As the year draws to a close, I finally had the opportunity to test the hugely popular Sony WF-1000XM4 wireless headphones. They came out over the summer and were well liked by many, so I can’t wait to put them to the test.
The Sony WF-10000XM3 had a massive body, but the XM4 has a 40% smaller body. That’s not to say it’s small but much more compact while still offering the ability to charge it wirelessly as well as via the USB-C port on the back.
The case has a matte finish that doesn’t easily show fingerprints. However, the case doesn’t have the same build quality as other high-end offerings from Apple, Sennheiser, or Klipsch. The hinge mechanism was a bit loose on my review unit and the overall fit and finish is not as good as I expected.
The headphones themselves look great although they are a bit big, despite being 10% smaller than the XM3 and sticking out of my ears more than I would like. Despite this, they feel comfortable and light.
The WF-1000XM4 features the latest Bluetooth 5.2 and audio codec support for SBC, AAC and LDAC codecs. The latter allows higher streaming from your device and, in theory, better sound quality. Of course, you will need a high resolution music source like Qobuz, Tidal or Apple Music to enjoy it. You’ll also need a smartphone that supports LDAC, unlike all Android phones, while iPhones only support SBC and AAC.
On board the XM4 is Sony’s custom V1 chip to process audio and other features including DSEE Extreme (Digital Sound Enhancement Engine) which converts compressed digital music files in real time. Sound is delivered by a full range 6mm dynamic speaker set with high powered neodymium magnets.
Each earpiece has three microphones which provide excellent call quality. They are also used to pick up your voice while evoking the voice assistant of your choice as well as for active noise cancellation functions.
Sony has built-in feedback and feedback microphones to capture your speech in a directed manner, with a bone conduction sensor also recording sound as vibration.
You also get the “talk to chat” feature which will pause your music when it detects you talking. This is a feature that comes in handy when you are away and need to interact with someone to ask or answer a question. Smart stuff indeed, but I found it a bit boring sometimes and couldn’t decide whether to leave it on or off.
The WF-1000XM4 supports Google’s Quick Pairing feature which enables quick and effortless Bluetooth pairing with your Android devices. You can easily locate where you left your headphones by ringing them or checking their last known location on your smartphone. You’ll even get a notification when your headphones’ battery is low (less than 30%) so you know when to charge them.
While the WF-1000XM4 will work with iPhones, but you don’t get support for LDAC or Google Fast Pair technology.
You can control everything from your phone, but the XM4 also uses state-of-the-art touch controls. Even inexpensive headphones have touch controls, but only the best can achieve a level of sophistication that makes them easy to use. They work well and work as they should 99% of the time. You can do everything from volume control and playback controls to summoning Google / Siri. You can also switch between different sound modes including ANC on / off and adaptive sound.
The Sony Headphone app continues to improve and mature with each new update. From within the app you can update the firmware (impressively, almost six months after launch there are still new firmware updates released), customize the controls, and choose from a selection of equalizer presets. or create your own personalized set.
The WF-1000XM4 supports 360 Reality Audio, and the app can analyze your ears to sculpt the sound according to your ear shape. During the scan, he will ask you to take pictures of your ears and remove earrings and piercings to ensure an accurate result. When done, it will recommend streaming services that support 360 audio including Tidal and Deezer, so you won’t stand a chance if you use Spotify or Qobuz. While 360 audio may sound good, the number of tracks is small.
The Sony WH-1000XM4 on-ear headphones offer exceptional ANC and are one of the best I have tested. While the WF-1000XM4 can’t match the latter in part due to the form factor, it does offer impressive active noise cancellation. This is in part due to the magic of the V1 chip, but also to the new polyurethane foam earbuds that provide exceptional passive sound insulation. The waterproof seal also improves sound quality and especially bass response. ANC is excellent and easily one of the best I have tested.
The sound of the WF-1000XM4 is fabulous. After reviewing over 30 headphones this year alone, I can say that these are some of the nicest. That’s not to say they’re the best for purely analytical sound quality, but for the kind of music I love to listen to, they’re great. Of course, to get the most out of the LDAC codec, you’ll need a high-resolution streaming platform. I am using Qobuz Studio and there is a noticeable improvement over standard non-high resolution streams.
The sound signature is bright, balanced and smooth, making it a pleasing sound for the majority of listeners. Imaging is detailed with good separation of instruments.
I really like the bass which is not too powerful for fun but rather faithful to the recording. It still manages to pack a punch while listening to bass-heavy tracks, but is just as subtle on quieter tracks.
The buds are good for up to eight hours of playtime with ANC enabled and up to 24 hours when you include the case. A five minute quick charge gives you up to 60 minutes of battery life.
While I think the sound quality of the Sennheiser Momentum 2s or Grado GT220s is slightly better, the WF-1000XM4 are nicer. They offer good battery life, excellent ANC performance and call quality. Where Sony’s win against the competition is the sum of all its parts.
All in all, excellent application support, continuous firmware upgrades and while not cheap, they offer good value for money, making them a good choice for the market. most people.