We’re not exaggerating once we say the arrival of the Sony WH-1000XM4 wi-fi noise-cancelling headphones might be the most important headphone launch of 2020.
Why? Effectively they simply occur to switch the Bose-baiting, Sennheiser-slaying, What Hello-Fi? Award-winning WH-1000XM3, some of the common pairs of headphones on the planet. They’re fairly an enormous deal.
As an alternative of simply rebadging the outdated mannequin and altering the ‘3’ to a ‘4’, Sony claims the WH-1000XM4 ship a extra snug design, higher noise-cancelling, higher audio, higher name high quality and extra helpful options in contrast with their predecessors. In the event that they dwell as much as all that, we’re in for a deal with; but when they don’t, this might all finish in tears.
The Sony WH-1000XM4 noise-cancelling headphones are priced at £350 (€380, $350, AU$550).
That locations them in the identical ballpark as different key rivals such because the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 (£350, $399, AU$550) and Sennheiser Momentum 3 Wireless (£350, $400, AU$548). For comparability, the WH-1000XM3s launched again in 2018 for £330 ($350, AU$500).
Sony hasn’t precisely gone again to the drafting board for the WH-1000XM4 over-ear headphones (if it ain’t broke and many others…), however you’ll discover just a few delicate variations right here and there. The primary one pertains to the plastics used across the earcups and sliders. Issues really feel barely extra textured in contrast with the graceful surfaces of the XM3s; in our opinion, this helps give the impression that they’re barely sturdier. They nonetheless don’t, maybe, look as premium or trendy as a pair of B&W PX7 or Bose Noise Cancelling 700, however they definitely give the impression that they’re constructed to final.
The WH-1000XM4 use the identical 40mm drivers discovered within the earlier mannequin and the finishes are the identical too: Black or Platinum Silver.
There have been adjustments to the ‘hangar’ part of the headphone (the hinged fork that hangs down and connects to the earcups). The hole between the hangar and the cups has been shrunk, making a extra seamless look, and the house the place they connect with the earcups has been decreased to scale back the potential for any sound leakage. Talking of earcups, the WH-1000XM4 are a thinner design, whereas the pads used are softer and really 10 per cent bigger than these used on the XM3. The top cushion can also be barely slimmer. General, the XM4 are lighter by one complete gram, too (254g vs 255g).
All these components mix to supply a really snug match. There’s simply sufficient stress to grip your ears and get a strong seal round them with out the headphones feeling too free. As a result of the grip isn’t as vice-like as some rivals, although, and the very fact the headphones nonetheless don’t have an IP score (for water and mud resistance), we wouldn’t advocate utilizing them throughout train.
The ability button, a USB-C charging port and three.5mm headphone socket have all carried over from the XM3. So too has the Ambient/NC (noise-cancelling) button, although it’s been renamed ‘Customized’ on the XM4. The title may be completely different, but it surely carries out all the identical duties as earlier than, equivalent to switching between noise-cancelling and Ambient Sound modes and operating the NC Optimiser.
And also you’ll must run Sony’s NC Optimiser earlier than you employ the headphones for the primary time. In case you’re not acquainted with this software program, it’s principally an auto-calibration program that’s activated by way of an extended press of that Customized button. They optimise the noise-cancelling based mostly on various factors equivalent to the form of your face and whether or not or not you put on glasses. In case you’re a frequent flyer they’ll even keep in mind adjustments in air stress.
The headline function for the WH-1000XM4 is the introduction of a model new sound processor. Sony has switched from DSEE HX to a brand new DSEE Excessive engine. The brand new engine not solely makes an attempt to upscale compressed music to close hi-res high quality, it additionally provides synthetic intelligence expertise known as Edge-AI. It’s been developed with the assistance of Sony Music Studios Tokyo to analyse music in real-time to breed a extra correct sound, extra devoted to the unique monitor.
Sony WH-1000XM4 tech specs
Design fashion Over-ear
Bluetooth model 5.0
Noise cancellation Sure
Battery life 30 hours
Voice management help Sure
Contact controls Sure
There’s no aptX or aptX HD help, however the Sony’s are suitable with its personal LDAC expertise. This lets you stream high-quality audio wirelessly from a suitable supply, together with choose Android smartphones operating Android 8.Zero or above. In case you subscribe to a streaming service that helps tracks encoded in Sony 360 Reality Audio, the WH-1000M4 may also be used to expertise the immersive audio format.
The Fast Consideration function discovered on the XM3, the place you’ll be able to cowl the precise earcup together with your hand to carry a dialog, carries throughout, however Sony has taken the conversational abilities of the WH-1000XM4 to an entire new stage. Now you can have interaction ‘Converse to Chat’, a function that permits you to discuss to somebody whereas the headphones are nonetheless in your head, all with out transferring a muscle.
The headphones recognise that you’re speaking and can cease playback and swap to their Ambient Sound mode mechanically. It’s a neat occasion trick and we discover it really works fairly nicely. There’s a slight delay, although, between whenever you begin to converse and the mode kicking in, that we’d wish to see shorten. Helpfully, you’ll be able to set the sensitivity of Converse-to-Chat in Sony’s Headphones Join app to attempt to cease it going off by chance. There are a few events once we set off the function with a cough and an enthusiastic sing-along, however you’ll be able to simply slide a finger up or down on the precise touchpad to return to your music.
One other new function for the 2020 mannequin is ‘Carrying Detection’. The headphones use a proximity sensor and acceleration sensors in every ear cup to pause playback whenever you take away the headphones, after which to mechanically begin enjoying once more whenever you put them again on. It’s a function we’ve come throughout in different headphones earlier than, such because the B&W PX7, and it’s good to have.
Sony has additionally given its Adaptive Sound Management function a lift for the WH-1000XM4. The XM3 might work out whether or not you have been travelling or stationary and adapt their sound settings to swimsuit; the XM4 can really use location studying and GPS knowledge out of your telephone to vary the noise-cancelling and ambient sound ranges based mostly on specific areas. The one slight disadvantage is that in the event you lose the GPS sign the headphones gained’t be capable of change their settings mechanically. However you’ll be able to arrange profiles and geo-fence sure areas utilizing the Headphones Join app, so the WH1000XM4s will mechanically swap modes whenever you enter them.
One criticism of the WH-1000XM3 was the shortcoming to hook up with multiple machine concurrently. This has been rectified for the WH-1000XM4 because of their new ‘Multipoint’ function which was enabled in a firmware replace launched shortly after their launch. You are now capable of swap between two Bluetooth-connected units.
Sony has additionally centered on getting the WH-1000XM4 to sound clearer throughout voice calls. They use one thing Sony refers to as Exact Voice Pickup expertise, the place the headphones management the mics and use sign processing to make voices sound clearer and extra exact. And it really works. We really feel that voices sound extra vivid when utilizing the brand new headphones.
Battery life stays among the many greatest at school, with a full cost lasting as much as 30 hours with each Bluetooth and noise-cancelling enabled. This rises to 38 hours in the event you sacrifice the noise-cancelling. Charging the headphones with an AC adapter gives you 5 hours of battery life from only a ten-minute burst of energy.
Sony has been making waves within the noise-cancelling headphones marketplace for just a few years now, and it claims the WH-1000XM4 are capable of cancel out extra midrange and high-frequency sounds than ever earlier than. Its HD Noise Cancelling Processor QN1 makes use of a model new algorithm and works in tandem with a brand new Bluetooth System on Chip (SoC). Collectively, they’re able to continuously monitor audio and noise indicators, plus the connection between the speaker drivers and your ears. That is all occurring in real-time, a primary for Sony headphones, and the expertise is claimed to present better management over how the noise-cancelling performs.
We’re happy to report that each one this tech-speak interprets right into a massively spectacular noise-cancelling efficiency. You are feeling remoted from the skin world, which leaves you free to benefit from the music being fed into your ears. The Sonys don’t have any bother slicing out undesirable extraneous noise, from the rumble of a practice as you cross below a railway bridge, to the hustle and bustle of a busy excessive road.
So it’s all excellent news so far as consolation, noise-cancelling and options are involved, however how do the WH-1000XM4 stand as much as sonic scrutiny? The reply is exceptionally nicely.
Sony’s DAC and analogue amplifier mixture labored extraordinarily nicely within the XM3 and it impresses as soon as once more right here.
Listening to a variety of tracks, it’s quickly obvious that Sony has in some way managed to squeeze out much more efficiency from the WH-1000XM4. The soundfield seems wider, with the headphones in a position to make use of the additional headroom to uncover much more element. The WH-1000XM4 sounds extra composed and assured, particularly relating to decrease frequencies. There’s energy, punch and a way of poise that makes the WH-1000XM3 sound, dare we are saying it, just a little tubby.
Play Ramin Djawadi’s cowl of The White Stripes’ Seven Nation Military and the readability and definition of the strings actually shines by way of. There’s a newfound smoothness within the treble that makes the outdated mannequin sound a tiny bit unrefined as compared. The track’s highly effective bass notes assist drive dwelling the monitor’s depth, leaving an enduring impression on the listener.
Sony’s WH vary has persistently set a benchmark for timing and dynamics and the XM4s proceed this pattern. The headphones talk dynamic shifts, the jumps from quiet moments to loud ones, with ease. Their means to fit into the groove of a monitor and comply with it faithfully means they’ll entertain you with probably the most primary of beats after which make the swap to extra complicated preparations with out a second thought. Their sense of enthusiasm, tempo and agility means they’re as blissful charging by way of The XX’s I Dare You as they’re attending to grips with the complexities of Radiohead’s 15 Step.
Swap over to Click on by Charli XCX and a dramatic synth rift lays the muse for the monitor, adopted by a pristine vocal that hangs towards a backdrop of delicate, glowing percussion. The Sony’s make any music you ship their manner sound attention-grabbing from the primary word, throughout to the final.
We weren’t certain if Sony might enhance on the XM3, however in some way the WH-1000XM4 have managed it: they’re as snug as ever; they introduce helpful options that elevate the person expertise; and, extra importantly, you’re getting a critical hike in sound high quality for the cash.
Their sense of musicality and enthusiasm stays as addictive as ever, however it’s also possible to hear large enhancements throughout the board. We’re in little question these sensational Sony headphones will probably be powerful to beat.
- Sound 5
- Consolation 5
- Construct 5
Our decide of the best wireless noise-cancelling headphones 2021
Learn our Sony WH-1000XM3 review