Sony WH-1000XM5 Review


Table of Contents

Introduction

's WH-1000XM series has long been a leader in wireless headphones, known for its noise cancellation and overall quality. The latest iteration, the , boasts a design refresh and some minor improvements, but is it enough to justify the price increase?

The Sony WH-1000XM5 stands out as a beacon of excellence. These headphones promise notable enhancements in both sound quality and noise cancellation compared to their predecessor. As we delve into this review, it becomes evident that the WH-1000XM5 is a worthy contender for the title of the best headphones in the market.

Design and Comfort

The XM5 features a sleeker, more modern design compared to its predecessors. While some might miss the previous folding design for portability, the XM5 is lighter and features recycled materials. The build quality feels good, but slightly less premium than past models. The earcups are comfortable overall, though they might not be ideal for extended workouts due to a lack of water resistance.

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Price; $398

Performance and App

The XM5 takes 's already impressive noise cancellation to new heights. With eight microphones and a new processor, it effectively cuts out distractions, making it perfect for travel or noisy environments. The companion app remains functional but lacks the modern design of the headphones themselves. It offers various controls for sound quality, noise cancellation, and voice assistants.

Sound Quality

The XM5 delivers excellent sound quality with improved clarity, especially in the highs and mids. The bass is still present but doesn't overpower the vocals. The app allows for further customization, and LDAC support ensures high-resolution audio quality on compatible devices. Call quality is also outstanding, thanks to the advanced microphone technology.

Battery Life and Charging

Battery life is good, lasting around 30 hours with noise cancellation on. While competitors offer more, most users should find it sufficient. The XM5 boasts impressive fast charging, reaching 90% in just 45 minutes. Three minutes of charge provides three hours of playback, making it perfect for quick getaways.

Software and Features

The headphones are compatible with the well-established Headphones Connect app, commonly used across headphone models. Over the years, the app has accumulated various features (depending on the connected headphones), but unfortunately, setting it up has become somewhat cumbersome. The time and steps required to reach the main app screen post-installation exemplify this.

Once you navigate through the initial setup, the main app interface will be recognizable to those familiar with past headphone models. From the main screen, you can manage the Adaptive Sound Control feature and control the playback of the currently active music. The second section provides adjustments for all audio-related features, encompassing ANC, EQ, 360 Reality Audio setup, and DSEE Extreme. The third section facilitates control over various button presses and gestures.

Several noteworthy features are accessible within these sections. The Adaptive Sound Control feature intelligently adapts noise cancellation based on your movements and location. The Speak-to-Chat feature identifies when you begin speaking, lowering the volume and activating Ambient Sound mode.

The 360 Reality Audio feature offers simulated surround sound but requires setup involving scanning your ears to create a personalized head-related transfer function. This profile can then be installed for compatible apps like Amazon Music, Tidal, Deezer, nugs.net, and PeerTracks.

DSEE Extreme, Sony's AI-based audio reconstruction technology, aims to restore lost detail in compressed music. However, it functions only with SBC or AAC, not LDAC, indicating its focus on Bluetooth compression rather than the original audio file.

The app includes a 5-band EQ with a Clear Bass slider acting as a sixth band, alongside custom presets and sound profiles. Touch-based gestures on the right earcup provide controls like double-tap for play/pause and swipes for navigation. While initially unique in 2016, gestures only work on one side, limiting users to their right hand.

Additional features include Spotify Tap, allowing you to launch and play music through assigned buttons. Like their predecessors, the headphones can automatically pause/play and turn off when worn or removed. However, issues with the sensor detecting headphone removal may occur, affecting pause functionality.

Multipoint connection support enables pairing with two devices simultaneously, though it restricts both devices to SBC or AAC, excluding LDAC.

Verdict

The upgraded headphones boast enhanced sound quality and improved noise cancellation compared to their predecessors. Undoubtedly, the Sony stands out as the finest headphones we've ever experienced. The redesigned look is notably sleeker, adopting a more minimal and modern aesthetic. While the previous design prioritized flexibility, the new one sacrifices some weight and portability. The XM5's noise cancellation surpasses expectations, providing a serene experience even in noisy environments.

The companion app could benefit from a minimalist redesign, but its functionality is highly effective. The sound quality undergoes a significant transformation, with the XM5 focusing more on vocals and trebles. Listening to our favorite songs becomes an enjoyable experience. The battery life is commendable, although competitors offer twice the duration.

Yet, one consideration lingers – the predecessor, WH-1000XM4, remains relevant. If you prioritize top-notch sound quality and noise cancellation, the XM5 should be your go-to choice. However, if you can settle for a slightly inferior yet still capable pair of headphones that conveniently fold for portability, the WH-1000XM4 is a viable option, offering potential savings.

So, should you buy it?

If you prioritize the absolute best noise cancellation and sound quality, the XM5 is a top choice. However, the price jump over the still-excellent WH-1000XM4 is significant. If you can find a good deal on the XM4 and value portability, it remains a compelling option.

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Alternatives:

  • Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless: These headphones boast superior battery life (up to 60 hours) and a comfortable design. However, noise cancellation might not be quite as strong as the XM5.
  • Bose QuietComfort 45: Another excellent option known for comfort and solid noise cancellation. However, sound quality might be considered a bit bassier compared to the XM5.

Conclusion

The Sony refines the successful formula of its predecessors. It offers superior noise cancellation, excellent sound quality, and a comfortable design, making it a strong contender for the title of best wireless headphones. However, the price increase and some design trade-offs mean careful consideration against the XM4 and other competitors in the market.


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