Sony released a $250 version of its popular 'Bose-killer' headphones, and they're fantastic

sony xb900n 8Antonio Villas-Boas/Business Insider

Sony released a new pair of wireless noise-cancelling headphones called the WH-XB900N, and it's a pretty big deal.

It's a big deal because the last time Sony released a pair of wireless noise-cancelling headphones - the WH-1000XM3 - they rivaled the gold standard in wireless noise cancelling headphones, the Bose QC 35.

The new $250 WH-XB900N - which I'll simply call the XB900N - are essentially a cheaper version of the $350 1000XM3s. They're almost exactly what you'd expect from a cheaper version of a more expensive pair.

The build, sound-quality, and noise-cancelling on the XB900Ns aren't quite as good as the more expensive 1000XM3s. But the XB900Ns aren't that far behind, which makes them a very appealing choice for anyone looking to spend under $300 on a pair of wireless noise-cancelling cans.

Check out the Sony XB900Ns up close:

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Design

Design

Let's not forget that $250 for a pair of headphones still isn't "cheap." But it's not "premium," either.

With that in mind, the XB900Ns share a nearly identical design with the high-end 1000XM3s, which is to say they look expensive, sleek, and modern.

The main difference is that the plastic on the XB900Ns has a rougher texture that might not feel quite as nice as the rubbery-smooth plastic on the 1000XM3s. Still, the XB900Ns simply don't feel cheap — at all.

Sound quality

Sound quality

The XB900Ns sound fantastic for a $250 pair of wireless headphones. They're nearly on par with the 1000XM3s and Bose QC 35, and they'll make anyone feel like they're getting every penny's worth.

Where they differ in sound quality is in finer clarity. The 1000XM3s have a slightly more refined sound that enthusiasts might prefer. But if you just want your music to sound good without going over $300, the XB900Ns will suitably please.

The "XB" in the XB900N model name stands for "extra bass," and they do produce more punchy and rolling bass than a regular pair of headphones out of the box. And you can feel that extra bass, too.

They respond incredibly well to equalizer settings in Sony's headphones app, too, so you can tone down that "extra bass" if you like. The sound these headphones make can be molded to you personal preference, and Sony has plenty of presets you can easily pick from.

For example: Like the 1000XM3s, the XB900Ns don't have enough brightness and treble out of the box for my taste. I set the "treble boost" equalizer preset in Sony's headphones app for the XB900Ns, which works beautifully in harmony with the extra bass.

With that said, you may like the way the XB900Ns sound out of the box. It's up to you how you want them to sound, but the core quality is there.

Noise-cancelling

Noise-cancelling

This is where I noticed the biggest difference between the XB900Ns and the 1000XM3s.

The XB900Ns offer good noise-cancelling, and you'll be happy to get the level of noise cancelling they offer at $250. But if noise cancelling is among your top priorities, you may want to consider paying more for either the 1000XM3s or Bose QC 35.

The XB900Ns do a great job, but they reflect their cheaper price tag by being less good at cancelling the ambient noise around you. You might also get a wind gust's roaring sound on a windy day.

Still, noise-cancelling on the XB900Ns is absolutely there, and I still can't believe how much of New York City's constant drone they block out.

Comfort

Comfort

No complaints here regarding the XB900N's comfort. They're a little tighter around the ears than the 1000XM3s, but that's just for reference, and the 1000XM3s aren't tight to begin with.

While I'm here, I should note that the XB900Ns are also perfect to pack away in a bag, as they can fold up into a neat, compact package.

Battery life and controls

Battery life and controls

Like the 1000XM3s, Sony claims the XB900Ns have a 30-hour battery life. I didn't test the accuracy of that claim, but I can say that I have no complaints on the battery front. I never felt like I had to charge the XB900Ns too often.

The controls are exactly the same as those on the 1000XM3s. That's to say you control music with a touch sensor on the right ear cup, and it's pretty easy to get used to.

The XB900Ns support voice assistants, including Google Assistant and Alexa, if you're interested.

Should you buy them? It's an extra bass-y "yes" from my end.

Should you buy them? It's an extra bass-y "yes" from my end.

Where Sony is offering a cheaper set of wireless noise-cancelling headphones, Bose is going the other way by releasing a more expensive pair than the QC 35. Bose isn't doing a bad thing, by any means, as its new 700 headphones promise better sound and noise-cancelling performance than ever.

But it does mean that I can unequivocally recommend the Sony WH-XB900N headphones for anyone who doesn't want to spend over $300 — or even under $275, for that matter.

However, Sony's premium WH-1000XM3 headphones often go on sale for around $300. I've even seen them go below the $300 mark on sites like Amazon, too. If you happen to spot the 1000XM3s for around $300, it might be worth your consideration to spend an extra $50 rather than going for the XB900Ns. $300 is great value for the 1000XM3s.

But if you're dead-set on spending the less money for awesome performance, the Sony WH-XB900Ns are ready for you ears.

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