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Beats Studio 3 vs Sony WH-1000XM4: Are they still worth buying?

These last-gen headphones often go on sale, making them a great value. Let's determine which ones are right for you.
By

Published onMay 15, 2023

Beats Studio 3 Wireless
MSRP: $209.00
Check price
Positives
Plenty of color options
Smooth matte finish
Battery life
Connection, Apple W1 chip
Negatives
Price
Build quality
microUSB charging
Sony WH-1000XM4
MSRP: $348.00
Check price
Positives
Great noise canceling
Great sound quality
Bluetooth multipoint is super convenient
Bluetooth 5.0; SBC, AAC, LDAC, and wired playback
Comfortable and has hinges for folding
Auto-pauses when you take them of
Negatives
Cost
Double-tap to pause does not always work
Slightly less comfortable than the WH-1000XM3
Battery life is down from the previous version
Custom button controls either the Assistant or noise canceling

Wireless headphones are popular accessories, and new ones come out every year. While it’s always fun to turn your attention to the next thing in audio tech, the fact is that you don’t need to buy the latest and greatest. Today, we’ll look at the Beats Studio 3 vs Sony WH-1000XM4. Both are years-old active noise-canceling (ANC) headphones with some neat software features. Time to find out which headphones are worth your dollar.

Beats Studio 3 vs Sony WH-1000XM4: At a glance

The Beats Studio 3 and Sony WH-1000XM4 are both years-old premium headphones. Here's an overview of their main differences:

  • The Studio 3 Wireless have Apple-exclusive features, and the WH-1000XM4 work identically across operating systems.
  • Both headphones use spatial audio, but only the Sony WH-1000XM4 offer personalization.
  • The ANC on the WH-1000XM4 is better for commuting than the Beats Studio 3 Wireless.
  • The WH-1000XM4 have a 30-hour battery life, while the Studio 3 have a 22-hour battery life.
  • The WH-1000XM4 charge via USB-C, and the Studio 3 Wireless use the outdated micro-USB port.
  • The Beats Studio 3 Wireless come in far more color options than the WH-1000XM4.

Beats Studio 3 vs Sony WH-1000XM4: Specs

Beats Studio 3Sony WH-1000XM4
Dimensions
Beats Studio 3
18.4cm tall
Sony WH-1000XM4
18.8 x 15.5 x 5.1cm
Weight
Beats Studio 3
260g
Sony WH-1000XM4
254g
Bluetooth connectivity
Beats Studio 3
Bluetooth 4.0
SBC
AAC
Sony WH-1000XM4
Bluetooth 5.0
SBC
AAC
LDAC
Battery life
Beats Studio 3
ANC on: 22 hours
ANC off: 40 hours
Sony WH-1000XM4
ANC on: 30 hours
ANC off: 38 hours
Charging
Beats Studio 3
micro-USB
Fast Fuel: 10-minute charge provides 3 hours of listening
Sony WH-1000XM4
USB-C
Fast charging: 10-minute charge provides 5 hours of listening
Audio hardware
Beats Studio 3
40mm dynamic drivers
Sony WH-1000XM4
40mm dynamic drivers
Sensors
Beats Studio 3
Dual beamforming mics
Sony WH-1000XM4
NFC
Dual beamforming mics
Proximity sensor
Acceleration sensor
Touch sensor (right ear cup)
Chipset
Beats Studio 3
W1 chip
Sony WH-1000XM4
QN1
Spatial audio
Beats Studio 3
Yes
Sony WH-1000XM4
Yes, personalized
Noise canceling
Beats Studio 3
Yes
Sony WH-1000XM4
No
Transparency
Beats Studio 3
No
Sony WH-1000XM4
Yes
Release date
Beats Studio 3
October 31, 2017
Sony WH-1000XM4
August 18, 2020
Price
Beats Studio 3
$349
Sony WH-1000XM4
$349

The Beats Studio 3 and Sony WH-1000XM4 share a hinged design that lets listeners compact the headphones for travel. Only Sony’s headphones also allow you to rotate the ear cups so they may lay flat around your neck.

The Sony WH-1000XM4 offer the same experience across operating systems. The Headphones Connect app for iOS and Android is identical. It lets you personalize the 360 Reality Audio effect, Sony’s take on spatial audio, and customize the sound with a five-band equalizer. This is important because, as we’ll get to later, the WH-1000XM4 have a wonky default sound. Other features in Sony’s app let you favor connection stability or streaming quality, enable speak-to-chat, and more. There’s an integrated NFC chip. Pairing requires a tap of the headphones to your phone, and that’s it.

Sony’s user experience contrasts with the Beats Studio 3, which have some Apple-exclusive features. This makes sense: Apple owns Beats. With the integrated W1 chip, the Studio 3 have hands-free “Hey, Siri” for asking questions. You can also use automatic device switching across Apple hardware. Listeners can also hear Apple Spatial Audio through the Studio 3. Of course, like Sony’s take on reality audio, this requires compatible audio content. Beats provides Android users with a spartan app that lets you toggle ANC on or off and access firmware updates. Android and iPhone owners can all enjoy one-step pairing for the Beats Studio 3.

The Sony WH-1000XM4 use Bluetooth 5.0, a whole generation newer than the Studio 3 Wireless’ Bluetooth 4.0. Sony’s headphones also support more Bluetooth audio codecs for better audio quality on Android devices. With the WH-1000XM4, you get your pick of SBC, AAC, and LDAC. Meanwhile, the Studio 3 support just SBC and AAC.

Beats' headphones are marketed more toward style-conscious listeners than Sony's.

Beats’ headphones may let you switch between Apple devices, but Sony’s support multipoint connectivity. With this, you can connect to two devices simultaneously, regardless of operating system. Multipoint lets you stream videos from your Windows laptop while keeping an ear on incoming calls from your Android phone. It’s a nifty feature for multitasking.

ANC and battery life are both better with Sony’s headphones compared to Beats’. Sony also has more modern hardware, using a USB-C charging port rather than the micro-USB port on the Studio 3.

Apple’s website displays seven colorways for the Beats Studio 3 Wireless: Blue, White, Matte Black, Black & Red, Red, Midnight Black, and Shadow Grey. Over the years, Beats has collaborated with sports teams and musicians to release limited drops with different colors. The Sony WH-1000XM4 come in Black, Midnight Blue, and Silver.

Beats Studio 3 vs Sony WH-1000XM4: Noise canceling

A photo of the Sony WH 1000XM4 noise cancelling headphones held by a man in front of indoor plants.
Adam Molina / Android Authority

Sony reigns king of active noise canceling (ANC), and the WH-1000XM4 are the better headphones for traveling. Low-pitched noises are significantly quieter with the Sony WH-1000XM4 than with the Studio 3. When wearing my Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones, bus engines are much quieter than without the headphones.

Considering their 2017 release date, the Beats Studio 3 still have good ANC. It’s just not as good as the WH-1000XM4. That said, the Studio 3 Wireless block out plenty of high-pitched sounds. Nearby chit-chat or your roommate cleaning dishes will sound quieter with the Studio 3 than with the WH-1000XM4. This is largely due to Beats’ greater clamping force and denser memory foam padding.

Beats Studio 3 vs Sony WH-1000XM4: Sound quality

Most people will find the Beats Studio 3 Wireless sound better than the Sony WH-1000XM4 out of the box. The Studio 3 follow a standard bass and treble-boosted frequency response that bodes well for most music genres. The sound might be a tinge bass-heavy for things like classical music, but contemporary music will sound quite good.

Sony’s headphones have an interesting default sound. Like Beats, Sony’s headphones boost the bass, but they crank the treble too. This can lead to an unpleasant sound that may even irritate listeners with sensitive hearing. Fortunately, you can decrease the treble in the Headphones Connect app as a quick fix. With the Studio 3 Wireless, you get what you get, and these could use a little EQ love too.

Beats Studio 3 Wireless vs Sony WH 1000XM4 frequency response comparison chart.

Let’s look closer and compare the Beats Studio 3 vs Sony WH-1000XM4 frequency responses. In the chart above, the cyan line represents the Studio 3, and the yellow dotted line represents the WH-1000XM4. The pink line represents the SoundGuys Target Curve. (SoundGuys is our sister site specializing in consumer audio.) The closer the Beats or Sony line hews to the Target Curve, the more likely someone will like how those headphones sound.

Despite Beats’ reputation for loud bass, the Studio 3 sub-bass is quieter than the WH-1000XM4. You get a strange boost from 250-450Hz, which helps vocals stand out from the rest of the music. As you can see, Beats sticks closer to SoundGuys‘ Curve from 2,000Hz and higher. This means cymbals and hi-hats come through with an expected degree of loudness.

Beats Studio 3 vs Sony WH-1000XM4: Microphone quality

The Beats Studio 3 Wireless headphones in navy on a dark wooden surface.
Adam Molina

If you’re speaking from a quiet environment, the Sony WH-1000XM4 will have better mic quality than the Studio 3. Beats’ microphones make speakers’ voices sound a bit distant compared to Sony’s microphones. That said, the Sony WH-1000XM4 and Beats Studio 3 Wireless are both fine for indoor Zoom and phone calls.

Beats Studio 3 Wireless microphone demo (Ideal conditions):

Sony WH-1000XM4 microphone demo (Ideal conditions):

Microphone quality degrades when you introduce background noise. Even in loud spaces, the Sony WH-1000XM4 relays voices louder than the Studio 3 Wireless. Both relay a bit of wind noise, but this background noise is also a bit louder with the WH-1000XM4.

Beats Studio 3 Wireless microphone demo (Windy conditions):

Sony WH-1000XM4 microphone demo (Windy conditions):

Beats Studio 3 vs Sony WH-1000XM4: Battery and charging

The proximity sensor on the inside of the left earcup of the Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones.
Adam Molina / Android Authority

Officially, the Beats Studio 3 Wireless last 22 hours with ANC. This is shorter than the Sony WH-1000XM4 battery life of 30 hours with ANC. Turning ANC off with the WH-1000XM4 extends the battery life up to 38 hours. Interestingly, turning ANC off with the Studio 3 slingshots its battery life ahead of the WH-1000XM4, all the way to 40 hours.

Both sets of headphones support fast charging. Plugging the WH-1000XM4 in for 10 minutes supplies five hours of listening time. Charging the Studio 3 for 10 minutes provides three hours of listening time. Both are impressive, but Sony’s fast charging is much more efficient than Beats’. Again, the WH-1000XM4 use the more modern USB-C connector, and the Studio 3 use micro-USB.

Beats Studio 3 vs Sony WH-1000XM4: Price

The Beats Studio 3 Wireless rest on a headphone stand in profile.
Adam Molina
  • Beats Studio 3 Wireless: $349
  • Sony WH-1000XM4: $349

The Beats Studio 3 Wireless debuted in September 2017, and have maintained the same $349 price. While Apple doesn’t usually budge on its pricing, you can often find these headphones on promotion from other vendors like Best Buy or Amazon. We’ve seen the Studio 3 go on sale for as low as $169, making them a much more reasonable buy.

Likewise, the Sony WH-1000XM4 debuted at $349 in August 2020, and have maintained that price. You don’t have to dig much to find these headphones on promotion from similar vendors as the Studio 3 Wireless. We’ve seen the WH-1000XM4 dip as low as $229, and at this price, they’re a major steal.

You can find either set of headphones renewed for much less than their original retail price. If you go the renewed/refurbished route, ensure your headphones are from an authorized dealer and program.

Beats Studio 3 vs Sony WH-1000XM4: Which headphones should you buy?

The Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones on a yellow couch.

Both pairs of headphones are good, even by today’s standards, but Sony’s have more modern hardware and a more expansive feature set. With Sony, you get USB-C charging, a custom EQ, and personalized spatial audio. These headphones have less clamping force than Beats, making them a bit more comfortable too.

There are still a few good reasons to consider the Studio 3 Wireless. If you have an iPhone, these headphones support many Apple-integrated features like auto device switching and “Hey, Siri.” Moreover, the Studio 3 default sound profile is more pleasing than the WH-1000XM4. Granted, you’re stuck with that default sound, unless you download a third-party app.

Which headphones would you rather own?

88 votes

Ultimately, if you want a more future-proofed purchase, get the Sony WH-1000XM4. You have fewer color options with Sony’s headphones but a much better user experience if you hop between operating systems.

Beats Studio 3 WirelessBeats Studio 3 Wireless
Beats Studio 3 Wireless
Good battery life • Solid connection
MSRP: $209.00
Solid battery life and great sounding wireless headphones
The Beats Studio 3 Wireless over-ear headphones deliver premium sound while blocking external noise with active noise cancelation.
Sony WH-1000XM4Sony WH-1000XM4
AA Editor's Choice
Sony WH-1000XM4
Great ANC • Sound quality • Connectivity options • Auto-wear detection
MSRP: $348.00
An exceptional pair of noise canceling headphones.
High-quality Bluetooth codecs, great sound, improved noise-canceling, good battery life, and smart features like auto-pause and Bluetooth multipoint make the Sony WH-1000XM4 a great all-round pair of headphones.
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FAQs

Neither set of headphones is waterproof, nor do they carry any kind of water-resistant IP rating.

Yes, both the Studio 3 and WH-1000XM4 have embedded microphones for phone calls, video chats, and voice recordings.

The Beats Studio 3 have active noise canceling that, while good, lags behind today’s flagship headphones.

Yes, the Beats Studio 3 support Apple’s Spatial Audio feature, but they don’t have head tracking or Spatial Audio optimization like the AirPods Max or newer AirPods do.

The Sony WH-1000XM4 are best for gaming when you plug them in. A wired connection means you won’t run into any audio-visual lag, which is important for gaming reaction time.

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