Sony WH-1000XM3 vs. Bose QuietComfort 35 II

Sam-SoundGear | Last Updated On August 31st, 2021 | This post may contain affiliate links.

If you are in the market for an active noise canceling headphone, the Sony WH-1000X M3 and Bose QuietComfort 35 II (Bose QC35 II) currently stand in the market as the best noise canceling headphones.

The Bose Quiet Comfort series has long been the best in noise cancellation. Their latest addition, Bose QC35 II, is widely regarded as the best in the industry. With Sony, the WH-1000X M3 might not come in a fancy name. However, the new QN1 noise canceling chipset and improved battery life makes the Sony WH-1000X M3 a worthy competitor to the Bose QC35 II.

While both of them come at a virtually-identical price, how do you decide which headphone is right for you? In this article we break down the design, comfort and fit, Noise canceling performance, hardware and software and lastly the sound quality of these two headphones.

Sony WH-1000xM3 vs Bose QC35 II: Specs Compared

Sony WH-1000XM3 Bose QuietComfort 35 II
SENSITIVITY 103dB Unknown
IMPEDANCE Unknown Unknown
BATTERY LIFE 30 hours 20 hours
SMART ASSIST Google, Siri, Alexa Google, Alexa
COLORS Black and White Black, Silver and Rose gold
SIZE 10.4 H x 2.9 W x 7.3 inches 7.1 x 6.7 x 3.2 inches
WEIGHT 9 ounces 8.2 ounces
WHERE TO BUY Available on Amazon Available on Amazon

Looks and Build Quality

Both of these headphones are made primarily out of plastic. Their designs feature memory foam padded earpads and earcups that swivel and fold for storage. The overall build quality of both these headphones is excellent, none creaks under pressure, and both look great.

Bose QuietComfort 35 II design and build quality

Bose QuietComfort 35 II

Bose has retained the original design of the QC35 in the Bose QuietComfort 35 IIs. While their oval-shaped cups have become widespread, it does not mean their design is terrible. Far from that, their build quality gives the headphone a sturdy build. The leather padded headband and soft earcups add a premium feel to the headphone. The Bose QC35 II is available in black, silver and rose gold.

SONY Wireless Noise Canceling WH-1000XM3 design and build quality

SONY Wireless Noise Canceling WH-1000XM3

With an updated design from the previous Sony WH-1000X M2, the WH-1000XM3 doesn’t feel premium. However, while the build quality is less exciting than what we had envisioned, the headphone is sturdy and can stand being thrown into a bag. Despite the WH-1000XM3 clunky feel, the headphone is light enough to be worn for without causing discomfort.

Overall, the design of the Bose QC35 II is robust and sturdy. The Build quality of both headphones is top notch; however, the Bose comes out as the best in design by casting off flash and flare. The headphone’s design works with just about everyone.

Winner: Bose QuietComfort 35 II

Controls

button controls on the Bose QC35 II

While the button controls on the Bose QC35 II are antiquated compared to the WH-1000X M3, they are sensible, tactile and well laid out. On the right earcup, there are a set of controls, i.e. power/paring switch and on the bezel of the earcup, you will find the volume and play/ pause buttons. The main feature of the headphone can be accessed from the left earcup: a big button that activates active noise cancellation modes.

Sony WH-1000X M3 buttons on right earcup

With the Sony WH-1000X M3, almost everything is done via the touch on the outside of the right earcup. While touch controls be a little headache on headphones, the touch panel of the WH-1000X M3is very responsive and performs seamlessly. By tapping the sensor you can control playback and calls, swiping up/ down for the volume and lastly forward or backward for track navigation. On the bezel of the earcup, there are two physical buttons a power button and another labeled NC/Ambient which controls active noise cancellation and when held down activates voice assistant.

Overall, while Bose does very good with their control’s placement, it is very hard to overlook Sony WH-1000X M3’s touch controls.

Winner: Sony WH-1000X M3

Battery Life

Quick question, Which sounds better: 30 hours of playtime or 20 hours?

The latter represents the Bose QC35 II battery life. While we achieved close to the 20 hours battery life advertised by Bose, this could not match the over 28 hour’s playback time we got from the Sony WH-1000X M3. The Bose QC35 II matches up with most wireless headphones in the market with their battery life. However, active noise cancellation gives this headphone a very high boost. But, if you disable noise cancellation and active EQ, you can get a playback time of up to 40 hours. With quick-charging and a micro USB support, you can get up to 3 hours playback time on a 15-minute charge.

The Sony WH-1000X M3 is nothing short of impressive with its battery life. The battery life allows up to slightly over 28 hours of playback time when active noise cancellation is turned on. Having a USB-C charging port also makes charging a breeze. For a 5 minute charge, you can achieve up to 5 hours playback time.

Winner: Sony WH-1000X M3

The headband of the WH-1000X M3 comes with a good level of flex, and while the headphone is bulkier than the Bose QC35 II, the comfort is good. The earpads of the Sony WH-1000XM3 are better padded and plusher. However, the Bose QuietComfort 35 II is lighter and has a small clamping force. Because of this, the Bose QC35 II ranks in the market as one of the most comfortable headphones available. We used it for several hours at a time and did not feel fatigued. If you use headphones for long sessions, we would recommend the Bose QC35 II. However, the WH-1000X M3 is also a great alternative.

Winner: Bose QuietComfort 35 II

Unlike wired headphones, wireless/ Bluetooth headphones depend on their connection quality to deliver seamless audio quality to a user. With that said, when it comes to both the Sony WH-1000X M3 and the Bose QC35II, you cannot go wrong in choosing either. However, these two have a few differences you should be aware of.

HEADPHONE BLUETOOTH CODECS WIRED CONNECTION CONTROLS CHARGE PORT WEIGHT
Sony WH-1000XM3 AAC, SBC, aptX, aptX HD, LDAC Yes Touch gestures USB-C 255g
Bose QuietComfort
35 II
SBC, AAC Yes Physical buttons microUSB 234g

From the table above, the Sony WH-1000X M3 clearly display their superiority in technology over the Bose QC35 II. First, the Sony WH-1000X M3 supports up to five Bluetooth codecs, AAC, SBC, aptX, aptX HD and LDAC. With Codecs like aptX, aptX HD and LDAC (Read more about these Bluetooth Codecs), high-quality audio is streamed or played more efficiently than the popular SBC and AAC codecs.

Both headphones have inbuilt controls; however, both have different technologies behind them. The Bose QC35 II uses physical buttons and a slider. The WH-1000X M3, on the other hand, uses a touchpad on the right earcup to give users control. By drawing a series of gestures, you can skip tracks, adjust volume, play/pause or access voice assistant.

the Sony WH-1000X M3 is equipped with a USB-C port

Sony WH-1000X M3 with a USB-C port

Another difference hard to overlook is the charging port of both these two headphones. As you can see, the Sony WH-1000X M3 is equipped with a USB-C port while the Bose QC35 II features a micro USB. The USB-C also known as USB 3.1 is the latest USB version and some of its advantages include higher data transfer speeds, multi-interface handling, reversible connector, and better reliability and most importantly higher power handling which means you can charge the headphone faster in a short period of time.

Winner: Sony WH-1000X M3

App

With the amount of technology packed into these two headphones, physical controls are never enough. Both the Bose QC35 II and Sony WH-1000X M3 come with their own companion apps. Both Bose Connect and Sony’s Headphones Connect allow a user to adjust active noise cancellation, playback controls, and auto-off timers.

However, Sony’s Headphone Connect provides more features. Some of the functions we liked are the ability to set different modes for seated listening, walking, running and public transport. You can also play with the EQ or do things like setting club and Arena filters.

Bose Connect

Bose lacks a ton of features, but it also has some unique ones. A feature such as Music Share lets you share music from the same playback device with two pairs of Bose headphones. However, the Bose connect still lacks enough features to compete with Sony’s Headphone Connect.

Winner: Sony WH-1000X M3

When it comes to Active noise cancellation, both these headphones perform well. While Sony has made significant and bigger strides with its active noise cancellation technology, our tests show the Bose QC35 II as the best noise canceling headphone. If you travel a lot, whether, on a train, plane or bus and you want to block out the outside world, The QC35 II should be your number one pick.

Bose QuietComfort 35 II active noise cancellation

 

Active noise cancellation works by capturing noise or ambient sounds from the environment using tiny microphones in the headphone and using a process called phase cancellation to get rid of the unwanted sound from reaching your ears. You can read more here. Bose has programmed the QC35II with two active noise canceling modes. These are Low and High. Both these modes are very efficient at blocking out noise, but they are suited for different listening occasions. The low mode is effective in quieter environments while the high mode is the best, by effectively blocking out even low pitched sounds like an airplane or car engine rumbles.

Sony Noise Cancelling Headphones WH1000XM3 active noise cancellation

The Sony WH-1000X M3 does a good job of canceling ambient noise; however, they are not as good and thorough as the competition. In our test, the WH-1000X M3 reduces Engine rumbles effectively, but people’s voices can still be heard from afar.

Winner: Bose QuietComfort 35 II

Just like Bose knows its way around noise cancellation, Sony knows sound better, so you should not be surprised which of the two will get to walk with a win in this round.

The WH-1000X M3 boasts a tight and punchy bass that is full of energy, warm and engaging. While noise canceling is said to affect the sound quality particularly the bass, it has minimal effect on the bass of the WH-1000X M3. The bass lacks distortion and does not change the other sound signatures. Vocals are far better than I expected them to be while the soundstage is good for a closed-back headphone. Overall, the WH-1000MXM3 reproduces slightly better mids and highs than the Bose QC35II.

Bose boosts in making one of the best noise canceling hardware in the market. However, they too cannot get past the effects active noise cancellation has on the sound quality. The bass dominates much of the QC35 II’s overall sound signature. The bass feels impactful but lacks the energy that comes with the WH-1000XM3. The mids and treble are reasonably decent, and elements such as acoustic guitars and vocals sound fell precise and clear. The Bose QC35 II also gets loud without the sound feeling distorted. Overall, despite the small problems in the bass, I enjoyed the music coming from this headphone.

Winner: Sony WH-1000X M3

Microphone Call quality

The call quality of the WH-1000XM3s is not as perfect as it should be. Though it is still acceptable, the mics struggle a little with background noise interference. The volume of the voice over the call is also low. However, when using the headphone for calls, we had n problem being understood or understanding what was communicated.

With the QC35 II, Bose has done well to keep the call quality solid. The active noise cancellation does a great job of blocking unwanted noise and also giving out clear vocals whether at home or outdoors. The volume is decent, and you will hear everything clearly without any problems.

Winner: Bose QuietComfort 35 II

Should you buy the Sony WH-1000X M3 or the Bose QC35 II?

Choosing between the Sony WH-1000X M3 vs. Bose QC35 II comes down to your preferences. Both cost about the same price, but each has its strengths.

For a summary, if you Travel a lot and need a comfortable headphone with top-notch active noise cancellation, the Bose QuietComfort 35 II should be your best pick. However, if you do not travel a lot and you want a headphone with better sound quality and battery life, the Sony WH-1000X M3 should be your pick. Beyond that, the choice comes down to details, and both these headphones are extraordinary in their own ways.

See the Bose QuietComfort 35 II  See the Sony WH-1000X M3