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Which ANC earbuds are the best?

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    Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds

    $249 $299 Save $50

    The Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds are a refreshed version of last year’s QuietComfort Earbuds II. Like the QuietComfort Ultra Headphones, the Ultra Earbuds support Bose’s Immersive Audio feature to create the illusion of spatial sound, regardless of what device the earbuds are paired with. 

  • Sony WF-1000XM5 in charging case on a white background

    Sony WF-1000XM5

    $250 $300 Save $50

    Sony’s flagship true wireless earbuds have been our top recommendation in the category for two years straight, and the WF-1000XM5 look poised to continue that tradition. The newest model features dedicated processors for both noise cancellation and regular audio processing while being lighter and smaller than their predecessors. But the premium quality comes with a price tag to match.

The Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds and the Sony WF-1000XM5 are both high-quality ANC earbuds that are considered by many to be neck-in-neck for the top spot on the list of best noise-canceling earbuds, and if you happen to slide either pair into your ears, you’ll realize why. Not only do they both sound great, but both sets of earbuds offer fantastic active noise-cancellation (ANC) and some of the best features you can find in today’s market. However, no two products are the same. After spending some time with the Bose QuietComfort Ultra and the Sony WF-1000XM5, we are here to help you decide between these top-tier choices.


Price, specs & availability:

The Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds are readily available at all the usual retailers, Amazon, Best Buy, or directly from Bose included, and carry an MSRP of $299. You can get a pair in either black or white colorways.

The Sony WF-1000XM5 comes in two colorways as well, black or silver, and carry an MSRP of $300. You can almost find them pretty much anywhere you like to buy your earbuds, like Amazon or Best Buy.

Both earbuds are relatively new, but have been on sale during the deal holidays (Prime Day, Black Friday, etc.) for about $50 less.

  • Bose QuietComfort Ultra EarbudsSony WF-1000XM5
    Battery Life6 hours per charge, total of 24 hours with case8 hours (ANC on), 12 hours (ANC off)
    Noise CancellationYesYes
    IP ratingIPX4IPX4
    Supported codecsSBC, AAC, aptX AdaptiveAAC, LDAC, SBC
    Weight (earbuds)7.7g5.9g
    ChargingUSB-CUSB-C, wireless
    Driver size9.3mm8.4mm
    Price (MSRP)$300$300

Sound and call quality

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Sony WF-1000XM5

If you’re looking for the best sound quality, the Bose and Sony earbuds offer an incredible listening experience, and it’s unlikely that their sound profile would turn anyone off; however, we do think the 1000XM5 edges out the Bose just a tiny bit if you’re a stickler for audio quality.

Sony is known for its expertise in audio technology, and the WF-1000XM5 earbuds are a testament to that. When we reviewed them, there was a small but noticeable difference between this version and the older 1000XM4 that came before it. They feature new 8.4mm drivers, which are significantly larger than the 6mm drivers in the previous model. The audio quality is clear and precise, even in complex arrangements, which is great for people who don’t just listen to rock or pop. The highs are bright and spacious, and the bass is warm and full with the default tuning. This sound signature is mass-market friendly, and most people would enjoy it. However, if you prefer clinical accuracy, there are a few EQ presets to choose from, and you can also create your own with a five-band equalizer in the app, but more on that later.

During our playback tests using various earbuds in a loud environment, the call quality of the WF-1000XM5 was exceptional. Our reviewer, Taylor Kerns, always found his voice coming through clear, even when background noise made it in to the recording as well.

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When our own Taylor Kerns put the Bose QC Ultra’s in his years, he wasn’t surprised at how they sounded because Bose has a well-known reputation. It comes across as rich and full, with a low end that’s well-represented but not quite as thick as the Sony earbuds. He also remarked how he couldn’t hear a difference between the Ultra model and the older QC Earbuds II. While there’s no doubt that the balanced soundscape of the Bose sounds excellent, we appreciate a little bit more of the low-end presence that helps so many genres of music really pop into your ears. We found that nudging up the bass slider a little in the Bose Music app’s three-band EQ gets the sound in a similar place as Sony.

Bose claims that the QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds have better call quality than the QC Earbuds II. They say that the Ultra Earbuds do a better job at eliminating background noise, which makes your voice clearer on the other end. However, we had a hard time noticing a significant difference between the two sets in the tests we did. Although the QC Earbuds II were already great for calls, the QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds are equally good, if not better.

ANC performance

If you’re buying a pair of ANC earbuds, you’ll likely be happy with either of these options. Both pairs of earbuds will ensure you can drown out those unwanted noises, like the drone of a plane engine well, filling your ears with whatever audio you’re listening to.

If push comes to shove, though, we’d give the slight edge to the Bose QC Ultra regarding which one is better, but it is very close.

Software & featuressony-wf-1000xm5-app-2

To control the WF-1000XM5, you want Sony’s Headphones Connect app. This app comes with a variety of features, including firmware updates, ANC control, and EQ tuning, which are standard for most earbud apps — like the Bose Music App for the QC Ultra. However, this app offers much more functionality than other similar apps, making it an excellent companion for your earbuds.

Headphones Connect app allows you to adjust your headphones settings. You can use Adaptive Sound Control to adjust noise cancellation based on time, location, or activity. You can also configure different noise cancellation profiles for sitting, walking, or running. The Speak-to-Chat feature pauses media and turns on transparency mode when you speak.

During our tests, the Speak-to-Chat was a nice novelty in theory but in practice, was slightly lackluster. It would often kick when we didn’t intend it to because of talking out loud while working. That may be because we are writers, and reading and writing are the majority of our jobs, but it was still distracting.

While the Bose Music App isn’t all that special, it’s fine for providing updates and controlling you’re EQ, the Bose QC Ultra’s are a bit more simple overall; however, the Bose Immersive Audio feature is a highlight you should know about.

Bose Immersive Audio

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The latest feature in the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds is Immersive Audio. This spatial audio technology enhances your music listening experience by creating an illusion that the sound is coming from in front of you instead of directly in your ears, and the neatest part about it is it’s done on a device, meaning, in theory, you can use the feature regardless of what music source you’re using.

When you turn on the Immersive Audio feature, the sound quality is so good that it feels like you’re listening to a pair of speakers placed in front of you rather than tiny earbuds sitting in your ears. The feature comes with two modes: Still and Motion. In Still mode, the earbuds detect your head movement, creating an illusion that the audio is coming from a fixed source even when you turn your head. On the other hand, in Motion mode, the sound still appears to come from the front, but it follows your head movements, making it seem like floating speakers are tracking your ears as you move around.

When the feature is working at its best, it’s quite convincing. You may even forget the music you’re listening to is coming from your earbuds if you happen to drift off or concentrate on something else, which is really cool, but the problem is the effect isn’t perfect.

Based on our experience, the use of Immersive Audio can sometimes result in a negative impact on the audio quality of certain media, especially in dialogues delivered through TV shows, movies, and podcasts. The sound produced by Immersive Audio can create a subtle reverb effect, which can be undesirable and distracting. In some instances, it can also give an impression of listening to the audio through a tiled bathroom or a room with walls that reflect the sound back.

All that being said, the best we can say about Bose’s Immersive Audio is that it feels a little gimmicky. It could be really fun for you to play around with it and see what various songs, podcasts, or other audio sound like when it’s active, but we highly doubt it will ever be anyone’s preferred method of listening when using the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds.

Battery life

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The WF-1000XM5 has an impressive battery life. Sony claims that the earbuds can last up to eight hours of music playback with ANC, which is consistent with our time testing out the buds. If you need longer uninterrupted audio, you can extend playback time to up to 12 hours by turning off ANC.

The QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds don’t last quite as long in your ears; you’ll get about six hours of time on with ANC active. If you decide to turn on Immersive Audio, that battery life shrinks down to only four hours. Unfortunately, there is no way to completely turn off ANC to save battery life on the QC Ultra Earbuds, which is a little disappointing. You have to listen to your audio using ANC, Immersive Audio, or pass-through enabled.

All in all, though, once you include the charging case for each device, each device has about 24 hours of battery life when using ANC; however, the Bose case can’t charge wirelessly without an additional case cover that costs an additional $50. That sucks, in 2030, to be frank.

Bose QC Ultra Earbuds vs. Sony WF-1000XM5: Which is better?

Undoubtedly, the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds and the Sony WF-1000XM5 are two of the best ANC earbuds you can buy, and in some respects — like sound quality — the preference will be personal. Both earbuds sound incredible and have great ANC capabilities, and even though we think the Bose offers a slightly better ANC experience, Sony offers a bit more for the average person.

With better battery life, a wireless charging case, and some more intricate software features, we think the Sony WF-1000XM5 is the better option for most people.

Sony WF-1000XM5 in charging case on a white background

Sony WF-1000XM5

$248 $300 Save $52

Sony’s WF-1000XM5 are the best true wireless earbuds, with dedicated processors for noise cancellation and audio processing. They’re smaller and lighter than their predecessors but come with a premium price. Still, we love everything that Sony WF-1000XM5 offer just a little bit more than Bose’s latest.

Although we prefer what Sony offers, the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds are still a pretty stellar set of incredible earbuds. Their ANC performance is truly top-notch, and when the Immersive Audio feature works as intended, it is a really neat feature — it’s just a little gimmicky.

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bose-quietcomfort-ultra-earbuds, white background

Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds

$249 $299 Save $50

The Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds are an updated version of the QuietComfort Earbuds II that comes with Bose’s Immersive Audio feature that creates a spatial sound effect. It’s a cool, if not gimmicky feature that could have some real potential in the future. Still can’t beat that ANC performance, though — it’s truly incredible.

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