AirPods Max and Sony WH-1000XM4 are two over-ear Bluetooth headphones with active noise-canceling technology and the promise of high-quality sound. Despite having the same usage profile, the devices are priced very differently: starting at $348 for Sony’s model and $549 for the Apple model.
Apple AirPods Max vs Sony WH-1000XM4
|Specifications||Apple AirPods Max||Sony WH-1000XM4|
|Launch||December 2020||August 2020|
|Driver||dynamic created by Apple||40 mm dome type|
|Connectivity||Bluetooth and Lightning||Bluetooth, USB-C and P2|
|Battery||up to 20 hours||up to 30 hours|
|Weight||384 grams||254 grams|
|Colors||Space Gray, Silver, Green, Blue or Pink||Black or Silver|
Sony’s headset has a more conservative design, featuring plastic and imitation leather in the case’s lining. The AirPods Max has a stainless steel frame and aluminum casing with fabric coating. Both come with a case: Sony’s is more traditional and ideal for transportation, while Apple’s Smart Case consists only of a protective cover.
The interaction between user and headset is also different in each model. The WH-1000XM4 has buttons and a touch-sensitive surface, while the AirPods Max concentrates the functions of volume adjustment or playback control on the small rotary button called Digital Crown.
In terms of connectivity, Sony’s headset can be used both via Bluetooth and cable, through the P2 connection; the AirPods Max is restricted to Bluetooth. In colors, the WH-1000XM4 is sold only in black and white (although Sony classifies the color tone as silver). The AirPods Max, on the other hand, has more options with silver, space gray, blue, pink, and green finishes.
Both products are aimed at an audience that demands more in terms of sound quality. Both have active noise cancellation and support for spatial audio ( where the headset can simulate 3D sound from several directions), as long as the reproduced content is also compatible with this technique.
An important differentiator between the two is the LDAC codec offered by Sony. The technology allows the headset to play sound samples with much higher quality than the AAC, present in the headset on the AirPods. Another point in favor of the WH-1000XM4 is the processor that uses artificial intelligence to enhance music and sound originating from lower-quality files, the DSEE Extreme.
The AirPods Max, on the other hand, has the great virtue of offering an adaptive equalization technology, which adjusts in real-time to the profile of each type of sound. In other words, if your playlist combines samba and MPB with rock and pop, you can expect the AirPods Max to transition between equalization modes suitable for each style as the tracks play.
On both devices, there is a built-in microphone for making phone calls or interacting with voice assistants. While the AirPods Max has been used only through Bluetooth connectivity, Sony’s WH-1000XM4 can be used via Bluetooth, or by connecting via a P2 cable, something that ensures even higher sound quality.
From a Bluetooth standpoint, both benefit from the latest generations of technology. It is worth noting that the AirPods Max promises a superior user experience with Apple devices – such as connectivity and fast pairing. Sony’s headset, on the other hand, offers Bluetooth capable of connecting to two devices simultaneously.
Both also feature headphone removal detection, which automatically stops the music. The WH-1000XM4 also has features such as voice detection, which turns off the noise cancellation as soon as it notices you are talking to someone, or the gesture of covering the earphone shell to mute the playback.
In terms of battery, Sony largely surpasses its rival: up to 30 hours of use with noise cancellation enabled (and 38 hours without the feature on). The AirPods Max guarantees the autonomy of 20 hours.
Another detail worth keeping in mind is that, curiously, the AirPods Max does not have a button to be turned off: the headset is always on and uses the Smart Case as a place where the headset goes into low power mode.
Although they are premium products and vie for the same space in the market, the two headphones are priced very differently. The AirPods Max is currently available for $549, almost $200 more than the value of the Sony WH-1000XM4, currently found starting at $348.