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AirPods Studio vs Sony WH-1000XM3 (2021): Can Apple’s Rumored Over-Ear Headphones Compare?

The Sony WH-1000XM3 has consistently been topping best wireless headphones lists since they launched, and with good reason too. For starters, they have superb active noise cancellation or ANC. Couple that with excellent sound quality and you’ve got yourself a winning combination.

They could face off with a new contender, though. Apple is rumored to be cooking up a worthy rival: the AirPods Studio, its first over-ear headphones. However, it won’t be easy for the Cupertino brand. It’s going to have to beat Sony’s cans on several fronts, from sound quality to noise cancellation, two of which the WH-1000XM3 really deliver on. Based on rumors from multiple sources, we compare what we know so far about the AirPods Studio to the WH-1000XM3. We’re also taking a look at what Apple has to bring to the table to win.

AirPods Studio vs Sony WH-1000XM3 Comparison Chart

Model AirPods Studio Sony WH-1000XM3
  n/a Amazon product
Price $349 Amazon product
Frequency Response n/a 4 Hz – 40 kHz
Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) Yes Yes
Transparency Mode/Ambient Sound Mode Yes Yes
Battery Life n/a Up to 38 hours
Quick Charging n/a 10 minutes for up to 5 hours
Connectivity Bluetooth 5.0 (or newer) Bluetooth 4.2, 3.5mm cable
Controls Touch, Voice Touch, Voice
Water Resistance n/a n/a
Release Date 2020 2018
Colors Black, White Black, Silver

Sound Quality

As their name may suggest, the AirPods Studio could be aiming for studio-quality audio.

AirPods Studio vs Sony WH-1000XM3 Sound Quality
It’ll be tough to outdo the WH-1000XM3 (in photo) when it comes to audio quality.

Sony did a bang-up job with the WH-1000XM3’s audio performance. While they’re not exactly what audiophiles are looking for, they deliver a full-bodied sound with clear voices backed by deep, resonating bass. All in all, they provide a rich listening experience.

Putting things into perspective, Apple has a mountain to climb if it wants to blow them out of the water with its AirPods Studio. In other words, the same level of quality as the AirPods Pro just won’t cut it.

There’s still no word on how the AirPods Studio’s sound will turn out to be, but according to rumors, they’ll have a custom equalizer. It’s said to be accessible once you’ve paired them with a macOS or iOS device and offer low-, medium-, and high-frequency adjustments.

Noise Cancellation

Just like the AirPods Pro, the AirPods Studio are expected to have ANC and Transparency mode.

AirPods Studio vs Sony WH-1000XM3 Noise Cancellation


The WH-1000XM3 (in photo) are arguably the best well-rounded noise-canceling headphones on the market right now.

In terms of noise cancellation, the WH-1000XM3 are among the best of the best. That’s because their noise-canceling prowess are hard to top. Put simply, you’ll barely hear any outside sound when you’ve got them on—with ANC on, of course.

If the AirPods Pro’s ANC is any indication, then it’s safe to expect that the AirPods Studio will deliver decent results. There’s a good chance they’ll even do better. After all, over-ear headphones tend to have superior passive noise cancellation because of their padded ear cups. It’s also likely they’ll have Transparency mode as well, for the record.

Battery Life

The AirPods Studio will need at least 30 hours of battery life to hold a candle to the WH-1000XM3.

AirPods Studio vs Sony WH-1000XM3 Battery LifeThe WH-1000XM3 can go up to 38 hours on a single charge.

One of the advantages wireless headphones have over true wireless earbuds is a longer battery life. And Sony made sure the WH-1000XM3 can last you a whole day, as they can go up to 30 hours or 38 hours with ANC off.

Those numbers are definitely above average, but those certainly aren’t the upper limit. Case in point, the Marshall Monitor II ANC can last up to 45 hours per charge. The takeaway here is it’s not impossible to go further than the WH-1000XM3’s battery life.

At that, Apple could take this opportunity to beat Sony. In short, it could cram a sizable battery pack into the AirPods Studio and a power-efficient processor such as the H1 chip or something newer. For the uninitiated, the H1 processor is what powers the AirPods Pro, giving it an improved battery life, hands-free Siri support, and fast pairing (more on that in a bit).


The word in town is the AirPods Studio will either have the same H1 chip as the AirPods Pro or a newer version.

AirPods Studio vs Sony WH-1000XM3 Connectivity
The WH-1000XM3 (in photo) can be used wired or wirelessly.

Besides a connection via Bluetooth, you can use the WH-1000XM3 with a 3.5 mm cable. Talk about flexibility. That would be nice to see on the AirPods Studio too. If Apple is going to tout them as studio-quality cans, they’ll really need to offer that option or aptX HD support at the very least.

In terms of wireless connectivity, the WH-1000XM3 has Bluetooth 4.2. The AirPods Pro already wins this round with their Bluetooth 5.0. To put two and two together, the AirPods Studio will likely have the same version or later.

Speaking of similarities, the AirPods Studio are expected to be powered by Apple’s H1 chip or something better. To spell things out, that means fast pairing speeds.


The AirPods Studio are rumored to pack sensors for head and neck detection.

AirPods Studio vs Sony WH-1000XM3 Features
Nifty features such as Quick Attention make the WH-1000XM3 (in photo) stand out.

Just about everybody knows by now that the WH-1000XM3 has a lot to offer, from Sound Position Control to Adaptive Sound Control. They even have something called Quick Attention: place your hand over the cup to reduce the volume in a snap.

Apple isn’t one to be left behind when it comes to clever features. Rumor has it that the AirPods Studio will have head and neck detection so they’ll know where you’re wearing them. It’s easy to imagine what it’s likely for. The cans will probably pause audio content when you place them around your neck, for instance.

That’s not all either. The AirPods Studio are also said to automatically route audio channels. That means they’ll be able to tell your left ear from your right and adjust accordingly. Put differently, there’s no right or wrong way to put them on.


The AirPods Studio’s price point will determine their direct competitors.

AirPods Studio vs Sony WH-1000XM3 Pricing
If the rumors turn out to be true, the AirPods Studio will have the same price tag as the WH-1000XM3 (in photo).

It’s said that the AirPods Studio will be priced at $349. If that’s the case, then they’ll cost the same as the WH-1000XM3, putting them in direct competition against each other.

However, the AirPods Studio’s pricing isn’t set in stone just yet. Apple could win on this front if it manages to undercut the WH-1000XM3.


If you want a pair of over-ear headphones with the Apple branding, then it’s worth it to wait and see.

Amazon product

You can’t go wrong with the WH-1000XM3. They’ve got excellent sound quality, a long battery life, top-notch ANC, and features to match.

However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider waiting for the AirPods Studio. Assuming they’re the real deal, they could be a good alternative to the WH-1000XM3. That goes double if you’re already in the Apple ecosystem.

Still, all we’ve got to work with are rumors here, so it’s unclear how the AirPods Studio will turn out or if they’ll even launch in the near future at all. If you’re not one to believe hearsay, then the WH-1000XM3 are your best bet.


📌 Will Apple release new AirPods in 2020?

Apple is rumored to launch the new AirPods 3, AirPods Pro Lite, and AirPods Studio soon. Some say they’ll be available sometime in September or fall, but others say they’ll be out in early 2021.

📌 Are the Sony WH-1000XM3 worth it?

Yes. You get fantastic active noise cancellation or ANC and excellent sound quality on the WH-1000XM3. They also have a long battery life and features such as Quick Attention, which lets you lower volume by simply placing your hand over the cup.

📌 Are the AirPods Studio worth waiting for?

Yes. The AirPods Studio are worth the wait, especially if you’re in the Apple ecosystem. However, it’s unclear how long that’ll be.

📌 What’s the difference between the AirPods Studio and Sony WH-1000XM3?

Based on rumors, the AirPods Studio will have unique features such as head and neck detection and automatic audio channel routing. They’re also said to have at least Bluetooth 5.0, while the WH-1000XM3 have the older Bluetooth 4.2.

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Vincent Lanaria

Senior Editor, researcher and writer passionate about running, cooking, and how technology mixes with the two.