While affordable true wireless earphones are undeniably getting better, the premium segment still offers a different level of flagship quality and performance that sets it apart from the rest. Right now, only a handful of options really stand out in the premium true wireless segment, and these include the Apple AirPods Pro, Sony WF-1000XM4, and Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3.
Although launched in 2019 and the oldest of the three products being compared here, the Apple AirPods Pro is still Apple’s flagship true wireless headset, and continues to hold its own against newer competition such as the Sony WF-1000XM4 and the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3. However, which earphones you choose depends on many factors, and it’s worth understanding the benefits and features of products before making a buying decision. Read on to find out which of these three premium true wireless headsets is best for you.
Apple AirPods Pro vs Sony WF-1000XM4 vs Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3: price and availability
As mentioned, the Apple AirPods Pro is the oldest of the three devices and since its launch, it did receive a minor refresh in the form of the new MagSafe wireless charging case, which is a slight improvement over the regular wireless charging case that was available previously. Although officially priced at Rs. 26,300, the earphones are available with the MagSafe wireless charging case for Rs. 21,499 online.
The Sony WF-1000XM4 launched globally in 2021, but arrived officially in India only in 2022, and is priced a bit lower than the AirPods Pro at Rs. 19,990. The Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 (or MTW 3) is the newest of the three products here, having been launched in 2022, and is available online for Rs. 21,990. You can also buy these three headsets from offline stores across India and globally.
Apple AirPods Pro vs Sony WF-1000XM4 vs Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3: design and specifications
Although all three of these true wireless headsets are comfortable to wear and offer a good seal with proper noise isolation, I found the Apple AirPods Pro to be the most comfortable of the three. This is thanks to the much smaller size of the earpieces, as well as the stability and balance offered by the stem design. The Sennheiser and Sony are visibly larger, especially the Sony WF-1000XM4 which sometimes feels a bit precariously positioned in my ears, and moves around a bit while walking.
The Apple AirPods Pro is available in only a single white colour, while the Sony and Sennheiser earphones are available in multiple colours. All three headsets look good, although the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 is arguably the best looking of the three, in my opinion.
On-device controls work using force touch on the Apple AirPods Pro that allows for a bit more precision and removes the possibility of accidentally triggering gestures. However, the regular touch controls on the Sennheiser MTW3 and Sony WF-1000XM4 headsets allow for more detailed controls directly from the headset, particularly the ability to adjust the volume, which isn’t available on the AirPods.
The charging case of the Apple AirPods Pro is considerably smaller than those of the Sony WF-1000XM4 and Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 earphones. However, the AirPods case offers more rounds of top-ups of the earpieces than the other two headsets, although it’s worth pointing out here that the batteries in the earpieces themselves are much smaller.
The Sony and Sennheiser charging cases use USB Type-C to charge, while the AirPods Pro uses Apple’s Lightning port. All three options additionally support Qi wireless charging, with the AirPods Pro charging case also supporting Apple’s MagSafe system for additional ease and convenience when charging wirelessly.
All three headsets have active noise cancellation. The Sony WF-1000XM4 has 6mm dynamic drivers and the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 has 7mm dynamic drivers, while Apple does not officially state the size of the drivers on the AirPods Pro. All three headsets support the SBC and AAC Bluetooth codecs, but the Sony WF-1000XM4 additionally supports the LDAC codec, while the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 supports the Qualcomm aptX Adaptive and aptX Bluetooth codecs.
Apple AirPods Pro vs Sony WF-1000XM4 vs Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3: app and features
The Sony WF-1000XM4 and Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 each have dedicated apps for both iOS and Android, which can be used to view stats such as battery levels, as well as update the firmware, customise the controls and equaliser settings, adjust the level of active noise cancellation and hear-through modes, and more. The Sony Headphones Connect app and Sennheiser Smart Control app also work with other products from the respective brands.
Both the Sony and Sennheiser true wireless headsets are also able to invoke the default voice assistant on your smartphone through a touch gesture. The Sony WF-1000XM4 additionally supports the company’s 360 Reality Audio format and Google Fast Pair, which speeds up the pairing process with Android devices and links the headset to your Google account.
The Apple AirPods Pro does not have a dedicated app as the key settings and preferences for the headset are baked into the Bluetooth settings in iOS itself. You can use this to cycle between active noise cancellation and transparency modes, choose the function of the press-and-hold gesture on the earpieces, and toggle other settings such as automatic ear detection, optimised battery charging, Find My network, and automatic connection.
Playback controls and equaliser settings aren’t customisable on the AirPods Pro, and firmware updates are automatic and cannot be manually done. Spatial Audio can be turned on or off through the volume controls on the iOS device when the headset is connected. There is no app support for the AirPods Pro on Android, but the earphones will work normally with any compatible Android phone or Bluetooth device.
When used with iOS devices, the Apple AirPods Pro benefits from the connectivity features of the H1 chip, which allows for quick connectivity, seamless transitions between various Apple devices linked to your Apple ID, and support for Spatial Audio with Dolby Atmos when used with supported services such as Apple TV+ and Apple Music.
The earphones also support the Siri voice assistant when paired with an iOS device, and the AirPods Pro is always listening for the ‘Hey Siri’ wake command to receive voice-based instructions. Although you can’t manually control the volume from the earpieces, you can instruct Siri to adjust the volume through voice commands.
Apple AirPods Pro vs Sony WF-1000XM4 vs Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3: performance and battery life
Various factors determine the quality of the sound on earphones, including Bluetooth codec support. The Sony WF-1000XM4 and Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 support advanced Bluetooth codecs that unlock the full potential of the earphones, but this naturally also requires support for the same codec on the source device.
The LDAC Bluetooth codec is widely supported on Android devices, while the aptX Adaptive codec is also supported on many modern Android devices running certain Qualcomm chipsets. The older aptX codec is similarly widely supported on Android devices. However, none of these advanced codecs are supported on iOS devices, so the Sony WF-1000XM4 and Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 will settle for the AAC Bluetooth codec when connected to an iPhone or iPad.
The Sony and Sennheiser earphones are therefore best used with an Android smartphone, and you’ll be losing out on some potential if used with an Apple device. On the other hand, the Apple AirPods Pro supports the AAC Bluetooth codec, and delivers a uniform listening experience across devices and platforms.
That said, if you are using the Sony WF-1000XM4 with a device that supports the LDAC Bluetooth codec, the headset is capable of delivering detailed, entertaining, and cohesive sound that is able to effectively keep pace with changing dynamics in music tracks. LDAC at 990kbps was previously quite unstable but Sony seems to have fixed these issues with the WF-1000XM4 and the headset is able to keep up with the high data rate with no trouble at all.
The Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 similarly sounds best when used with a device which supports the aptX Adaptive Bluetooth codec. Although not as detailed and analytical as the Sony WF-1000XM4, the sound is exciting, driven, and full of character, making for a fun and flexible sound that adapts well to various genres. Even with the older aptX codec, sound quality is decent and reasonably detailed, if only falling short a bit in flexibility and energy compared to the newer Adaptive codec.
What the Apple AirPods Pro lacks in codec support, it makes up for with decent tuning and a flexible sonic signature that seems to adapt intuitively to the genre and listening conditions on the fly. The sound quality is very good across genres and there’s plenty of attack and drive, but it falls just a bit short when it comes to detail, particularly when compared to the Sony and Sennheiser earphones operating with the ideal codecs.
When it comes to active noise cancellation, it’s hard to declare a clear winner between the AirPods Pro, Sony WF-1000XM4, and Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3. All three headsets perform well with ANC, but I found the AirPods Pro to do especially well in indoor environments, particularly against typical household sounds such as ceiling fans and air conditioners.
The Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 performed the best outdoors, specifically against wind noise, while the Sony WF-1000XM4 is tuned to work well against urban sounds from a construction work in your neighbourhood and when commuting on public transport. The transparency and hear-through modes on all three are decent, but the Apple AirPods Pro offers the most natural-sounding hear-through of the lot.
With around six hours of use on a single charge, the Sony WF-1000XM4 is the best of the three when it comes to battery life from the earpieces alone. The Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 is close second and actually jumps ahead when the charging case is considered, offering three additional charges as compared to two for Sony.
I therefore got a total of 23 hours of listening time per charge cycle on the Sennheiser headset, while the Sony managed to deliver just about 18 hours. The AirPods Pro ran for just over four hours on a single charge in my review, but with four and a half additional charges from the case, got to a similar 23 hours of listening time per charge cycle as the Sennheiser.
If you’re looking for a simple answer as to which of these three premium true wireless headsets is the best, then sadly there isn’t one. It largely depends on the devices you will be using the earphones with, and depending on whether it runs iOS or Android, the answer will be different. If you have an Android smartphone, the AirPods Pro really shouldn’t figure in your shortlist. Similarly, if you use an iPhone as your source device, the Sony WF-1000XM4 and Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 won’t be able to work at their full potential.
Simply put, the AirPods Pro should be your pick if you’re invested in the Apple ecosystem, as the connectivity benefits and additional features make it worth your while, along with decent sound and ANC on the whole.
If you’re looking purely at sound quality and have an Android smartphone, the Sony WF-1000XM4 is my pick of the three, although the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 isn’t too far behind. For a fun listening experience and decent outdoor ANC performance, the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 is worth considering.
That said, on a purely objective evaluation that puts aside all other factors including source devices, I’d pick the Sony WF-1000X4 as the overall winner for its sound quality, which is better than the rest in optimal conditions.