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The best Sony headphones to buy in 2023

Best Sony headphones - hero

From over-ear to true wireless, these are the best Sony headphones no matter your budget or style preference

With so many manufacturers competing for your hard-earned cash, why choose a pair of the best Sony headphones? Well, it’s a brand with a wealth of audio experience for a start. It’s been making headphones of various shapes and sizes since 1964 and over-ear models like the MDR-7506 have been staples of professional studios for decades.

That legacy shouldn’t be overlooked, but nor should the innovative excellence of the Japanese firm in recent times. Sony’s MDR-DS7500s were the first headphones to deliver 3D digital surround sound in 2011, while the original WF-1000X from 2017 were one of the first pairs of true wireless earbuds with noise cancellation on the mass market.

Iterative refinements to those ground-breaking features have cemented Sony as one of the most successful and respected mainstream manufacturers and you’ll find its products on many of our best headphones roundups. The company even has its own audio codec, LDAC, that supports 32-bit/96kHz Hi-Res audio over Bluetooth.

Below, you’ll find our pick of the best Sony headphones available, including those with active noise cancelling (ANC) and a whole gamut of other impressive features. Whether you’re after over-ear headphones capable of drowning out the world around you or discreet earbuds designed to enhance your environmental awareness, there’s something for everyone at a range of price points.

How we test Sony headphones

We approach testing Sony headphones in the same manner as we do testing any other manufacturer’s cans. We assess the fit and feel of headphones once in, on or over our ears and gauge build quality based on the materials used and the sturdiness of joints and fixings. We test the functionality of all touch or physical controls on the headphones, the stability of connections when streaming via Bluetooth and reported battery life where relevant. Sound quality is tested across all supported connection options, be they wired or wireless. When testing over Bluetooth, we’ll evaluate every supported codec, including Sony’s own Hi-Res LDAC format, by listening to a variety of musical genres from various audio sources. We also make extensive use of the Sony Headphones Connect app to explore general and Sony-specific features like 360 Reality Audio and Adaptive Sound Control to see how successfully implemented they are.

READ NEXT: Best noise-cancelling headphones

The best Sony headphones to buy

1. Sony WF-1000XM5: Best Sony true wireless earbuds

Price when reviewed: £259 | Check price at AmazonSony WF-1000XM5 - charging case closed with earbuds outside it

Sony’s latest wireless earbuds don’t rewrite the script but instead refine the formula that has made their predecessors standout choices over recent years.

Noise cancellation performance is improved and closes the gap on the class-leading Bose QC Earbuds II, while a new driver arrangement helps add a bit of extra weight to the buds’ low-end reproduction compared to the WF-1000XM4.

We’re not talking huge strides forward in either of those areas, but the XM5’s revamped design is a true triumph. It’s significantly smaller than the previous model, more ergonomic, and more aesthetically pleasing, too. Sony’s Adaptive Sound Control system remains unmatched, dynamically adjusting settings based on your actions and surroundings.

While not a seismic upgrade on the XM4, the WF-1000XM5’s overall package, which includes spatial audio, AI-enhanced upscaling and excellent battery life cements them as Sony’s true wireless champions and some of the best buds from any brand.

Read our Sony WF-1000XM5 review for more details

Key specs – Type: True wireless earbuds; Connections: Bluetooth 5.3; Weight: 5.9g per earbud, 38g charging case; Cable length: N/A; Battery life: 24hrs

2. Sony WH-1000XM5: Best Sony over-ear headphones

Price when reviewed: From £379 | Check price via AmazonSony WH-1000XM5 review - main image

Released in 2022, Sony’s flagship headphones are the best over-ear noise cancellers on the market right now. They house improved drivers compared to their predecessor the WH-1000XM4, and are able to extract even more detail from source material. Superb sound quality is complemented by the smartest noise cancellation in the business and a streamlined aesthetic that simultaneously improves noise cancellation by reducing the impact of wind on audio.

Nifty features like a touch sensitive panel on the right earcup for skipping and pausing tracks, alongside Sony’s Adaptive Sound Control, which automatically adjusts sound settings based on what you are doing, only sweeten the experience. And it’s a supremely comfortable experience, too, with soft earcups lined in vegan leather ensuring you’ll only ever want to take the XM5 off when your listening session is done.

Read our Sony WH-1000XM5 review for more details

Key specs – Type: Over-ear, wireless; Connections: Bluetooth; Weight: 250g; Cable length: 1.2m; Battery life: 30hrs

3. Sony WF-C500: Best budget Sony earbuds

Price when reviewed: £59 | Check price via John Lewis

When the purse strings need tightening, but you still require a pair of in-ear headphones, Sony’s cheapest true wireless offering – the Sony WF-C500 – are the buds to buy.

The WF-C500 draw on Sony’s wealth of audio experience to deliver a sonic experience that’s both engaging and enjoyable at a fraction of the cost of the flagship WF-X1000XM4. You’ll be forgoing fancy features like active noise cancellation and control customisation but there’s an effective equaliser in the Sony Headphones Connect companion app, along with support for Sony’s immersive spatial audio format, 360 Reality Audio.

Read our Sony WF-C500 review for more details

Key specs – Type: In-ear, wireless; Connections: Bluetooth 5.0; Weight: 5.4g (per earbud); Cable length: N/A; Battery life: 10hrs

4. Sony WF-1000XM4: Still excellent Sony earbuds

Price when reviewed: £250 | Check price via AmazonSony WF-1000XM4 review - earbuds and case

While their crown as the best Sony earbuds has been taken by the WF-1000XM5, the Sony WF-1000XM4 are the still excellent wireless earbuds. Even now, few other models can compete with their combination of sensational audio quality – featuring Hi-Res support if you’re using Sony’s LDAC codec – and noise-cancelling capabilities. Their intelligent ambient sound control detects when you are stationary, walking, running or on transport and adjusts the ANC accordingly (depending on your personalised settings).

Design wise, these buds are an ergonomic dream, with foam eartips comfy enough for long-haul listening and an IPX4 rating for water resistance, which is ideal for sweaty or all-weather activity. The battery is impressive, too, with the WF-1000XM4 offering 24 hours of Bluetooth audio (eight hours per charge with 16 hours of juice in the charging case). Meanwhile, hands-free controls for various voice assistants, wear detection and automatic off make your life that little bit simpler. You should be able to find them for a more affordable price point these days, too.

Read our Sony WF-1000XM4 review for more details

Key specs – Type: True wireless earbuds; Connections: Bluetooth 5.0; Weight: 6g per earbud, 41g charging case; Cable length: N/A; Battery life: 24hrs

5. Sony LinkBuds: Best Sony earbuds for external awareness

Price when reviewed: £149 | Check price via AmazonSony LinkBuds review - ring drivers back and front

Unlike most true wireless earbuds, the Sony LinkBuds actively let sound into your ears. That might seem a little counterintuitive, but has the benefits of allowing you to stay connected to the outside world, hold conversations and remain aware of your surroundings without having to constantly remove your headphones.

It’s a wonderful premise, but in practice, we found the LinkBuds weren’t particularly practical in hectic environments. They’re not cut out for travelling on noisy trains or inner city bustle – the external noise let into your ears is just too loud. For countryside dwellers and home workers looking to mix real world ambience with a podcast, album or video game, however, they’re an appealing choice.

Read our full Sony LinkBuds review for more details

Key specs – Type: True wireless earbuds; Connections: Bluetooth 5.2; Weight: 4.1g per earbud, 34g charging case; Cable length: N/A; Battery life: 5hrs 30mins

6. Sony MDR-ZX310: Best cheap wired Sony headphones

Price when reviewed: £25 | Check price via Amazon

The Sony WH-1000XM5 are incredible headphones but too expensive for most average music lovers. If you’re after a super cheap pair of Sony headphones, the Sony MDR-ZX310 are your best bet.

For a fraction of the price of the WH-1000XM5, you’re getting a solid pair of on-ear, wired headphones that fold away to a compact size, making them great for easy listening on the move, assuming your smartphone has a 3.5mm port. They produce decent sound characterised by solid mid-range and treble frequency articulation, but bass is a little lacklustre. Still, you won’t find a keener balance of portability and price in Sony’s on- and over-ear headphones roster.

Key specs – Type: On-ear headphones; Connections: 3.5mm jack plug; Weight: 127g; Cable length: 1.2m; Battery life: N/A

7. Sony WH-1000XM4: Best Sony headphones for travel

Price when reviewed: £210 | Check price at TechInTheBasket

Over-ear headphones are a godsend on long journeys and trips abroad, so having a pair that can be folded into a compact size is a real benefit. The newer Sony WH-1000XM5 don’t fold, making the WH-1000XM4 a better option for those that appreciate being able to easily stuff their headphones into a bag or large pocket.

The WH-1000XM4 have plenty of other things going for them, too, since they incorporate much of what makes their successors so great. You have the same controls and features like wear detection, Speak-to-Chat and Adaptive Sound Control, and they’re still oh-so comfortable to wear. You might not get the ultimate audio quality or noise cancelling Sony has to offer, but the WH-1000XM4 stand up extremely well against most competitors and are exceptional value at their discounted price of a touch over £200.

Read our Sony WH-1000XM4 review for more details

Key specs – Type: Over-ear, wireless; Connections: Bluetooth 5.0; Weight: 254g; Cable length: 1.2m; Battery life: 30hrs

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8. Sony WF-1000XM3: Still excellent earbuds for less

Price when reviewed: From £94 | Check price via Amazon

The WF-1000XM4 may be the latest and greatest option when it comes to Sony earbuds, but their predecessors are available for less than half the price and still offer a great all-round experience.

Crucially, there’s impressive audio (albeit, without support for Sony’s Hi-Res LDAC codec) and a noise-cancelling system that works wonderfully well. Battery life is also impressive at 24 hours – the same as offered by the WF-1000XM4 – while the design, which isn’t as refined as that of its successor, is perfectly comfortable.

Though no longer the jewel in Sony’s true wireless earbuds crown, the WF-1000XM3 are top-notch true wireless earbuds and a steal at under £100.

Read our full Sony WF-1000XM3 review for more details

Key specs – Type: In-ear, wireless; Connections: Bluetooth 5.0; Weight: 77g; Cable length: N/A; Battery life: 24hrs

9. Sony MDR-XB510AS: Best cheap wired Sony earbuds for exercise

Price when reviewed: £23 | Check price via Amazon

Wired headphones may not be as popular as their wireless counterparts, but they’re generally cheaper and a lot more difficult to misplace. Should you prefer the security of a wired connection and want affordable Sony headphones to use during physical activity, we recommend the MDR-XB510AS.

As the MDR-XB510AS don’t require charging you’ll never find yourself out of battery just before setting off for a run, while IPX5 certification ensures they’re able to withstand sweaty workouts and being cleaned under a tap afterwards.

These in-ear headphones feature Sony’s trademarked Extra Bass to help deliver a rich, impactful low-end, and come with a range of eartip sizes and earhooks to ensure they remain firmly in place no matter how vigorous your exercise regime.

Key specs – Type: In-ear, wired; Connections: 3.5mm jack plug; Weight: 11g; Cable length: 1.2m; Battery life: N/A

10. Sony NW-WS410: Best Sony headphones for swimming

Price when reviewed: £109 | Check price via Amazon

The Sony MDR-XB510AS may be water and sweat resistant, but swimmers who enjoy a motivating tune need something capable of surviving and thriving at greater depths and for longer periods of time: step up the Sony NW-WS410.

These headphones, available in a range of colours, operate as an MP3 player rather than a Bluetooth streaming device, with 4GB of storage space onto which you can whack your favourite audiobooks, podcasts and tunes. They can be used in both saltwater and freshwater for 30 minutes at depths of up to 2m and thanks to a streamlined fit, will stay in place no matter how fast you’re darting through the water.

Audio quality is impressive for a pair of swimming headphones and battery life of up to 12 hours means you’ll be able to get in numerous pool sessions before they need topping up. The icing on the cake is an ambient mode that enables you to remain aware of what’s going on around you, which comes in handy if you need to hear your swimming coach barking orders from the poolside.

Key specs – Style: In-ear, MP3 player; Connections: N/A; Weight: 32g; Cable length: N/A; Battery life: 12hrs

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