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Sony WH-1000XM5 vs WH-1000XM4: What’s new, what’s different?

Sony has officially unveiled its latest pair of over-ears, the WH-1000XM5. But, how do they differ from their 5-star predecessor, the WH-1000XM4?

Read on to discover how Sony’s flagship headphones compare when it comes to price, design, features and sound… 

Pricing and availability 

The WH-1000XM4 launched in August 2020, two years after the XM3. The headphones were prices at $349 / £349 / €379 at launch. 

Like the XM4, the WH-1000XM5 are Sony’s first update to its flagship over-ear line in two years. The headphones will be available to buy from the end of May at a price of £380 / €420. 

This makes the XM5 around £30 / €40 pricier than the XM4. 

Design 

The XM4 were available black, platinum silver, white and midnight blue colours. In terms of fit, the earpad cushions are soft and pliable, and the fit was snug with minimal pressure on the ears. 

Sony included a sensor to detect when the headphones were on the ears and the ear cups featured touch controls for easy playback control. They’re also capable of rotating and swivelling to fit inside a carry case. 

Sony WH-1000XM4 earpads

The XM5 feature an all-new noiseless design with soft fit synthetic leather and a stepless slider designed to fit snugly without putting pressure on the head for all-day comfort. They come in black and platinum silver colours and are paired with a collapsible carry case for easy storage. They can’t, however, be folded like the older model can.

Sony has made an effort to be sustainable in 2022, completely removing plastic from the XM5’s packaging and building the product box from recycled and sustainable materials. The headphones themselves include recycled plastic from automobile parts. 

Features 

One of the best features on the XM4 was their excellent noise cancellation – and Sony claims to have topped that with the XM5. 

The XM4 used the HD Noise Cancelling Processor QN1 chip and Sony’s Dual Noise Sensor microphones to suppress high and mid-frequency sounds effectively. The headphones also took advantage of an algorithm capable of cancelling out noise in real-time, alongside a Bluetooth Audio SoC that could sense and adjust music and noise at over 700 times a second. 

We found that the XM4 did a fantastic job at keeping sounds at bay, while the Quick Attention Mode let users listen to the outside world when called upon. 

Sony has squeezed two processors into the XM5 to control the eight microphones in the aim to dramatically reduce noise in the high and mid-frequencies – the HD Noise Cancelling QN1 and the Integrated Processor V1 which is designed to unlock the QN1’s full potential.

There’s also the Auto NC Optimiser, which automatically optimises noise cancellation depending on the setting you’re in, and the 30mm driver unit in the XM5 is specially designed to enhance the ANC. 

Meanwhile, both headphones Adaptive Sound Control to automatically tailor ambient sound settings to fit your environment, along with Speak-to-Chat to automatically pause and let ambient sound in when you stop for a quick conversation. 

When it comes to call quality, the XM4 included five microphones and Precise Voice Pickup to better pick up on voices. The XM5 feature the same Precise Voice Pickup technology but with four beamforming mics and an AI-based noise reduction structure design to isolate the voice. There’s also a new wind noise reduction structure to get rid of wind distractions. 

Both the XM4 and the XM5 support Google Fast Pair, allowing the headphones to quickly connect to Android devices, while the XM5 also feature Swift Pair for Windows 10 and 11. 

Sony WH-1000XM5 black

The XM5 also come equipped Quick Access, allowing you to resume Spotify playback without taking out your smartphone, while both headphones feature support for Google Assistant and Alexa. 

Sony dropped aptX support in favour of LDAC high-resolution audio with the XM4, and the XM5 are no different. The newer pair also support real-time upscaling of lower quality files with DSEE Extreme support. 

As far as battery life is concerned, the XM4 offered 30 hours with ANC on and up to 38 with ANC off. Listeners can also get five hours of playback from a quick ten minute charge. The XM5 also offer 30 hours of battery (40 with it off, an improvement of two hours) and USB Power Delivery now allows for 3 hours of listening from a swift 3 minutes of charging. 

All-in-all, the XM5 appear to offer improved noise cancellation, better call quality and additional features like Spotify Quick Access and Microsoft Swift Pair over their predecessors.

Sound 

The XM4 packed the same 40mm driver units with Liquid Crystal diaphragms as the XM3 before them, but offered a more controlled and smoother sound. We found the headphones to be effortlessly dynamic, precise and clear with tight, well-defined bass, refined treble and detailed mids. 

The XM5 feature a 30mm driver with a light and rigid carbon fibre composite dome for better high frequency sensitivity and more natural sounding audio.

The XM5 are also 360 Reality Audio-certified which should offer a more immersive, 360-degree listening experience, though you’ll have to wait for our full review for more on how the newest Sony pair sounds. 

Verdict

The WH-1000XM4 will be tough to beat with their superb audio performance, fantastic noise cancellation and comfortable fit but if anyone can challenge them its Sony’s own WH-1000XM5.

The XM5 offer a brand new noiseless design, improved call quality, better noise cancellation and support for features like Microsoft Swift Pair, Spotify Quick Access and 360 Reality Audio, though you’ll have to wait for our review for our in-depth take on the headphones.

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