NEW DESIGN, NEW SOUND, NEW PRICE FOR THE SONY WH-1000XM5

NEW DESIGN, NEW SOUND, NEW PRICE FOR THE SONY WH-1000XM5
8
Sony’s latest noise-canceling headphones have a fresh look and iterative improvements
SONY WH-1000XM5

PROS

  • Active noise cancellation is even better.
  • Sound is more balanced and tighter.
  • Voice call quality has vastly improved.

CONS

  • For $400, the design is really plasticky.
  • Over 1000XM4, there are no major new features. Bulky, inconvenient carrying case

The WH-1000XM5 is Sony’s new flagship set of noise-canceling headphones. And, as much as we’ve railed against Sony’s bad product names in the past, I believe that with the 1000X series, people understand: these have always been among the greatest noise-canceling headphones available. Sony has been fighting Bose, and more recently Apple, for years to win over frequent travelers, commuters, work-from-homeers, and anyone else who can’t live without noise cancellation. Noise-canceling headphones have become increasingly important as more jobs migrate to a hybrid work style, ensuring peace and quiet both at the office and at home.
The 1000XM5s offer a new look, a crisper sound, and even stronger noise cancellation than before. They don’t, however, accomplish anything new. They’re now $399, which is $50 more than the M4s, which Sony plans to keep in the lineup. Is it worthwhile to upgrade? It’s possible, but it’s not a sure thing.

SONY WH-1000XM5 SPECS

  • Bluetooth version: 5.2
  • Active noise cancellation: yes
  • Ambient mode: yes
  • Multipoint: yes
  • Battery life: 30 hours (ANC on), 40 hours (ANC off)
  • Recharge time: approx. 3.5 hours over USB-C
  • Bluetooth codecs: LDAC, AAC, SBC
  • Extra features: Speak to Chat, 360 Reality Audio, DSEE Extreme, Spotify Tap, Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant
  • App: Sony Headphones Connect for Android and iOS

Sony has completely redesigned its headphones for the first time in several years. The 1000XM5s have a completely different appearance from their predecessors. The headband is slightly slimmer, and there is a single stem going down the middle instead of arms that cradle the ear cups on both sides. You can see where Sony got its inspiration from competitors like Bose’s Noise Canceling Headphones 700 or Apple’s AirPods Max.
With fewer visible seams and other details, this style appears more refined and cleaner. The previous model’s mic inlets, which resembled USB-C ports, have been replaced with a border of the headphones that is set deeper to reduce wind noise. The ear pads are bigger and more memory foam-like, which improves overall comfort. Despite the new design, the M5s weigh 250 grams, which is about the same as the 254-gram M4. They’re still available in black or off-white, with the latter having a modest textured coating that hides finger oils and smudges better than the black variant.

However, I’m not persuaded that these headphones are of high quality. The 1000XM4s featured some visible metal on its ratcheting ear cup sliders, while the 1000XM5s are completely plastic. I wouldn’t worry about the longevity of these headphones because I twisted them to death and they still worked well. Fit and finish are more important. I’d have preferred some nicer materials — or ear cushions that are easy to replace, like the AirPods Max — at $400. My Sennheiser Momentum 3s have a better build quality that feels reasonable for the price. However, it is also easy to go too far in the opposite direction. You could argue that the AirPods Max are excessively weighty, and Sony is definitely favoring extended comfort over opulence.
The ear cups continue to pivot and turn as previously. However, Sony’s latest headphones are no longer foldable. One of my biggest disappointments with the 1000XM5s has been this. These headphones do not fold down for easy portability; instead, they rest flat in their case. As a result, that case has grown dramatically in size. The 1000XM4 case fits easily in my bag, however the 1000XM5s don’t fit in the standard compartment, so I’ve had to cram them into the main section. You can always leave the case at home, but then you’ll have to be aware of what else is nudging up against the headphones in your luggage.
This case is too bulky, even though it is foldable without the headphones inside, and I believe Sony could have done better. The case for the Noise Canceling Headphones 700 from Bose is smaller and more efficient, despite the fact that it cannot fold up. People travel with these headphones all the time, and I believe Sony’s big case will frustrate them. It is, however, a functioning casing with storage for the USB-C and aux connections — hello, Apple. A dual-prong airplane adaptor is no longer included in the box. For $400, that strikes me as stingy, but it is what it is.

Incomparable noise processing


There are more differences than I expected in the sound of the 1000XM5s. Sony has replaced the 1000XM4s’ 40-millimeter drivers with 30-millimeter drivers in these new headphones. Although driver size isn’t everything, I can’t recall a pair of Sony headphones that sounded so different from their predecessors. The 1000XM5s are more detailed and tighter than the 1000XM4s, which have muddy bass. “The new 30mm speaker unit uses carbon fiber composite material to boost high frequency sensitivity for more natural sound quality,” Sony spokesperson Chloe Canta explained.
Yes, they are more natural, but they also lack oomph. They’re less aggressive and potent right out of the box. I tested both headphones with the identical tunes and found that the M5s triumphed in the majority of cases. They appear to be more elegant, detailed, and expansive. However, I preferred the M4s in some situations, notably while listening to thumping hip-hop or EDM tunes.

People who appreciate the more energetic sound of the 1000XM4s will undoubtedly exist. Perhaps this is one of the reasons Sony is preserving them; selling two headphones that are otherwise so identical wouldn’t make much sense. To bring the sound of these headphones closer together, utilize the EQ controls in Sony’s Headphones Connect app for Android or iOS, but the best thing to do is try them both out. You can look at all the frequency curve charts you want, but this is a very subjective topic.
The new headphones use the same QN1 noise cancelling processor as the originals, but Sony has added a second processor to boost ANC even more. As a result, the business claims that noise cancelling works similarly to the M4s on a plane, but is better at handling city noise and reducing adjacent voices. In my experience, this is correct. If you’re in a busy coffee shop, it’s still not enough to entirely silence the world, but it’s an upgrade over what was already excellent noise cancellation.

Industry-leading Digital Noise Cancellation


One tiny hardware note: Sony previously included a “optimize” button on the headphones that adjusted the ANC for aspects like as air pressure and fit — hairdo, if you wear glasses, and so on. However, the button is no longer present, and Sony claims that the same optimization is taking place in the background. I miss the button; it was a fun gimmick that only took a few seconds, but I can see why Sony got rid of it for the sake of simplicity.

In terms of phone calls, Sony is going all out. The 1000XM5s include a total of eight microphones, four of which are used for voice. When you combine it with AI algorithm advancements for noise reduction on calls, the M5s offer a significant improvement over the M4. They’re no match for the remarkable LinkBuds or normal AirPods, but they’re probably the best over-ear headphones you’ll find. In a noisy location, things get a little dicey, but all headphones struggle in that situation, and the Sonys managed to keep my voice audible on calls and Zoom chats.
LDAC, Sony’s codec for higher-quality wireless audio, is still supported by the 1000XM5s. If you can’t connect in, LDAC is the next best thing for listening to hi-res music on services like Apple Music and Amazon Music. This is exclusively for Android users; iPhone users are still stuck with the lower-bitrate AAC codec. These headphones also feature multipoint connectivity, allowing you to connect to two devices simultaneously. However, Sony still forces you to choose between two advanced features: you can enable either LDAC or multipoint, but not both at the same time. The 1000XM4s had the same limitation, which leads me to believe it’s a Bluetooth bandwidth issue.

Multipoint connection


Some fundamentals regarding the 1000XM5s haven’t altered. Taps and swipes on the right ear cup are used to control them. The traditional Sony characteristics are still present, such as placing your palm over the right ear cup to temporarily lower your music and amplify the outside world. The 1000XM4s have similar functions, such as “speak to chat,” which detects when you’re conversing and instantly stops music and switches to transparency mode. You can also pause your audio by lifting the left ear cup (or removing the headphones entirely). If you use noise canceling, the battery life remains at 30 hours. You can stretch much further if you turn off all the extra bells and whistles.
Now I’d want to talk about some missed opportunities: items I was hoping Sony would include this time around but didn’t. To begin with, it’s ridiculous that these costly headphones aren’t compatible with the PlayStation 5. They’re both top-tier Sony items, but you’ll still need a wire to connect them to the PS5 controller. Second, the USB-C port is still only for charging, despite the fact that many other headphones allow you to utilize it for music. Finally, the 1000XM5s aren’t water or sweat resistant; there’s even a piece of paper in the box warning you not to get them wet. I don’t believe these are athletic headphones, but some advancement and resistance to the elements would be fantastic to see in 2022. Perhaps some of these issues will be rectified by the time the 1000XM6s arrive in two years.

The WH-1000XM5s sport a new, more ergonomic design that looks more modern, but it doesn’t quite match their $400 price tag. The already excellent noise suppression has been improved much more. These headphones sound cleaner and more natural than their predecessors, but they’re also incredibly distinctive, which could cause some controversy.
If you already own a pair of 1000XM4s and are satisfied with them, there’s no need to upgrade. Those headphones are capable of doing everything they are. These are a lot better investment if you’re using an older set of Sony cans, such as the 1000XM2s or M3s, and your battery is starting to fail. You’ll get multipoint as well as Sony’s greatest ANC to date.
I don’t like the fact that the price has increased, and the case is a dud. As a result, you should conduct your own side-by-side comparisons with the M4s in order to save money. Sony appears to have gotten mixed up about what the 1000XM5s should be: they’re an odd half-step between the 1000XM4s and high-end headphones like the AirPods Max. They don’t have any huge new features or big headlines. However, these are still excellent noise-canceling headphones.

NEW DESIGN, NEW SOUND, NEW PRICE FOR THE SONY WH-1000XM5

NEW DESIGN, NEW SOUND, NEW PRICE FOR THE SONY WH-1000XM5
8
Sony’s latest noise-canceling headphones have a fresh look and iterative improvements
SONY WH-1000XM5

PROS

  • Active noise cancellation is even better.
  • Sound is more balanced and tighter.
  • Voice call quality has vastly improved.

CONS

  • For $400, the design is really plasticky.
  • Over 1000XM4, there are no major new features. Bulky, inconvenient carrying case

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