Hands-on review: Sony WF-1000XM4 Truly Wireless Headphones
Every company that has audio products has released some version of “true Wireless”, “noise cancelling” headphones. This has made it harder to differentiate the great ones from the average ones.
Until now, Apple's Airpods Pro have held the title for me when it comes to active noise cancelling, and The Sennheiser Momentum held the title for the best-sounding ones. Sony just released the WF-1000XM4, and I am curious to see where they fall on the spectrum.
I think we have reached that time where companies have already innovated earbuds to the point that there is an industry standard. The WF-1000XM4 looks just like any other earbud on the market at the same price point. And that is not a bad thing at all.
The WF-1000XM4 looks great and feels very well made. It is available in both black and silver. While both colours look great, the black in my opinion, definitely looks better and has a very premium feel to it.
The design of the WF-1000XM4 shines best when you look at how they fit in the ear. Sony designed the headphones in a way that maximises the surface contact between the ear canal and the earbud tip of the headphones. They designed these with noise cancellation in mind, and that is great as the market is a little lacking in headphones that are actually good at this.
The headphones also come with different silicone tips. Users can use a test in the app to determine which fit is best for them. This is a feature Apple users know and love in the AirPods Pro and it is great to see other companies finally adding this.
While this is not exactly a “design” feature, the team at Sony packaged the new WF-1000XM4 in plastic-free packaging. This is an amazing choice. We all throw away the boxes the second we get our hands on what is inside, and it is great to see Sony getting rid of the unnecessary plastic. I really hope we see more companies do this going forward.
Sound quality and noise cancelling
After reviewing so many sound products, I no longer expect to be “wowed”. In this case, I was pleasantly surprised. I think Sony did a great job with the WF-1000XM4. The headphones support High-Resolution Audio Wireless3. This is made possible by Sony's audio-coding technology that transmits three times more data than conventional Bluetooth.
The headphones also use a special digital sound enhancement engine that upscales digital music files in real-time. Basically, all of this tech talk means that these tiny things sound amazing for their size. They have great range and provide clear high, middle and base notes.
The WF-1000XM4 are also powered by Sony's new V1 processor. This processor and the dual noise sensor microphones are responsible for the amazing active noise-cancelling that the headphones are capable of. The two microphones work together in a really smart way where one feeds forward and one feeds backwards. They analyse the ambient noise and adjust as needed to provide accurate and active noise cancelling. This works really well and I can confidently say that they easily rival the AirPods Pro. The Sony WF-1000XM4 also goes a step further and adjusts ambient sounds based on where you are. This means that the headphones will adjust between the gym and the street to make sure the sound suits the situation.
One of the really impressive things that the WF-1000XM4 does that no other brand does is the Speak-to-Chat feature. Basically with other brands, if you are listening to music and someone talks to you, you take the headphones out to pause the music and talk to them. With the WF-1000XM4, no need to do that. Once you speak, the headphones automatically pause the music or video and allow ambient sound in so that you hear who you are talking to and allows you to have a conversation. This is a brilliant option if you are walking into your home with groceries in both hands and a friend or family member start talking to you.
Controls and battery
In this department, the WF-1000XM4 performs like expected. It has all the controls you would expect. From pause and play to turning ambient sounds on and off, it has all you would need.
The battery life is also decent. A full charge gives the headphones 8 hours of use. The case then provides a further 16 hours. That totals us to 24 hours of use time. The thing to note here is that this does not mean that they have a battery life of 1 day because realistically the playback will not be that long. If these will be used while commuting and then on lunch breaks, one charge will easily last a few days.
The WF-1000XM4's case also features wireless charging. This makes it very easy to charge even if the cable was not around as almost every house and office now has a wireless charger.
I was very pleasantly surprised with the Sony WF-1000XM4. They sound great, they look great and they do noise cancelling right. I can definitely recommend them as one of the best options on the market.