The AirPods Max is king when it comes to noise cancellations. They are big and hefty over-ear headphones that also have the same convenient features as the AirPods Pro. But there is another brand that can stack up against this powerhouse, the Sony WH-1000XM4. Like the Max, it also has impressive noise cancellation prowess.
So let’s get these two bad boys head to head. Surely, you’ll find one will be better over the other.
Build and construction
The Max is an enclave of sleek and lovely metal construction. The ear cups will also remind you of the Mac. It has the same all steel and aluminum construction. It’s sleek, shiny, and made of premium materials. You can instantly tell from afar that it’s an Apple headphone. There’s no denying that they came from the same tree.
The design indeed looks high end, no doubt about it. But here’s the thing. With all-steel construction, it’s only reasonable for it to have a bit of heft to it. And the ear cups of the Max are quite large. So combine these two, you have big and heavy headphones at 385 grams.
The Sony headphones, on the other hand, look classic with their black and silver color options. It does not look too edgy and fancy when compared to the Max. but if you want a more subtle look, you might go for the Sony instead. The ear cups are also huge like the Max, it just has a bit more oval shape to it.
And it has a rather interesting band. Most headphones would have a padded band, this one lacks that cushioned band. Both headphones have a strong and durable exterior, but the Sony headphone weighs less at 254 grams. Thus, it feels more liberating for your head. Less 131 grams can mean a lot for your head.
Both headphones will make you look cool while you’re listening to music. But the max takes it a notch higher. It’s not surprising since Apple always banked on the luxurious exteriors of all its products. That being said, the Max does look more high-end and sophisticated.
Though you’d also wanna be caught dead seen with the Sony XM4. Though not fancy, you can tell that it’s still made of high-quality materials. So it’s also fit for bragging, so to speak. It’s just that it looks basic when pegged against the Max.
These two headphones are indeed comfortable and can be used for longer hours. The Max has a single mesh canopy that relieves any pressure from the head. And the XM4 eliminated the heavy cushion on the band. So both models feel comfortable on the head. There isn’t any undue pressure. So even those with a large dome will find either headphone a treat.
And since headphones veered away from the usual heavily cushioned band, it’s a breath of fresh air. And this unique design did a lot of good for both headphones. But the thing is, the Max is heavier by more than 100 gans.
As for the ear cups, the XM4 has plastic ear cups made of PUY leather. It‘s basically the same material used by a lot of other brands. So nothing special here. The Max, on the other hand, feels luxurious. The ear cups are cushioned and lined with soft foam memory foam, it almost feels like a memory gel. It seals in tightly but you won’t feel any nagging pressure. It’s like soft plushness for your ears.
So even if the Max is heavier than the Sony, the Apple headphones won this round for me. It had me at the soft memory gel ear cups. XM4 really didn’t make any effort to make their ear cups stand out. And though both brands can accommodate larger heads, it seems that the Apple headphone is friendlier to users with larger domes.
But there’s a big but here. Though the Apple is more comfortable because of the memory foam ear cups, it’s not for you if you have neck issues. You might find the weight of the Max too heavy for your fragile neck.
In terms of the hardware, these two models are like peas in a pod. They share basically the same hardware. Both use a neodymium magnet to produce sound. And they have the same 40 mm dynamic drivers. In terms of noise cancellation, the Max and the XM4 are quite impressive.
The XM4 uses Bluetooth audio Soc to cancel out noise from the outside while the Apple headphone has additional microphones that can cancel ambient sound. Though in terms of technique, that of the Max is from cutting edge technology. But in terms of the result, both headphones were able to cancel out any incoming noise.
But here is where Apple, as always, stepped up its game. The sound produced by the Max is more clear and solid. And the Max offers yet again, more cutting edge technology when it comes to sound quality. Max offers EQ settings where you can customize the sound.
And I am pretty amazed that for a closed-back headphone, the Max does offer a wider range of motion. Compared to other close back headphones, the sound is more natural. And this is something that really stood out for me.
The Sony bass EQ, on the other hand, is very limited. Though you can tweak it a bit, it’s nothing when compared to what the Max can offer.
Overall, though these two headphones perform almost the same in terms of noise cancellation. But in terms of the sound quality, the Apple still produced a much cleaner and crisp sound. Then added the option to customize it, it’s going to be more pleasing to the ears.
Controls and accessories
When it comes to controls, you can get lost with the Max. It only offers two buttons and works similar to an Apple watch. So if you’re not familiar with how an Apple watch works, you will definitely get lost. And the rest of the controls are accessible via touch or a tap.
But sometimes, it’s hard to gauge how much pressure you need to apply to the ear cups to initiate a command. It’s the same issue I encountered with the regular Airpods.
Sometimes, you will unintentionally do so even when you’re just adjusting the unit on your head. So this is something that you have to get used to. So you have to master how much pressure you should put on each tap so it won’t be a nuisance. But if you like simplicity and sleekness, you’d love how it works. And this makes the headphone suitable for taking calls better than the XM4.
But the thing is, Apple lacks that audio jack. If you want one, you have to buy it separately. It also lacks a cable should you want to use it as a wired headphone. It seems that you have to buy every accessory that you need. Literally everything. And Apple accessories do not come cheap.
That’s what I love about the Sony XM4, it comes complete with every accessory that you need, including an audio jack and a carrying case. So that makes it more suitable for traveling. You have everything you need and you don’t have to spend another dollar to enjoy listening to music while in flight.
The Apple headphone is for you If you’re looking for more innovative features. The Max features a lot of the nifty cutting edge technology you’ll find in the Pro. It has optic and position sensors. So it will automatically stop the music from playing once you place the headphone over your neck.
Additionally, If you have Apple devices, you can take more advantage of these innovative features. You can seamlessly pair and connect it with other Apple devices.
Though you can pair the Max with another android device, you won’t enjoy the same functionality that made the headphone expensive in the first place. And the Max, like other Apple products, lacks the jack audio and a USB charger. So an Apple is for an Apple. If you own one it’s a clear choice already.
The Sony XM4, on the other hand, though not as innovative as the Max, has amazing noise cancellation prowess too. And it cost a lot less than any Apple headphones. So it’s a great option if you’re on a budget but need a headphone that has clear sounds and can cancel out ambient sounds. And it’s complete with all the accessories you need. That will give you great value for your money.
So which is better? Technically in all aspects, it’s the Apple Max. But you have to buy the accessories. And you’ll only maximize the potential of this headphone if you have an Apple device.
If you own an android device, the Sony XM4 seems to be a rather fitting choice. The Max becomes limited in function when paired with other devices apart from Apple products. So there’s no use in paying a hefty price if you’re not going to be able to enjoy the full functionality of it.