Sony WH-1000XM4 vs WH-1000XM3 Noise-Canceling Headphones (2020): Should You Upgrade?

Leaked Sony FCC filings reveal the upcoming Sony headphones may be called Sony WH-1000XM4. As they the successor of the highly-recommended Sony WH-1000XM3, this model name is highly likely. The XM3s have dominated the ANC headphones space since its launch in 2019. How will the XM4 compare? We collate what we know so far to see whether you should get the Sony WH-1000XM3 or wait for the Sony WH-1000XM4.

Sony WH-1000XM4 vs WH-1000XM3 Noise-Canceling Headphones Comparison Chart

ModelSony WH-1000XM4Sony WH-1000XM3
Leaked photo by Everton Favretto
Sony Noise Cancelling Headphones WH1000XM3: Wireless Bluetooth Over the Ear Headset with Mic for... 
PriceTBACheck Price on Amazon 
Dimensions~2.94″ x 7.31″ x 10.44″2.94″ x 7.31″ x 10.44″
Active Noise CancellationYesYes
ANC LevelsTBA3
Customizable EQYesYes
Runtime~40 to 50 hoursUp to 30 hours
Quick Charging~10 minutes for up to 4 to 5 hours10 minutes for up to 5 hours more
Wireless ChargingTBANo
Multi-Point PairingMore likelyNo
Audio CodecsAAC, SBC, aptX, aptX HD, LDACAAC, SBC, aptX, aptX HD, LDAC
Touch ControlsYesYes
Voice ControlsYesYes
App ControlSony Headphones ConnectSony Headphones Connect
Speak to ChatYesNo
Color OptionsTBABlack, Silver


The rumored Sony WH-1000XM4 sport a similar design as the WH-1000XM3

Leaked photos of the XM4s (left) released by Everton Favretto show they will have the same foldable design as the XM3s

While no official photos of the WH-1000XM4 have been released yet, the leaked photos for Sony’s FCC filings reveal that they won’t look too different from the WH-1000XM3s. Sony’s WH-1000XM3 is designed with comfort and ergonomics in mind, and they did a great job.

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The earcups and headband of the XM3 are made of light material, plush, and well-padded so wearing them for hours won’t pose a problem. Many users did wish that Sony would make the earcups wider as the XM3s can feel cramped for some. The leaked photos show the earcups of the XM4 look bigger, but we’ll find out just how more comfortable they are once Sony releases the WH-1000XM4 this year.

Even though the Sony noise-cancelling headphones may be bulkier than other headphones in its class, their inward-folding earcups make them more portable than they look. The stylish carrying case included with the headphones is also portable and compact.

Noise Cancellation

The active noise-cancellation of the Sony WH-1000XM3 is superb, and we can expect the same, if not better, from the upcoming Sony WH-1000XM4

Sony wh-1000xm4 Vs wh-1000xm3
With three ANC levels, the Sony WH-1000XM3s let you completely block off the sound or hear the ambient noise

The Sony WH-1000XM3 are one of the best noise-canceling headphones in the market today. Its unparalleled quality and top-notch noise-canceling features make these Sony headphones a worthy purchase. The XM3s are equipped with a dedicated HD Noise-Canceling Processor QN1. This guarantees consistent audio quality even with ANC on.

While the leaked document on the Sony WH-1000XM4 doesn’t say anything about its noise-canceling feature, the headphones on the horizon will offer active noise-cancellation upgrades. Whether the XM4 will come with an upgraded “QN2” HD Noise-Canceling Processor can only be confirmed once they’re launched.

The Sony WH-1000XM3 come with three ANC levels and boasts Adaptive Sound Control that detects your ambient sound and adjusts noise-cancellation accordingly. Their ANC levels range from blocking off the vehicle sound (such as the hum of the plane) or letting the ambient noise through so you can hear your surroundings.

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Sound Quality

The Sony WH-1000XM3 noise-canceling headphones offer EQ customization and the WH-1000XM4 will highly likely offer the same

Sony wh-1000xm4 Vs wh-1000xm3
Sony’s customizable EQ settings give you a versatile sound profile

If you turn the ANC on, you’ll notice that the default Sony settings can be heavy on the bass. Some like it while some prefer a more neutral sound signature. What’s impressive about the Sony WH-1000XM4 and WH-1000XM3 though is their app allows EQ customization. You can play with the EQ settings to achieve the sound profile that you like.

Where the Sony WH-1000XM3 is wanting is in its microphone system. Users have complained about the sound being muffled when used for voice calls. Hopefully, the same won’t be the case for the WH-1000XM4.

Set up and Controls

Both the Sony WH-1000XM4 and WH-1000XM3 will have app, voice, and touch controls

Their touch controls are housed in their earcups

Pairing your device with the Sony noise-cancelling headphones is an easy, straightforward process. It pretty much only requires downloading the Sony Headphones Connect app and following the on-screen instructions. The leaked documents of the Sony WH-1000XM4 released by Everton Favretto reveal they will come with Bluetooth 5.0, an upgrade from the Bluetooth 4.2 found in the WH-1000XM3.

You can manage tracks, adjust volume, and activate your voice assistant either through the Sony app or the responsive touch controls housed in their earcups. The WH-XM3s come with a built-in Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, and the same can be expected from the WH-1000XM4.

Another detail we learned from the leaked document on the WH-XM4 is the “Speak to Chat” feature. This more likely means you can activate your smart assistant simply by speaking, unlike with the WH-XM3s where you need to touch and hold a point on the right earcup to activate Alexa or Google Assistant.

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Additional Features

The Sony WH-1000XM3 comes with a Quick Attention mode while the upcoming WH-1000XM4 may feature multi-point pairing

Sony WH-1000XM3 Quick Attention mode
Sony’s Quick Attention mode is activated when you lightly touch the right earcup

An important feature many users have been asking from Sony is the multi-point pairing connectivity as the WH-1000XM3 noise cancelling headphones don’t come with this. Since the upcoming WH-1000XM4 may use Bluetooth 5.0, it is highly likely that multi-point pairing connectivity will be available in the WH-XM4s.

Sony did an impressive job with the battery life of the WH-1000XM3. These headphones can be used for up to 30 hours on one full charge and a quick charge of 10 minutes can give you up to 3.5 hours more of playtime.

It is safe to assume that the battery life of the WH-1000XM4 will be around 40 to 50 hours. A quick 10-minute charge will more like give around 4 to 5 hours of extra juice. As more and more devices use battery-efficient drivers and processors to deliver longer usage hours, Sony will more likely do the same. These are only educated guesses gleaning from the XM4’s predecessors, but the exact runtime can only be confirmed on their release.


Getting the Sony WH-1000XM3 right now will give you your money’s worth

As it is still unknown exactly when Sony will launch the WH-1000XM4, getting the highly-rated WH-1000XM3 headphones is a good call. Their superb noise cancellation, top-notch audio quality, customizable EQ, and comfortable fit make them a worthy purchase while waiting for an upgrade. Also, the XM3s have recently seen significant discounts from top retailers like Amazon. At the time of writing, they are cheaper by 70 USD compared to their launch price.

Last update on 2020-05-26 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Rhodaline Escala-Phelps
Rhodaline Escala-Phelps

Managing Editor and Team Leader at Compare Before Buying. Writer and researcher passionate about people, product comparisons, culture, and current events.