Sony is the oldest Japanese company listed on the New York Stock Exchange, appearing on the trading floor in 1970. But a decade before that, the company’s co-founder Akio Morita established Sony Corporation of America and slowly entered U.S. homes through the then-new technology of portable transistor radios.
The early ’70s were most Americans’ introduction to Sony’s audio devices. Over the following years, its popularity climbed through products like the hugely successful Walkman (the world's first portable music player) and the Discman. But you needed headphones to listen to music, and Sony saw this gap in the market.
Noise-canceling technology and build quality are just two aspects in which Sony excels. Sony is often rated as one of the best manufacturers of noise-canceling headphones, having won several industry awards over the years.
Noise cancellation: Active noise cancellation works through a series of microphones and additional speakers. The microphones detect external or ambient noise and neutralize them with inverse sound waves. This creates a dead-quiet environment where you can only hear the sounds from a video game or music. Depending on the technology’s complexity, it completely eliminates outside distractions.
Audio standard support: It has taken a few years to develop, but most wireless Sony headphones support a wide range of audio standards. By incorporating decoding technology to handle formats such as AAC, aptX, aptX HD and high-resolution LDAC, you can listen to high-quality audio from almost any device. Other than Sony, only a few other brands support an extensive range of Bluetooth audio formats.
Construction: With exceptional sound quality comes the expectation of solid materials for headphones. Sony doesn’t disappoint, often using sturdy metal, hardened plastic and extra-thick foam for ear cup padding. Even the more affordable models are well-made, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a gadget that doesn’t have elegant lines, a sturdy headband and lag-free connectivity.
There are only a few things you can fault Sony for, one of which is the headphones naming convention. Other gadgets such as TVs, mobile phones and gaming consoles have proper names, but with headphones, it’s complex. Most product names are only a series of letters, such as the WH-1000XM4, WH-XB700 or WH-CH510. The “WH” prefix means Wireless Headphones, but the rest is irrelevant to consumers.
Another disadvantage Sony headphones have is that they aren’t compatible with Microsoft’s Xbox gaming system. While Sony uses the same Bluetooth technology as other wireless makers in its PlayStation 5 console, Microsoft uses the proprietary Xbox Wireless system.
These wireless headphones incorporate some of the best noise-canceling hardware available. The Dual Noise Sensor technology uses two microphones on each ear cup and passes ambient sounds through the high-definition noise canceling processor for real-time elimination, even when on a phone call. The 40-millimeter speakers last up to 30 hours.
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Sensing your environment and the ambient noise, these Sony headphones automatically adjust noise cancellation features. The battery lasts 35 hours and provides three hours of listening from a 15-minute charge. The relatively small 30-millimeter speakers are covered in memory foam, and touch controls are on the ear cups.
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With plush padding on the ear cups and headband, these wireless headphones have dual noise canceling technology, touch controls on the ear cups and extra bass for thumping sounds. The battery lasts 30 hours, and the headphones can connect to multiple devices.
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In addition to Sony, there are plenty of other wireless headphones makers, such as Sennheiser, Apple, Audio Technica and JBL. The market is somewhat saturated with choice, which is always good for consumers. But while it fosters competition between brands, it also makes it challenging for you to find the right headphones.
When the same company makes two products, you can almost be certain they will work well together. Sony’s wireless headphones might work great with the iPhone, but Apple’s AirPods Max is the ultimate in compatibility.
For example, the AirPods Max uses computational audio that leverages the Apple H1 chip and software on the iPhone to provide the best listening experience.
Another advantage of other brands is that Sony doesn’t have a monopoly on noise canceling technology. Sure, it has done much leg work for research and development, but Apple, Jabra and others have done the same. This lets you use their own technology in their products and can easily improve it when needed.
While not always the case, having less technology in your headphones can boost the battery’s longevity. For example, headphones by Anker and Jabra have a battery life of more than 45 hours, while only a handful of Sony headphones get more than 30 hours of playtime.
These wireless Anker headphones have hybrid active noise cancellation with dual noise-detecting microphones to block out 96% of low-frequency noise. It has three modes (transport, outdoors and indoors) and uses 40-millimeter audio drivers. In standard mode, the battery lasts up to 60 hours, and it lasts up to 40 hours in one of the noise-cancellation modes.
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Apple’s wireless headphones use dynamic drivers to provide high-fidelity audio and active noise cancellation. It also features a transparency mode so you can hear what is happening around you. Spatial audio with dynamic head tracking gives you a theater-like feel, and the memory foam ear cups are comfortable. The battery lasts up to 20 hours when the active noise cancellation is being used.
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It is tricky to compare several top brands to Sony, as each has its merits. If you enjoy Sony’s technology in your home, grabbing a pair of Sony’s wireless headphones would make sense. After all, its technology is compatible with all its audio sources, and the software boosts it to the maximum.
On the other hand, other brands like Apple and Anker make compelling cases for why you should choose them over Sony. But with that in mind, it’s fair to assume that you’ll use wireless headphones when out and about. So, for that reason, Sony’s noise cancellation can’t be beaten. It is vastly superior to others and will always be an excellent choice.
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Charlie Fripp writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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