Of all the headphone brands out there, Sony and Bose are typically the two you see (or hear?) the most. While they’re undoubtedly two of the most popular, many are left standing in front of the headphone section at their local electronics retail wondering one thing: which headphone brand is better?
Sony vs Bose? Let’s take a look at the most important factors like price, sound quality, and the pros and cons of each in order to determine a winning headphone brand. In the end, we’ll be able to say with confidence who wins out between Sony and Bose.
Sony vs Bose Headphones: Side-by-Side Comparison
|Sony MDR, Sony WH-1000XM, Sony WH-XB, Sony WH-CB
|Bose QuietComfort, Bose Sleepbuds
|MDR-ZX110 Wired On-Ear Headphones ($19.99)
|Bose QuietComfort 45 ($229)
|Sony MDR-Z1R Signature Series Premium Hi-Res Headphones ($1,799.99)
|A20 Aviation Headset ($1,195)
|$81.38 billion (2021)
|$3.2 billion (2021)
|Noise Canceling Options?
Sony vs Bose Headphones: What’s the Difference?
Bose and Sony are two huge headphone brands complete with both wired and wireless headphone options. As such, it can be difficult to provide a precise brand overview for each.
Both Sony and Bose have a number of different headphones under their umbrellas, requiring us to take a broader look over the bunch. Let’s take a look at the two most important differences in this respect: pricing and the actual quality of the sound from both Sony and Bose headphones.
Firstly — and, without a doubt, most importantly — there’s the price to consider. By and large, Sony headphones tend to come in at a fraction of the cost of Bose headphones. Across their product line, there are numerous Sony headphones available for much less than a hundred dollars. (Both wired and wireless.)
- BATTERY LIFE: 80 hours of battery life
- NOISE CANCELING HEADPHONES: Featuring a 12�22,000 Hz frequency response for pristine bass, mids, and treble, these lightweight headphones reduce ambient noise by 95%, so all you�ll hear is the...
- NOISE-FREE EXPERIENCE: flip the switch and take advantage of proven Noise Canceling technology, giving you an outstanding noise-free (up to 95%) audio performance
- HIGH-ENERGY MAGNETS: High-energy 300 kJ/m3 neodymium magnets facilitate the delivery of rich, powerful sound with deep bass and clear highs.
- FLEXIBLE DESIGN: Compact for portability yet affording listening flexibility, the swivel, folding earpads let you enjoy music in many ways.
There are the MDR-ZX110 Wired On-Ear Headphones for $19.99 (or With Microphone for $29.99), the MDR-ZX110NC Noise Canceling On-ear Headphones for $29.99, the WH-CH510 Wireless Headphones with Microphone for $39.99… and the list goes on.
Bose, on the other hand, is so much more expensive than Sony. The difference between the two really isn’t even close. As a matter of fact, there’s currently not a single offering from Bose available for less than $100.
- Excellent and comfortable design with an over-ear design
- High-fidelity audio with adjustable EQ settings on Bose's smartphone app
- Active noise cancelation includes both Quiet and Active modes
- Get up to 22 hours of battery life with a 15-minute fast charge for 3 additional hours
Apart from their wireless earbuds in the $100 range, their headphones don’t even start until the $200s. The Bose QuietComfort 45 headphones retail for $229, the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700s retail for $329, and the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 UCs go for $399. Prices continue all the way up to the four figures.
Secondly, after price, the other most important consideration to take into account is overall sound quality. This is a highly controversial topic where Bose is concerned, as the company notoriously does not disclose hard facts about the quality of its sound.
Because Sony has far more affordable options than Bose, you must know that these lower-priced options also sound less high-quality than the more expensive Bose headphones. However, when looking at Sony products like the MDR-1AM2 Premium Hi-Res Headphones, it’s clear that the sound is ever so slightly superior to Bose.
- Cable length: 3.94 feet
- Includes inline microphone and controls
- Carrying pouch included
- 3.5mm Aux jack connector
Bose began its history as a home audio company, focusing more on home theater systems than headphones. As a matter of fact, as we can see above, they didn’t even release their first pair of headphones until 2000.
Still, as with their speakers, we have no real evidence that their sound quality is better or worse than Sony’s. It’s all subjective. And, as far as this subjective reviewer is concerned, Bose headphones have far more bass to them than Sony. This has long been viewed as Bose’s in-house tactic to make their sound appear richer and deeper, and it’s not absent from their headphones.
The History of Sony Headphones
Comparing Sony vs Bose headphones requires us to look back at the history of headphones for each brand. Were they pioneers of the tech, or were they bandwagoners who only made the product to keep up with the competition?
As it turns out, the former accurately describes Sony, while the latter more appropriately describes Bose. While modern headphones had been around since the late 1950s, they were big, bulky, and cumbersome. Sony was the first major consumer electronics brand to boldly declare that headphones should be something different. Something thinner, lighter, and more comfortable.
They first tested this idea in the form of the Walkman H-AIR series in 1979. These now-iconic headphones — with their metallic band and their small circular speakers — effectively set the stage for how headphones should look, feel, and sound from that point forward.
These headphones were all the rage throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s, with rival brands and close competitors quickly releasing their own versions of the Sony headphones. By the mid-’90s, however, Sony was onto bigger and better things: noise cancellation.
With the release of the Sony MDR-NC10 in 1995, the company took its first steps toward noise-canceling technology. Advertised as capable of reducing up to 70% of outside noise, the MDR-NC10s paved the way for the next ten to twenty years of headphones and earbuds technology.
Then, once the 2010s rolled around, Sony did it again: 3D surround sound headphones. Dubbed the MDR-DS7500, Sony’s 3D sound headphones changed the game once more. Again and again, Sony has proven its ability to be the industry leader in the headphones market.
How Bose Headphones Compete
Bose was around for decades before ever even touching headphones. At the start, way back in the mid-’50s, the company was far more concerned with creating the perfect surround sound system. At the time, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) professor Amar Bose was at the forefront of the surround sound market.
He didn’t like where speaker tech was headed, and he set out to change it himself. As an academic, he felt he knew exactly how to make the best sound system the world had ever seen. Unfortunately, he was wrong — at least at first.
His first official product under the Bose label, the Bose 2201, was a major failure. Bose discontinued the 2201s in under five years, reporting terrible sales and even worse reviews as the cause behind the discontinuation. However, Bose was not ready to give up just yet.
He immediately got back to work, returning to the drawing board several times throughout the ’60s to create the new and improved Bose 901s. Officially released in 1968, the speaker system was so successful it remained in production for the next 50 years.
By the time the 2000s rolled around, Amar Bose had expanded his horizons from in-home speakers to car speakers, from PA systems to in-ear earbuds, and from studio sound systems to — of course —over-ear headphones.
Today, the Bose lineup of headphones is quite small with much more attention being paid to wireless earbuds. Still, Bose maintains a line of over-ear headphones called QuietComfort, a line of military-grade headphones, and a line of aviation headphones designed especially for the needs of pilots and air traffic controllers.
Sony vs Bose: Pros and Cons
|Pros of Sony Headphones
|Cons of Sony Headphones
|Some of the most affordable headphones on the market
|Cheaper Sony headphones have a poorer audio quality
|Offers both wireless and wired headphones
|The sheer number of Sony headphones to choose from can get a little confusing
|Sony headphones are industry leaders in noise-cancellation technology
|Lacks the snappy branding that other headphone brands offer
|Wireless offerings from Sony have an exceptional battery life
|Some of the higher-end models can be more expensive than even Bose headphones
|Pros of Bose Headphones
|Cons of Bose Headphones
|Excellent high-end headphones for luxurious listeners
|No headphones options under $200
|Some of the best noise cancellation on the market
|Lacks many wired options
|Good audio quality despite the inherent loss of quality with Bluetooth
|Very few headphones models to choose from
|Options for aviation experts and military personnel
|The company refuses to release data on sound quality
5 Must-Know Facts About Headphones
- Essentially, headphones take state-of-the-art speaker technology and shrink it down small and light enough to fit over your head. Headphones are, in effect, little speakers for your ears. Typically covered with protective foam or something similar, you’re pretty much blasting a speaker right into your eardrums.
- The idea for headphones first originated in the late 1800s as telephone operators wished to free up their hands to multitask. Many early headphone designs came and went throughout the late 1800s and early 1900s, but they were never taken seriously as a potential product for consumers until much later.
- Sony’s historic 1979 product, the Sony Walkman, became the world’s very first portable (and affordable) music player. It also introduced the world to lightweight, easy-to-wear headphones.
- Inventor John Koss created the world’s first stereo headphones in 1958. Dubbed the Koss SP-3s, the headphones were comprised of little speakers encased in cardboard and couch cushion foam.
- The first wireless headphones came about in 1999 alongside the invention of Bluetooth technology. However, Bluetooth audio quality will always pale in comparison to traditional wired audio quality because of the compression that wireless listening requires.
Sony vs Bose Headphones: Which Is Better?
When it comes down to it, the Sony vs Bose headphones debate really boiled down to two factors: price and audio quality. One is objective, while the other is more subjective. Looking at true cost, there’s no denying that Sony tends to be more affordable than Bose without sacrificing much quality.
Bose headphones all retail for well over $200, while Sony has options under $30 or less. Sound quality is subjective here, but Sony headphones also tend to sound better overall compared to Bose headphones. With this in mind, the clear winner is Sony.
While Bose might have revolutionary sound systems and in-home speakers, you just can’t ignore the fact that they didn’t even have a pair of headphones to their name until the 2000s. Sony, on the other hand, has been perfecting their headphone technology since the 1970s.
Pair this with more affordable pricing and superior audio quality, and it’s hard to come up with a reason why Sony shouldn’t win this debate between Sony and Bose. Bose is nonetheless a dependable headphones brand, but Sony wins this ultimate showdown.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©BublikHaus/Shutterstock.com.