Sony this week released an updated version of its premium noise canceling headphones. If your only interest is how $400 Sony WH-1000XM5 Compared to Apple’s $549 AirPods Max, be sure to check out our direct comparison. The following is an independent review of Sony’s latest headphones.
Since they were released in August 2020, Sony’s WH-1000XM4 headphones have been one of the best cans in the over-ear noise-canceling market, which is probably why Sony has kept them in their lineup despite the latest release version. decided to. You can still buy the XM4 for $349, while the XM5 costs $399. But does paying an extra $50 give you a better listening experience? The short answer is yes, but the performance gain is less than groundbreaking, and any upgrade decision is likely to be dictated by the revised design.
While the XM5s still come in black or silver (off-white) color options, Sony has changed the look of its flagship WH-1000 series headphones. While the XM4s have covered arms that support the ear cups on either side, the XM5s have exposed arms with a single stem attached to the cup, which is slightly wider and more padded than the previous generation.
Sony WH-1000XM5 headphones shown on the right
Elsewhere, Sony has moved the microphone hole closer to the user’s head to reduce wind noise outside and around. The headband has also been made thinner, and these changes create a clean look that is reminiscent of the Bose 700. The headphones haven’t weighed much (250g versus 254g for the XM4), but Sony’s cans are still a bit off. It is lighter than Apple’s AirPods Max (384 grams).
In general, the XM5s look plasticier than their predecessors, but feel sturdier in the hand. This may be due to the fact that there are fewer pivot points and therefore fewer potential points of weakness, but either way, the differences instill confidence when fitting the cups, and they are extremely comfortable even after wearing them for several hours. feel.
One obvious result of the redesign is that the earphones don’t fold like the XM4, forcing Sony to make a bigger, less portable case. Without exaggerating the size difference, it has to be said that this feels like a downgrade, especially when you’re used to keeping your XM4 in a smaller compartment and not in the body of your bag. Regardless of how many people intend to keep these headphones at home, there’s no getting around the fact that noise-canceling cans are made for travel or commuting, as Sony’s marketing suggests. runs.
In terms of sound, Sony swapped out the 40mm drivers on the XM4s and replaced them with 30mm drivers. It’s hard to tell the difference, and you’ll have to pay your full attention to tell them apart, but the XM5’s low frequencies sound more developed, while the midrange is wonderfully balanced, the highs still sparkling on the instrumental track. , and the whole experience retains that spacious, expansive soundstage that XM4 owners will be familiar with.
As before, the headphones use LDAC to deliver hi-res audio, while viewing the correct source device, while the SBC, aptX/aptX HD, and AAC codecs are supported, as is DSEE Extreme enhancements for compressed audio. Sony’s 360 Reality Audio spatial sound effects are also on board, and the effect is clear and immersive, for those who love that sort of thing. Purists also have the option of plugging the supplied cable into the 3.5mm jack.
When it comes to noise cancellation, Sony stuck with the same QN1 processor it uses in the XM4s, which means you still have the full repertoire of adaptive NC options at your fingertips. Launch the Sony Headphone Connect app and you can manually drag a slider that changes the degree of noise cancellation, allowing you to select maximum isolation, wind noise reduction, or 20 levels of variable ambient attenuation. can choose from.
It’s great for finding your ideal NC range while still on the go, but you can also switch on the adaptive sound control when you’re on the go and the built-in QN1 processor will do just as well, automatically sounding your respective inverse. will adjust. frequencies to block out any ambient sounds that get in your way.
In addition, Sony increased the number of microphones to eight (four more than the previous model) and moved them to a more optimal position to reduce high-frequency noise, according to Sony, and they would be correct. Low-frequency sounds like jet engines and traffic fade away like never before, but the XM5s are better at cutting out background conversation in a busy coffee shop or commute.
Ambient noise is also low on voice calls, which is enough for over-the-ear headphones. I didn’t have a pair of AirPods Max to directly compare the XM5’s NC chops, but the Transparency mode on the AirPods Pro is a bit better than what Sony managed. Otherwise, these noise-canceling cans are definitely the best.
One thing missing from the XM5s that previous models have is the optimizer button, which handles the individual NC optimizer function that samples ambient noise and cancels out a wide range of sounds with associated inverted frequencies. Enabling the feature on the XM4s allows the headphone speaker to emit a series of tones bouncing between the microphones to analyze the shape of your head, find out if you have long hair, if you wear glasses, and more. Sony says it’s all now done automatically and in the background, and I can’t say I missed its manually enabled incarnation.
When it comes to battery life, Sony impresses by getting the same 30 hours of wireless battery life as the XM4 with ANC and 40 hours with ANC off (10 more than the previous model). Additionally, Sony has ramped up Power Delivery as well and you can now get three hours of playback in just three minutes with the supplied USB-C charger. The XM5s also supports multipoint, so you can connect to two devices at once, but like the XM4s, you can’t use the feature and LDAC at the same time for some reason.
Like previous models in the WH-1000X range, two buttons on the left earcup control the power and noise/ambient cancellation functions. As before, the power button can be quickly pressed to refresh the battery level, and a long press triggers the pairing sequence. The right earcup has a touch-sensitive back that responds to taps and swipes to control music playback, skip tracks, change the volume, and summon your favorite virtual assistant. Like most modern headphone gesture pads, it can also be used to take calls.
Sony didn’t have to redesign the XM5s, but the fact remains that these headphones seem more in keeping with today’s ethos: sleek, slim cans that look sleek while maintaining the audio performance that Sony requires. Headphones of . , Overall, the design reviews are positive, but if you’re a frequent flyer, the extra bulk that comes with not being foldable might be enough to put you off.
If you already have some XM4’s, the difference between them and the XM5 isn’t enough to require an upgrade (I’m happy with mine). Sony, however, built on the success of the previous model without compromising too much, and if you’re looking for a solid pair of high-performance noise-canceling headphones that match the sound, I’d only recommend them. I can
Sony WH-1000XM5 headphones available to order today Sony website and in heroine for $399.
Note: Sony provided MacRumors with the WH-1000XM5 headphones for this review. No other compensation was received. MacRumors is an affiliate partner of Amazon. When you click on a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us keep the site running.