Sony WH-1000XM5 review: Meet the new boss

Sony WH-1000XM5 review: Meet the new boss

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Side presumption    of antheral   wearing Sony WH-1000XM5 wireless headphones.

Sony WH-1000XM5

MSRP $400.00

“Sony proves erstwhile again that it's the marque to bushed successful noise-canceling headphones.”


  • Excellent sound
  • Very bully comfort
  • Ultra-clear telephone quality
  • Best-in-class sound canceling
  • Very bully artillery life
  • Hi-res compatible (wired/wireless)
  • Hands-free dependable adjunct access
  • Classy, modern design


  • Fold-flat, but don’t fold up

If you’ve been speechmaking up connected wireless and noise-canceling headphones implicit the past fewer years, you’ve apt noted the unthinkable praise that’s been heaped connected Sony’s flagship, the WH-1000 series. Since its debut — and done 3 follow-up models — it has consistently offered the champion wide operation of dependable quality, comfort, artillery life, and sound canceling. When you past instrumentality into information the tremendous fig of extras Sony has thrown successful implicit the years, similar wireless hi-res audio, hands-free dependable adjunct access, speedy attraction modes, and rapid-charging, you’re astir apt near with the aforesaid decision that we came to: These headphones perfectly crush the competition, which explains wherefore we awarded the 4th procreation WH-1000XM4 a cleanable 10/10 score.

With that benignant of reception, you mightiness deliberation that Sony would instrumentality a breather, and possibly remainder connected its laurels for a while. Nope. We present person the WH-1000XM5, which Sony has decided to merchantability alongside the $350 XM4, but for $50 more. With a new, smaller operator design, much microphones, much almighty progressive sound cancellation (ANC) processing, and an elegant caller shape, it’s wide that Sony thinks the XM5 connection tons of reasons to warrant that other $50. Do we agree? You betcha.

The champion box

Sony WH-1000XM5 wireless headphones successful  question   lawsuit  with accessories visible.Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

Before we get close into it, archetypal a speedy outcry retired to the folks liable for Sony’s packaging. The XM5 travel successful the aforesaid ultra-recyclable plain cardboard containers that the institution pioneered with the WF-1000XM4 wireless earbuds and past repeated with the LinkBuds. You won’t find a hint of integrative anywhere, and portion buying user electronics mightiness not beryllium the champion happening for the planet, astatine slightest you won’t beryllium adding to your section landfill erstwhile you unbox your caller cans.

As for what’s successful that enviro-friendly box: You get the headphones, packed successful their ain zippered transportation case. That lawsuit has its ain magnetically closed compartment, wherever you’ll find the analog cablegram and, erstwhile again, a comically abbreviated USB A-to-USB-C charging cable. Wondering astir an airplane adapter? Sony has seemingly decided that if you inactive truly request one, determination are plentifulness on Amazon you tin buy.

Where person we seen this plan before?

Sony WH-1000XM5 wireless headphones hanging connected  partition  hook successful  beforehand   of a mirror.Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

The XM4 lone had 2 existent challengers: Bose’s $399 Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, and Apple’s $549 AirPods Max. Those models gave the XM4 a existent tally for the wealth successful some ANC and telephone quality. They besides featured elegant designs, with azygous points of interaction from the headband to the earcups. Sony’s design, portion tried and existent with its accepted fork-based earcup pivots, started to look a small old-fashioned — situation I say, adjacent a spot boring.

Sony has managed to marque the XM5 adjacent much comfy than the already fantabulous XM4.

Sony intelligibly looked to Bose and Apple for its XM5 inspiration. Gone are the classical level metallic headband sliders and earcup forks, replaced by one-piece tubular sliders that terminate successful pivots hidden wrong the earcup housings. What stays is the somewhat rubberized, matte-finish successful your prime of achromatic oregon what Sony calls “silver” (it’s really much a soil color). Another change: The headband is present 1 continuous arc with padding connected some sides, erstwhile again reminiscent of Bose’s design. It’s besides a small narrower than the XM5.

Sony WH-1000XM4 seen adjacent  to WH-1000XM5.Sony WH-1000XM4 (left) and WH-1000XM5. Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

The effect isn’t a acceptable of headphones that look smaller connected your caput — I’d reason the XM4 person a little illustration — but they bash look thoroughly modern, adjacent arsenic they echo Sony’s now-familiar plan cues similar the bronzy-gold Sony logo and minimalist carnal controls.

The 1 downside to Sony’s determination into modernity is that the XM5 besides endure from Bose 700 and AirPods Max’s limitations: You tin fold them flat, but you can’t fold them up, truthful they instrumentality up much country successful a backpack oregon purse. And, erstwhile sitting astir your neck, the earcups look “up” with the hard integrative of the outer shells resting against your collarbones alternatively of the receptor cushions.

Comfort, controls, and connections

Close-up of earcup connected  Sony WH-1000XM5 wireless headphones.Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

In summation to the plan changes mentioned above, the XM5 are besides the teensiest spot lighter than the XM4, clocking successful astatine 8.81 ounces vs. the XM4’s 8.95 ounces. That doesn’t dependable similar overmuch — and it isn’t — but, amazingly enough, you tin consciousness it. I’ll beryllium darned if Sony hasn’t managed to marque the XM5 adjacent much comfy than the already fantabulous XM4, contempt the narrower headband. Part of the crushed is equilibrium — the XM5 consciousness similar they administer their value better. Another origin is the caller receptor cushion design, which is astatine erstwhile little illustration (which helps to support the wide of the earcups person to your head) and yet conscionable arsenic cushy.

These are each bully things. But you whitethorn find — particularly if your noggin is arsenic tiny arsenic excavation — that the XM5’s clamping unit isn’t arsenic beardown arsenic the XM4. It’s not a occupation for casual use, but if you similar to beryllium progressive successful your headphones (something Sony specifically discourages connected the attached informing statement that features a large “no” motion implicit an representation of a antheral sweating), you’ll announcement that the XM5 determination astir a spot more.

The bottommost enactment is that wherever erstwhile I would person picked the Bose 700 arsenic the champion wireless cans for semipermanent comfort, it’s present a dormant vigor betwixt them and the WH-1000XM5.

For the XM5’s controls, Sony’s mantra is “If it ain’t broke …” They’re identical to the XM4, with 2 dedicated power/Bluetooth and ANC/multifunction buttons connected the near earcup, and a touch-sensitive sheet connected the outer aboveground of the close earcup. As before, they’re easy, accurate, and intuitive to use, and Sony has kept the awesome quick-attention diagnostic which instantly replaces ANC with transparency mode erstwhile you screen the close earcup with your hand. The built-in deterioration sensor gives you accelerated and responsive auto-pause and resume for music, and it tin beryllium disabled successful the app if you don’t request it.

As for euphony genres, instrumentality your pick. There aren’t immoderate that won’t beryllium an implicit joyousness to perceive to.

I would person preferred if Sony had recovered a mode to powerfulness up/down the headphones without needing a long-press of the powerfulness button, but determination is immoderate bittersweet quality connected that front. Sony heard from customers that the XM4’s spoken dependable prompts were making actions similar powering up and ANC mode switching excessively clip consuming, truthful it has replaced immoderate of them with conscionable abbreviated audible tones. Unfortunately, if you liked the dependable feedback, there’s nary enactment to adhd them backmost in. That’s a pity due to the fact that adjacent aft 1 week of use, I inactive find the tones harder to decipher. Voice feedback remains for low-power warnings and Bluetooth pairing.

The XM5 are equipped with Bluetooth 5.2, and arsenic you’d expect, the wireless transportation is rock-solid each the mode up to its theoretical 32-foot range. With Google Fast Pair, they acceptable up connected Android devices successful a flash, and adjacent connected an iPhone it’s beauteous easy. You get Bluetooth multipoint for simultaneous connections to a telephone and a machine (or immoderate different 2 Bluetooth devices), but it’s worthy noting that if you privation that telephone transportation to usage Sony’s LDAC codec — the highest prime wireless nexus you tin get — you’ll request to forego the 2nd device. Apparently LDAC and multipoint are mutually exclusive.

Sound quality

Side presumption    of antheral   wearing Sony WH-1000XM5 wireless headphones.Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

It’s antithetic for a premium acceptable of headphones to boast smaller drivers than its predecessor, but that’s what Sony decided to do. The XM5 are equipped with carbon-fiber-based 30mm dynamic transducers which are 25% smaller than the ones utilized successful the XM4. The alteration allows for the little value of the XM5, but Sony claims they dependable adjacent better, too. And I agree. Mostly.

No beating astir the bush: The WH-1000XM5 are the champion noise-canceling headphones you tin bargain close now.

It each depends connected however you specify “better.” There’s nary question successful my caput that the XM5 grounds greater subtlety and finer details, and the frequencies are beautifully balanced. At the aforesaid time, bass effect is expertly managed, with a debased extremity that does what debased ends should do: Provide the thump, groove, and resonance that completes the philharmonic picture, without dominating the different frequencies. The soundstage is unfastened and airy and has the benignant of precision that lets you physique a representation of the players and their instruments successful your mind’s eye.

As for euphony genres, instrumentality your pick. I can’t deliberation of immoderate that won’t beryllium an implicit joyousness to perceive to. In short, they dependable fantastic, particularly erstwhile you prosecute the LDAC codec (Android only, atrocious Apple users) and provender these cans high-quality contented similar lossless, hi-res audio from Apple Music, Tidal, Amazon Music, oregon your ain ripped music.

But (you knew determination was a “but …” coming), successful delivering specified a elaborate and nuanced performance, Sony has taken a spot of a measurement backmost from the WH-1000XM4’s powerfulness and bass-forward signature. Like the drivers wrong them, these 2 large headphones present 2 antithetic sonic experiences. The XM5 volition entreaty astir to those who question a much neutral dependable and who whitethorn person recovered Sony’s erstwhile efforts excessively bombastic, portion the XM4 proceed to beryllium the close prime for folks who similar their tunes with a small other punch.

As always, the Sony Headphones app gives you afloat manual EQ power should you privation to change the mill tuning, and Sony provides respective utile presets on with an autarkic bass boost adjustment. I similar the default settings truthful much, I near these tweaks alone.

Noise canceling and transparency

Sony WH-1000XM5 wireless headphones.Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

No beating astir the bush: The WH-1000XM5 are the champion noise-canceling headphones you tin bargain close now. Thanks to the caller eight-mic statement and dual-chip processing which enables real-time adaptive changes, the XM5 doesn’t conscionable trim immoderate outer noises — it erases them. It does this much efficaciously than the XM4, the Bose 900, and adjacent the AirPods Max, which is truly saying something, considering however bully those different models are. You’ll perceive the quality successful a assortment of situations, but the biggest betterment from the XM4 is the absorption of higher frequencies.

The grade to which the on-board processors are capable to abstracted your dependable from inheritance sound is remarkable.

Sony says it’s particularly adjuvant for dealing with voices, similar the din successful a java store oregon restaurant, but I recovered it worked successful astir each script I tried. The roar of a turboprop airplane motor was reduced to a whisper; Manhattan’s signature premix of traffic, construction, large voices, and perpetual car horns were diminished to the constituent wherever my nerves weren’t frayed (my hometown of Toronto isn’t precisely quiet, but c’mon, thing other is NYC). And these were the benefits erstwhile I wasn’t playing immoderate euphony astatine all. Add immoderate tunes — adjacent astatine mean volumes — and you mightiness conscionable person yourself those outer sounds aren’t determination astatine all.

Sony has automated the process of optimizing ANC connected the XM5 — connected the XM4 it was done manually — truthful if you alteration the mode you deterioration the headphones (adding oregon removing eyeglasses; changing hairstyles) oregon there’s an alteration successful atmospheric pressure, there’s thing you request to do. And you inactive person the enactment of utilizing the Sony Headphones app to way your enactment and locations to marque changes to ANC and transparency arsenic you power up your time from sitting to walking to running, etc.

Transparency mode is besides excellent, though if there’s 1 country wherever Apple maintains a flimsy edge, this is it. You’ll person an casual clip proceeding everything that matters, and the optional voice-enhancement mode does precisely what it purports to do. But somehow, the AirPod Max negociate to person you you’re not wearing headphones — thing the XM5 autumn conscionable shy of achieving.

Switching betwixt the 2 modes is accelerated and easy, whether you usage the dedicated fastener for longer periods oregon the quick-attention motion for abbreviated interactions.

Call quality

Sony WH-1000XM5 wireless headphones seen with a smartphone.Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

This is the different country wherever the XM5 handily outshines its predecessor and arguably the different competitors I’ve mentioned passim this review. The grade to which the on-board processors are capable to abstracted your dependable from inheritance sound — adjacent erstwhile it’s precise large — is remarkable. They propulsion this disconnected without the compression and muddiness that often accompanies this benignant of algorithmic magic, and there’s lone the slightest hint of harshness erstwhile the strategy is pushed to its limits.

Digital Trends Editor-at-large Caleb Denison and I some recorded dependable samples successful engaged municipality locations and we some experienced the aforesaid thing: Sounds that were ace intrusive connected our end, were seemingly non-existent erstwhile we listened to the recordings. Meanwhile, our voices sounded natural, with a pleasant, warm, tone. The lone headphones that travel adjacent adjacent are the JBL Tour One.

Battery life

Sony WH-1000XM5 wireless headphones hanging connected  partition  hook.Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

Sony claims astir the aforesaid numbers for some the XM4 and XM5 — 30 hours of continuous playback with ANC on, and 38 (XM4) oregon 40 (XM5) erstwhile it’s off. From what I tin tell, those numbers look bang-on accurate. Sony doesn’t bespeak however overmuch of a deed these numbers volition instrumentality erstwhile utilizing LDAC, but based connected my experience, you tin expect it to devour up to 40%.

Either way, these stats are much than capable for adjacent the longest of flights. However, if you hap to ain a USB Power Delivery (PD) charger, you’ll beryllium capable to quick-charge the XM5 with an other 3 hours of playtime successful a ludicrously accelerated 3 minutes. Yes, 1 infinitesimal equals 1 hour.

Our take

Sony’s latest noise-canceling flagship headphones travel astatine a $50 premium implicit their predecessors, but the WH-1000XM5 warrant that other outgo with a batch of other show and a slick caller design. Do you request them? Probably not. Will you emotion them? Absolutely.

Is determination a amended alternative?

No. The Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 outgo the aforesaid amount, but can’t support up with the XM5’s unthinkable sound, ANC, telephone prime and artillery life, contempt being precise comfy and a mostly decent acceptable of wireless cans. Apple’s pricey AirPods Max tin spell toe-to-toe connected things similar telephone quality, ANC, and transparency, but they’re heavy, person overmuch little artillery life, and deficiency the astonishing levels of item and nuance you’ll get from the XM5, particularly erstwhile LDAC is used.

That leaves the older WH-1000XM4. At $50 less, it’s inactive a bully acceptable of cans, but if you tin find it cheaper — arsenic I fishy you volition implicit the coming months — it could beryllium to beryllium a fantastic value. With a bigger, bolder dependable signature, you mightiness adjacent similar it to the XM5.

How agelong volition they last?

Always a pugnacious question, but Sony builds fantabulous products, and the WH-1000XM5 look similar they volition basal up to immoderate beauteous dense use. I urge keeping them distant from sweat and rainfall arsenic they don’t person immoderate benignant of IPX rating. If you bash so, I expect you’ll inactive beryllium enjoying them galore years from now. Sony backs the WH-1000XM5 with a modular one-year warranty.

Should you bargain them?

Yes. Sony charges a premium terms for the WH-1000XM5, but you get a merchandise that’s premium successful each way, and for now, they’re the champion wireless headphones you tin buy.

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