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Sony WF-1000XM5 vs AirPods Pro 2: Which wireless earbuds should you buy?

Both Sony and Apple offer premium earbuds within a similar price range. Here's how to decide which buds you should buy.
Written by Jada Jones, Associate Editor
A comparison photo between the Sony WF-1000XM5 earbuds and the Apple AirPods Pro 2
Jada Jones/ZDNET

Last year, Apple released the AirPods Pro 2, offering improved noise-canceling, sound quality, and comfort compared to their predecessors, making the buds the best option for Apple enthusiasts.

To compete, Sony recently released the long-awaited successor in its 1000X line, the WF-1000XM5 wireless earbuds. The WF-1000XM5 buds are sleeker and more efficient than previous models, and their audio quality and noise-canceling capabilities go toe to toe with Apple's AirPods Pro.

Also: The best noise-canceling earbuds

And since Apple released a USB-C compatible AirPods Pro 2 case and iOS 17 brings upgraded software to the AirPods Pro 2, there are fewer differences than ever separating Sony's buds from Apple's.

Both earbuds are great, but one pair likely suits your needs better. To help you decide which buds are right for you, here are the key differences to consider.


Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Gen)

Sony WF-1000XM5 earbuds

Sound features

Personalized Spatial Audio, ANC, and Transparency Mode

ANC, 360 Reality Audio, and Ambient Sound Mode


Bluetooth 5.3

Bluetooth 5.3





Up to 6 hours of playback (30 hours with the charging case)

Up to 8 hours of playback (24 hours with the charging case)



QN2e and V2




You should buy the AirPods Pro 2 if...

Apple AirPods Pro (2nd gen) wireless earbuds
Christina Darby/ZDNET

1. You own a few (or too many) Apple products

In an ideal world, all devices, no matter the manufacturer, can work seamlessly together. While that reality is still developing, Apple's ecosystem is arguably the most robust experience money can buy today. 

Whether you own an iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, MacBook, or a combination of the bunch, it makes a lot of sense to buy the AirPods Pro 2 for its effortless pairing and multi-device connectivity.

Review: Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Gen): Two upgrades, one flaw

For example, when paired to an iPhone, you don't need to download an app to control the EQ and device settings. Additionally, once registered to your iCloud account, the AirPods Pro 2 will automatically appear in the Find My app across your devices. 

2. Saving money sounds good to you

The retail price of the AirPods Pro 2 is slightly less than the Sony, coming in at $250. In fact, because the earbuds are about a year older, they're often on sale at major retailers like Amazon and Best Buy, both of which are selling a pair for $219 at the time of writing.

3. Squeeze-based gestures over tap-based gestures

Most modern earbuds are free of buttons but still require a push or tap on the bud to answer phone calls, switch songs, and change audio settings.

If you prefer using your fingers to pinch on your earbuds to control them, then the AirPods Pro will serve you better. All of the controls lie in the buds' stem, and you can pinch to switch from noise canceling to Transparency Mode, skip a song, or answer a phone call.

You should buy the Sony WF-1000XM5 earbuds if...

Sony WF-1000XM5 earbuds against a brick
Jada Jones/ZDNET

1. You want earbuds that work on every platform

Sony doesn't have a large share of the U.S. smartphone, PC, tablet, or smartwatch market, even though the company makes products in all those categories. Still, Sony owns a sizable share of the U.S. headphones market, despite a small number of users having an accompanying Sony device.

Review: Sony's new WF-1000XM5 may just be the best premium earbuds right now

So, if your focus is solely on functionality and sound quality and not worrying about exclusivity or platform limits, then the WF-1000XM5 is the better of the two. You'll need to download the Sony Headphones Connect app for Android or iOS to access the full potential of the WF-1000XM5 earbuds, but it's a one-time thing that will quickly pay off given how integral the app is.

2. You live a very active lifestyle

The WF-1000XM5 earbuds have a rounded shape that better conforms to your ears compared to the AirPods Pro 2, which sport a dangling stem. Although both pairs of buds have an IPX4 rating, which makes them sweat-resistant, the polyurethane foam on the WF-1000XM5 offers a more snug fit in your ear.

The slick silicone tip on the AirPods Pro 2 offers some level of snugness too, but they have a tendency to slip during rigorous, sweaty workouts. If you're looking for high-quality earbuds you can take from the office straight to the gym, consider the Sony.

3. Tap-based gestures over squeeze-based gestures

Because the WF-1000XM5 earbuds don't have a stem, all of the controls are based on the bud's outer surface. By tapping the bud, you can switch from noise cancelation to Ambient Sound, conjure your phone's voice assistant, and skip, play, or pause music. You can also assign the tap gestures to different functions within the Sony app.

Alternatives to consider

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