificial leather.
The Sony’s MDR-1000X feel more premium because of the large amount of exposed steel as well as the elegantly plain earcups with a soft finish. The first version of the MDR-1000X has quickly become infamous due to a serious build quality issue that often resulted in the headband cracking near the hinges. Fortunately, Sony has addressed this issue, and the latest version of the MDR-1000X should be rock-solid—it definitely seems that it is.
When it comes to listening comfort, the Bose QuietComfort 35 don’t clamp with nearly as much force as the Sony MDR-1000X. If you have a particularly large head, you may even find the clamping force of the MDR-1000X to be uncomfortable and frequent listening breaks to be necessary. On the other hand, the Bose QuietComfort 35 have very stiff headband padding, which may cause minor discomfort if not placed perfectly on the top of your head.
Winner: Tie. While the Sony MDR-1000X feels better made, the Bose QuietComfort 35 offer proven reliability and excellent long-term listening comfort.
Let’s put noise cancellation aside for a minute and focus on other features both the Bose QuietComfort 35 and the Sony MDR-1000X offer.
If you often listen to music at a low volume setting, you may have noticed that lows tend to disappear quicker than mids and highs. Because high frequencies are better reflected than low frequencies, low frequencies must be much more intense to sound equally as loud as higher frequency sounds. The QuietComfort 35 a solve this problem by featuring volume-optimized EQ, which ensures that you always get the same, consistent quality regardless of whether you’re playing at low volumes in a quiet office or at high volumes on a busy street.
The Bose QuietComfort 35 can be connected to the fittingly named Bose Connect app (available for iOS and Android) The app allows you to take control of your headphones, giving you the option to change the level of noise cancellation, switch between playback devices, and share the music playing on your smartphone with two Bose QuietComfort 35 headphones.
The Sony MDR-1000X also have a few tricks up their sleeve when it comes to intelligent sound optimization. Thanks to Sony’s Sense Engine, the headphones analyze your personal characteristics and wearing style, then optimize their sound for you. The MDR-1000X also feature three distinct listening modes: Voice mode, Normal mode, and Noise Cancellation mode. With Voice mode, you can listen to your music without distraction while still catching important announcements. Normal mode makes it possible to hear essential everyday sounds such as traffic while listening to your music in the background. Noise Cancellation mode is where you get to enjoy the full extent of the noise cancelling power of the MDR-1000X.
Another great feature of the MDR-1000X is the Digital Sound Enhancement Engine HX (DSEE HX), which upscales compressed digital music files (MP3, ACC, ATRAC and WMA) and takes them closer to the quality of High-Resolution Audio, as explained by Sony on its website. If you’re among those people who can’t stand wireless headphones because of the minor loss of sound quality that inevitably occurs because of the extra step your music has to take to reach your eardrums, the MDR-1000X may finally be the headphones that convince you that wireless has become good enough for high-fidelity listening.
Both headphones have over 20 hours of continuous playback on a charge, and the MDR-1000X can even reach 30 hours if you turn off the noise cancellation and keep the volume moderately low. They both charge over microUSB in a couple of hours.
Winner: Tie. Both headphones have plenty of high-end features that should satisfy the wants and needs of even the most demanding listeners. Unless you’re more of a tinkerer than a listener, we’re convinced that you won’t long for more.
For a long time, Bose was completely unchallenged when it came to noise cancellation. Leveraging decades’ worth of industry experience, the company has produced some of the best performing noise cancellation systems ever made, and the Bose QuietComfort 35 were no exception.
It took Sony several tries and failures, but the Sony MDR-1000X have finally managed to cancel even more outside noise than the QuietComfort 35 can. This is largely because the MDR-1000X mark the debut of Sony’s Sense Engine ANC engine, which not only adapts to the environment around you, but also to your own head and its unique shape.
In the real world, the MDR-1000X eliminate most low frequencies without even trying, and they do comparably well when it comes to mids and highs, which is quite an achievement. Of course, the QuietComfort 35 are great as well, just not as great as the MDR-1000X.
The noise cancelling performance alone would be enough to give the MDR-1000X an edge over the QuietComfort 35, but Sony has also significantly simplified how the noise cancellation is controlled. With the MDR-1000X, you can simply place your hand over the right earcup, and the headphones will play you sounds coming from outside, which comes in handy when you notice that somebody is trying to tell you something or when you’re about to cross to the other side of the street.
Winner: Sony MDR-1000X. There’s finally a pair of headphones that has managed to decisively beat the legendary Bose QuietComfort 35 when it comes to noise cancellation. Bravo, Sony.
Many lesser noise cancelling headphones fail to achieve a pleasant balance between noise cancellation and sound quality. Both the Bose QuietComfort 35 and the Sony MDR-1000X are different in this regard. Despite being the two most effective noise cancelling headphones on the market, they are also among the best sounding headphones in the price range.
Compared to the QuietComfort 35, the MDR-1000X have a warmer sound signature, which will appeal to those who listen to music for pure enjoyment, as opposed to analytic purposes. Their bass is punchy and delivered at the right time in the right amount, and both the mids and highs are natural and dynamic. Detail is abundant, and the sound of the MDR-1000X goes well with all music genres.
As we’ve already mentioned, the QuietComfort 35 use Bose’s proprietary Active EQ to dynamically adjust different frequency levels at different volume levels to make your music sound the same regardless of the volume level you listen at. Even though this feature works great for the most part, there are times when it gets in the way, and there’s absolutely no way how to turn it off.
If it wasn’t for this, it would be another tie. But as it is, we have no choice but to name the MDR-1000X the winner in terms of sound quality. High-end headphones should never take away the control like this from the listener, and we hope that Bose fixes this in the next iteration.
Winner: Sony MDR-1000X. Their sound is pleasantly warm, detailed, and music. Most importantly, they don’t tweak your music with no option to prevent them from doing so.
The Sony MDR-1000X clearly outperform the Bose QuietComfort 35 in the technical department, and they offer comparable sound quality. As such, we consider them to be the best noise cancelling headphones currently available. The build quality issue that plagues the original version has been eliminated, making the MDR-1000X excellent headphones for demanding listeners who are often on the go and don’t like to be disturbed when enjoying music.