Sony WF-1000XM4 True Wireless Noise Cancelling Earbuds Review

By What Hi-Fi? Review Source



You won’t find many true wireless earbuds that come close to matching the all-round brilliance of the Sony WF-1000XM4


How do you improve on arguably the best all-round true wireless earbuds on the market? Sony has gone back to the drawing board and designed a brand new pair that look nothing like their predecessors – and the result is the WF-1000XM4. Is it a brave move? Definitely. Crazy? Quite possibly.


Sony’s WF-1000X range of wireless earbuds has been a dominant force in this category over the last few years, and the last pair to emerge from its stable, the WF-1000XM3, are two-time

But instead of making the odd refinement here and there, Sony’s engineers have gone to town on the WF-1000XM4 with an all-new design, a new charging case and a new audio processor. They have even found time to develop a new eartip material, which here is appearing on a pair of Sony earbuds for the first time. What could possibly go wrong?


Luckily for Sony, very little does. In fact, the WF-1000XM4 are one of the most feature-packed, user-friendly and sonically gifted pair of wireless earbuds we’ve tested.

Build

Your initial contact with the WF-1000XM4 is a surprising one. Sony has ditched the usual glossy box for recycled packaging made from a special blend of paper. This makes for a more compact box (34 per cent smaller than the WF-1000XM3’s), and one that’s plastic-free. That's great news for the environment, though it doesn’t really give off the vibe that you’ve just bought a pair of premium noise-cancelling headphones.


SONY WF-1000XM4 TECH SPECS Bluetooth version 5.2 Noise-cancelling Yes Battery life 8 hours (BT + ANC), 24 hours (total) Voice control Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa Finishes x2 Weight 7.3g (x2)


Once you’ve liberated the WF-1000XM4 from their packaging, you’re greeted by a small, black charging case. It’s smaller than the case that comes with the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds, and positively tiny (40 per cent smaller) compared with the charging case that comes with their predecessors.

The case charges via USB-C and also introduces wireless charging to the WF-1000X range for the first time – all you need is a compatible Qi charging pad. You can even battery share with compatible smartphones and piggyback off their power supply, too.

You shouldn’t have to worry too much about the battery life. Sony’s new buds might come with a smaller case, but the XM4’s battery life is actually up compared with the XM3. You now get eight hours of play from the earbuds with noise-cancelling and Bluetooth turned on, and Sony claims the case can supply a further 16 hours of charge. That places their battery life from a single charge above all major rivals. The AirPods Pro can only manage five hours, the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless seven hours and the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds six hours. Turn off noise-cancelling and the Sony's life is extended to 12 hours from a single charge and 24 hours with the case. A five-minute quick charge is good for one hour of playtime, too.

You can see the life remaining in both the buds and the case through Sony’s Headphones Connect app, which will also give you a reminder when the case drops below 30 per cent charge.

As with all wireless earbuds, battery life can vary due to a number of different factors, such as the quality of files you’re listening to, how hard the internal processor is working, and the volume you’re listening at. During our testing, we found the battery life consistently good enough to get us through a day of mixed use.



Comfort

Flip open the magnetic case and you’ll see the all-new earbud design of the WF-1000XM4. Based on a combination of customer feedback about the XM3 and research about the human ear, Sony has settled on a rounder body that sits more inside the ear opening.

The matte finish on each earbud gives the headphones a premium feel, while the small accents around the microphone and sensor holes add a tiny splash of colour. Speaking of colour, the XM4 come in a choice of black or silver.

If you want your XM4 to double as sports or running headphones you’ll be pleased to know they boast an IPX4 rating, making them resistant to “splashing from any angle” – a big improvement on the old model.

Besides the new-look earpieces, the XM4 also have brand new eartips. Made from polyurethane, which feels like a cross between silicone and foam, Sony claims they help secure a tighter, more stable fit. The thousands of tiny bubbles in the tips are also supposed to help reduce and dissipate noise.

The only downside here is that you only get a single set of small, medium and large-sized tips to choose from. Sony says you will get years of use out of one pair, and naturally extra tips should be available to purchase if you need them.

We don’t have any major problems sliding the earbuds in and twisting them into place. If you are struggling for a seal, you can pinch the tips and slide them into your ear canal, until they expand. We find they sit snugly in your ear opening, but they are comfortable over longer listening sessions. If you don't like eartips burrowing into your ear canals, however, you should know that Sony has recently created the LinkBuds for such preferences. And for those with smaller ears or who don't necessarily want an earful of earbud, there's the even newer LinkBuds S, which Sony says are 41 per cent smaller and 33 per cent lighter than the XM4.

To make sure you have the perfect fit, Sony has introduced a new air-tightness test, accessible through its Headphones Connect app. The app fires out a test tone and reports back on whether or not you need to make any adjustments. It’s worth trying out, especially if you feel the sound is lacking bass or there is outside noise leaking in.

In fact, we’d recommend installing the Headphones Connect app when you first connect the XM4. It gives you direct access to