Bose and Sony are two of the biggest names in Bluetooth headphones — and that also means the Bose QC45 and Sony WH-1000XM4 are two of the best flagship headphones currently on the market. For many people, wireless over-ear headphones are one of the best accessories to buy. They’re often capable of delivering great audio, active noise canceling, and long battery life. Whether someone plans on using them for working at home or frequent traveling, there’s a lot of value to be had from a gadget like this.
In that space, Bose and Sony stick out as two of the go-to brands. For the past few years, this was thanks to the massive success of the Bose QC35 II and Sony WH-1000XM3. Fast forward to 2021, and that battle continues with the two companies’ latest releases. The QC45 and 1000XM4 look very similar, have almost identical features, and are available for nearly the same price — $329 for Bose’s headphones and $349 for the Sony ones. Having trouble deciding which to buy? Let’s take a closer look at everything they bring to the table.
Design is a strong point regardless of which headphones someone chooses. Both are made out of plastic, have foldable hinges for easy portability, and come with a free carrying case that’s perfect for travel. Outside of some differing aesthetic choices, the only real functional difference is how playback controls are handled. Bose opted for physical buttons on the QC45 while Sony uses capacitive touch areas on the WH-1000XM4. Both work quite well, with this really coming down to a matter of personal preference. The tactility of real buttons is great to have on Bose’s headphones, but for folks who want their audio gear to look as sleek as possible, Sony’s touch controls also have a lot to offer.
Bose QC45 Vs. Sony WH-1000XM4 Features & Specs
Where Bose and Sony really start to set themselves apart is with the smart features they each bring to the table. Starting with the Bose QC45, users are treated to two listening modes — Quite Mode and Aware Mode. The former enables active noise cancellation to block out background sounds, whereas the former reverses the effect so folks can easily hear their surroundings while listening to their favorite songs. Bose also makes it a point to tout the strong microphone performance of the QC45.
The headphones tout four microphones over the three found on their predecessor, with Bose claiming they “isolate and focus on your voice, while a noise-rejecting algorithm filters out environmental sounds for clearer conversations.” Other feature highlights include the ability to pair up to two devices at once, along with a multi-function button that can trigger the native voice assistant on the phone the QC45 are paired with.
Moving back to the Sony WH-1000XM4, it quickly becomes clear that Sony justifies its higher price by cramming in a few extra features. Sony’s headphones also feature noise-canceling and aware/transparency modes, though it elevates the experience in a couple of important ways. If someone starts talking while wearing the WH-1000XM4, any playing audio automatically stops so the wearer can engage in a conversation without fiddling with the pause control. Sony also touts something called Quick Attention Mode, enabling someone to place their hand over the right ear cup to instantly hear their surroundings at any time.
The WH-1000XM4 further benefit from automatic wearing detection, customizable EQ settings, and built-in Google Assistant & Alexa — all things not found on the Bose QC45. And, finally, the WH-1000XM4 tout longer battery life. While the 24 hours of playback for the Bose QC45 is impressive, getting up to 30 hours on the Sony WH-1000XM4 is even better.
Bose got a lot right with the QC45. They look great, the ANC is better than the QC35 II that came before it, and the lower $329 asking price makes them a pretty decent value. For someone who wants high-end headphones but doesn’t want to go overboard with their spending, there’s a lot to like with Bose’s latest offering. Even so, it’s hard not to give the edge to Sony. The WH-1000XM4 tout longer battery and more smart features for about $20 extra. That’s not that much of a price increase, and for a lot of folks, things like automatic wearing detection and built-in Alexa will more than warrant the slightly higher price.