Beats Studio Pro vs. Sony WH-1000XM5 Comparison Review

Two headphones leaning on a table with plants

How Does the New Beats Studio Pro Compare With Our Reigning Portable Headphone King?

Beats are making the headlines yet again for their redesigned Studio Pros. So, we got a pair. Is the hype real? Beats have taken so much of the consumer audio market share that I don’t even need to say “headphones” for you to know what I’m talking about. Good job in that regard, Beats. But I’m here today to test how they stack up against our top pick: the Sony WH-1000XM5. Sony’s latest noise-canceling headphones had all of us impressed here at Moon Audio, which is saying a lot for an under-$400 headphone.

The Beats have also released their latest iteration of the Studio Pro for $349.99, and it’s getting all the praise around the interwebs. So it got us thinking - is the hype real? We haven’t necessarily seen many “audiophile” takes, so here’s one from us.

Beats Studio Pro vs. Sony WH-1000XM5 Headphone Comparison Review Video


-XM5 has impressive sound enhancements & features
-Beats and XM5 have fun, engaging, & dynamic sound
-XM5 and Beats have great &effective ANC


-Beats still has questionable folding mechanism 
-Beats lacks padding and comfort compared to XM5


Beats headphones on a black plastic head

Beats by Dre - "If It Ain't Broke"

So right off the bat, the styling is nothing particularly special, but I'm a big fan of the blue. It's sleek looking, and although the cushioning is lacking in many respects, the Beats are much thinner than the competition, so it is actually nice that they don't jut out on your head like other headphones do. I appreciate the slimming design despite the padding, or lack thereof compared to other headphones in this price range. I wish the ear cups had a little more articulation for various fits and head sizes, and the clamping force in comparison is a bit tighter than the XM5. This makes them great if you want to use them for more rigorous activities like working out or running, etc. The Beats haven't had a design change in quite some time, I would have liked for them to do away with the folding mechanism, but it's obviously working for them from a portability perspective as they do fold up into a nice compact size. The XM5 could offer a few more color options like Beats to spice things up. 

Overall, there's nothing terribly new or surprising in this department for the Beats, and that's okay. You do you, Beats. 

Sony WH-1000XM5 - New, Bold, Intuitive

In comparison, the WH-1000XM5 feels much more premium. Smoother materials, smaller size, more flex, and even more padding. The added gesture controls are also super intuitive and easy to use - making the huge plastic button on the Beats ear cup feel like a toy. It just doesn’t stack up in the comfort department. The XM5 doesn’t fold up as compactly as the Beats do, but at least I’m getting better materials and more functionality right out of the box.

The headband is a big change, instead of being designed with a hinge-style where the ear cups can fold up into the headband when packed away, Sony went for a more traditional style fixed-band design. This allows for the ear cups to be rotated flat, and the accompanying hard case is designed the same way obviously. To be honest, The padding is actually enhanced since the new headband design accommodates more padding along the entirety of the band. It's also a smaller diameter, but it's strong enough - you're going to have some sort of flex with plastics. The ear cups themselves have remained similar, with a minimal aesthetic and smooth and sleek design. Like the XM4, the only buttons you'll find on the left ear cup are the power on/off and the noise-canceling buttons. 

Sony XM5 on a black plastic head
Similarly, and thankfully, both headphones retain the 3.5mm single-ended headphone jack, and are efficient enough to be used passively. That is, in case you run out of battery life, you can still plug in the cable and have the drivers run off your source device with adequate headroom. You'll of course miss out on all the fancy, digital sound enhancements offered by each brand, but at least you'll still be able to listen to your music in the scenario that you run out of juice. 


Beats headphones in a variety of colors

Beats Studio Pro

So we’ll start off with the most important part here. How they sound. The Studio Pro lineup of Beats is their TOL (top-of-the-line) model, providing all the best tech they have to offer. The noise-canceling is effective here, about what you would expect for this class of headphones. It's certainly more efficient at canceling out noises when the music is going - whereas with the XM5 I could definitely just put them on and enjoy the silence. I can still hear some slight ambient noise with the Beats running without music.

When it comes to the overall response of the headphones, they're V-shaped, a lot like the XM5. They're a lot more balanced than previous iterations of Beats - there's some nice clarity in the higher frequencies - mids are reduced a bit, so I wish there was a little more there, and the bass is ...well... inconsistent? Like I can see how bass heads would want more beef, but there were times when I felt like the low end was bloated on certain songs. You can't please everyone, but I wasn't necessarily impressed either. The best way I can describe it is that they try to mimic the tuning of the XM5 but it just falls short.

One thing the Beats do well is their imaging. Utilizing things like spatial sound and other Apple sound enhancements goes a long way toward showing off the potential of these headphones. I say potential because it still doesn't quite get there. The unfortunate (or fortunate - however you look at it) thing here is that the headphones sound best when cabled. The USB-C cable allows you to access true hi-res music, unhindered by wireless, compressed audio. I used our Black Dragon USB cable to get the most from this. They actually sound quite nice this way, it's just a shame that in order to get the best sound out of a wireless headphone, I have to use a cable. Kind of defeats the purpose.

Sony WH-1000XM5

Now, Sony has done it right. The XM5 has best-in-class noise-canceling as far as we're concerned. Pure silence, even without music playing. The processors and chips just handle it a lot better than the competition. You have to hear it to believe it. Especially when A/B testing one right after the other here, it's readily apparent that the Sony WH XM5 is superior when it comes to ANC. That's just a fact.

Like the Beats, the XM5s also had a driver redesign from the previous generation. The new drivers provide more dynamics, and clarity - especially in the upper frequencies, and it's a more nuanced tuning overall. It's like wiping away a full layer of dust on your furniture and adding some polish - they just shine. Like the Beats, the XM5 handles pretty much every genre out there really well, but the sound is just more refined on the XM5.

black and beige XM5 headphone colors
Sony has their own proprietary sound enhancements as well, and if you're using a Sony source, say like the A306 or ZX707 DAPs, then I'd be hard-pressed to find a better portable combo in this price range. It doesn't even come close to an Apple-and-Beats pairing - since Apple owns Beats and utilizes its own sound enhancements specific to the ecosystem. More lively performances, better imaging, and energy. Yeah the A306 is underpowered as a headphone amplifier (at least for a lot of big full-sized headphones - and to be clear, they're great for IEMs), but man, using it as a Bluetooth music source with the XM5? It's pretty incredible the quality of sound you can get - be sure to try out the DSEE and other sound enhancements to take it to the next level. Sure it's AI and processed, but the technology is getting pretty great, and if you do not want to spend more than 3 or 4 hundred dollars on a pair of headphones, the XM5s are the ones to beat.



Beats have their own proprietary app for Android - and they work natively with Apple or Android. The app for iOS is mostly for the Beats Pill speaker on the other hand - the headphones integrate natively into the Apple ecosystem.  The Studio Pro offers a lot of the same high-end Airpod Max features like head tracking and spatial audio - and they sound great - especially when paired with an Apple phone. A lot of reviews online are favoring the Studio Pro over the Airpod Max in this regard due to the lower price. It misses out on touch or gesture controls though, and when compared to the XM5, it just feels a little behind the times. If you didn't have the XM5 to compare, you wouldn't know any better. It does what it does just fine. But as we'll see, the XM5 is just a more refined and premium experience.


The Sony Headphones Connect app is superb. Offering all the controls and customization you need at your fingertips, the app opens up the functionality and sonic possibilities of how the headphone integrates into your day-to-day life. Touch controls are a big plus, and the headphones offer intuitive voice activation features where you don't even have to take off the headphones if you don't want to. The XM5 is more luxurious and better in every way. Sound enhancements, EQ control, superior ambient noise detection, LDAC, and hi-res Bluetooth streaming. The WH-1000XM5 just can't be BEATS - see what I did there?

When it comes to noise-canceling, both the Beats and XM5s perform well, providing effective cancellation for ambient noise no matter how noisy the external scenario. The XM5 takes a small lead however when it comes to lower frequencies, being able to more effectively eliminate a wider range of noises. The passive NC on the other hand - that is, with the headphones powered off and just the padding and pressure of the headphone canceling out noise while wearing - again goes to the Sony headphones. The better and more robust padding goes a long way in this regard and helps especially if you are using the headphones with the ANC off. 

Be sure to check out the full review of the Sony WH-1000XM5 Wireless Noise-Canceling Headphones for a more detailed look at the features and sound. 

Dragon Cables

For my listening sessions, I paired the Sony WH-1000XM5 with both a Silver Dragon and Black Dragon Portable Cable. I was surprised at the difference that each cable brought out in the overall sound of the headphones. I would argue that both are great options, but if you’re more of the analytical listening persuasion then the Silver Dragon will bring out a bit more detail and top-end sparkle. I think the Black Dragon helps to control the low-end weight and tighten it up. Both cables are a big boost over the included factory cable.

The same goes for the Beats Studio Pro. The Silver Dragon did a great job with tightening up the low end, providing more sparkle and clarity on the top, and just sounding more defined overall compared to the stock cable. Black Dragon provided a touch more thump in the lower frequencies, but the real star of the show for both headphones was the Silver Dragon USB-C cable. Connecting the USB-C cable to each headphone opened the floodgates of high-resolution audio and the full potential of the headphones being realized. Yes, it takes away from the convenience of being wireless, but the sonic pros far outweigh the wireless cons. Being able to truly playback full-high-res quality music is a joy with these headphones, especially considering the price point and the audio performance. A Silver Dragon USB-C Cable is a must-have to have in the case when needed. 
back of mans head with XM5 looking at computer screen
Dragon Cable Logo
Generally, stock audio cables are manufactured with subpar materials, metals with impurities, poor geometries, and an overabundance of layers to make them look and feel like a fire hose. Inconsistency and lack of quality control in stock cables can lead to poor sound quality and a veiled sound vs. what the musician intended for you to hear and feel from the music. Dragon cables are handcrafted with the highest standards and made to order according to your specific needs. At Moon Audio, we create a custom cable for you using the highest quality UP-OCC silver or copper conductors that can be manufactured. UP-OCC metals are void of impurities and are optimized for signal transfer and sound quality. We have one of the largest collections of audio and headphone connection options available online and we create limitless audio cable options depending on your specific gear and needs.
Why Dragon Cables?
You’ve heard the saying that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, right? Well, the same applies to your brand-new audiophile-grade headphone or other audio components. The weakest link, in this case, is your stock cable or the cheap interconnects the manufacturer threw in the box just to get you up and running. Why is the cable always an afterthought, when it’s just as important as the rest of your system? At Moon Audio, we use the best raw materials in our cables to unveil your music. We believe the materials matter and your audio cables should have the same care and craftsmanship that manufacturers put into their audio components and headphones. Audio cables are ultimately the connection to your music. The fact remains that cabling is often considered the last priority to that of the main product and a means to cut down the overall production costs. It’s as simple as that.


Yes, the new Beats Studio Pro is getting a lot of attention right now - and rightly so - if you're already a previous Beats owner. That's the big thing here. Sure it's an upgrade, but only relative to what Beats headphones came before. The Sony WH-1000XM5 is still the noise-canceling, wireless headphone king in our book, for all of the previously stated reasons. You can check out our standalone review for tons of additional information on why they're vastly superior to the competition. It's WELL worth the extra fifty bucks for better materials, better ANC, MUCH better sound quality, and better (and more) features. 

If you're looking for the best high-end consumer or entry-level audiophile (however you want to classify it) headphones on the market, then the Sony WH-1000XM5 wireless headphones are still the headphones to consider. With a brand like Sony, and all the sound enhancements and features included, it's hard to go wrong. 

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