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Sony WF-1000XM3 vs Grado GT220: which wireless earbuds are right for you?

sony wf-1000xm3
(Image credit: TechRadar)

True wireless earbuds like the Apple AirPods have become increasingly popular in recent years, thanks to their combination of cable-free convenience and compact designs. 

While the sound quality was once considered sub-par compared to over-ear headphones and wired earbuds, models like the Sony WF-1000XM3 and the more recent Grado GT220 have proven that audio performance doesn’t need to suffer once you cut the cord.

Throw in extra features like active noise cancellation and voice control, and the best true wireless earbuds you can buy today are truly hard-working devices that can take you from your commute, to your workout, to relaxing at home with ease. 

With Black Friday deals on headphones and wireless earbuds already rolling in, you may be wondering whether you should buy the Sony WF-1000XM3 or the Grado GT220; the former being our pick for the best true wireless earbuds of 2020, while the latter brings Grado’s iconic sonic prowess to a smaller form factor for the first time.

We’ve spent time testing both earbuds, and in this guide, we’ll take you through all the key points you should consider when it comes to making your decision – as well as giving you an overview of the best deals available today and what you can expect over Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

What you should know about Black Friday
If you want to save money on the best true wireless earbuds of 2020, there's a good chance they'll be discounted on Black Friday, which falls on November 27. The Sony WF-1000XM3 have already dropped to their lowest ever price in the US – just make sure you bookmark our guide to Black Friday headphones deals so you can grab the discounts as soon as they land.

sony wf-1000xm3

(Image credit: Steve May)

What’s good about the Sony WF-1000XM3?

The Sony WF-1000XM3 are the best true wireless earbuds you can buy in 2020, beating the likes of the Apple AirPods Pro and cheaper models like the Lypertek Tevi with their stunning sound performance, great active noise cancellation, and sleek looks. 

Stunning noise cancellation

The Sony WF-1000XM3 offer the best active noise cancellation you’ll find in a pair of wireless earbuds, with the ability to block out environmental sound whether you’re on a plane or trying to work in a busy office. 

Now, they’re not quite as effective as the Sony WH-1000XM4 over-ear headphones, but that’s to be expected from in-ear headphones. In any case, you’ll find that WF-1000XM3 are extremely good at eliminating nearby chatter, thanks to dual noise sensors in each bud. 

There’s no noise cancellation on offer with the Grado GT220, so if that’s a dealbreaker, the Sony earbuds are the best choice for you.

Superb audio performance

Inside the Sony WF-1000XM3 are 6mm drivers that exude clarity and rhythm, whatever you’re listening to; these superb little music makers miraculously conjure a wide, expansive soundstage, with believable spatial detail. 

If you’re listening to podcasts, you’ll find the mid-range is silky smooth and perfect for clearly transmitting the spoken word. If you prefer to rock out, they roll with the best of them – guitars have edge, drums are tight and hard. Alternatively, dance and pop mixes sound positively frothy.

There’s some appreciable bass, but no boom, which is great if you’re looking for an accurate sound. Bass-heads however, may want to look elsewhere, and perhaps opt for a pair of more powerful over-ear headphones.

Sleek design

Coming in white and black, the Sony WF-1000XM3 are far more understated than the likes of the Apple AirPods, with oval housings that slot discreetly into your ears. They also come with a wide selection of non-slip rubber and foam earbud covers, so you should be able to find a comfortable and secure fit.

true wireless earbuds

(Image credit: TechRadar)

What’s good about the Grado GT220?

It's not like Grado to rush to be first into a new sector of the market, and the GT220 launched a year after Sony released its own wireless earbuds. But the good news is that the GT220 true wireless earbuds have been entirely worth the wait in our opinion.

Audiophile sound performance

The Grado GT220 sound nothing short of brilliant; the tonal balance, from the deep, detailed, textured lowest frequencies to the crisply attacking highest, is judged exquisitely. In the midrange, the vocal has more than enough breathing space at the front of the soundstage to come through clearly. 

These earbuds will extract every shred of information from digital files of your favorite music and deliver it with such authority, and in such a complete and coherent manner, that it sounds fresh even if you’ve heard it a thousand times before.

So, if absolute audio fidelity is what you’re looking for, you’ll probably want to opt for these Grado wireless earbuds over the Sony WF-1000XM3. 

Great battery life

The Grado GT220 hold six hours of charge within the earbuds themselves, with the charging case providing another five full charges for a total of 36 hours. That easily beats the Sony’s purported 30-hour battery life, and means you can happily leave the Grado earbuds in your bag and not worry about having to top them up throughout the week.

Light, comfortable design

The GT220 are compact, light at 5g per earbud and, and the shape lends itself to a snug fit. Their ‘twist/lock’ fitting action means they also deliver a degree of passive noise cancellation by physically blocking outside sound, so you won’t be completely inundated with sound from the outside world.

They’re a lot lighter than the Sony WF-1000XM3, which come in at 8.5g each – so if you find some earbuds a little cumbersome, the Grado GT220 could be a good fit for your ears.

Takeaway

Undoubtedly, both the Sony WF-1000XM3 and the Grado GT220 are very accomplished true wireless earbuds, and either model would leave you ears feeling very happy indeed. 

However, if you’re on a stricter budget, you may be better off opting for the Sony WF-1000XM3; while they cost $230 / £220 / AU$399, we’ve been seeing Black Friday deals that take the wireless earbuds down to $168 / £169 in the US and the UK. 

Meanwhile, the Grado GT220 will set you back $259 / £250 / AU$365, and as they’re so recent, we’re not expecting to see any significant discounts this year – and, with no active noise cancellation, we can see how people may find the Sony earbuds to be better value for money. 

Saying that, the Grado GT220 are undeniably marketed towards audiophiles, and if you’re looking for pure audio fidelity and a crisp, highly detailed sound, these are the buds you should go for. 

Neither the Grado nor the Sony earbuds are suitable for working out with, as they don’t come with IP water-resistance rating, which means we can’t guarantee they’ll withstand sweat or rain. If you’re looking for working out earbud, check out the best running headphones of 2020 for our top picks for fitness fanatics.