Sony WF1000xM3 vs. AirPods Pro vs. Power Beats Pro
AirPods Pro, Power Beats Pro and the Sony WF1000xM3s are all great completely wireless headphones. Our team at Audio Advice often gets asked which are the best and as you might imagine there are pros and cons to all three.
Let’s start by talking about the truly wireless category in general. In the past couple of years most consumers have migrated their mobile and on-the-go listening to truly wireless headphones that have no cables to snag on clothing or gym equipment. Over the ear headphones tend to be more the rage for at home or at work listening.
When we analyze truly wireless headphones at Audio Advice, we look at five different factors:
- Sound Quality
- Noise Cancelling
- Ease of Use
- Battery Life
The first and usually most important is the sound quality. Of all truly wireless headphones AirPods, Power Beats Pro and the Sony WF1000xM3s are the top 3 right now. The original AirPods and AirPods 2 were cool headphones but lacked great sound quality. The Power Beats Pro improved on the sound of the original AirPods largely by bringing a better sound seal to the ear canal and a little more total volume gain. The AirPods Pro have a similar improvement in sound because they are designed with silicon ear tips that also better seal the ear canal. The Sonys have superior sound with better clarity and are little more true to the original recording compared to the AirPods or Powerbeats Pro. One of the challenges of the AirPods Pro is that the seal of the silicone eartip tends to break if you talk, eat food, or do anything that moves your jaw. So if your use case includes these kinds of motions, you will generally prefer the tighter seal of the Sonys or the design of the Powerbeats Pro.
The second major factor to consider is the fit itself. Like the Powerbeats Pro, the AirPods Pro come with three different size ear tips. We have found that these eartips fit most people other than those with large ear canals. Sony goes way over the top with the WF1000xM3s with three different foam tips and three different silicone tips. They can pretty much fit anyone with a solid seal which also contributes to the Sony’s sound advantage. All three of these products are way more advanced in terms of staying in your ear compared to the original AirPods and other truly wireless headphones on the market. If you are leaning towards the Sonys, we have a very in depth review here. We also send out a tips and tricks video to all purchasers that includes a section on how to put the earphones in so that they don’t fall out. The Powerbeats Pro have a large black loop that goes over your ear, so while it may be a little unsightly for daily use, they are the best in terms of staying in your ear if you are doing some really aggressive athletics or crazy movements. For those of you with high school kids, you’ll know that AirPods are notorious for falling out. The good news is that the AirPods Pro are designed better to stay in your ear.
The third factor is noise canceling. Sony was first to market with their noise canceling technology in the WF1000xM3s. This technology came from their award winning over the ear WH1000xM3 headphones that you see travelers wearing on airplanes all of the time. Sony simply nailed this technology. Apple added noise canceling to the AirPods lineup with the AirPods Pro. Both the Sonys and the AirPods Pro offer three settings: noise canceling off, noise canceling on and ambient sound (which means the headphones integrate external sounds for situations where you want to hear traffic, etc). Apple’s noise-canceling is clearly still way behind Sony at this point, particularly when listening to music. For example, if you are listening to music on a plane and want noise canceling in the background or you are riding a bike and also want to hear outside sounds, the Sonys are substantially better. So if noise canceling is important to you, the Sonys are by far the best choice today for truly wireless headphones.
Ease of Use
The fourth factor is ease of use. If you are an iPhone user, both the AirPods Pro and Powerbeats Pro are super simple to set up and were clearly designed by the same company that makes the phone. For the Sonys, you will want to download Sony’s headphone application. This makes for an extra step in setup, but it gives you incredible flexibility in customizing the headphones. The application allows you to change lots of functions including equalization, strength of Bluetooth vs sound quality, and a myriad of other options. So the AirPods Pro and Powerbeats Pro are a little more plug and play with Apple products but you get way more flexibility with Sony once you go through the setup process. All of these products feature Bluetooth 5.0 which has good connectivity in most environments. Powerbeats Pro uses a traditional button for play, pause, skip, etc. while AirPods Pro uses a clicking button on the stem. The Sonys use capacitive touch. We talk about how to best use the capacitive touch in our tips and tricks video that we send out with purchases of the Sony headphones. For most people, once they learn the trick to doing it, this is the fastest and easiest of the options in terms of control.
The fifth factor to consider is battery life. This used to be the most important factor when wireless headphones could only last a few hours. The AirPods will last around 4.5 hours off of a single charge or 5 hours if noise canceling is off. The Sonys will last a little longer. 6 hours with noise canceling on or 8 hours with it off. All of the carry cases are also batteries that will recharge the earphones when you are on the go. The Apple case adds another 20 hours of life to the earphones and the Sony case adds another 24 hours of life, which you’d expect from the slightly larger Sony case. The larger Powerbeats Pro headphones last for 9 hours which goes up to 24 hours with the charging case. So the order in terms of battery power from best to worst is PowerBeats Pro, Sony WF-1000xM3 and then the AirPods Pro. One item to point out related to charging is that the Powerbeats Pro charge through small metal connectors that touch another set of connectors in the charging case. We have seen, and others on forums have reported, an issue where one of the earphones does not sit well on the charger and you find that you only have one charged earphone. Most people experiencing this issue fiddle with the connection until it charges but you generally don’t find this out until you go to use what you think are two, fully charged headphones.
In summary we think all three of these truly wireless headphones are great options and the choice of which one is right for you is largely based on personal preference and primary usage. If the primary usage is the gym and aggressive running, cycling and other heavy movement activities, PowerBeats Pro is the best option, setting aside the chance that you get a pair that have this charging problem. If you are an Apple fanatic, use Siri a lot with your headphones and want to have the white headphone look of the masses, then go with the AirPods Pro. If you are looking for the best sound, longer batter life, or noise-canceling is important to you, then the Sonys will be the best option.