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SONY WH-1000XM5 review roundup: Wireless Headphones with impressive ANC, wonderful sounding performance, and stellar call quality

The Sony WH-1000XM5 wireless active noise-cancelling over-ear headphones will be available for purchase beginning May 20th.

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SONY WH-1000XM5 review roundup

Overview

Only a few brands’ new offerings in the world of headphones are worth paying attention to, and Sony is one of them. The Sony WH-1000XM5 is the most current version of the company’s flagship active noise cancelling (ANC) headphones. Even at an eye-watering $400 USD (£379.95), this is one of the best ANC headphones on the market thanks to a thorough redesign.

For years, Sony has competed with Bose and, more lately, Apple to win over frequent travelers, commuters, work-from-home workers, and anybody else who can’t live without noise cancellation. As more professions migrate to a mixed work style, noise-cancelling headphones have become more important for maintaining peace and quiet both at the office and at home.

Sony has recently discovered a successful formula that has led to the creation of some of the best noise-cancelling headphones on the market. Each iteration has resembled the previous one in appearance, but it has been the continuous advancements in sound quality, noise cancellation, and call quality that have maintained the WH-1000 line of headphones one step ahead of the competition.

Sony WH-1000XM5 Price and Availability

The Sony WH-1000XM5 wireless active noise-cancelling over-ear headphones will be available for purchase beginning May 20th. They start at $399/£379/€419/AU $649 and are available for pre-order through Sony’s website, Amazon, and Best Buy, among other outlets. The WH-1000XM5 is now available for pre-order from Sony in Australia.

Without a doubt, this is at the top of the mainstream over-ear headphone market, pushing closer to the ‘luxury lifestyle’ segment, where brands like Bang & Olufsen, Apple (with its AirPods Max), and Montblanc hang out. 

According to Tom’s Guide, “it seems unlikely that Sony will keep this pricing for long. Each prior 1000X model debuted with a high price tag, and each previous 1000X model became significantly more inexpensive in a relatively short time. So, unless you prefer being the first to adopt (and don’t mind paying for the privilege), it’s worth waiting a time to see what deals emerge. You may also be conflicted about the XM5’s predecessor, considering the XM4 is still available for at least $50 cheaper.”

Sony WH-1000XM5 Design

When it comes to the design of the WH-1000XM5, Sony has made several changes. They are, without a doubt, a departure from the previous WH-1000XM4 — or, at the very least, as far as wireless over-ear headphones go.

The XM5 appears to be somewhat stealthy. They have a more streamlined shape than its predecessor, as well as an aerodynamic design that enhances the flow of air through the headphone frame, reducing wind noise. As TechRadar states, “The best way to quickly describe the WH-1000XM5 headphones is that they’re a bit curvier than their predecessors.”

The earcups and headband are almost featureless and completely anonymous, with only a little ‘Sony’ insignia on each hinge. The WH-1000XM5 comes in black or ecru and is largely constructed of acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS). Sony is now particularly interested in ABS since it is a very beneficial material in terms of acoustics and, because it is largely composed of recycled plastic and can be recycled again at the end of its life, its green credentials are immaculate.

As per Tom’s Guide, the WH-1000XM5’s eco-friendliness should be commended, as it even extends to the retail packing box. “The unbleached, unprinted, and wholly recyclable packaging is made from ‘original blended material’ and is guaranteed to use no plastic whatsoever.”

The XM5 are somewhat lighter than the model they replace, weighing 8.8 ounces, and come with a wonderfully tiny and folding carry-case that is scarcely larger than the headphones themselves. This is useful since, while the hinges and earcups have a lot of movement, the XM5 only folds flat rather than folding in on themselves like the XM4.

In terms of comfort, where do Sony WH-1000XM5 headphones stand?

Sony WH-1000XM5 are among the most lightweight premium wireless over-ear headphones available. And, owing to a meticulous hanger design, soft artificial leather, and a scattering of memory foam in the earcup and the middle piece of the inside of the headband, they’re no more cumbersome to wear than the lightweight suggests.

As Tom’s Guide points out, the earcups are of reasonable size, so unless your ears are (to put it bluntly) very enormous, they should fit well. Unlike many other designs, the Sony will not overwhelm those of us with smaller heads. However, while they are undeniably comfy, the materials used in the earpads appear to return your body heat – with interest — somewhat faster than some competing designs.

According to TechRadar, “There’s ample padding around the ears, and the cups twist and pivot to suit all sizes, with just the right amount of clamp pressure exerted from the band to keep them in place without squeezing your brain out through your ears.”

Sony WH-1000XM5s Controls

The headphones have a lot of options here, which is great, but the even better news is that they all function very, really well. The capacitive touch-surface on the right earcup handles the obvious items consistently and reliably. You can easily handle ‘play/pause,’ ‘volume up/down,”skip forwards/backwards,’ and ‘answer/end/reject call’ here. Meanwhile, the left earcup contains a tactile button that lets you cycle through your noise-cancelling settings (‘on’ or ‘ambient sound’).

The ‘Headphones’ control app allows you to specify the degree of ‘ambient sound’ you want to hear — yet that’s far from the only feature the app includes. Here you may change the EQ settings, enabling active noise-cancelling to respond to your unique circumstances or location, configure the XM5 for usage with Sony’s 360 Reality Audio spatial sound technology, and connect the headphones wirelessly to two devices at the same time.

Tom’s Guides’ reviewer writes, “It’s a dependable, handy, and fully featured programme that outperforms almost every other option I’ve tried.”

The WH-1000XM5 features eight microphones, which are used for noise cancellation, telephony, and voice-assistant interaction. Naturally, the Sony XM5s will operate with your source player’s native voice assistant, but it also includes Amazon Alexa. And, regardless of your preferred voice assistant, XM5 can converse with them effectively and reliably. OK Google’s comprehensive wake-up word recognition is really nicely developed, putting them ahead of a lot of their notional rivals.

Sony WH-1000XM5 Sound Quality

Sony is once again relying on a one-two punch of LDAC codec and DSEE Extreme support to provide the greatest sound quality from your connected devices. This appears to be a pretty regressive move because they’re just 30mm in diameter, which is smaller than the drivers used in the previous XM4 and smaller than the drivers used in practically every over-ear headphone in the price range.

 LDAC is your high-resolution audio alternative, compressing and decompressing music on the fly to provide far more wireless bandwidth than a conventional Bluetooth connection could. Even if you’re utilising a low-resolution Bluetooth streaming service, DSEE Extreme ekes out a bit more information by applying AI upscaling algorithms to restore some of the audio data that would otherwise be lost. They both do an excellent job.

As TechRadar’s reviewer states, “Even with the driver change, the soundstage remains spacious and capable of giving all elements of a mix room to breathe and shine. Take the mighty solo section of Metallica’s classic One, for instance – all thrash metal riffing and double bass drum madness, but Kirk Hammett’s blistering high-register finger tapping cuts through and shines. In a more sedate but layered tune like Jeff Buckley’s Grace, the acoustic strum percussively rattles below the harmonised vocals and chorus-pedal guitar line, but there’s room for a walking bassline to sit alongside soaring strings too. Everything finds its place with the Sony WH-1000XM5s, and the effect is a wonderful enveloping of sound, even outside of the 360 Reality Audio spatial settings.”

According to Tom’s Guide, Frequencies were uniform and smooth from the bottom to the top of the spectrum. There’s terrific rhythmic expression released from music that already has it, and more than enough dynamic headroom to give sufficient distance between the calmer, more introspective sections and the thunderous charge-into-the-last-chorus counterpoints. As previously said, detail levels were high, and special attention was paid to even the most transitory, transient information included in a recording in order to portray a rich and bright image.

Sony WH-1000XM5 Active noise cancellation (ANC)

Active noise cancellation has always been a characteristic of Sony’s WH line, and the WH-1000XM5 headphones continue in that good tradition. It’s not that different from the WH-1000XM4 model. However, there is a noticeable, if little, improvement.

The WH-1000XM4 already efficiently eliminated low-frequency noises (such as the rumbling engines of a plane), but the XM5s operate harder at higher frequencies. This is due in part to the new 30mm driver design, which, while smaller than the original 40mm design, employs a high stiffness dome and soft edge to reduce the bite of higher-pitched sounds.

TechRadar’s reviewer writes, “Indeed, walking through London’s Paddington Station, a hive of scum and villainy (and sounds of all kinds), I could barely hear a thing, even with the volume of my music dialed back to a minimum. It was very impressive.”

Sony WH-1000XM5 Battery Life

Sony claims a two-hour improvement over the WH-1000XM4s, saying that although 30 hours with noise cancelling enabled matches the predecessor, 40 hours with noise cancelling turned off is a two-hour improvement over the WH-1000XM4s. When charging through the USB-C connector on the right earcup, the XM5 takes 3.5 hours to charge from ‘flat’ to full, and may maintain an hour’s worth of charge after around 10 minutes. However, unlike the device they replace, the XM5 is USB-PD (Power Delivery) compliant, and when charged in this manner, it can provide three hours of power in just three minutes.

“Do Sony’s playback estimates hold true? From our experience, we’d say they’re broadly true – we appeared not to quite reach the advertised 30 hours with ANC switched on, but also tend to crank the volume up louder than the average person would (or the recommended safe level is, even), and thus would expect to see the battery drain faster in line with the high volume,” according to TechRadar.

Sony WH-1000XM5 Call quality and connectivity

The XM5’s eight microphones contribute to call quality that can be termed as ‘exemplary.’ Wind noise is reduced, and both sides of a conversation are distinct and direct. It’s tough to think of anything else you could realistically ask for.

The XM5s employ Bluetooth 5.2 for wireless connectivity, and it supports SBC, AAC, and LDAC codecs, the same as the XM4s. The persistent lack of aptX codec support is disappointing, but the XM5s are more than capable of processing high-resolution material on your favourite streaming service’s most expensive tier.

If the battery runs out, there’s a 3.5mm analogue input on the left earcup and a 3.5mm-to-3.5mm cable included in the carry case. As long as you have a source with an appropriate output connector, you can keep the music alive.

Pros

  • Bluetooth 5.2 supports SBC, AAC, LDAC, and wired connectivity options
  • Superb noise cancellation
  • Excellent call quality
  • Extended battery life
  • Fantastic control options
  • Smart ambient features
  • Outstanding audio performance

Cons

  • Doesn’t entirely fold away (less portable)
  • No IP certification
  • Pricier than prior versions
  • Build seems a little less premium than before (What HI-FI?)

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