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Sony WH-1000XM5 vs AirPods Max (2022): Comparing Top Of The Line ANC Headphones

Sony and Apple are on top of the ANC headphones world. The Sony WH-1000XM5 are the latest in Sony’s ANC headphones lineup and they are the successor to the well-received XM4. On the other hand, Apple has their highly successful AirPods Max. If you are looking to buy the best ANC headphones, which of these two should you go for? We compare them below to help you decide.

Sony WH-1000XM5 vs AirPods Max Comparison Chart

ModelSony WH-1000XM5 AirPods Max
PriceCheck Price Check Price
FeaturesDSEE Extreme
360 Reality Audio
Active noise cancelling
Transparency mode
Spatial Audio with dynamic head tracking
Active noise cancelling
Transparency mode
3.5mm jack
Bluetooth CodecsLDAC, SBC, AACSBC, AAC
AppSony Headphones ConnectiOS Interface
Battery Life30 hours20 hours
Quick Charging3 minutes for 3 hours of runtime5 minutes for 1.5 hours of runtime
Included AccessoriesCarrying case
Audio Cable
USB-C cable
Smart case
USB-C to Lightning cable
Color OptionsBlack, SilverSilver, Pink, Green, Sky Blue, Space Grey


The Sony WH-1000XM5 are more comfortable, but the AirPods Max are better built.

sony wh-1000xm5 vs airpods max design
The Sony WH-1000XM5 (left) and AirPods Max (right) have sleek and understated designs.

When it comes to aesthetics, you can’t go wrong with either as they both have modern, sleek and minimalist designs. The two headphones ditched the Y-shaped yokes in favor of a single part that connects the headband to the ear cups. The Sony WH-1000XM5 have a standard headband with plenty of padding whereas the AirPods Max have a more unusual knit webbing on the headband. Since they both have satin finishes, they look very premium. However, they are prone to getting scratched.

In the build quality department, the AirPods Max definitely have the advantage as they are made with aluminum and metal. Contrast to that, the Sony WH-1000XM5 are made of ABS plastic, so they don’t feel as premium. However, they weigh significantly less at only 250g. The AirPods Max weigh 384.8g in comparison.

Comfort-wise, the Sony WH-1000XM5 are slightly better. In addition to weighing less, their ear pads are made of memory foam with a leatherette cover. The headband is well padded, too. The AirPods Max also have comfortable ear pads but the headband mesh can cause discomfort after a while. The two metal pieces can push down on your head, creating points of pressure that can be uncomfortable.

You can get the Sony WH-1000XM5 in black and silver, whereas there are five color options for the AirPods Max—pink, silver, green, sky blue and space grey.

ANC & Features

Both offer great ANC performance, but the Sony WH-1000XM5 offer better compatibility with Android phones.

sony wh-1000xm5 vs airpods max anc & features
The Sony WH-1000XM5 (left) have touch and physical buttons for controls whereas the AirPods Max (right) only have physical onboard controls.

If you are thinking of getting either of these two headphones, then ANC is a major factor in your decision. Good news is that they are both excellent in this department, however, they do perform differently. The Sony WH-1000XM5 offer better passive noise cancellation and they can block out noise above 1000Hz better. They are better at blocking out chatter, street noise and the likes.

Meanwhile, the AirPods Max excel in blocking out noise in the lower frequency. Sounds such as engine and AC hum are attenuated better by the AirPods Max than the Sony WH-1000XM5. That said, both are excellent when it comes to ANC, with the AirPods Max having the better performance blocking out lower frequency sound and the Sony WH-1000XM5 cancelling higher frequency noise better.

You’ll need the Sony Headphones Connect if you want to make settings adjustment with the Sony WH-1000XM5. The app allows you to play with the EQ settings, remap controls and adjust the ANC settings. In contrast, the AirPods Max don’t have a companion app, and you can only make adjustments within the iOS and MacOS interface. As such, if you own an Android device and you pair it with the AirPods Max, you won’t have any way of customizing them, unless you have a MacOS device lying around.


Both sound alright out of the box, but you can EQ the Sony WH-1000XM5 to suit your sound preference better. The same can’t be said with the AirPods Max.

sony wh-1000xm5 vs airpods max sound
The slightly angled ear cups of the Sony WH-1000XM5 (left) can provide better comfort than the Apple AirPods Max (right).

The Sony WH-1000XM5 have a bass boosted sound profile with great mid and treble accuracy. The bass is boosted, particularly, the mid-bass, and this can result in a boomy and thumpy overall sound. Those are great if you love bass, however, they can also introduce muddiness to the sound since the bass can bleed into the mids. The mids are fairly flat with a mild boost in the low-mids. The treble range is accurate and this results in clear details and a “sparkly” sound.

Meanwhile, the AirPods Max have fairly flat bass and mids, but the treble is underemphasized. The result is a warm sound without exaggerated bass and forward mids, but lacking in detail due to the recessed highs. The AirPods Max can sound a bit dull and veiled due to the recessed highs, but they can also be easier to listen to since they won’t cause fatigue.

You can EQ the Sony WH-1000XM5 if you don’t like how they sound out of the box as the Sony Headphones Connect app has this feature. Unfortunately, you can’t do the same with the AirPods Max since Apple doesn’t include a way to adjust EQ settings within iOS and MacOS.

Battery and Connectivity

The Sony WH-1000XM5 have a longer battery life than the AirPods Max, and they also have a wired connectivity option.

sony wh-1000xm5 vs airpods max battery
The case of the Sony WH-1000XM5 (left) can actually protect the headphones whereas the case of the AirPods Max (right) can only prevent them from getting scratched up.

Battery life is another area where the Sony WH-1000XM5 perform better than the AirPods Max. You can get up to 30 hours of playback with the Sony WH-1000XM5 and that’s with ANC enabled. In addition to that, they don’t drain the battery when not in use. Meanwhile, the AirPods Max have a battery life of up to 20 hours with ANC enabled. When not in use, they enter a power saving mode, but that still drains the battery.

Both headphones have quick charging features. The Sony WH-1000XM5 can be charged for three minutes and this gives you up to three hours of music playback. The AirPods Max, on the other hand, can be quick charged for five minutes for an hour and a half of music playback.

As for connectivity, the Sony WH-1000XM5 offer both wireless and wired 3.5mm connection options. This versatility is great if you’re ever in a situation where the battery is drained and there’s no power outlet in sight. Meanwhile, the AirPods Max only have Bluetooth connectivity.


The Sony WH-1000XM5 are better than the AirPods Max in almost every area.

Sony WH-1000XM5

Better overall and cheaper

AirPods Max

Better build quality

The Sony WH-1000XM5 dominate the AirPods Max in a lot of key areas. They provide better comfort and out of the box, they sound better than the AirPods Max. Moreover, they offer better cross-compatibility, connectivity and battery life. If you don’t like how they sound, you have the option of playing with the EQ settings inside the Sony Headphones Connect app. ANC performance is comparable with the AirPods Max. The AirPods Max, meanwhile, beats the Sony when it comes to build quality due to their aluminum and metal build. But that’s about their only advantage here. They are also more expensive. If you are choosing between these two, the Sony WH-1000XM5 offer better value for your money.


๐Ÿ“Œ Are the Sony WH-1000XM5 worth it?

Yes, they are worth buying if you want top of the line ANC performance. They are much improved over the WH-1000XM4 when it comes to sound quality.

๐Ÿ“Œ Is Sony or Apple headphones better?

It depends on the models being compared, but in our comparison of the Sony WH-1000XM5 and AirPods Max above, the Sony headphones are better in almost every way.

๐Ÿ“Œ Can I use the AirPods Max with an Android phone?

You can use the AirPods Max with an Android device, but you won’t get access to many of their features and you won’t be able to fiddle and adjust most settings since they don’t come with a companion app for Android.

๐Ÿ“Œ Are Sony WH-1000XM5 sweat resistant?

They don’t have an IP rating for dust and water resistance, so it’s not clear if they are sweat resistatnt

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Carlo Salvador

Senior Editor at Compare Before Buying. Writer and researcher passionate about fitness, gaming and music.