Released in September 2017, the Sony 1000XM2 ($348) aren’t the newest headphones on the block, but Sony has introduced the 1000XM2 as the replacement for their flagship active noise-canceling headphones. The new model comes equipped with uprated finishes, more power and performance and plenty of clever customization abilities through an app. But like their predecessor, the big question remains for most consumers: how do these stand up to the Bose QuietComfort 35 IIs, particularly in terms of active noise-cancellation?

Verdict: In terms of a total package the Sony’s WH-1000XM2 outperform the Bose QuietComfort 35 IIs on many fronts, but specs and performance are rarely the entire picture. For audio, battery life and noise-canceling performance, we give Sony the edge. For comfort though, Bose is still the undisputed king. The decision simply comes down to your preference for product design, sound profile and brand loyalty. As of this writing, the prices are exactly the same.

Note: The naming of Sony audio products hasn’t been easy on consumers, admittedly — it all looks like serial numbers. And when shopping for these headphones, you’ll likely come across the 1000XM2 and the WH-1000XM2; these are one and the same. “WH” just stands for “wireless headphones.”

Additional contribution by Eric Yang

What’s New: Right out of the box, you’ll be impressed. The 1000XM2s sound fantastic with a neutral profile. Sony seems to have pared back the bass a bit (easily controlled through the app), but a lot of attention has gone into the midrange where the Sony’s really deliver. The Sony 1000XM2 have a clever atmospheric pressure optimizer, which you initiate by a physical button on the left earcup, that adjusts the level of active noise canceling depending on the seal of the headphones around your year and your current altitude.

Through Sony’s Headphones Connect app, a Listening Position feature allows users to select the direction of the music – a handy feature if you work next to someone and want to keep that ear “open”. Additionally, an EQ setting allows users to control the amount of ambient noise the headphones allow in. A new quick charge feature allows the 1000XM2 to provide 70 minutes of playtime (with ANC) after just 10 minutes of charging. The beefed-up battery provided 30 hours of active noise canceling (or 40 when wired). And best of all, the price has come down. The original XM’s went for $400 when released in 2016.

The Good: The noise-canceling ability of the Sony 1000XM2 is on par with Bose QuietComfort series — you can’t really get better than that. While there are a lot of customization features, we’ll go out on a limb and just presume that most people will want to put these right on and use them. That’s perfectly fine, the headphones are great right out of the box. While different than the grander soundstage we heard in the Bowers & Wilkins PX, the 1000XM2’s deliver excellent, unadulterated sound performance. We’d give them the edge over Bose QuietComfort headphones and like the Bose, the Sony 1000XM2’s have a straightforward industrial design that business pros will prefer. Additionally, the Sony’s are comfortable enough to wear for hours and the built-in mics do a great job filtering noise for call though Bose has a slight edge here in terms of mic quality. For voice command users, the Sony’s are also compatible with Google Assistant with a free software update.

Who They’re For: Anyone looking for a worthy alternative to the Bose QC35 IIs. If you’re looking for a handsome set of active noise-canceling headphones perfect for a noisy office or the road, you’ll love the Sony 1000XM2s.

Who They’re For: Anybody looking for looking for great wireless ANC headphones. Whether you travel a lot or work in a noisy office setting, you’ll absolutely love these.

Watch Out For: There are no physical volume controls on the headphones. Instead, Sony opted for touch controls (playback and volume) on the right ear cup, which not all users will like. (Swiping up and down adjusts the volume. If you use your headphones to drown out noise without without listening to music then you’ll want to look elsewhere. Sony turns off active noise canceling after 5 minutes to conserve battery life if no music is detected. You can get around this by keeping them wired. Micro USB charging instead of USB-C.

Alternatives: The obvious alternatives are Bose QC35 IIs. The deciding factors between the two are going to be which headphones you find better looking and more comfortable; aside from that they both sound great and boast great active noise-canceling abilities. The Bowers & Wilkins PX are a more design-focused option that have a more distinct sound signature. The Plantronics Voyager 8200 are a more affordable alternative, too. It’s also worth noting that Sony doesn’t make the older 1000XM headphones anymore, but you can find pretty good deals on used and refurbished models on Amazon and eBay.

What Others Are Saying:

• “If you want active noise canceling headphones, and you’re not willing to sacrifice… anything: this is the set for you. Cheaper than the Bose QC35 IIs, the Sony WH-1000X M2 not only performs better, but gives you far more listening options than any of its competitors. A sequel to the rock-solid Sony MDR-1000X, these headphones are every bit as worthy of your attention as anything else on the market.” — Christian Thomas, Sound Guys

• “There’s no two ways about it, the Sony WH-1000XM2 are exceptional business-grade noise-canceling headphones. They’re perfect for long flights or train rides, and not only do they keep sound out extremely well, but they’ll make incoming audio sound great as well. They’re a good pick for most everyone – but Sony/Android owners will get the best bang for their buck in terms of audio performance.” — Nick Pino, TechRadar

• “Overall, though, the Sony does acquit itself well with a wide range of material, with punchy bass, good detail and natural-sounding, present midrange that isn’t too forward. This is a headphone you can listen to for long periods.” — David Carnoy, CNET

Key Specs

Weight: 9.7 ounces
Frequency range: 4Hz to 40,000 Hz
Sensitivity: 103 dB/mW
Impedence: 46 Ohm

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