How do you enhance on arguably one of the best all-round true wi-fi earbuds available on the market? Sony has gone again to the drafting board and designed a model new pair that look nothing like their predecessors – and the result’s the WF-1000XM4. Is it a courageous transfer? Undoubtedly. Loopy? Fairly presumably.
Sony’s WF-1000X vary of wi-fi earbuds has been a dominant power on this class over the previous few years, and the final pair to emerge from its secure, the WF-1000XM3, are two-time What Hello-Fi? Award-winners.
However as a substitute of creating the odd refinement right here and there, Sony’s engineers have gone to city on the WF-1000XM4 with an all-new design, a brand new charging case and a brand new audio processor. They’ve even discovered time to develop a brand new eartip materials, which right here is showing on a pair of Sony earbuds for the primary time. What may presumably go fallacious?
Fortunately for Sony, little or no does. The truth is, the WF-1000XM4 are one of the feature-packed, user-friendly and sonically gifted pair of wi-fi earbuds we’ve examined.
Unsurprisingly, the Sonys sit on the premium finish of the market, coming in at £250 ($280, AU$500). That locations them proper within the firing line of different five-star rivals such because the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 (£279, $299, AU$499), Bose QuietComfort Earbuds (£249, $280, AU$399) and, in fact, the Apple AirPods Pro, which on the time of writing vary in worth between £199 ($199, AU$300) and £249 ($249, AU$329).
Your preliminary contact with the WF-1000XM4 is a stunning one. Sony has ditched the same old shiny field for recycled packaging made out of a particular mix of paper. This makes for a extra compact field (34 per cent smaller than the WF-1000XM3’s), and one which’s plastic-free. That is nice information for the atmosphere, although it doesn’t actually give off the vibe that you simply’ve simply purchased a pair of premium noise-cancelling headphones.
Sony WF-1000XM4 tech specs
Bluetooth model 5.2
Battery life eight hours (BT + ANC), 24 hours (whole)
Voice management Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa
Weight 7.3g (x2)
When you’ve liberated the WF-1000XM4 from their packaging, you’re greeted by a small, black charging case. It’s smaller than the case that comes with the Bose Quiet Consolation Earbuds, and positively tiny (40 per cent smaller) in contrast with the charging case that comes with their predecessors.
The case expenses by way of USB-C and in addition introduces wi-fi charging to the WF-1000X vary for the primary time – all you want is a suitable Qi charging pad. You’ll be able to even battery share with suitable smartphones and piggyback off their energy provide, too.
You shouldn’t have to fret an excessive amount of in regards to the battery life. Sony’s new buds would possibly include a smaller case, however the XM4’s battery life is definitely up in contrast with the XM3. You now get eight hours of play from the earbuds with noise-cancelling and Bluetooth turned on, and Sony claims the case can provide an additional 16 hours of cost. That locations their battery life from a single cost above all main rivals. The AirPods Professional can solely handle 5 hours, the Sennheiser Momentum True Wi-fi seven hours and the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds six hours. Flip off noise-cancelling and the Sony’s life is prolonged to 12 hours from a single cost and 24 hours with the case. A five-minute fast cost is nice for one hour of playtime, too.
You’ll be able to see the life remaining in each the buds and the case by way of Sony’s Headphones Join app, which will even provide you with a reminder when the case drops beneath 30 per cent cost.
As with all wi-fi earbuds, battery life can differ as a consequence of various various factors, akin to the standard of recordsdata you’re listening to, how laborious the interior processor is working, and the quantity you’re listening at. Throughout our testing, we discovered the battery life persistently adequate to get us by way of a day of combined use.
Flip open the magnetic case and also you’ll see the all-new earbud design of the WF-1000XM4. Based mostly on a mixture of buyer suggestions in regards to the XM3 and analysis in regards to the human ear, Sony has settled on a rounder physique that sits extra contained in the ear opening.
The matte end on every earbud offers the headphones a premium really feel, whereas the small accents across the microphone and sensor holes add a tiny splash of color. Talking of color, the XM4 are available a alternative of black or silver.
If you’d like your XM4 to double as sports activities or working headphones you’ll be happy to know they boast an IPX4 score, making them immune to “splashing from any angle” – a giant enchancment on the previous mannequin.
Apart from the new-look earpieces, the XM4 even have model new eartips. Constructed from polyurethane, which seems like a cross between silicone and foam, Sony claims they assist safe a tighter, extra secure match. The 1000’s of tiny bubbles within the suggestions are additionally supposed to assist cut back and dissipate noise.
The one draw back right here is that you simply solely get a single set of small, medium and large-sized suggestions to select from. Sony says you’re going to get years of use out of 1 pair, and naturally further suggestions needs to be out there to buy when you want them.
We don’t have any main issues sliding the earbuds in and twisting them into place. If you’re struggling for a seal, you’ll be able to pinch the ideas and slide them into your ear canal, till they increase. We discover they sit snugly in your ear opening, however they’re snug over longer listening classes.
To ensure you have the right match, Sony has launched a brand new air-tightness check, accessible by way of its Headphones Join app. The app fires out a check tone and experiences again on whether or not or not that you must make any changes. It’s value making an attempt out, particularly when you really feel the sound is missing bass or there may be outdoors noise leaking in.
The truth is, we’d advocate putting in the Headphones Join app whenever you first join the XM4. It offers you direct entry to all the important thing options and capabilities of the earbuds so you’ll be able to select which of them to allow and disable. It additionally helps you get arrange for listening to music in Sony’s 360 Actuality Audio format from suitable streaming companies akin to Tidal and Deezer.
The round outer floor of every earpiece is a touchpad and, by utilizing the Headphones Join app, you’ll be able to customise the performance of every one. They’ll management quantity and playback or change between noise-cancelling and ambient sound modes by way of the same old mixture of faucets, presses and lengthy holds – and the headphones are fast to reply to these actions. Switching between sound modes, altering quantity and activating and deactivating options akin to Fast Consideration (which drops the quantity of what you’re listening to, so you’ll be able to have a fast dialog with out having to take away the earbuds out of your ears) occur with minimal fuss.
The Sony WF-1000XM4 borrow the Converse-to-Chat perform that debuted within the WH-1000XM4 wi-fi headphones. This characteristic permits you to discuss to somebody whereas the earbuds are nonetheless in place and is triggered whenever you begin speaking. It really works nicely, though as is the case with the over-ears, it’s solely triggered a second or so after you begin speaking.
This slight delay may be irritating, as can the tendency for the characteristic to be triggered by a cough or an impromptu karaoke session whereas sat at your desk. You’ll be able to cut back the sensitivity of the characteristic, or you’ll be able to flip it off fully and both use Fast Consideration or take away an earbud fully (which pauses playback robotically).
On the within of the XM4 is loads of new expertise. The earbuds characteristic an improved DAC and analogue amplifier and are powered by a brand new Built-in Processor V1. Sony claims it offers a clearer sound and even higher noise-cancelling than their predecessor. The brand new mannequin additionally will get Sony’s DSEE Excessive audio processor with Edge-AI, which now we have already skilled within the WH-1000XM4 over-ear headphones, and is designed to upscale low-bitrate music recordsdata to close hi-res high quality.
The 6mm driver used contained in the XM4 is comparable in measurement to the one used within the earlier mannequin, nevertheless it’s made out of a brand new materials and incorporates a greater magnet, which Sony claims helps enhance sound high quality and noise-cancelling, particularly with sure low frequencies.
There’s no aptX HD help onboard, however the XM4 help Sony’s LDAC file format, which, streamed over Bluetooth from a suitable supply, permits hi-res audio recordsdata as much as 24-bit/96kHz to be transmitted at knowledge charges of as much as 990kbps.
Sony has additionally aimed to ship clearer name high quality with new options, together with beam-forming and using a bone conduction sensor that stops the mics from selecting up distracting ambient sounds whilst you’re speaking. There’s even an automated wind noise discount mode which makes an attempt to chop out swirls of noise passing by way of the headset and into your ears.
All of this works with Sony’s Exact Voice Pickup expertise, initially launched within the WH-1000XM4. The web impact is a formidable name high quality for a pair of wi-fi earbuds. The applied sciences all mix to do a stable job of dampening down outdoors noise and interference, particularly for the individual on the opposite finish of the road.
The overall stage of noise-cancelling is superb, particularly for a pair of wi-fi earbuds. Not everybody likes that ‘vacuum’ feeling you get when it’s turned on, nevertheless it’s extraordinarily efficient by way of the Sonys and also you’ll battle to search out higher noise cancellation at this stage.
Android customers will probably be happy to listen to the Sonys are suitable with Quick Pair so you’ll be able to stand up and working with minimal fuss. You obtain a battery notification pop-up in your smartphone once they energy up and you may even monitor their location down utilizing the Google Discover My System app.
Sadly, iOS customers don’t get any such pairing perks, however all that you must do to begin pairing is open the case and take the headphones out. It is a disgrace Sony hasn’t carried throughout the ‘Multipoint’ characteristic enabled on the WH-1000XM4 over-ears. This lets you join the headphones to 2 completely different Bluetooth units concurrently, which may turn out to be useful when you’re engaged on a laptop computer however nonetheless wish to be linked to your telephone. Right here’s hoping it may be added at a later date.
By way of stability, we use an Apple iPhone 12 and Macbook for the majority of our testing and discover the connection to be rock stable with no dropouts, even in additional built-up areas.
Earlier than we get to the WF-1000XM4’s immense musicality and expressive dynamics, we should always observe the best way the headphones deal with bass. The standard of bass and the readability of low frequencies is gorgeous. There’s such a incredible stage of element on show that it makes rival headphones, such because the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds, sound congested compared.
We’re eager to listen to how the earbuds deal with one in all our favorite bass-heavy check tracks, Huge Assault’s Angel – and we’re blown away by the arrogance with which the music is dispatched. Each ingredient of that pulsing bassline is exactly deployed and dripping in texture. It’s the readability across the notes that actually grabs you – it permits the WF-1000XM4 to speak intricacies within the bass notes that different headphones battle to uncover.
However it’s not a sound that purely favours low frequencies. There’s readability throughout the board and a way of rhythmic precision that enables the Sony’s to change tempo effortlessly. They sound as at house maintaining with, and succeeding in not being tripped up by, Radiohead’s 15 Step as they’re dispatching the sluggish, deliberate swagger of Nina Simone’s Feeling Good.
Simone’s easy vocal oozes class and class, with each nuance in her supply laid naked for the listener. Mix the emotion in her voice with the affect of the piano, percussion and wind part and the Sony’s create a fascinating sound you’ll be able to’t assist however be swept away by.
For those who have been questioning whether or not the WF-1000XM4 can be a step up from the WF-1000XM3, we are able to affirm that they’re. The newer mannequin sounds extra informative and uncovers extra refined element. Bass notes are higher outlined and the general sound is healthier balanced. Even the much-admired Sennheiser Momentum True Wi-fi 2 battle to match the Sonys for tonality and refinement.
You’ll be able to hear that refinement and pure tone shine by way of as we hearken to Ludovico Einaudi’s Expertise. From the fragile, deliberate piano strokes in the beginning to the hovering strings on the music’s climax, the Sonys deliver the person personalities to life and blend them collectively just like the substances of a wonderful cocktail.
We’re fairly taken by the Sony WF-1000XM4. Given all of the design modifications and new options in these wi-fi earbuds, it will need to have been an actual problem to get them proper. However Sony has completely nailed it. The headphones ship a satisfying person expertise, class-leading battery life, a number of the finest noise-cancelling we’ve heard on this class, and completely gorgeous sound high quality. Put merely, this can be a new benchmark for premium true wi-fi earbuds.
Learn our information to the best in-ear headphones
Learn our Bose QuietComfort Earbuds review
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Learn our Sony WF-1000XM3 review