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Sony WH-1000XM4 vs WH-1000XM3 Noise-Canceling Headphones (2021): Should You Upgrade?

Updated on 13 August 2020: The much-awaited successor to the highly-recommended Sony WH-1000XM3 is here. The XM3s have dominated the ANC headphones space since its launch in 2019. Now that the Sony WH-1000XM4s have been released, should you upgrade? How will the XM4 compare? We compare these Sony noise-canceling headphones in-depth to help you decide whether the XM4s are worth the wait.

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

ModelSony WH-1000XM4Sony WH-1000XM3
 Sony WH-1000XM4 Noise Cancelling Headphones
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at Walmart

Check Price

at Walmart

Dimensions3.03″ x 7.2″7 x 9.94″2.94โ€ณ x 7.31โ€ณ x 10.44โ€ณ
ProcessorHD Noise Canceling Processor QN1HD Noise Canceling Processor QN1
Edge AI DSEE ExtremeYesNo
Active Noise CancellationYesYes
ANC Levels33
Customizable EQYesYes
Runtime30 to 38 hoursUp to 30 hours
Quick Charging10 minutes for up to 5 hours more10 minutes for up to 5 hours more
Speak to ChatYesNo
Multi-Point PairingYesNo
Audio CodecsAAC, SBC, aptX, aptX HD, LDACAAC, SBC, aptX, aptX HD, LDAC
Touch ControlsYesYes
Voice ControlsYesYes
App ControlSony Headphones ConnectSony Headphones Connect
Color OptionsBlack, SilverBlack, Silver


The Sony WH-1000XM4 and WH-1000XM3 look almost identical

Which is which? It’s hard to tell the XM4s (top, middle) and the XM3s apart

The new WH-1000XM4s don’t look too different from the WH-1000XM3s. These headphones are designed with comfort and ergonomics in mind, and they did a great job. The earcups and headband of these Sony headphones are made of light material, they’re plush, and well-padded so wearing them for hours won’t pose a problem. With that said, the XM4s fared slightly better in terms of comfort. Their earcups are wider and plusher than the XM3s, albeit almost unnoticeable.

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

Noise Cancellation

Both have super active noise-cancelation, but the Sony WH-1000XM4s boast Edge-AI DSEE Extreme

Enjoy richer sound with the Sony WH-1000XM4s

The Sony WH-1000XM3s are one of the best noise-canceling headphones in the market, but that is until the release of the WH-1000XM4. Sonys’ unparalleled quality and top-notch noise-canceling features make the Japanese company’s premium headphones a worthy purchase. Both headphones are equipped with a dedicated HD Noise-Canceling Processor QN1 which guarantees consistent audio quality even with ANC on.

Both the Sony WH-1000XM4 and XM3 come with three ANC levels and boast 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 a plane) or letting the ambient noise through so you can hear your surroundings.

Sound Quality

The Sony WH-1000XM4s feature Edge AI, DSEE Extreme

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

Before the release of the WH-1000XM4s, everyone thought the new processor will be called Q2 which, as we now know, is not the case. No one guessed the XM4s Edge AI DSEE Extreme, which stands for Digital Sound Enhancement Engine Extreme. This upgrade allows the XM4s to improve the quality of compressed music files automatically. What this means for us listeners is wider sound separation and more detailed notes.

If you turn the ANC on, you’ll notice that the default Sony settings can be heavy on the bass. Some like this 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.

Deal Finder
Sony WH-1000XM3 ANC Headphones
Sony's flagship noise-canceling headphones

Whether you're working from home or flying on a plane, the Sony WH-1000XM3's topnotch ANC won't disappoint.

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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. Thankfully, the same is not the case with the WH-1000XM4s that are equipped with five microphones that deliver clear audio calls even when you’re in a loud environment.

Set up and Controls

Both the Sony WH-1000XM4 and WH-1000XM3 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. In terms of connectivity, the WH-1000XM4 can do more with its Bluetooth 5.0, an upgrade from the Bluetooth 4.2 found in the WH-1000XM3. Unlike the XM3s, the XM4s support multi-point pairing.

Their touch-responsive earcups let you can manage tracks, adjust volume, and activate your voice assistant. They come with a built-in Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, but the XM4s allow completely hands-free voice-assistant activation through their “Speak to Chat” feature. As for the WH-XM3s, you need to touch and hold a button on the right earcup to activate Alexa or Google Assistant.

Additional Features

Both headphones feature a Quick Attention mode and impressive battery life

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

Sony did an impressive job with the battery life of the WH-1000XM4s and XM3s. The XM3s 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. Meanwhile, the XM4s boast a runtime of 30 to 38 hours, depending on how heavy you use the ANC. A quick 10-minute charge can give up to 5 hours of extra juice.

One of many users favorite features on these Sony headphones is their Quick Attention mode. With a gentle tap on their right earcup, you can hear your surroundings again.


Now’s a great time to get the Sony WH-1000XM3s

Deal Finder
Sony WH-1000XM3 ANC Headphones
Sony's flagship noise-canceling headphones

Whether you're working from home or flying on a plane, the Sony WH-1000XM3's topnotch ANC won't disappoint.

Check Price on Walmart Check Price on Amazon
We are reader supported. When you buy through our links we may earn an affiliate commission.

Whichever you choose, you’ll end up with impressive noise-cancelling headphones. Sony clearly listened to its fans’ feedback and applied them to the WH-1000XM4s. However, its new features don’t merit an upgrade from the top-rated WH-1000XM3 noise-cancelling headphones. Moreover, you can snag a pair of the XM3s for a much lower price now that a newer pair has been released. If you’re only getting your new pair, however, the XM4s are clearly the better choice.


๐Ÿ“Œ What is the difference between Sony WH-1000XM3 and WH-1000XM4?

The newer Sony WH-1000XM4 has Edge AI DSEE Extreme, multi-point pairing, improved microphones and Bluetooth 5.0 compared to the version 4.2 of the Sony WH-1000XM3.

๐Ÿ“Œ Are Sony WH 1000XM3 worth it?

Yes, the Sony WH-1000XM3 headphones are one of the best ANC headphones you can get, and it should be available at lower prices now that the WH-1000XM4 is out.

๐Ÿ“Œ Is noise cancelling safe?

Yes, there’s no health risk in using headphones with active noise cancellation.

๐Ÿ“Œ Will there be a Sony WH-1000XM4?

Yes, the Sony WH-1000XM4 was released in August 2020.

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Rhodaline Escala-Phelps

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