For the last two weeks, I have been on a quest. The goal was to find a pair of headphones for me to use everyday for traveling, listening to music and playing audio books. I already knew quite a lot about headphones. I knew what I wanted to use them for. I knew most of the features that I was interested in having.

That should have made the decision easy, but as my husband can attest, the decision was a difficult one. We scoured every nearby electronics store and spent hours going over online information and comparisons. What we found was somewhat amazing. I have used and loved Bose headphones for years. Bose has always been the leader in headphones, but to my surprise Sony came up on the top of my list for headphones.

Over the years, I have had a lot of experience with headphones. I have owned, reviewed, or used many different headphones that were created by excellent manufacturers including Marshall, Bose, Philips, Audio Technica, Apple, Logitech, Sony, Sennheiser, Plantronics, Beats, Blue, Panasonic, and others. So I had plenty of headphone experiences.

I wanted a pair of over-the-ear headphones with active noise cancellation (not just passive noise cancellation headphones, which to me sounded like listening through a pair of earmuffs). They needed to be wireless, light and comfortable enough for wearing for several hours and to have excellent sound quality.

Actually, sound quality was one of the most important qualities. If that were the only feature I was looking for I would have quickly opted for a pair of high-end Sennheisers or the Blue Ella headphones that have advanced planar magnetic drivers for a wonderful deep sound. But headphones with this sound quality were all over $800 and many were easily over $1,000. Very few are wireless and most are heavy, weighing over 500 grams.

My brain slowly recognized and accepted the obvious. I would be giving up some sound quality to get wireless headphones that were in my under-$400-price-range. So, my search went on.

Since I really wanted to have headphones that were extremely comfortable, I decided to try on as many as possible, which is not easy unless you head for the big city. There I found that Bose even had a pair of bone conducting headphones that were built into a pair of sunglasses. They worked by bypassing your eardrum to deliver sound straight to your inner ear via vibrations in the bones in your head. It was an interesting concept that worked well, but were just not what I felt I needed.

After a few road trips, my husband and I both agreed that the Bose QuietComfort 35 headphones were the most comfortable. They were only232 grams and were made of very soft leather. I have been very happy with the quality of Bose products, and was almost ready to pull the trigger on them.

Two things, however, held me back. First, I saw a demo unit that showed ragged edges on the leather earpads. This might have been just by overuse by some teenagers, but it also might have been an indication that the leather was not going to last too long. Second, the sound quality while balanced and warm, was a bit wishy-washy. I know that when using Bluetooth for wireless connectivity, you simply don’t get the sound quality that you can get over a wire. But after a little added research I found that the Bose Q35’s don’t support aptX, which is a compression codec that allows for higher quality streaming over Bluetooth. My Samsung Galaxy phone does support this codec that allows music to sound better, so suddenly the Bose lost out.

In the end, however, I did find the right headphones for me. The Sony WH-1000XM3 were about the same price as the Bose and were about as close to perfect as I was going to get. First of all, they were light, only a few grams heavier than the Bose and were quite comfortable. The Noise Cancelation was excellent, even a bit better than the Bose. The sound quality was excellent….the best that I heard in that price range.

The tip of the iceberg was that these Sony headphones also supported Hi-RES. Not only could they play some of the Hi-RES music that I already owned, but they use proprietary processes to allow playback of music with increased sound specification. To put it simply, Hi-RES makes MP3 music sound better.

I was amazed to find that both the Bose and Sony headphones that I liked also came integrated with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. And it turns out that the Sony WH-1000XM3’s were better than the Bose in several other important ways as well. The Sony rechargeable battery is rated to last 30 hours and a fast charge of 10 minutes provides 5 hours of playback time. The Sony’s also have an app that allows you to customize the EQ.

All-in-all, these headphones are spectacular. They have extremely clear vocals and a punchy bass. The first Hi-DEF song that I listened to was Over the Rainbow by the Pentatonics, a wonderful acapella group. I could hear each voice with clarity and depth that I never expected. As I adjusted the EQ and listened to other types of music, I have been totally impressed. These Sony headphones list for $349. So, they weren’t inexpensive, but they are a true representation of how far we have come in audio reproduction. Also, Sony and Bose have been in headphone competition for a long time. It’s great to see that competition making their products better and better.