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Sony WH-1000XM4 wireless headphones: will this be the biggest headphone launch of 2020?

We examine how Sony’s new noise-cancelling headphones measure up to big-name rivals like the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700

Sony WH-1000XM4 wireless headphones: will this be the biggest headphone launch of 2020?

Sony claims its new wireless, noise-cancelling WH-1000XM4 over-ear headphones are ‘industry-leading’. And, on paper, at least, the specs impress.

These over-ear headphones have an impressive claimed battery life of up to 30 hours and work with Siri, Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa.

If you’re a fan of immersive sound while you’re on the go, these could be a good option.

Sony says its new headphones offer its ‘best ever noise cancelling performance, reducing high and mid frequency sounds’, through the use of multiple microphones and new algorithms that apply real-time noise cancelling processing.

In essence, the noise cancelling adjusts to the noises around you at any given moment, so you can hear your music better.

With a recommended retail price of £350, they’re pricier than their nearest rival – the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 – but does this mean they’re better?

Head to our reviews of the best noise-cancelling headphones

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Sony WH-1000XM4 vs Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700

The table below summarises the key features and tech specs of these two popular sets of headphones.

Sony WH-1000XM4 Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700
Type Over-ear Over-ear
Weight 254g 262g
Claimed battery life 30 hours 20 hours
Adaptive noise cancelling Yes Yes
Smart voice assistant Siri, Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa Siri, Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa
Bluetooth connectivity Pair with up to two devices Pair with one device
Additional features Atmospheric pressure optimiser, Speak-to-chat Conversation mode
Audio cable Yes Yes
Fully foldable Yes No
Price £350 £264

Sony WH-1000XM4, RRP £350

From what we know so far, these latest Sony headphones will be much the same as the WH-1000XM3 (more on this below), with some added extras.

Like its predecessor, this set of headphones is operated by touch controls and has the option to adjust the level of ambient sound, depending on how much of the outside world you want to let in.

You can also link up the headphones to your Siri, Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa for hands-free voice control.

It has Speak-to-chat, which automatically pauses your music when you’re talking, so you don’t do that awkward shouty thing when someone speaks to you.

It also has an atmostpheric pressure optimiser, which alters the sound when you’re at high altitude, such as on an plane.

It can be paired with two Bluetooth devices at the same time and there will be two colour options on offer: black and silver.

Look out for our review of the Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones, including whether the sound quality, noise cancelling and battery life live up to expectations, once we’ve had results back from our laboratory in mid-September 2020.

Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, £264

Bose Noise cancelling 700 headphones

This Bose model has similar features to the Sony headphones, but with a shorter battery life (Bose claims up to 20 hours), and they weigh slightly more. They’re not fully foldable either (though the ear cups do fold flat).

Like the Sony headphones, these Bose headphones have voice assistant technology for Siri, Google and Alexa.

There’s also conversation mode, which is similar to the Speak-to-chat feature on the Sony headphones.

Head to our review of the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 to find out how they performed in our tough audio tests – and how good their noise cancelling capabilities really are.

Is now the time to buy the Sony WH-1000XM3 headphones?

Sony’s new launch is the next generation of the Sony WH-1000XM3, which we tested back in October 2018.

The XM3s are currently cheaper than their Bose rivals, and they offer pretty similar specs, although the Sony headphones claim a better battery life of 30 hours; we put this to the test in our reviews. Sony’s older headphones also have the company’s ‘industry-leading’ noise-cancelling technology.

When the Sony WH-1000XM4 launch was first announced, the XM3s were on sale from £245 – around £20 cheaper than the Bose 700s.

Since then, their price has dropped further, to £229 as of 17 August (from major retailers including Amazon, Currys and John Lewis). This is one of the lowest prices we’ve ever seen them sold for, and a great deal if you don’t mind going for a slightly older model.

Don’t forget to read our review of the Sony WH-1000XM3 headphones first, to make sure they’re a genuine bargain.

Cheap alternative headphones

If you can’t afford to spend £200+ on a pair of headphones, here are some alternatives to consider:

JBL Live 650BTNC

JBL Live 650BTNC

These noise-cancelling over-ear headphones have been spotted at one retailer costing as little as £90, and they offer some great specs for that price, including a claimed 22 hours of battery life and smartphone voice assistant suppor.

Read the review of the JBL Live 650BTNC headphones to find out if they can provide a crisp clean sound and realistic bassline.

Jabra Elite 85h

Jabra Elite 85h

Offering an impressive claimed 36 hours of battery life, these headphones also have a ‘Hear through’ setting that lets in more sound from your environment if you prefer. In our tests, the expert panel also judges headphones on their fit and comfort – vital for over-ear models.

Read the full review of the Jabra Elite 85h headphones to discover our experts’ thoughts.

Sennheiser PXC 550-II


These headphones from Sennheiser are marketed as travel headphones, as they’re foldable with a compact carry case. They automatically power up and down when you twist the cups 90 degrees to fold or unfold them, and pause music when you take them off your head.

Read our full review of the Sennheiser PXC 550-II headphones to see whether they have great sound and effective noise cancellation.

Latest headphones on test

We’ve got a host of headphones reviews for every type of listener. So whether you prefer noise-cancelling over-ear models, lightweight wireless in-ear buds or wired in-ear headphones, head straight to our headphone reviews to find out which are the best.

Some of our most recently tested headphones include:

Discover how our experts test headphones for sound quality and comfort by reading our How we test headphones guide.

This story was first published on 11 August, and was updated on 17 August with details of lower prices for the Sony WH-1000XM3 headphones.

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